Popular peaks beckon hikers in the fall

Posted Sept. 09, 2010, at 9:50 a.m.

Hikers seeking scenic inland views this fall should check out two mountains about an hour’s drive apart in Kennebec and Oxford counties.

Mount Pisgah, Winthrop

With its rolling hills, hikers and mountain bikers seldom consider Kennebec County “mountainous,” but for both groups, 809-foot Mount Pisgah in Winthrop adequately meets the definition.

Rising between Apple Valley Lake and Dexter Pond, Mount Pisgah offers good “summit-level” views to the north and west and excel-lent 360-degree views from a 60-foot fire tower that, like most similar structures in Maine, has seen better days.

Take Route 202 from Augusta or Lewiston and turn north onto North Main Street in Monmouth; watch for the sign identifying the four-way Routes 132-202 intersection. Drive 0.8 miles to North Monmouth, turn right, and follow Wilson Pond Road for 0.2 miles until it intersects Mount Pisgah Road.

Turn left and drive 1.6 miles to a clearly marked gravel parking lot on the right. At a nearby locked gate, two trails ascend Mount Pis-gah. A 1.0-mile trail follows the utility road accessing the communications towers atop Pisgah. At the gate, a second trail enters the woods on the left and winds 0.7 miles through a primarily hardwood forest to emerge beneath the fire tower.

Westward views encompass Wilson Pond, Wayne, and the Presidential Range in the White Mountains. From the fire tower, views ex-tend east to the Camden Hills.

For hikers, the round trip takes about 90 minutes, including time to climb the fire tower.

From the summit, trails lure mountain bikers to test their mettle on Pisgah’s steep slopes. Trails can take bicyclists north to Route 133 and at least partially east toward Winthrop.

Streaked Mountain, South Paris

Guide books deceptively describe Streaked Mountain as a half-mile hike. Don’t be fooled by this short distance, similar to the Bald Mountain Trail in Dedham. Unlike the latter trail, the Streaked Mountain Trail can literally take the wind out of any hiker’s sails.

At 1,770 feet, Streaked Mountain rises between South Paris and Buckfield in Oxford County. Take Route 117 west from Buckfield (5.3 miles) or east from South Paris (about 3 miles from the Routes 117-119 intersection) and turn south on Streaked Mountain Road. Pull over at a rudimentary brook-side parking lot a half mile from Route 117.

The 0.5-mile trail initially parallels the brook before skirting a farm and rising through a mixed forest to emerge on Streaked Moun-tain’s western slope. Marked by dark arrows, the trail angles approximately 45 degrees to the left (northeast) and diagonally ascends the mountain.

The Streaked Mountain Trail rises sharply while winding among the bushes and trees that thrive on soil deposited amidst the granite ledges. No level stretches exist, so legs and lungs receive no rest, and even experienced hikers pause en route to catch their collective breaths and study the surrounding landscape.

Views open quickly westward to New Hampshire’s Presidential Range; rising across an adjacent valley is 1,420-foot Singepole Moun-tain, which spreads along Brett Hill Road in Paris. The terrain blazes with color by late September, and on cool, clear mornings, valley fog leaves the higher peaks resembling tree-capped islands thrusting above a gray sea.

Watch for the trail’s directional arrows, which due to their dark hue sometimes blend with the terrain. While gaining 800 feet in ele-vation, the trail intersects a power line that climbs the granite ledges to the communications towers adorning the Streaked Mountain summit.

Follow the power line past the first tower and onto the summit. Venture east and south to ledges that, in summer, rise among low-bush blueberries. From various locations, views extend north across the hills toward Sumner and east toward the Androscoggin River Valley.

The descending trail departs the power line at the second utility pole. Stay with the dark arrows; missing an arrow marking an obscure opening among the low, thick trees, I once strayed too far south along the open ledges and spent 15 minutes bushwhacking northwest to where the trail reaches the thick woods near the brook.

The 1.0-mile round trip takes about 90 minutes.

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