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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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Posted: August 12, 2018

Hiking in Maine: Missing trail puts an end to a hopeful day

Written by: Carey Kish

Lobster Lake isn’t the easiest place to reach, but once you’re there … those sunsets. Those incredible sunsets. Photo by Carey Kish

Lobster Mountain rises prominently above the eastern shore of Lobster Lake, in Lobster Township, in the wild wooded country situated between the northern end of Moosehead Lake and the famous Golden Road.

More than 100 miles from the salty Atlantic coast, the name Lobster isn’t one you’d normally associate with Maine’s North Woods. Owing to a fluke of topography, however, the lake happens to be shaped like a lobster claw. The larger eastern side of the lake is actually named Big Claw (think crusher claw), while the smaller western side is named Little Claw (think pincer claw).

About this time last summer, a climb of Lobster Mountain was firmly in this hiker’s sights, with a plan to add it to the new AMC Maine Mountain Guide. It would be an expedition of sorts, requiring a long drive over gravel logging roads, a canoe loaded with paddling and camping gear, and the usual day hiking goods.

Lobster Lake and its namesake mountain are part of the Penobscot River Corridor and Seboomook Public Lands, administered by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. The vast conservation unit spans 100 rugged miles of rivers, lakes and streams in the upper reaches of the Penobscot River watershed, from Canada Falls Lake and Seboomook Lake to the Upper West Branch and Lobster Lake, and Chesuncook Lake to the Lower West Branch.

Access to Lobster Lake is from the east at Millinocket via the Golden Road, or from the south at Greenville via Lily Bay Road and Sias Hill Road. Either way, you’ll pass through the North Maine Woods checkpoint at Caribou Lake, where day use and camping fees are charged (bring cash).

The put-in is on Lobster Trip Road, immediately after it crosses Lobster Stream. There is ample parking, a toilet and an information kiosk. Before shoving off on the stream, I snapped a photo of the posted map, a simple act that would unexpectedly alter the outcome of the trip.

The 2-mile flatwater paddle along Lobster Stream is lovely, and we saw moose, osprey and bald eagles. From the mouth of the stream, we stroked southeast across Lobster Lake to Ogden Point and the Ogden North Campsite.

There are 11 first-come, first-served campsites on the lake plus two group sites; each features a picnic table with ridgepole, firepit and privy. The beautiful lake is known for its unusual sedimentary and igneous rock formations, as well as its sandy beaches, which offer excellent swimming. The sunsets are extraordinary.

Paddling across the lake to camp, it was easy to see our hiking objective, Lobster Mountain. The unmistakable flattop profile of Big Spencer Mountain dominated the view further east. After pitching the tent, we struck off by canoe for the trailhead.

The posted map I’d taken an image of back at the boat launch showed the trail starting at Jackson Cove, wending over to Little Cove and then up the mountain. Being late afternoon already, we headed straight for Little Cove.

For two frustrating hours, my wife and I searched for the trail to Lobster Mountain (or back toward Jackson Cove, for that matter), crashing through the weeds and muck, and thick spruce and fir. Bug-bitten and weary, we could find no sign of the trail anywhere and finally gave up.

I’d heard similar tales of woe from several experienced outdoorspeople who also couldn’t find the path, if there even was one anymore. Perhaps the forest had reclaimed it, I reasoned, as sometimes happens to out-of-the-way trails.

Now, mind you, there was a proper map in my dry bag, but never considering it would be different from the posted map I’d photographed, I didn’t dig it out. And why bother to at least take a peek over at Jackson Cove? Big mistake.

At home several days later, I looked at the paper map. And there, clear as day, was the trail, which began from Jackson Cove all right, and climbed right from there, never going near Little Cove. Sigh.

From the obvious lakeside trail sign, the Lobster Mountain Trail ascends two pleasant miles to a bench and a lookout high on the northeast ridge. I know this from details provided by a friend and colleague, Aislinn Sarnacki, who’d been there the prior week.

I didn’t make it back to Lobster Lake last summer, but am scheming up a plan for another try this fall. Wish me luck. For more info on planning your own Lobster Mountain adventure, visit: www.parksandlands.com.

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