Named after a past president of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Laurie’s Ledge Trail started off fairly easy as it wound up through the young beech forest at the base of Indian Mountain, some 8 miles as the crow flies northeast of Greenville.
Because it follows an old wood-cutting road for the first half-mile or so, the path is wide as it gradually runs up the side of the hill from where it starts at the Appalachian Mountain Club camps on Little Lyford Pond.
After stopping in at the main lodge, built in 1874, and talking with crew member Chris Keene, I picked up a trail map and headed up. One of the first trails to be built on the 66,000 acres that the club owns in the region, it’s an up-and-back route that Keene assured me would give up rewarding views.
In typical AMC fashion, the trail is well designed and constructed. It’s clearly blazed and every intersection with other trails is clearly marked with routed, painted directional signs with distances.
After passing the first intersection with the Indian Circuit Trail which leads hikers around the mountain, the trail grew a little steeper the farther I went. Mushrooms of every size and color lined the path through the young beech forest on the lower slopes. There were mushrooms the size of pencil erasers next to some as big as my foot. I wondered, as I passed, that if I stopped long enough, if I could see them actually growing as they pushed up through the soil.
But I didn’t stop and continued up through the forest on a fine last-of-summer day. Soon I came to an interesting giant boulder which was split in two by ice action, I guessed. The trail wound around the boulder and then headed, a little steeper, up the hill. Further along the way the trail arrived at a set of log stairs over a stretch of ledge where it climbed more steeply.
The hardwoods soon were replaced by a mixed conifer forest as I neared the shoulder of the summit. Even though summer’s ending, the day couldn’t have been more summerlike. It was warm, but in the forest it was cool in the shade. There were a few clouds in the sky, but it didn’t look like it would rain. Good thing, because I only had a fanny pack and no rain gear.
As I hiked along toward the top, the trail came to an intersection with a side trail of about a hundred feet to the outlook named Laurie’s Ledge. The main trail led about a half mile farther to the west vista, according to the sign. I decided to continue on and save the visit to the ledge until the return trip.
Up near the top, at around 2,200 feet, the trail was lined with conifer needles of black and red spruce. On both sides, where there weren’t mushrooms, moss and lichen draped every surface of the forest floor. Once I climbed the last steep spot before the west vista it leveled off. Soon, I was at the view and the end of the trail. I stopped and took in the overlook.
The cut-away view was worth the short 1.7 miles it took to get there. I looked across to Elephant Mountain and it was clear how it got its name. On one end, the top of the forested hill looked like an elephant’s forehead with the connecting ridge appearing like its back.
At the base of Elephant lie several small ponds. One, Horseshoe Pond, is easily recognized by its U-shape. Pearl Ponds were visible, as well as the north end of Upper Wilson Pond. After a short break, I hiked back down to Laurie’s Ledge and stopped there for another view, this time looking northeast.
Katahdin wasn’t visible due to a summer haze, but all of the Whitecap range was. The Appalachian Trail crosses the range on the way north. I tried to identify how the trail goes across it, by comparing the landscape in front of me to the map I had. From having hiked it I knew it was rough and difficult, but from a distant view, it just didn’t appear to be that tough.
As I sat there looking down on the tops of the hardwood forest at the mountain’s base, I could see the first of the colors tingeing the trees. Looking down on the roofs of the AMC camps at Little Ponds filled out the scene. They looked a lot more than a couple miles away.
A nice little hike, I thought to myself. Taking a walk like this one is a fitting way to end the summer. Not too tough, great views and remote enough to satisfy my need to get away from other busier trail networks. I was surprised to see the only other hiker on the trail that morning. He and I exchanged greetings as we passed going in our different directions, him going up and me down.
If a hike is measured in moments, he’ll probably share in some of the same ones I had: seeing the views, witnessing the first of the fall colors and the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other to get there.
For more information on the 70 miles of hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country trails leaving from the AMC facility on Little Lyford Pond, visit http://www.outdoors.org/lodging/mainelodges/index.cfm.
Getting to Laurie’s Ledge Trail
The AMC trail network can be located on Map 41 of the Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer, grid C5. You must pass through a gated checkpoint operated by North Maine Woods. There is a $6 entrance fee for Maine residents, $10 for nonresidents, per person. The nearest town is Brownville Junction, roughly 10 miles from the gate south on Route 11.