Difficulty: Moderate. The trail is 0.67 mile long, from the trailhead to the top of the mountain, making for an out-and-back hike of about 1.4 miles. The first part of the trail is a bit rocky, especially where it follows a small brook; and there are a series of narrow bog bridges to navigate about halfway up the mountain. The climb is gradual but almost constant, so it will certainly get your heart pumping faster.
How to get there: From the intersection of Route 182 and Route 1 in Cherryfield, drive east on Route 182 (Blacks Woods Road) toward Ellsworth 1.9 miles and turn right onto Spragues Falls Road, which is marked with a colorful, wooden sign rather than the typical green or blue street sign. Drive 2 miles down Spragues Falls Road and the trailhead will be on the left. In front of the trailhead is a small graveled parking area that will fit one vehicle. This parking area is just before a driveway marked with two large white posts. It’s also across the road from a private, roped-off gravel road.
Information: A bald-topped hill in Cherryfield known locally as Young Tunk Mountain has long been a place for area residents to hike and pick wild blueberries. Local children who have climbed the hill call its granite summit the “Top of the World” because it provides wide open views of their towns below.
But it wasn’t until this past fall that an official, blue-blazed hiking trail was opened on Young Tunk Mountain for the general public to enjoy.
Savage Bloomer, now a senior at Narraguagus High School, spent the past summer and fall improving the trail by clearing away brush and installing a series of wooden bog bridges over a soggy area of the woods. He also marked the trail with blue blazes, designed and posted a sign at the trailhead, and improved the trail’s small parking area on Spragues Falls Road.
“I know a lot of people who use and love that trail,” said Bloomer. “They’ve come up to me personally and told me I did a great job, that what I did on the trail has helped a lot.”
The trail is on property owned by Bloomer’s grandfather, Peter Yates, who now lives in Maryland.
“He had plans of restoring the area,” Bloomer explained. “I was in contact with him the entire time I was working on the trail. He was thrilled about it.”
Bloomer completed the trail work this fall for his Eagle Scout Service Project, a requirement for achieving the coveted rank of Eagle Scout from Boy Scouts of America, an organization founded in 1910 as a youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.
“Boy Scouts has set me up for so much and has really given me the outlook to open my mind to just about anything,” explained Bloomer. “It got me into aviation when I did my Aviation Merit Badge, and it also has taught me a lot of practical skills like lifesaving and first aid … I got a job working a ropes course because of the training I had at my Scout camp.”
This past Monday, Bloomer appeared before a board of review and earned the Eagle rank.
“A lot of people went into doing this project,” Bloomer said. “A lot of my friends helped, and people in my troop, people in the community.”
The wood for the bog bridges and the gravel for the parking lot were both donated by local residents, he said. And he rarely went out to work on the trail alone.
Starting at the trailhead, the trail passes through a small stand of balsam fir and young white pines, then enters a mostly deciduous forest that includes beech, red oak and white and yellow birch. Now marked with blue blazes, the trail climbs the mountain gradually and follows a small, rocky brook for a stretch.
About halfway up the Young Tunk Mountain, the trail meets a wet section of the woods.
“Water accumulates right there into a big pocket — a giant puddle,” Bloomer said. “It’s one spot people would get lost. So I built a walking bridge over it.”
The trail then continues to the hilltop, which is just over 550 feet above sea level, according to contour lines on Google Maps and the Maine Delorme Atlas and Gazetteer. Emerging from the trees, the trail makes a sharp left and ends at a hump of exposed granite, from which hikers can look to the northwest and see the hill’s namesake, Tunk Mountain, rising 1,157 feet above sea level.
Tunk Mountain is one of the most popular spots to hike in the region. Harold Pierce and his children donated Tunk Mountain to the state of Maine for preservation in 1994, a generous act that is commemorated on a plaque near the mountain’s summit.
Also from the top of Young Tunk, hikers can look north and see the Humpback (Lead) Mountain, and on a clear day, a line of wind turbines are faintly visible along the horizon.
While the trail officially ends at the first granite hump, people often continue along the top of the hill, following the exposed granite, to additional views of the area and patches of wild lowbush blueberries. To the west you can see the nearby Caribou, Black and Catherine mountains, all of which can be explored by public hiking trail. To the south and southwest is the ocean and on a clear day, the mountains of Acadia on Mount Desert Island; and to the east, the forests and lakes of Washington County.
In response to a proposal by Bloomer and his grandfather, the Downeast Salmon Federation and Maine Coast Heritage Trust is working on establishing a conservation easement on the property to ensure that the trail remains maintained and under public protection in the future.
Personal note: It was 6 degrees Fahrenheit at noon on Valentine’s Day, and the bitter wind was pushing the temperature far below zero. So what did I do? I asked my husband, Derek, to go on a snowshoe adventure Downeast. He wasn’t all that surprised. When he married me, he knew what he signed up for.
Knowing that it was dangerously cold outside, Derek and I bundled up in layers of synthetic cloth, wool, down and fleece. We wore our thickest wool socks and our bulkiest mittens. Derek hid his face behind a fleece-lined face warmer, and I wrapped my face with the flaps of my bomber hat, which is lined with soft rabbit fur. We also tucked chemical hand warmers and toe warmers in our mittens and boots.
We didn’t even consider bringing our dog, Oreo, on the adventure. With the short fur of a pit bull, his limit is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, even if he’s wearing one of his fleece dog coats.
On the scenic drive to the trailhead, I assured Derek that the trail was perfect for the conditions. It was a short, steady climb. We’d warm up, and we wouldn’t be outside for long.
Our breath fogged and trailed behind us as we tramped up the hill through fluffy snow. We kept a good pace, not lingering too long in any one spot, though I had to stop once to place toe warmers in my boots. My feet had gone numb.
A fierce wind swept over the top of the hill that day from the northeast, clearing the rough granite summit of snow and creating deep drifts on the west slope of the hill. The views were spectacular, but we could only enjoy them for so long without fear of frostbite on our cheeks and noses. Tears streamed from my eyes as I tried to film the landscape, and eventually, my camera simply refused to work until I warmed it back up again in my mittens.
After a quick Valentine’s Day hug, we headed back down the mountain and I noticed that my right eye wasn’t opening all the way. After a quick investigation with my fingers, I realized that my bottom eyelashes had frozen to the top. I laughed and told Derek to wait as I sandwiched my lashes between my thumb and index finger and waited for them to melt.