Puzzle Mountain (3,133 ft) in Newry, Maine, is a lollipop-style loop hike incorporating the Grafton Loop Trail and the Woodsum Trail, for an approximately 7.7 mile hike with expansive western Maine views, including Sunday River. The mountain is supposedly named after the discovery of a soft vein of rock on the mountain that was subsequently lost, making it a puzzle. Parking is available at a medium-sized parking area off Route 26, with a map kiosk. A map is available from the Mahoosuc Land Trust, which manages the 485 acres of Stewart Family Preserve land on which Puzzle Mountain sits. A detailed description is also available in the venerable Maine Mountain Guide.
The blue-blazed trail crosses an ATV trail and then after about a quarter mile, a logging road, until beginning to climb by a small stream cascading down. Due to recent late May rains, the trail was slippery and the streams in the surrounding woods seemed to multiply. I knew this presaged a slippery trail with lots of bugs, and the clouds of mosquitoes were unrelenting. Clear spring streams criss-crossed the trail, which was a spooky green tunnel in the morning fog of beech leaves, birch, and hobblebush, with toads hopping out of the way.
A Maine Appalachian Trail Club (MATC) register box was there to log the hike a little over 3/4 of a mile in. The sun began to light the way and changed the tunnel to an emerald forest, with trillium and other wildflowers dotting the sides of the trail, awaiting full bloom. This green deciduous forest ended abruptly as the trail circled a ridge with viewpoints over the valley surrounding the Bear River, switching to rocks, moss, and pine.Continue reading