Leaky Capers on Bald Rock Mountain

Bald Rock Mountain in Camden Hills State Park was the first mountain I climbed in the winter. That less than illustrious escapade was almost exactly forty years ago. Located in Lincolnville in the northeastern sector of the park, at the time primary access to the summit was a trail that left Route One about a mile south of Lincolnville Beach. Over the years, the Route One access went through periods of transition and rerouting as a result of development. Parking always a problem, the trail was finally closed.

Having hiked the Route One access in the fall, two friends and I concocted a winter scheme in February 1978 that entailed spending the night in a lean-to near the summit. Ill-equipped and devoid of winter mountaineering expertise, ours was very much on the job training. A couple of days before the scheduled climb, we experienced a sizeable snowfall. Think it was my idea to haul our gear on a toboggan. We all had theories about what equipment was necessary for an overnight winter mountain excursion and the collective result was a lot of stuff.

Volunteering my old 12 foot toboggan, we loaded it with at least 150 pounds of food and equipment that included all of the ingredients necessary for a half-gallon of hot buttered rum. The intent was for two people to break trail with snowshoes while the third wrapped the toboggan rope around his waist and hauled it. Since it was my toboggan, I drew the short straw.

The towing technique worked fairly well until we started gaining elevation, which was about 100 yards into the trip. At that point, every step was a monumental struggle. Returning to our vehicles for more rope, we devised a system where the three of us resembled a team of two-legged oxen. With this new much-improved arrangement, we were able to complete the 1.5 mile trek in about five hours.

By the time we arrived at the lean-to, we were drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted. Fortunately, we had a change of clothes. Actually, we had several changes of clothes. A cold night, staying warm was easy as we brought tarps to cover the front of the lean-to, a gas operated tent heater, several lanterns, a couple of two burner gas stoves, plenty of fuel, cots and bulky, forty below zero sleeping bags. Food was not an issue as we had enough to feed a Boy Scout troop. The hot buttered rum was more problematic. Trying to duplicate an 18th century recipe used on Benedict Arnold’s march to Quebec, the butter and other components refused to blend. We finally drank the rum straight and fell asleep early. An additional problem, about two feet of snow had accumulated on the lean-to and the roof leaked. Readers can probably imagine what happened when we warmed the structure to about eighty degrees. Having several changes of clothes turned out to be our best decision.

A committed winter mountaineer doesn’t surrender easily. A couple of years later, I recruited my wife, sister and a new buddy, John Stokinger, for a return winter trip. The former friends from the first debacle weren’t interested. Snowshoeing while carrying our gear in packs, we made it to the lean-to in a record two hours. This time, everything seemed to work easier in part because hot buttered rum was not on the menu. There were two complications, a freezing rain storm and the same leaky roof. Since then, I’ve had several overnight winter mountaineering exploits but that was my last on Bald Rock Mountain. I think John is still a friend although he moved to Pennsylvania.

The old Route One access to Bald Rock is long gone. However, the park has improved the trail network and the trailhead closest to the summit begins on Youngstown Road in Lincolnville. The primary route is the Multi-Use Trail, essentially a dirt road, which ascends gradually for about a mile to Bald Rock Trail. It is a steeper half mile to the summit.

Succumbing to my winter Bald Rock addiction, I recently posted a Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society trip. Friends Ed Collins and Sue Trenholm joined me. It was a cold windy day when we met at Youngstown Trailhead. A recent rainstorm had washed away much of the snow so we bare-booted.

Sue recommended a loop hike taking the Frohock Mountain Trail after a half mile which offered a more scenic alternative to the intended out-and-back trek. The summit provided outstanding views of Islesboro, Penobscot Bay and the mountains beyond. Ed measured our hike to be 3.5 miles. If anyone is interested, the lean-to has the same leaky roof…..now forty years older.

Ron Chase

About Ron Chase

At age 70, Ron Chase is old. But, he’s not under the grass…yet. Retired from a career with the Internal Revenue Service, he has embarked on a new life as a freelance writer and tax consultant. Don’t be misled; in reality, he works a little and plays a lot. When not busy kayaking, canoeing, biking, mountain climbing and skiing, he sometimes finds time to write and assist his tax clients. A lifelong Mainer now living in Topsham, he is the recent author of The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery, a biography of Vietnam War hero and bank robber Bernard Patterson.