After a tough win against UNH’s rugby team this past weekend, my legs dragged me outdoors to work out the knots and loosen up my stiff joints. Coincidentally, two of my good friends, Christian and Dumas, had similar aspirations to do some hiking. It took very little time to settle on our destination: Bald Mountain in Weld (Delorme M19 D-3). The three of us were partial to this particular hike, and we eagerly set off with some water and snacks for the top.
If you are at all unfamiliar with this mountain, it is a quick jaunt up and even quicker jaunt down. At a normal pace it takes 45 minutes to reach the top and no longer than 20 to get back to your vehicle. The trail contains very few spots of tricky footing and would certainly be a great trip to bring a toddler, (although one would have to take the necessary precautions of letting the little one jump and climb from boulder to boulder).
Christian, Dumas, and I set a rigorous pace immediately after tip-toeing across the larger stones in Wilson Stream which we found crossing our path at the start of our journey. I glanced at the surrounding vegetation every chance I got, but found myself constantly searching for my next stepping stone; my eyes darted back and forth on the forest floor below to find sure footing.
As the three of us sauntered up the mountain side, I did happen to notice the various stands of trees that came and went as we progressed higher. Although Bald Mountain has a rich diversity of trees, one will notice a periodic surplus of certain varieties that inhabit a particular spot or level on the mountain’s slope.
The first perceivable stand consisted of mostly sugar and striped maple, the latter of which could be found in abundance the rest of the way up. These maples can be recognized by their giant, rounded-edge leaves. The second stand stuck out like a sore thumb: numerous white birch trees proudly displayed their bleached-white bark and elegant design. In my opinion, not many trees can prove to be as striking or abundant in resources as the white-birch.
I left the pearly white stand reluctantly as I brought up the rear of the climbing trio. I would come across a mixture of beech, birch and maple before reaching the coniferous ring of trees that encircled Bald Mountain’s peak like a headband. After this, we found only shrubbery and low-bush plants like the mountain cranberry.
Similar to other mountains in Maine, Bald Mountain consists primarily of two hiking terrains. The first you experience brings you a little more than half-way up, and winds its way through the prevalent shade of a canopy above. The ground itself starts off as compacted earth and debris that has been trampled by enough feet to ensure reliable footing. However, this ground quickly gives way to basketball-sized boulders spread generously along the path, forcing you to hop stones instead of treading on ground. My group did exactly that until we surpassed the last trees and had only the ledge to climb, sometimes using our hands to help us up the steeper parts.
Once at the top, modestly tired but with my shirt sticking to my back, I accompanied Christian and Dumas to the highest peak. After we plopped down and started enjoying the landscape that completely encircled us, the three of us sparked general conversation and began asking questions such as, “What do you think the ratio is between trees that are changing color with fall’s influence to all the trees that are still green?” I followed the question with (anticipating the approaching hunting season), “How many deer do you think are in this sector? (I created a lane of 100 or so acres by holding my arms out in front of me and segmenting off a piece of land). Dumas replied calmly, “Five.”
Although I have often been out on the rugby pitch lately, I had my own goal to get out in the woods and do some old-fashioned exercise. It was simply a matter of committing myself to a trek and finding friends to go along. Once the three of us amigos got to the top of Bald Mountain, we actually dwelled there for nearly the length of time it took us to get to there— simply enjoying what was before us. We sat, talking, joking around, eating peanut-butter crackers, all the while gazing away from ourselves to the red, green, and purple slopes and valleys around us. We estimated 200 hills and mountains rose up around our 360 degree horizon.
After seeing such beauty in terrain and color, it made me sympathetic for those unable to see the natural world in one of her more expressive ways, one so tremendous and breath-taking that your eyes can’t decide what distant formation to focus on. To be able to take part in the mountainous beauty of Maine and other states of the Appalachian is truly a privilege. As Mainers, we certainly should be proud of what we have all around us and take advantage of it as often as possible.