Finally going there
When people that I work with (quite a few are hikers) found out that I had been bitten by the bug...I received quite a few recommendations about what mountain(s) I should climb next. One mountain kept coming up; Tumbledown. I'd heard about this mountain, with its fairly short trails, both easy, and quite difficult and it's beautiful mountain pond suitable for swimming. I began hearing about this early this spring, but (for some reason)just didn't get to this one...despite the fact that we hiked something almost every weekend. However, after a beautiful climb with the kids (including my oldest son who is supposed to go to Katahdin with us next weekend) we decided the time was now.
Finding the trail
Tumbledown is a very popular in Maine. Many people do this as an annual hiking event. So, we figured that it would be quite easy to find the trail head. This, however, was not the case.
We got up very early that morning as the drive would be about 2 1/2 hours from where we live and that would get us on the trail head by 6:00 am. We wanted all day of hiking; up the Loop train hitting West, East peaks, down to the pond, then up to Little Jackson, back to the pond, then down the Brook trail back to the car. It was very foggy on our way there, but we didn't have too difficult a time finding our way to the Brook Trail parking area (we wanted to do the 1.3 miles on the logging road at the beginning of our treck...not the end). It was especially exciting to see West Peak peeking out of the fog as we approached the parking area.
We found the parking lots (both for the Brook and Loop trail) but, could NOT
find the trail heads! When we made it to the loop trail parking lot (nice sigh, easy to see from the road just like the one for the Brook trail), we looked ALL AROUND the parking area for something that looked like a trail. We also looked up the road from the parking lot. Few very faded blue blazes and followed them into the woods until they just disappeared...but, this CAN'T be the trail. Anyway, to make a long story short...it took over three hours to find the trail head for the loop parking lot...and only because a pair of fishermen were dropped off on the side of the road approximately 100 yards before the parking area and, when we went by that area to go home (in complete frustration with intentions of sending a nasty email to the Mt. Blue State Park about their so called trail system), they weren't there. Look to the side and HEY...a big sign stating "loop trail" about 30 feet IN the woods...SIGH!!!! We parked and hit the trail laughing and (even though it was now 9:30 am) starting what would be a wonderful day hike.
I had heard that the Loop trail was a good one; quite challenging with that little area called "fat man's misery" at the end of it. This is an apt description of this trail. Starts out pretty easy, a little climbing here and there but not too much. Nice character...a good walk in the woods. Found this really pretty, sparkley granite rock on the way:
I kept referring to our Falcon Guide about what we would be seeing (missed the "rock balancing on a pedistal, though). Then...Tumbledown bolder. WOW!! HUGE. The picture does NOT do it justice as it is just too big to fit into the field of my camera. hopefully, having my son in the picture gives you an idea.
After this...the fun really begins. You only have about 0.9 miles left to the col between West and East peaks, but...I think it took us almost 2 hours to get up this part. We took lots of rests, and were quite careful. At one point, you come out on the ledges and are looking up at the cliffs. Spectacular! You can also see the "chimney" between West and East peak.
It was pretty "technical" (no, not like rock climbing technical...). Once we got to the top, and saw "Fat Man's Misery", it was "oh BOY!! Can we do this?"! There was a group of four a head of us and we watched how they had done this. It is a squeeze...and you need to twist yourself, but, the rungs are a great help. This pictures is good in that is shows how you kind of twist yourself.
We did make it...and yes, you DO need to pass up those packs (I tried not to...didn't work. And Oh...take the pack off BEFORE you get into this thing. Looking down, it was hard to imagine that we had actually made it up that!!
After all of this strenuous hiking up to the peaks, there was quite a sense of WOW. West peak is about a 10 - 15 minute hike with some more climbing. Very beautiful. We had a snack, my son had a little nap, and we just enjoyed.
We watched a halk and pair of Peragrin Falcons play. Looking towards East, North peak, and the little Jackson got us ready for some more hiking. The views were 360 with mountains all around you and Webb Lake right there too. We were quite lucky in that it was a beautiful day, clear sky, no haze, and the foliage is just beginning to change.
By this time, we were ready to hit the pond, have lunch and spend a few hours just relaxing and enjoying God's creation.
It takes about 45 minutes of moderate paced hiking, pretty much ridge walking (very nice, very easy, nice views most of the way) to get from West Peak to the pond. Beautiful. It is tue, even in Mid September, there this area was pretty busy. Our friends the fisherman were there...um...fishing and there were about 25 other people there. Fortunately, it is big enough that there is plenty of room to find a place to set up and have solitude. We had lunch, my son slept (yes, again), and hubby and I played Cribbage. Mostly, we did feel that we had the whole place to ourselves.
We had one encounter with some College kids (one guy, three very loud, very giggley girls). They were all over the place and almost stepped on my son while he was sleeping. Note to others who hike, people who are on the peak (or close to it) are usually looking for some quite...time to just enjoy nature. Please respect this.
At about 3:45 we very reluctantly headed down the mountain as we didn't want to get back too late. I must say that these trails are very clearly marked...there are two trails that you can take down from the pond. It is important to pick the right one as they come out quite far from each other. I was worried we would get the wrong one...shouldn't have. There is a nice blue mark on the rock where the trails are...arrows with "brook trail" and "Parker Ridge trail". The Brook trail is a nice hike, a little steep at the top that ends up very level and looking like an old logging road. Definitely something kids could do and probably would enjoy. One last stop to get water at the brook that this trail follows most of the way down (thus, the brook trail's name) and we made it to the car with plenty of time to spare.
Funny as it may seem...once we go down, right there at that trailhead was a new map...showing the trailheads, trails, and parking lots. Sigh...
Musings about our trip.
Despite the difficulty in finding the trail head (mostly due to our inattention and focusing only on the parking signs we could so easily see), this was a wonderful trip and, by the end, we all felt refreshed and ready to tackle the world. We did end up having to walk the 1.4 miles from the Brook trailhead to the Loop trailhead (where we had ended up parking the car). During this last leg of our treck, we relived it and planned for our next trip (KATAHDIN HERE WE COME!!!). We felt closer as a family. It was wonderful to see our 18 year old son enjoying time with his parents like this...and, conversely, us enjoying him just as much. There had been joking, helping hands, encouragement (hey, he only told us he hated us once), and...frustration. I find it interesting how frustrations can so quickly be forgotten (I really didn't go into the frustration we all felt at the difficult finding our trailhead...I was almost in tears) by the gentle beauty of the mountains and the rhythm of hiking. Maybe it is this that keeps us craving our hiking time.