The Raymond Community Forest is a network of four trails over 356 acres between Crescent Lake and Pismire Mountain (833 ft), protected by the Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT). I decided to combine all four into a modified loop (approximately 4 miles/1.5 hrs) to try and see as much of the Forest as possible. The lower trails (Spiller Homestead and Grape Expectations) are open to pedestrians and mountain bikes, while the trails to the east of Conesca Road (Pismire Bluff and Highlands Loop) are pedestrian-only. Leashed dogs are welcome.
The clearly marked trailhead, with parking, is located off Conesca Road in Raymond, and has a large kiosk with a map of the Forest and Raymond Community Forest trail maps available. On the warm July morning I visited, the field by the kiosk was bright with wildflowers.
[Note: As of May 22, 2020, Pleasant Mountain Trails have been re-opened by Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT). You can read guidelines here.]
Pleasant Mountain (2,006 ft) is a mountain in Bridgton right next to Shawnee Peak ski area, with trails mostly on land owned by the Loon Echo Land Trust (see here for detailed maps). Dad and daughter hiked this first with our cousin in April 2017 as part of our preparation for our 100 Mile Wilderness trek via the (moderate) Southwest Ridge Trail (also known as the MacKay Pasture Trail), 5.8 miles up/back, but have done it since in February. Map and description are also available in the stellar Maine Mountain Guide.
This hike can be busy in summer, particular up the Ledges Trail, but a winter morning can provide solitude. There were a few hikers, but I also saw woodpeckers, crows, and a herd of deer. The deer were using the same path, and bounded away from me, big white tails flashing, every time they heard my footsteps crunching in the snow, coming no closer than about fifty yards.
We have also hiked this mountain via the Ledges Trail from the east, and enjoy the western approach more, as the ridge hike provides wonderful views on the way up, including at the Southwest Summit (1,900 ft). The parking area on Denmark Road is well-maintained, plowed in winter, and easy to find (for directions, use Google Maps to search “Pleasant Mountain Southwest Ridge Trail“), and it is a fairly steady climb to the top, with a steeper climb after the junction with the Ledges Trail, for the last .2 miles to the top. A wood teepee structure near the Southwest Summit makes for a good point to take a break along the way.
A mix of sun, shade, and elevation provide different challenges throughout the hike in spring and summer, as the ridge northeast of the Southwest Summit blocks the sun during most of the morning. As of February 2019, the trail was well-packed, and I used micro-spikes from the trailhead to the summit, with no need for snowshoes. Steps to the right or left of the packed snow, particularly in the valley between the Southwest Summit and the Main Summit, will put you post-holed into deep snow. There were cross-country ski tracks parallel to the trail, providing more options.
A depressed area in the section between the Southwest Summit and Pleasant Mountain Summit is a vernal pool in spring, with incredibly loud peepers, a heavy covering of snow, and probably the first ticks of the year in April. The pool gave us our first chance to use our water filtration system, the MSR Sweetwater, in April 2017. A couple of pumps produced clear, cold water.
As seen above in the summit photo, the views of the White Mountains to the west, particularly Mount Washington, are wonderful on clear days. An old fire tower still stands on the summit. The descent requires a slight uphill climb in the valley between the main summit and the Southwest Summit, but it’s a quick downhill (careful of footing) after that, back to the trailhead, about a three-and-a-half hour out-and-back hike. If you can time it right, stop by Standard Gastropub in Bridgton after the hike to enjoy craft beer and unbelievable food.
The Lakes Region of Maine surrounding Sebago is a fantastic area for hiking, with many hikes in striking distance of lakefront idylls and other recreation. Bald Pate Mountain (1,150 ft) is an easy to moderate hike in Bridgton, Maine, with many trail options, comprising 6.7 miles of trails.
On this June morning, I took the Bob Chase Scenic Loop to the summit, then the South Face Loop Trail, returning the same way to the parking lot, for an approximately 3 mile hike (about an hour and fifteen minutes at a relaxed pace). Bald Pate trails are well-chronicled in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, and the trail map and descriptions are available online from the Loon Echo Land Trust, which owns and manages the 486 acre Bald Pate Preserve.
Approaching Bald Pate from the south on Route 107, you can see the exposed rock that is the mountain’s namesake. The parking lot is located on the east side of 107, just south of Five Fields Farm and XC Ski Center, at the top of a large hill. The climb up 107 allowed the car to do a lot of the work of getting to the summit before I even started hiking.
When I arrived, the lot was empty, and a small circle of depressed grass and milkweed next to my car looked like a place where a deer had slept the night before. I started up the Bob Chase Scenic Loop, with birch trees, lady slippers, wild blueberries, and ferns on either side, and red squirrels chattering loudly.
A wrong turn took me around a pleasant diversion/backtrack to the other side of the Bob Chase Scenic Loop, and I wound my way back to the summit. This was not the fault of the trail maintainers, as the Bob Chase Loop is clearly marked in blue, and the South Face Loop is clearly marked in orange.
The summit is easy to reach in 25 minutes or less, with excellent views, and it looks like a riot of wild blueberries awaits those who hike it later in the summer. The South Face Loop was much more challenging than the Bob Chase Trail, descending steeply, skirting the face of the mountain, and then ascending quickly to rejoin the summit (I thought several times, I already climbed this, didn’t I?).
The Pate Trail is a short, steep (.1 mi with 360 ft of elevation gain) trail connecting the summit to the South Face Loop, and I will have to try this one next time, as well as the Moose Trail, which can create a different loop back to the parking lot.
This trail network is connected to the Holt Pond Preserve via the Town Farm Brook Trail, which descends northeast to the Holt Pond Trail, a link which could create a much longer hike in a very different environment (bog walkway). The Bald Pate summit is a nice, short hike, suitable for most age and skill levels, with great vistas along the way.
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