Trip Log #1: Icy Ridges and Awesome Views on Mount Cutler

Hopefully, you’ll excuse my long absence from blog-writing. Between the end of the semester, traveling to Guatemala, and a new relationship, it’s been hard to find time to sneak away for a hike as I try to sort out stuff in this new post-baseball life of mine. I’m committing in this New Year to write about every single hike I take this year, as I attempt to finish my list of Maine’s Ten Tallest and put a significant dent in my New Hampshire 48 4,000 footers list along with whatever other little hikes catch my attention. For now, I started out slow by spending some time out in Hiram, Maine where Colleen and I took a jaunt up Cutler Mountain, which I review in my first installment of Trail Logs!


 

Difficulty: In the winter, I’d say it’s of moderate difficulty. The ridges running up the side of the mountain ice over pretty heavily and require some kind of traction. The trails are accessible year-round, and if you don’t have experience with icy trails I’d recommend returning during a different season.

Directions: Taking Route 5, head dead north to the cozy town of Hiram, Maine. This is a really beautiful drive, and I’d recommend it heavily in the fall season for those folks who enjoy cruising around checking out the changing foliage. Once you hit the town line of Hiram, you cross a small bridge that spans over the Saco River. Immediately after the bridge take a sharp left onto Mountain View Avenue. Follow that through the little neighborhood at the base of the mountain, and you’ll shortly come to a dirt parking lot right next to some railroad tracks. The trailhead is across the tracks.

Trip Report: We set off at about 2:00pm from the trailhead and headed straight up the Barnes Trail. This area is heavily used by snowmobilers in the winter time, so keep an ear out for the telltale brapppp-brappp of a snow machine, bub. They’ll be hauling down the trail, and you don’t want to get in a fight with a snowmobile. You’ll lose. After about 10 minutes of walking over flat terrain through a beautiful valley, you come to a sign declaring that there’s a “Gold Mine” located 50 yards to the left of the trail. Of course, I immediately jumped off the trail as the blood of the prospectors of old started pumping in my veins. We did not find any gold on this day, but the little structure is a neat side trip.

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After getting back on track, we headed up the ridge on the other side of the valley. This is where the traction came in handy. The Barnes trail runs straight up the side of an intimidating cliff face. The trail narrows down to around two or three feet at its narrowest, with some pretty steeps drops on your right side. Not necessarily for those fearful of heights. Once you get to the end of that cliff walk, you get a really great view of Hiram and the Saco River Valley.

Continuing up the mountain, you enter a stretch of really beautiful high elevation conifers. This area is particularly nice in the winter time, with the greens of the pines and the white snow blanket contrasting each other in a beautiful way that only nature can achieve.

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Finally, you reach a cairn signifying the summit. Now, this is not the actual summit. No trail leads to the summit on Cutler Mountain for whatever reason. To get there requires some bushwhacking, and due to some snow flurries rolling in and a lack of time, we agreed to accept this pseudo-summit as the real deal.

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The summit featured a little hidden letter-box, which Colleen and I signed then re-hid as instructed. Good luck finding it!

We went a little past the “summit”, down into a little valley and up a small rise to find an absolutely stunning view of the White Mountains. We probably stood there for 30 or 40 minutes just taking pictures and admiring the view. Nature does that sometimes, just stops you in your tracks with a view and forces you to stop for a while and drink it in.

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And of course, it wouldn’t be a real hike with Colleen unless we came up with something ridiculous to do in a photo together. Today we flexed our former-athlete muscles and pulled off some handstands. I’m not comfortable admitting to the internet how many attempts this took.

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After this, we turned around and descended the way we came, opting not to finish the two additional miles that go down the other side of the ridgeline and create a loop along the whole Cutler Ridge.  I’ve done this loop before in the winter, and it’s a pleasant, albeit uneventful, loop. Most of the highlights of this mountain occur in the first mile of the Barnes Trail.

Personal Notes: Overall, the hike took just over an hour to do, with some generous stops for photos and a shared can of pineapple slices. I’d recommend this trail for just about anyone in a physical sense. However, I’d reiterate that if you haven’t hiked on ice before or if you don’t have the proper equipment, maybe pick another trail and leave this one for summer time. It’s a great hike, in a criminally underrated part of Maine as far as natural beauty. A cool add on would be a visit to the Hiram Dam, five minutes up the road from the trailhead. It’s a neat experience where you can walk out over the top of the dam and watch the cascading waters crash around.

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I’ll be on here more regularly than ever before coming up so let me know if it’s getting annoying. A bunch of photos are on my photography website at my new photography focused site, so check those out. As always, thanks for reading and now get out there yourself!

TN

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