My wife (Cheri) and I spent a portion of the Fourth of July weekend exploring the area around Rangeley, Maine. We took advantage of one of those off-season promotional deals for renting a condo at the Saddleback Maine ski resort.
This worked out so well for both of us. Cheri is an avid reader and loves to have a picturesque location to lounge while enjoying her novels. The view from the deck of our rented condo certainly provided such a setting. Being an avid hiker, this location was also ideal for me. A maintained trail to two ponds was just a brief walk from our condo. And nearly at our doorstep were the resort's ski trails with well-established pathways that lead to the Appalachian Trail atop the ridgeline on Saddleback Mountain.
In addition to the excellent hiking venues at our rented condo, there are many other attractions within a short drive of the Rangeley area. We only scratched the surface during our brief stay. We did manage to visit the awesome waterfall complex known as Smalls Falls, and we drove to the top of Ira Mountain via a scenic overlook road. These driving tours around the area often led us by several roadside vistas which added to the pleasure. On our way back home to New Hampshire, we stopped at a lovely roadside rest area near the shoreline of Aziscohos Lake. Cheri took up residence here reading a book while I scampered off to the summit of nearby Aziscohos Mountain.
So, the above is sort of an overview of our mini-holiday. Presented below are photos along with some of the details regarding this trip.
PART 1: HIKING FROM OUR RENTED CONDO - THE PONDS
I don't know the exact mileage, but would guesstimate that it was about a 3 mile round-trip hike from our condo to visit both Rock Pond and Midway Pond. Shown below are snapshots from that trek.
|Midway Pond as viewed from an overlook|
|Midway Pond as viewed from its shoreline|
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PART 2: HIKING FROM OUR RENTED CONDO to SADDLEBACK MOUNTAIN and THE HORN
Saddleback Mountain (4,120 ft) and The Horn (4,041 ft) are two mountains included on Maine's official list of 4K peaks. Hiking to both of those locations from our rented condo was about 7.5 miles round-trip, and it took about 5 hours from start to finish. This trek involved hiking the pathways along the Gray Ghost and Tri Color ski trails, and the Appalachian Trail was used to hike between Saddleback Mountain and The Horn.
The fields of lupines at the lower end of the ski trails were pretty spectacular.
|Fields of lupines at lower end of Saddleback ski trails|
As I climbed higher along the ski trails, I stopped to snap a photo of our rented condo located near the ski lodge at the base of the mountain.
|Our rented condo as viewed from ski trails en route to Saddleback Mountain|
Once I reached the ridgeline, there were 360 degree views for large portions of the trek between Saddleback Mountain and The Horn.
Shown below are just a few examples of the many terrific views along this ridge walk.
|The Horn as viewed from the northeast side of Saddleback Mountain|
|The Horn as viewed from a tarn in the col between Saddleback and The Horn|
|Saddleback Mountain as viewed from the col between The Horn and Saddleback|
|Summit signs on Saddleback Mountain and The Horn|
The summit area of Saddleback Mountain had a sizeable crowd of hikers who had hiked up from the ski trails. However, on my trek to/from The Horn, I only met one couple who were peakbagging The Horn and Saddleback. And I met one Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.
On the summit of The Horn, I spotted a Luna Moth that had possibly been caught in an updraft. It seemed very much out of place at the top of a 4K peak. And besides, I thought they only flew at night? In the photo collage shown below, this Luna Moth appears to be dead. However, it was windy on the summit, and the poor creature was merely trying to hang on to something. Eventually, it flapped its wings and took off for who knows where!
|Luna Moth seen at the top of The Horn|
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PART 3: ROADSIDE VIEW OF MOOSELOOKMEGUNTIC LAKE FROM RT. 17
About a half-hour drive from Rangeley there is a scenic roadside view of Mooselookmeguntic Lake from a pull off on the west side of Rt. 17. Shown below is that view on a hazy overcast day. On a sunny day, this view would be an even more spectacular vista.
|Roadside view of Mooselookmeguntic Lake from a pull off on the west side of Route 17|
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PART 4: SMALLS FALLS
These falls were named for the Small family who once owned the land. The falls are located 12 miles south of Rangeley on the west side of Rt. 4 at a State maintained rest area.
|Sign at Smalls Falls rest area|
The trail to the falls begins at the far end of the parking lot. After descending a set of stairs, the lower falls will come into view. Cross the footbridge over the Sandy River and climb up the left side of the gorge along a metal fence if you wish to continue exploring upstream. Within a 0.1 mile, you will see several distinct sets of falls. Smalls Falls is a gem in an amazingly beautiful area of Maine. It feels like the area is hidden away from much of humanity, and it probably is! And yet it's an incredibly easy place to visit.
Shown below is a sampling of a few of the cascades at the Smalls Falls complex. (CLICK TO ENLARGE.)
|Sampling of cascades at the Smalls Falls (CLICK TO ENLARGE)|
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PART 5: SCENIC OVERLOOK AT TOP OF IRA MOUNTAIN
In 2011, a local businessman opened a 1.5 mile scenic overlook road on Ira Mountain. The entrance is just off Rt. 27 about 5 miles north of Kingfield, ME. You'll see a sign along the highway that reads “Scenic Views and Overlook”. From approximately June 1 to December 1, the road is open one hour before sunrise and closes one hour after sunset. No trailers or large motor homes are allowed since there is no place wide enough for them to turn around at the top.
Amazingly, there is no fee to travel this road to the top of the mountain. Perhaps it's designed as a marketing strategy since there are nearby signs which indicate that adjoining home lots are for sale.
Once you reach the top of the scenic road, the 180 degree view is impressive as you look at the surrounding mountains that include Mt. Abraham, Sugarloaf, the Bigelow Range, and others.
The two snapshots shown below are a sampling of the views from this location.
|Zoomed view of Sugarloaf Mountain (center of photo; peak covered by clouds)|
|Looking northward up Carrabassett Valley toward Bigelow Mountains on horizon|
It should be mentioned that on the way up the mountain road, there is a large clearing and an adjacent parking area. At this location, there is a temple-like configuration of rocks that includes walls, stairs, towers, and picnic tables. Signs encourage visitors to clap their hands to hear echoes. We were unsure what to make of this, and so we drove on. Later in the day, I realized that I'd neglected to take photos of this rather odd place.
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PART 6: AZISCOHOS MOUNTAIN
On our way back home to New Hampshire, we stopped at a lovely roadside rest area near the shoreline of Aziscohos Lake. Cheri took up residence here and read a book while I scampered off to nearby Aziscohos Mountain (3,215 ft). The round-trip trek is about 4.2 miles. The trail is steep at the upper end, and the lower end of the trail is very muddy. Despite the steep sections, and the mud, the round-trip hike took just slightly over 2.5 hours.
This mountaintop has had a variety of fire towers over the years. In 1910 there was basically what amounted to a wooden shack built atop a ledge. This was replaced by a wooden tower in 1917. A new wood tower, but in a slightly different location, went up in 1919. Then in 1929, a 27-foot steel tower replaced the wood structures. The tower was decommissioned around 1968 and removed in 2004. All that remains today are the concrete footings.
From this location, you can see 15 lakes of the Rangeley Lakes region. And on a clear day, you can see high peaks in the nearby area such as Saddleback, the Bigelows, etc., as well as high peaks in the White Mountains of NH.
Presented below are two photos. One snapshot shows the concrete footings atop Aziscohos Mountain, and the second photo shows a typical view from this location.
|Concrete footings from fire tower which once stood atop Aziscohos Mountain|
|Typical view from Aziscohos Mountain|
There is an informational document attached to a tree near the summit of Aziscohos Mountain. Shown below are two snapshots taken of this document. (Apparently, the name of this mountain was once spelled as "Aziscoos".)
|Towers which once stood atop Aziscohos Mountain|
|History of Aziscohos Mountain (CLICK TO ENLARGE)|
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PART 7: EVENING VIEWS FROM THE DECK OF OUR RENTED CONDO
Our condo was located at an elevation of about 2,400 ft. From that lofty vantage point, we were able to see Fourth of July fireworks from 3 different towns in the valley below us. Unfortunately, my "point & shoot" camera was unable to capture that scene. However, I was able to capture a few of the sunsets that we enjoyed from the deck of our condo which overlooked Saddleback Lake.
|Sunset view from deck of our rented condo|
|Another sunset view from deck of our rented condo|
|Yet another sunset view from deck of our rented condo|
To sum it up, Cheri and I had a terrific mini-holiday in the Rangeley area of Maine. It's quite likely that we'll make a return visit at some point in the future. Perhaps the next time, we'll do this as an Autumn trip.