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30 September 2014

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

INTRODUCTION:

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

DESCRIPTION OF THE 4 HIKES:

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!

14 comments:

  1. Great stuff John! Your photos have definitely whet my appetite for a visit to the Moosehead Region in the not too distant future. I particularly look forward to hitting Little Spencer, what a spectacular spot!

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    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for dropping by to take a look at my blog!

      I’ll be very eager to read your blog posting(s) about any treks you do in the Moosehead Lake Region. There’s no shortage of fabulous hikes to do in that area, and traveling to the remote trailheads adds a bit of spice to the adventure! :-)

      John

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  2. Wow John. Another great report from Maine. Love your "Delightfully remote!" description. Certainly seems to describe that area well. Great photos. That one of Little Spencer over the water is amazing.

    Thanks for sharing,
    Joe

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    1. Thanks Joe for all your very kind words!

      It’s a long drive (about 4 hrs) to that part of Maine from my home in NH. But IMHO, it’s well worth the effort. :-)

      John

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  3. Wow, a what great introduction to the Moosehead Lake region, John! I've never been in that area. Your report really whets the appetite. That chimney on Little Spencer looks scary, but the views are phenomenal. Eagle Rock looks like perhaps the best spot of all. Thanks for sharing your adventures.

    Steve

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    1. Hi Steve,

      The Moosehead Lake Region is an area where I think you and Carol would enjoy spending some time and doing some hiking. But, admittedly, it’s a long drive from where you and I live in NH.

      I would pretty much agree with your assessment about Eagle Rock. All things considered, it is perhaps the best one of the hikes described in this report. However, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to recommend any of these hikes! The hike to the ledges on Little Squaw was done sort of as an afterthought, but I was blown away by the “big bang for the buck” that this trek provides. For much less effort than it takes to get to Eagle Rock, those ledges provide views that are similar to those from Eagle Rock, plus there is the bonus of enjoyable trekking along the shorelines of Big Moose and Little Moose Ponds.

      Oh! Should you and Carol ever visit the Moosehead Lake Region, you should definitely do the hike to Mt. Kineo. It’s unique in many ways, including the fact that the trailhead is only accessible by taking a short ferry ride, or paddling over yourself! My trek to Mt. Kineo was described in a previous blog report (link below).

      http://1happyhiker.blogspot.com/2014/07/several-days-of-hiking-in-moosehead.html

      John

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  4. Isn't it great to discover those blank spaces on the map—full of "nothing", but really full of everything! (There are so few blank spaces left.)

    I'm glad that you and Cheri were able to make a return visit to Greenville to do more hiking and discovering. The hikes sound wonderful; I really liked your description of Little Spencer and the 70 ft. chimney.

    Thanks also for providing the glorious glimpses of eastern fall foliage. I really miss the eastern Hardwood forests at this time of year!
    Another fun post, John!

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    1. Hi Rita,

      Thank you for your comments. I especially like your very insightful statement about blank spaces on the map being full of “nothing”, but really full of everything!

      John

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  5. Hi John,

    Lovely stories and photos as always. I have very fond memories of that area. Back (more than 30 years ago--yikes!) when I was an undergrad at UMaine, I spent parts of two summers living in Kokadjo. I was part of research projects studying the impacts of spruce budworm spray (insecticide) on birds and other wildlife. So, during those summers there were a few more than "not many" living in Kokadjo. We got out for some lovely hikes, but mostly drove those endless dirt roads through what was paper company land. Many moose sightings and pure wild country, except for the logging.

    I was so intrigued by Kokadjo that I've always wanted to go back and research the area and write a book....one of those many to do projects.

    Thanks for reminding of why I loved that part of Maine.

    Regards, Ellen

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    1. Hi Ellen,

      I’m ‘blown away’! I suspected that perhaps there might be a handful of readers who possibly might have some level of familiarity with Kokadjo. However, I would never have suspected that there would be a reader who had actually lived there for a while, and then have that reader be someone who I know! Incredible! :-)

      Like you, I too am intrigued with this region which you so aptly describe as “pure wild country”. I hope that someday you will find time to write a book about this unique and remote area. Considering your expertise as a wildlife biologist, and a skilled writer, it would be a fascinating book. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy reading your delightful postings to your excellent blog (http://spicebush.blogspot.com/).

      John

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  6. Hi John,

    I should dig out some of my old slides and scan them. Sadly, I don't think I ever took pictures of the houses that we lived in, right there across from the lake. But I am going to look for them!

    Regards, Ellen

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    1. Terrific, Ellen! If you do scan your old slides, I'd be most interested in seeing whatever you might care to send me by e-mail. I think you have my e-mail address, but if not, I'll be happy to supply it to you.

      By the way, I've ordered one of those "self-published" books that someone has written about this area. It was ordered with very little foreknowledge about the content, but since it was only about $8 (including postage), I decided to take a chance. Haven't received it yet, but will let you know if I think it's worth your while.

      John

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  7. I am writing to ask if you would be willing to allow the Abbe Museum to use one of your terrific photos, http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-JviKIOc9FpA/VCtk4841MGI/AAAAAAAAUZE/d7UBwQ2RQlA/s1600/CIMG9651.JPG, in an upcoming exhibit at the museum.

    The photo would be used to illustrate a Penobscot story about a moose hunt. It will be part of our new exhibit, People of the First Light, which opens May 1.

    People of the First Light welcomes you into the Wabanaki world, sharing the stories, culture, and history of the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. You will encounter words, sounds, objects, and images that connect you with the Native nations who have made this place their home for more than 12,000 years. Immersing you in the language, art, traditions, and innovations of the contemporary Wabanaki, People of the First Light shares multiple perspectives through many ways of knowing and learning.

    I can be contacted at julia@abbemuseum.org. Thank you!

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    1. Julia, thank you so much for contacting me to request permission to use my photo of Little Spencer with Big Spencer in the background. I am honored that you would use this photo. Yes, by all means, please feel free to use it in your exhibit.

      The full resolution image of this photo has been sent to your e-mail address.

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