This time of year in Maine offers an abundance of choices to the outdoor enthusiast. The challenge, of course, is how to choose one activity over another in what is, for most of us, a limited amount of free time. Sure, you want to have fun, but some type of physical activity should also be on the agenda, particularly if your day job is of the sedentary variety.
So why not do both?
The Western Maine Mountains offer numerous day trips to challenge all of our senses of adventure. To me, hiking and fishing provides the best of both worlds. Here are a couple of options you may want to consider:
On Rt.16 west of Oquossoc, you will find the Forest Legacy Trails. These trails take you through gently rolling woods to the shores of Cupsuptic Lake, and are part of a large group of conservation efforts by the Rangeley Lakes Heritage trust, http://www.rlht.org/trails.shtml.
Approximately 9 miles out of Oquossoc Village you will see a sign for the trails. The next left on the top of the hill is Mud Pond Road, (unmarked), and the trailhead is a half mile or so down this road. From the trail head, there are several routes you can take to get to the lake. The shortest route to the lake is via the Timberland trail to Raven Point, approximately 2 miles round trip. From Raven Point you can go north or south along the lake shore, covering miles of prime brook trout waters, with campsite destinations of Smudge Cove to the north and Cold Brook, Cedar Cove and Eagle Bay to the south. These sites are remote in nature and provide a true wilderness experience for those willing to do the work to get there and set up. They do have picnic tables and outhouses. For overnight use, these sites must be reserved by calling 864-2003, but day use is free and the day I visited there was not another soul in sight. These trails are fairly well marked and easy to follow, but this is a big area and be sure to have a pack with food, water compass, GPS and matches.
Sticking to that neck of the woods, the next day’s trip will leave you ready for bed by the time you get home. Azischohos Mountain lies a few miles further down the road just south of the beautiful Maine Village of Wilsons Mills. This 3,249 ft mountain provides a moderate two-hour climb through mixed hardwoods and dense spruce and hemlock to a scrubby alpine summit. From the top, you are rewarded by pristine mountain vistas, dozens of lakes and ponds and a true sense of Maine and New Hampshire wilderness. The day we were last there, Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range to the southwest provided balance to the panorama that included Sugarloaf, Saddleback and Mt. Abraham to the southeast. The view from the top of this lesser known mountain is truly one of the best in Maine, and the trail is a classic Maine woods walk.
Once down off the mountain, it’s time to have lunch just down the road at a picnic area on Azischohos Lake, an astounding body of water over 12 miles long and teeming with trout and salmon. While having lunch, its time to consider the fishing opportunities for the afternoon. Hopefully, this was given consideration before you left home and you are appropriately outfitted.
Three types of fishing opportunities come to mind here. If you enjoy fly fishing, and have enough energy remaining from your earlier hike, the Magalloway river exits Azischohos Lake just past the aforementioned picnic area and follows the Western side of Rt. 16 into Wilsons Mills and on into New Hampshire. This is a classic boulder strewn stream and has many hiding holes for the multitude of brook trout (and some salmon) that inhabit these waters. Great sport for those with the skill or luck to coax them to the fly. Even if the fish aren’t biting (unlikely this time of year), the act of tossing a fly, hearing the rush of water and drinking in the scents of wilderness is like a mental massage to cleanse the soul.
A second option would be to pick a small pond, launch a canoe or kayak and try your luck on native squaretails. This is my own personal nirvana. As the afternoon progresses to evening, the winds die down and the trout start to slurp various species of mayflies and caddis as they emerge from the mud bottom of the pond. Laying a perfect cast over one of these rises and feeling the tug of a scrappy trout as he inhales your fly makes this just about the perfect scenario. Add in the call of a pair of randy loons and a moose or deer in the shallows and the sun sets on one of those rare days. One of my favorite ponds in the area for this type of adventure is West Richardson Pond, located on Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 28, E1. Part of the adventure will be finding the access to this carry in pond, but I will tell you it is off the road on the way in to the famous Upper Dam Pool on Richardson Lake.
For those who are interested in a more leisurely afternoon of recovery from the morning hike, bring the boat and launch on Upper Richardson or Azischohos lakes. Both of these large lakes are long and oriented north to south, and can get rough if the breeze is up. The public launch on Azischohos is through the Black Brook campground, which charges a modest $2 fee to park your trailer. In addition to stellar trolling for trout and salmon, there are numerous remote campsites available on the lake and dozens of sandy beaches to explore and stretch your legs. The remote sites are managed by Black Brook Campground (486-3828). Upper Richardson lake support a public boat launch, located on the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 18, A1, and the fishing is good right off the launch. Try trolling flies or smelt imitations in any direction as soon as you hit the water. A depth finder or keen eye is requisite here, as you want to fish as close to shore as possible. Expect to catch brook trout up to 16″ with much larger specimens possible at any time. Togue (lake trout), and salmon are also plentiful in this large, coldwater lake. Much like Azischohos, Richardson has numerous remote campsites available on the lake. These sites have tenting areas, picnic tables and outhouses, and are managed by South Arm campground, call for reservations at 364-5155.
These days of splendor can be difficult to carve out of our busy lifestyles, so if you get some time off – double your pleasure and make a full day of it. You’
ll never regret the things you did do; only those you didn’t. Even better, spend some time looking over maps and exploring to find your own adventures. Get out there!