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Carey Kish

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island has been adventuring in the woods and mountains of Maine for, well, a long time. If there’s a trail—be it on dirt, rock, snow, water or pavement—he will find it, explore it, and write about it. Carey is a two-time Appalachian Trail thru-hiker, Registered Maine Guide, author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast, editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide (10th ed.), and has written a hiking & camping column for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram since 2003. Follow his outdoor travels and musings here, and on Facebook/CareyKish. Let Carey know what you think at MaineOutdoors@aol.com.

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Maineiac Outdoors with Carey Kish
Posted: July 21, 2014

Great hiking, great views at Great Pond Mountain

The 4,500-acre Great Pond Mountain Wildlands up the coast in Orland is comprised of two large parcels of conservation land sporting an extensive network of foot trails and old gravel roads that combine for about 17 miles of fine walking opportunities.

Among these, the magnificent granite cliffs and summit slabs of the namesake Great Pond Mountain are the big draw, providing three miles of fantastic hiking and crazy views.

Enjoy great views from the summit cliffs on Great Pond Mountain in Orland. Photo © Carey Kish.

Enjoy great views from the summit cliffs on Great Pond Mountain in Orland. Photo © Carey Kish.

The 3,400-acre Hothole Valley parcel includes the extensive valley bounded by Great Pond Mountain to the west, Oak and Flag hills and Flying Moose Mountain to the east, and Hothole Mountain and Condon and Hedgehog hills to the north. A series of streams and brooks feed into Hothole Brook, which bisects the broad valley and flows 3 miles west through swamps and beaver bogs into pristine Hothole Pond.

Fourteen miles of gravel roads—former logging roads—crisscross the Hothole parcel; some are open to vehicle traffic on a limited basis, and all are open for use by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders. Traditional foot trails reach the summits of Oak and Flag hills.

The Dead River parcel is 1,075 acres and includes the summit and the southern and western slopes of Great Pond Mountain west to the Dead River, the northern arm of Alamoosook Lake, and 1.5 miles of waterfront. Four miles of gravel roads and hiking trails provide access to this section of the Wildlands, which includes this described hike.

The hike starts from the Don Fish Road, a half-mile beyond the Dead River Trail parking area and a mile beyond the Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery. Follow the blue blazes of the Stuart Gross Path uphill to an unsigned 4-way intersection.

Proceed straight ahead through the intersection on what is known as the Mountain Trail. Follow the wide track over exposed bedrock up the long moderate western ridge of the mountain.

Trail map for the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands. Image courtesy Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust.

Trail map for the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands. The trail up Great Pond Mountain is marked in red. Image courtesy Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust.

The views to the south get better and better as you climb. You’ll want to be veering off to explore each of them as you go. Plan on it.

Eventually the trail breaks out onto the wide open summit slabs, a virtual sea of beautiful granite. Before climbing further, take the obscure side trail down and to the left (as you face south) to the great cliffs on the south face of the mountain.

There, cliff top views range from Tunk, Caribou, Catherine, Black and Schoodic mountains well Downeast to the many peaks of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island to Blue Hill, Penobscot Bay and the Camden Hills. Mount Waldo and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge & Observatory are also visible to the southwest. Craig Pond is just below.

It’s a pretty amazing view, a pretty amazing place. Sit for a while and savor it. Where else do you need to be after all?!

Extraordinary cliff top views at Great Pond Mountain. Photo © Carey Kish.

Extraordinary cliff top views at Great Pond Mountain. Photo © Carey Kish.

A little further east along the cliffs, views open up over the breadth of the Wildlands to Oak and Flag hills, and to Lead Mountain, as well as Toddy and Patten ponds. Trundle over the narrow path (be careful) and check it out too. It’s worth it. You can go quite aways; turn back when you’ve seen enough or the trail peters out.

To reach the true summit, return to the main trail on the big open slabs and head upslope. The path eventually enters the woods on the right and weaves upward through the mossy rocks and ledges. Out into the open again, bear left across a final slab to the 1,038-foot summit (the sign was missing when I was up there earlier this year, but the post remains) where there are limited views through the trees.

Hike over many acres on exposed bedrock on Great Pond Mountain. Photo © Carey Kish.

Hike over many acres on exposed bedrock on Great Pond Mountain. Photo © Carey Kish.

The Great Pond Mountains Wildlands is managed for wildlife habitat, recreation, environmental education and sustainable timber harvesting. It’s open year-round; dogs on leash are allowed. There’s no fee, but donations are appreciated. The Great Pond Mountain Wildlands Trail Guide can be downloaded online for free.

MORE INFO: Great Pond Mountains Wildlands.

Bonus points: Post-hike, visit the Penobscot Narrows Bridge & Observatory and Fort Knox for tremendous views from the bridge top and wicked cool exploring around the historic fort.

Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory. Photo © Carey Kish.

Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory. Photo © Carey Kish.

Miles of great hiking in the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland. Photo © Carey Kish.

Enjoy miles of great hiking in the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland. Photo © Carey Kish.

 

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