Quaggy Jo Mountain (1,213 ft) is located within Aroostook State Park, about 5 miles south of Presque Isle, and a detailed description of the hike is available in the Maine Mountain Guide. Aroostook State Park charges a $3 entry fee for Maine residents, payable via a drop box next to the gate on the May afternoon I came through. Online maps are always hard to come by for Maine state parks, so I’ve included a photo of the physical trail map placard.
Parking is available at a large lot next to Echo Lake, at the base of the Quaquajo Nature Trail. (The popular belief is that Quaggy Jo is the shortened from of “Qua Qua Jo” a native American phrase for “twin peaked”). Not having done enough research, I started the Quaggy Jo hike counterclockwise, starting with the Nature Trail, marked with blue blazes, and proceeding via the North Peak and Ridge Trails. Guides and maps recommend completing this loop in the opposite direction, due to the steep ledges on the South Peak Trail, which make descent difficult. I opted instead to double back on the Ridge Trail, then take the Notch Trail back to avoid the issue. This made for a loop of about 2.6 miles in an hour and 15 minutes, which I finished via the Nature and Novice Trails. On the Quaquajo Nature Trail, steps led up an incline and low spots were covered with wooden walkways. The spring trees were still sparse enough to see through, with small green buds indicating the greenery to come.
The North Peak Trail crossed over the cross-country ski trail, then quickly turned to a steep series of switchbacks facing Echo Lake, reaching the North Peak summit (1,141 ft). The North Peak had several viewpoints, including a glimpse of snowy Katahdin through the trees. On the rocky Ridge Trail heading across the road from North Peak to South Peak (or vice versa, for those who follow instructions), there is a wooden lean-to with an expansive view of Aroostook County, and Canada beyond. As the Ridge trail dipped between the two peaks, the traverse required a series of hops over fallen trees, blowdowns after recent storms. Loose volcanic rock on portions of this climb show pieces of the rhyolite bedrock that created Quaggy Jo.
Atop the mostly wooded South Peak (1,215 ft) is a cell tower and small building, but follow a short spur trail with blue blazes to reach a wooden platform with a great view to the west, just short of the summit. The Notch Trail was a pleasant sand and rock trail carved into the notch between the two peaks with the sound of a quiet, slow running brook at the bottom. I criss-crossed the brook on a series of wooden bridges as the trail wound its way down to the South Peak Trail, and then a left onto the State Park Road. Just before the road, there were trillium and trout lilies in many variations of color and maturity.
Headed downhill, I made another audible and used the Nature Trail and Novice Trail marked with green and blue blazes to take a slightly different route back to the parking lot, passing by more wildflowers and a “Castle Tree,” silhouetted against the late afternoon sun. Aroostook State Park, Maine’s first state park, is about 800 acres, and open all year, 9 am – sunset daily. Restroom facilities are available during season, and pets must be leashed at all times.
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