Fancy a quiet stroll in the woods? Complete with a pristine 40 acre pond at the end of the trail? Mountain Pond in Rangeley Plantation is a good choice. Well known to locals, the Mountain Pond Trail offers a steady 1.5 mile (3.0 mile round trip) climb, gaining over 700 feet in elevation between the trailhead and the pond. In the process, the trail passes through both transitional deciduous and coniferous forest and subalpine fir and spruce forest, ending on the east side of Mountain Pond.
Reach the start of the trail
With the fall in the air and the first color change of the red maples, I do my first hike on the Mountain Pond Trail. The trailhead is on Edelheid Road, which heads west off Maine Highway 4, 3.4 miles south of the Whip Willow Farm Overlook in Rangeley. For those heading north, Edelheid Road is 1.5 miles north of the Highway 4 boat launch on Beaver Mountain Lake. Drive 0.5 miles on the Edelheid Road, which changes from a paved surface to a gravel surface. Or count the electric poles! The start of the trail is at the 13th pole.
Parking is along the road. A prominent sign, next to a bench, marks the start of the trail. The road is marked with bands of red paint on the trees or on the cairns. I find the road worn and easy to follow. The trail is well maintained by volunteers from Trails of the Rangeley Area Collation (TRAC). This organization also organizes weekly hiking, canoeing or mountain biking outings in the Rangeley area – a great asset to the outdoor community. (See the end of this article for contact details.)
I make my way through the mixed deciduous-softwood forest, the transition zone between common maple, red maple, yellow birch, white birch and other hardwoods found at low elevations, and the balsam fir and red spruce, which are predominant at high elevations. The trail follows the remains of an old forest path under the canopy, well shaded. There are no other vehicles parked in the area and no one else on the trail. I have the track all to myself!
Five minutes of gradual ascent brings me to a power line well populated with raspberries. The path continues straight until this breach in the forest to enter the woods, and join the old route of the woodland route. I hear the call of what I believe is a red-eyed vireo. Just the two of us here, for now. Ten minutes after starting the hike, I cross a small clearing, where pearly everlasting and rockrose grow in what used to be disturbed soil – perhaps an ancient log landing or gravel source for this ancient road. Here the paint flames are on small cairns, a large red directional arrow is displayed on a vertical rock to the left of the clearing. A wooden path sign, partly obscured by vegetation, stands on the other side of the clearing. I found the trail quite easily on the other side and continued the ascent.
Bilberry, blue ball lily, trillium, and ghost pipes are some of the last wildflowers of the season in trail side growth. As I gain altitude, the forest is more exclusively coniferous. Numerous clusters of red squirrels attest to the presence of this common forest creature – the remains of spruce cones strewn over moss-covered rocks and rotting stumps. Thick moss covers many glacial boulders and an old felled tree. New growth – small balsam fir included, sprouted from moss. In a tropical forest, these are called feeder blocks or, in the case of stumps and logs, feeder trees. Forest debris and accumulated moss provide a seedbed. It is remarkable how life persists in an intimidating climate. In places, a full-sized tree grows on top of one of these rocks or on a ledge layer.
The old road gradually narrows and eventually loses the appearance of a roadway. The route becomes more of a traditional hiking route, with the usual rocks and roots, but still clear to follow. The trail enters a north-west to south-east draw, digging up the slope of the hill along its route, avoiding the bottom of the draw, which is dotted with many knocks. I’m assuming this draw works as a wind tunnel for the prevailing strong northwest winds. The trail builders wisely avoided the bleed area. At one point, the trail makes a sharp right turn to cross the draw, then to go down the opposite slope, towards the pond.
A little more incline, and I reach the highest point of the trail, which my altimeter indicates to be at 2450 ‘. Looking through the trees, I see the dazzling blue of the pond below and to the west. I descend a steep part of the trail and arrive at the lake.
At the edge of the pond
A strong wind blows from the northwest, lifting white hats on the pond and blowing white foam on the windward shore. The sun shines brightly and sparkles on the white caps. Tall fir and spruce along the wavy shore in the wind. To the south, I spy the heights of Beaver Mountain. Quite the view!
The red flaming trail ends at this end of the pond. Worn paths lead to the edge of the pond, one to the northwest, the other around the eastern end of the pond. I explore them briefly, but focus my time on the eastern end, where I find shelter from the wind, and take out my lunch. It’s a classic spot in the woods of Maine – remote pond, wave action, bright sky. I sit down, watch, listen to the gentle crashing of the waves on the nearby shore.
I often bathe in such ponds, but I let this opportunity pass today. Although the deepest point of Mountain Pond is listed at 38 feet, the water at this near end is shallow and the bottom is marked with boulders and tree branches. If I had to consider getting wet here I would like sturdy water shoes to protect my feet and provide good grip. I linger by the water’s edge, enjoying the view, feeling the wind on my face.
Completion time ! What a great hike, just enough workout, pristine surroundings, bright sunshine, choppy wind. I go up the slope of the short hill I came down half an hour earlier, to start the 1.5 mile round trip hike – mostly downhill!
With the foliage change coming, it’s time to plan those fall hikes! Some of the best hiking times of the year are with us in September. The Mountain Pond Trail is a good choice for a snowshoe hike when this season arrives! Where are you going for your next foliage hike?
Notes on the trail
Looking for other people to hike, paddle or go mountain biking with? The Rangeley Area Trails Coalition (TRAC) is an organization for those who enjoy the people-led activities in the Rangeley area – and who also love giving back to the outdoor community by volunteering to help clear the brush, refresh the markers. and other routines. trail maintenance – proverbial “labor of love”.
TRAC programs day trips all year round. New arrivals are welcome. Their Facebook page provides details: https://www.facebook.com/TrailsforRangeleyAreaCoalition/. You can also contact the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce to be registered on their “eblast” mailing list and thus receive a link to the TRAC calendar under “news”.
See you soon on the track – or on the water!