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30 September 2014

Hiking in Maine: Little Kineo, Little Spencer, Little Squaw, and Eagle Rock


Delightfully remote!  That two word combination immediately comes to mind as an apt description of the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine.  When I hiked in this gorgeous location just a few weeks ago for the very first time, I knew that a return visit was inevitable. (Please click HERE to read about hikes done on my previous visit to this area.)

And so, in late September, near the peak of Autumn foliage, my wife (Cheri) and I journeyed back to Greenville, ME to the same lakeside lodging where we had previously stayed in July.   While I'm off doing my hiking adventures, Cheri enjoys partaking of the natural beauty at the lakeshore, and also taking walks to visit the quaint town of Greenville.

For readers who might be unfamiliar with the location of Moosehead Lake, you can see from the map shown below that north of Greenville there is a vast expanse of 'nothingness', and this is the setting for the hikes that are described in this report.
Map showing location of Greenville, ME and Moosehead Lake
The next map shows the location of the 4 hikes that I did during my second visit to the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine.
Map showing location of 4 hikes done in the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine
Getting to the trailheads for all four of these hikes involved many miles of travel on remote gravel roads which are rough, but are easily navigable without the need for a high clearance vehicle.  You can expect occasional encounters with logging trucks which necessitates pulling to the side of the road to allow them the right of way.  Many segments of these remote roadways are quite scenic, as shown in the photo below.
A segment of one of many remote roads traveled en route to trailheads
When traveling to the trailheads for Little Kineo and Little Spencer you pass through a isolated settlement named Kotadjo.  It's about 19 miles north of Greenville, ME, and it's where the paved road ends.  There are two prominent signs along the roadway as you enter this small settlement (see photo below).
Two signs seen upon entering the settlement of Kotadjo


1) LITTLE KINEO:  This mountain only stands at 1,927 ft, and there is only about a 500 ft elevation gain over the 1.0 mile length of the hike.  There are some nice views, and it serves as a nice warm-up to the hike to the much more challenging climb to Little Spencer Mountain.

Being located in relatively close proximity to the North Bay of Moosehead Lake, the ledges on Little Kineo provide some excellent vistas that showcase the vastness and remoteness of this huge body of water (see photo below).
One of many views of massive Moosehead Lake as seen from ledges on Little Kineo Mountain
Little Kineo also offers a view that shows a unique juxtaposition of the Katahdin Range and Little Spencer and Big Spencer mountains (see photo below). 
View from Little Kineo Mountain: Katahdin Range is in distance on far left;  Little Spencer is in foreground at center of photo, and Big Spencer is behind and to the right

2) LITTLE SPENCER:  As you approach the trailhead for Little Spencer, there is a nice roadside view of this mountain.  However, there is an even better roadside view (see photo below) if you travel to the Little Kineo trailhead as part of your day's adventure in this delightfully remote area.
Roadside view of Little Spencer while en route to Little Kineo trailhead
The next photo shows signage at the beginning of the trail to Little Spencer.  Regarding the odd name of "Kokadjoweemgwasebemsis" that is included on this sign, I'm uncertain if this is true, but am told that it's Abenaki Indian wordage that translates to "Upside Down Kettle Mountain".
Signage at beginning of trail to Little Spencer Mountain
The elevation of Little Spencer is just over 3,000 ft, which is only about 200 ft shorter than its companion peak named Big Spencer.  There is about an 1,800 ft elevation gain over the 2.0 mile length of the hike to the mountaintop.

However, the length of the hike and the elevation gain fails to paint a complete picture of this trek.  Along the route, you encounter many segments that are extremely steep with poor footing, and there are many boulder fields that must be traversed.  In addition, there are a few chimneys to be scaled, one of which is 70-ft high.  It's nearly impossible to negotiate this rocky chute without some use of the sturdy rope that is securely tied to a tree at the top.

Below is a composite photo.  The left panel shows a portion of the 70-ft high chimney with its fixed rope.  The right panel shows one of the many boulder fields along the route.  And, just as a side note, the chimney is much steeper and more intimidating than is depicted in this photo!
Left panel: 70-ft high chimney with fixed rope.  Right panel: one of several boulder fields along the route to Little Spencer
You are amply rewarded for your efforts in climbing to the top of Little Spencer.  There are abundant views that are breathtaking, such as the one shown below.  In this particular vista, I could pick out Little Kineo which I had climbed prior to tackling Little Spencer.  (Little Kineo is the bump on the horizon at far right of the photo.)
Just one of many breathtaking vistas from Little Spencer Mountain.  (Spencer Pond is in foreground; just to right of center is Kineo Mountain with the huge cliff face; Little Kineo Mountain is the bump on the horizon at far right of photo.)
Although conditions were a bit hazy, there was still an awesome vista from Little Spencer that included Big Spencer looming nearby with the Katahdin Range off in the distance to its left (see photo below).
From Little Spencer there is this awesome vista of Big Spencer looming nearby with the Katahdin Range off in the distance to its left

3) LITTLE SQUAW MOUNTAIN:  This mountain is also known as "Little Moose Mountain".  It has a long and undulating ridgeline that runs for several miles with a high point reaching 2,126 ft of elevation.  The AMC Maine Mountain Guide describes several approaches to a variety of hikes at this location.  I opted to start from the north trailhead, and then do a 3.8 mile loop hike.

Although Little Squaw is mostly a wooded mountain, it offers fine views from ledges overlooking Big and Little Moose Ponds, as shown in the photos below.
Vista from ledges on Little Squaw Mountain overlooking Little Moose Pond.  In the distance is a portion of Moosehead Lake, and on the horizon (to the right) is Little Spencer and Big Spencer mountains.
This vista from ledges on Little Squaw Mountain is overlooking a small unnamed pond between Big Moose Pond and Little Moose Pond.

4) EAGLE ROCK:  The long ridgeline of Big Moose Mountain extends northwest for several miles where it eventually culminates at a large bare outcropping known as Eagle Rock (2,350 ft elevation).

This destination can still be accessed from the traditional trail off Burnham Pond Road, which is described in the current edition of AMC's Maine Mountain Guide.  However, the Maine Conservation Corps has just recently completed a brand new trail to Eagle Rock.

To reach the trailhead, you drive about 5 miles west from Greenville and then turn left off ME Rt. 6/15 onto North Road (gravel) and travel 3.6 miles where you bear right onto East Moore Bog Road and travel another 1.4 miles to the trailhead.

My GPS track of the new trail is shown on the map below.
My GPS track of new trail to Eagle Rock
Since I've never hiked the traditional trail off Burnham Pond Road, no comparisons can be made between it and the new trail off East Moore Bog Road.  However, it can be said that I was very impressed with the excellent job that the Maine Conservation Corps has done with creating this new route to Eagle Rock.  The corridor is prominently blazed, and there are well-constructed bog bridges and rock stairways along the route.  Also, the new trail includes access to Raven Ledge which is a viewpoint that is not along the route of the traditional trail to Eagle Rock.

The length of the new trail is 3.7 miles, which is over twice as long as the 1.5 mile distance of the pre-existing trail.  Regardless, the new trail leads you through woods that are diverse and pleasant.  The majority of the corridor consists of easy grades with only a few segments that are steep, but short lived.  Hiking at a moderate pace, my round-trip hiking time (excluding time spent on Eagle Rock) was just under 4 hours.

Shown below are just of few of the photos taken while hiking to Eagle Rock via the new trail.
A typical segment of the new trail to Eagle Rock
Raven Ledge: Peering over the edge of the ledge
Eagle Rock:  Looking down the steep bare slab that was scaled to reach the top of this massive rock formation
Just one of many spectacular views from Eagle Rock.  This particular vista is looking northward showing a portion of Indian Pond in the foreground (left), with wedge-shaped Mt. Kineo on the distant horizon (center), and on the far right is a portion of Moosehead Lake and the rounded hump of Little Spencer Mountain.
This photo taken from Eagle Rock shows nothing in particular.  I simply liked the variety of colors and textures provided by Autumn foliage, bare ledge, and water.
To sum it up, I look forward to many other hiking adventures on future visits to the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine!