January 04, 2020
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Ragged Mountain is a breathtaking snowshoe in more ways than one

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous. The hike is between 4 and 5 miles to the summit and back, depending on which route you take. Expect steady climbing, steep sections, and plenty of rocks and uneven terrain.

Information: Ragged Mountain is home to some of the most challenging hiking trails in midcoast Maine. Rising 1,280 feet above sea level, the summit can be approached by three trails that are maintained by the Georges River Land Trust. These trails climb the mountain from three different directions to meet on its rocky ridge.

Named after the “ragged,” fractured rocks on its ridge and steep sides, the mountain lies just south of the Camden Hills, straddling the Camden-Rockport border. From multiple ledges near its top, hikers are rewarded with open views of the region.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Ragged Mountain is seen through the skeletal forest on its western side on Jan. 2, in Rockport. Starting at Route 17, a hiking trail approaches the mountain from that side.

The mountain was originally named Hosmer Mountain after Nathaniel Hosmer, who built a log cabin on the nearby Hosmer Pond in the late 1700s, according to the book “Mountains of Maine: Intriguing Stories Behind Their Names” by Steve Pinkham. The mountain’s name changed over time, but the pond remains Hosmer Pond.

The hiking trails on the mountain that are maintained by the Georges River Land Trust are marked with blue blazes and rock piles called cairns. They’re traditional New England hiking trails, meaning that they’re narrow and travel over uneven terrain but are clear of underbrush and encroaching tree branches. These trails cross small brooks and pass large boulders as they travel through a mostly deciduous forest.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Fresh snow clings to tree trunks on Jan. 2 on Ragged Mountain in Rockport.

In addition to these hiking trails, Ragged Mountain is home to the Camden Snow Bowl, a town-run ski area. These ski trails are on the mountain’s east side, starting just below the summit and running down the mountain to Hosmer Pond.

Also at the Camden Snow Bowl, the town maintains a number of snowshoeing and hiking trails that explore the east side of Ragged Mountain. These trails include the 1.3-mile Hosmer Brook Trail and the 1.7-mile Red Diamond Trail, which connect to the Georges River Land Trust trails near the top of the mountain.

And lastly, circling the base of Ragged Mountain, a new trail called the Around the Mountain Trail is being constructed by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust. This loop trail will measure about 9 miles long. It’s currently off limits to hikers, but signs state that it will be completed by the end of 2020.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Spruce and Pleasant mountains are seen from an open ledge on Ragged Mountain in Rockport.

Regardless of the trail you use to climb Ragged Mountain, the views near the top are spectacular. On a clear day, hikers can see all the way to Maine’s western mountains — and beyond them — to New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, according to Georges River Land Trust. And to the east, you can see the many islands of Penobscot Bay, and beyond that to the mountains of Acadia.

If the day isn’t so clear, plenty of interesting landmarks are nearby, including Spruce Mountain, Bald Mountain, Mirror Lake, Grassy Pond and, of course, Hosmer Pond.

The mountain’s open summit supports wild blueberries and a variety of fragile alpine places. It also features a communications tower. Tread lightly and remain on trail.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Islands in Penobscot Bay are seen from an overlook on the south side of Ragged Mountain on Jan. 2 in Rockport.

The three trails on Ragged Mountain that are maintained by the Georges River Land Trust are a part of the Georges Highland Path, a 50-mile network of low-impact footpaths in the midcoast region built and maintained by the land trust. Other mountains explored by the Georges Highland Path include nearby Spruce Mountain and Pleasant Mountain. The network also visits Appleton Ridge, the historic Georges River Canal and Thomaston Town Forest.

Dogs are permitted on the Georges River Land Trust trails on Ragged Mountain but must be kept under control at all times. Carry out all dog waste and trash. For more information, call Georges River Land Trust at 207-594-5166 or visit georgesriver.org.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
A cluster of evergreens stand on a rock ledge of Ragged Mountain on Jan. 2 in Rockport.

Personal note: I woke with a crick in my back on Jan. 2, and I gloomily thought, “What a great way to start off the new year.” Stubbornly, I decided I’d “walk it off” on a 5-mile snowshoe trek. In hindsight, that wasn’t my finest decision-making moment.

The Route 17 parking lot for Ragged Mountain was empty when I arrived at 11 a.m. The snow was just deep enough for me to wear snowshoes rather than ice cleats. The snow was also crusty, which contributed to my decision to leave my dog Oreo at home. Icy snow can be tough on paws, especially over the course of a few hours.

So I headed into the woods alone, hoping that fresh air and movement would cure my aching back and cabin fever. Following bright blue rectangles painted on trees, I trudged through the forest. Chipmunks, chickadees and woodpeckers all made appearances, but the loud crunch of my snowshoes announced my arrival and kept wildlife at a distance.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Snow covers a jumble of rocks located on the steep western side of Ragged Mountain on Jan. 2 in Rockland.

That day, I hiked 5.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1,076 feet, according to the AllTrails mobile app. I came across three people, all hiking solo. We exchanged smiles and a few words, but otherwise kept to ourselves.

Near the summit, I enjoyed views from several open ledges. A thick blanket of gray clouds covered much of the sky, but they broke near the horizon, revealing a sliver of sky that glowed yellow-orange. This, combined with the snow and ice that frosted the trees, lent a special beauty to the wintery landscape.

By the time I returned home, I was moving like Quasimodo, as my husband lovingly pointed out. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tackled such a large mountain, I admitted to him. But that’s just who I am. And while the woods did not heal my back, it did cure my cabin fever — for the moment.

Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
Aislinn Sarnacki | BDN
A sign marks the Route 17 trailhead parking area for Ragged Mountain and Spruce Mountain in Rockport.

How to get there: There are three trailheads for the Georges River Land Trust trails on Ragged Mountain.

The north trailhead is on Barnestown Road in Camden. The parking lot is 1,000 feet south of the intersection of Barnestown and Gillette roads. The Bald Mountain Trail splits off of this trail.

The west trailhead is on Hope Street in Rockport and is for a trail known as Thorndike Brook Trail. From the intersection of Route 17 and Route 90 (West Street) in West Rockport, drive 2.5 miles north on Route 17 (Rockland Road) and turn right onto Hope Street. Drive 0.5 mile to the parking lot on the right.

The south trailhead is on Route 17 (Rockland Street) in Rockport, about 2 miles north of the intersection of Route 17 and Route 90 (West Street) in West Rockport. This parking lot also serves the trail leading up Spruce Mountain, which is across the road.

For more of Aislinn Sarnacki’s adventures, visit bangordailynews.com/act-out. Follow Aislinn Sarnacki on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.

 



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