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03 August 2014

Speckled Mountain (Maine): A Simple Out and Back Hike

Speckled Mountain is located in the Evans Notch area of Maine.  It's a destination that I had previously visited, but had never hiked to this 2,906 ft mountain via the Spruce Hill Trail.  And so, the main purpose of this journey was merely to experience a trail that was new to me.  It didn't matter to me that hazy conditions would likely mean that views at the top of the mountain would be less than ideal.  The thrill of hiking a new route was more than enough to inspire me to go forth with this adventure!

The Spruce Hill Trail shares a parking lot with East Royce Trail, and the trail begins on the opposite side of the road from the parking lot.  At 0.6 miles, the trail enters the Caribou-Speckled Mountain Wilderness.  And at 1.9 miles from the trailhead, the trail ends at the Bickford Brook Trail which is then hiked for 1.2 miles to reach the summit of Speckled Mountain.

And so, if you were doing a simple "out and back" hike, the round trip mileage would be 6.2 miles.  However, for my trek, I tacked on a little side-trip by descending the Blueberry Ledge Trail for a short distance to access a viewpoint.  Besides adding a few hundred feet of reverse elevation gain, this also added about an extra mile.  Therefore, my round-trip mileage was probably just a tad over 7 miles.

Of course, rather than doing a simple "out and back" trek, one could do a loop hike to Speckled Mountain.  Although a loop could be constructed using the Spruce Hill Trailhead as the starting and ending point, it would be much more practical to fashion a loop that began and ended at the Bickford Brook trailhead at Brickett Place.

For those readers who are interested in this type of thing, my route of travel is shown on the map below.
Map (click to enlarge) showing trails used to access Speckled Mountain.  The purple arrow at the bottom shows my little side trip to access a viewpoint along the Blueberry Ridge Trail. 
My visit to Speckled Mountain was a perfect case of where it was more about the journey than the destination.  As expected, the vistas of the surrounding mountains were very hazy.  However, for anyone of a mindset similar to mine, you know that invariably there are many interesting things to see along the route that are close at hand.  On this particular trek, there were a wide variety of colorful mushrooms, and other picturesque trailside features that were eye-pleasing.  And to please the palate, there was an abundance of ripe blueberries!

Before presenting some snapshots taken during my hike, here are two links that might be of interest to a few readers.  One link directs you to a paper written by Steve Smith which provides a wealth of information about Speckled Mountain (click HERE).  The other link directs you to a report about a hike I did to Speckled Mountain in 2009 (click HERE).  It was done during the colorful Autumn foliage season, and it involved a different route from the one described in this report.

Here are the photos:

Entering the Caribou Speckled Mountain Wilderness
A trail sign within the wilderness area where regulations prohibit inclusion of mileage since it's thought to detract from the backwoods experience where map reading, compass, and orienteering skills should be used to promote a closer relationship to the land.
The Bickford Brook Trail is easy going.  It travels over the remnants of the old access road for the fire tower that used to be on top of Speckled Mountain.
The concrete pylons are all that remains of the fire tower that once crowned Speckled Mountain. The insert seen at the bottom left is a photo of the tower that was taken in the 1980s.
Another photo taken from the site of the old fire tower.
Zoomed photo showing a grainy image of the massive cliff on Red Rock Mountain.  This is a fabulous hiking destination in the vicinity of Speckled Mountain.  (Click HERE to read a report about a hike to Red Rock.)
Okay, as can be seen from the photos shown above, the vistas of the surrounding mountains were hazy on this particular day.  However, as mentioned earlier, this hike provided other interesting sights that were close at hand, such as those shown in the following snapshots.

Photo collage showing a sampling of the wide variety of colorful mushrooms seen all along the route.  (Technically, the specimen shown at lower left is a wildflower, rather than a mushroom.  Click HERE to read more about it.)
An idyllic segment of trail lined with mushrooms and brilliant green moss
A trailside vignette of blueberry, and mountain cranberry, with raindeer moss interspersed
This photo features mountain cranberry and raindeer moss surrounding a pool of water.
There was an abundance of ripe blueberries at various points along my route.  It took only about 2-minutes to gather the handful of berries shown in this photo.
The next two snapshots were taken during my short side trip to a viewpoint along the Blueberry Ridge Trail.  The distant views from here were just as hazy as they had been from the top of Speckled Mountain. Regardless, this might provide a general idea of the attractive views that would be available on a clear day.
Westward view from Blueberry Ridge Trail looking toward mountains in the Baldface-Royce Range
Southward view from Blueberry Ridge Trail looking toward Kezar Lake
To sum it up, although this was merely a simple 'out and back' hike, it was still delightful.  It provided the thrill of traveling a route that was new to me.  Also, the variety and beauty of the trailside scenes more than compensated for the hazy conditions that diminished the distant views.



Unknown said...

Wonderful report, John. Speckled Mountain is local to me and I visit it often, most usually by this same trail. I wonder if you've ever approached it by the Red Rock Ridge?

1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Nancy!

I’ve never approached Speckled via the Red Rock Trail, but have used 3 other approach routes, i.e. 1) Spruce Hill /Bickford Brook; 2) Evergreen Link/Cold Brook; 3) Blueberry Ridge/Bickford Brook.

As you likely know, a very scenic 12 mile loop could be done by starting at Miles Notch trailhead and ending at Evergreen Link trailhead. This would take you over Red Rock Mountain and utilize the Red Rock Trail as the approach route to Speckled. However, since there’s about 3.5 miles of road that separates the Miles Notch and Evergreen Link trailheads, this loop would best be done using a ‘car-spot’.


One Day in America said...

I agree that this was a hike worth doing, even on a hazy day—loved all your photos of the scenery at your feet and in front of you.

Also I checked out the blog post from your autumn hike of Speckled Mountain. Gorgeous! Almost makes me want the summer to hurry along toward my favorite season. (But time is going fast enough as it is, so I guess it doesn't need any speeding up on my account.)

Lastly, I loved the photos of the blueberries you picked. Looks like almost enough to make a blueberry cobbler!

This was another great post from Maine, John!

1HappyHiker said...

Hi Rita,

Thanks for your kind words, and also thanks for taking time to read not only this posting, but also to read the report about my earlier trek to Speckled Mountain in the Autumn of 2009.

For this most recent trek to Speckled Mountain in 2014, I must admit that the variety and beauty of the trailside scenes exceeded my expectations!

And regarding the blueberries I picked, they made delicious blueberry pancakes! :-)


Steve Smith said...

Thanks for a terrific report on one of the finest mountains in the WMNF, John! You really captured the beauty both far and near. Those are some yummy-looking blueberries!


1HappyHiker said...

Thanks Steve, for your kind words.

Also thank you for compiling that very comprehensive document on Speckled and Blueberry Mountain, and thanks for making it publically available on the Internet. By including a link to your document within my report, readers are provided with the opportunity to access many details which are unlikely to be found anywhere else.

And lastly, regarding the blueberries, I don’t know if the overabundance of rain this summer has had anything to do with it, but there certainly seems to be a banner crop this year!