ALONE ON A FOGGY MOUNTAIN WITH WINE ON MY MIND

Wine leads to some of the best things in life. That’s how I found Schoodic Mountain near Donnell Pond in Hancock County.

I’ve been hiking the peaks of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island (MDI) since the 1970s when my sons were little boys. Since MDI was the destination, for many years I was oblivious to the comparatively anonymous gem of nearby Schoodic Mountain.

To refer to myself as a connoisseur of fine wines would be a substantial misrepresentation. However, I graduated from Ripple and Boone’s Farm decades ago and now enjoy more upscale vintages as long as the cost doesn’t put a serious dent in my finite retirement savings. About twenty years ago, I found Bartlett’s Winery in Gouldsboro, which has a delicious assortment of fruit wines at moderate prices.

During one of my early visits to the winery, the very personable and outgoing owner suggested one of her favorite hikes on Schoodic Mountain. Although skeptical that it could rival the wonderful mountains and vistas of Acadia, I rounded up a group of Chowderheads with the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society (PPCS) for my first ascent. I’ve been hooked ever since.

A short hike of 1.3 miles to the completely barren summit with 360 degree views, it is a near perfect trek when time is limited or you’re traveling through the area but in need of a quick hiking fix. On a clear day, hikers experience truly phenomenal views of Frenchman Bay and the summits on MDI.

Recently, while on a circuitous trip to Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, I did a solo hike to the Schoodic summit. Now that I’m old and have more time, circuitous is my preferred method of travel. My goal is to find an interesting outdoor experience every day that I’m on the road. If I drive more than five hours without an adventure, I consider that a failure.

A foggy day when we arrived at the Schoodic Mountain Trailhead, my traveling companion, Mrs. Chase, wasn’t having anything to do with a perceived damp, dreary hike. While I always prefer clear days with exceptional views, mountain clouds and fog have their own unique appeal, particularly above tree line.

Beginning in a shady, wooded area, the trail climbs gradually to the junction with the Schoodic Beach Trail at .9 mile. Shortly after, I ascended into a silent, surreal world of dampness and minimal visibility. When visual clarity is limited, hikers quickly acquire an appreciation for cairns, those little rock piles that guide mountain trekkers in the fog, clouds and winter whiteouts. Following the cairns with about 75 feet of visibility, I navigated to the summit. Completely socked in, there were no magnificent views this day.

Consuming an energy bar in the fog while remembering beautiful views from trips past, it was at that moment that I realized I actually preferred being alone on the mountain. Difficult to explain, the solitude in that murky environment provided a unique sense of tranquility.

In August, hikers can often find blueberries near the summit of Schoodic Moutain. I love blueberries but have no interest in Bartlett’s apparently popular Wild Blueberry Oak Dry Wine. The flavor simply doesn’t appeal to my now sophisticated and discriminating palate. My advice, stick with the apple and pear wines. Blueberries belong in muffins and on ice cream.

Descending from the summit, I returned via the Schoodic Beach Trail which connects with Donnell Pond. This lengthens the hike a little resulting in about a three mile round trip.

A couple of years ago, I led a PPCS Surf & Turf Trip to Schoodic Beach. A three mile paddle across Donnell Pond from the boat landing in the Town of Franklin, we hiked to the summit of nearby Black Mountain on the first day and then camped on the beach. The following morning, Chowderheads were up early for a climb to the top of Schoodic Mountain where we enjoyed gloriously panoramic views. After, we paddled back across the pond in what turned out to be the near perfect ending to the paddling season.

To reach the Schoodic Mountain Trailhead, follow Tunk Lake Road from Route One in Sullivan for about four miles. Take a left turn on the Donnell Pond Road immediately after passing the Down East Sunrise Trail and follow signs for a couple of miles to the trailhead parking area.

The Bold Coast Trails of Cutler will be next on our meandering journey to Grand Manan.

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.