We chose a trail we’ve never hiked before, though we’ve conquered this mountain from two other trails many times over the years. Today’s choice was based on an email from Allen Crabtree, leader of the Denmark Mountain Hikers. The lovely thing about it was we walked along a snowmobile trail to the summit and so were happy to be on micro-spikes and not snowshoes or postholing. And the temperature was crisp enough to keep the snow firm, at least on the way up Burnt Meadow Mountain.
After passing by what I think was an old barn foundation, the trail continued on fairly level ground for a bit and we worried that I may have misunderstood the directions.
But that didn’t really matter because we were in the woods, together, and enjoying the fact that a fisher had loped across the landscape probably last night when the snow was still soft enough to leave impressions before this morning’s temp of 17˚.
At last the trail began to get steeper and I gave great thanks that it was such a packed trail for it made for an easy ascent. We had no idea what conditions might be under the snowmobile trail, but I suspect on a summer day this isn’t an easy way to go. Not that the other two trails are either.
My real reason for suggesting this hike to My Guy was because I wanted to revisit this site, which we’d reached previously on a exploration down from the summit in 2012.
At the time I was working on an article for Lake Living magazine entitled “Maine’s Lost Ski Areas” and interviewing various skiers and making MG tag along with me as I visited the former ski areas. “Trails hidden in the forest provide us with clues that our town fathers worked hard to create recreational areas, but also to boost the local economy,” I wrote in the article. “You can still find some of the trails and remnants of rope tows and chair lifts. When you unexpectedly come upon cement pads and towers while hiking, it’s a bit like entering a ghost town, a place that has seen a livelier day. So many people have a history with these legendary ski areas. They learned to ski at this one, met their spouse at that one, or won first place in a race.
The skiing industry began in the lakes region in 1936 when a group of ten businessmen each invested $25 and considerable labor to build the first rope tow in Maine. The Jockey Cap Ski Tow helped make Fryeburg ‘The Ski Capital of Maine’ for a brief time.
According to newspaper articles and brochures preserved by the Fryeburg Historical Society, the Fryeburg Winter Sports Committee hired Paul Lamere, a ski instructor, to run a branch of the Lamere School of American Skiing. Lessons were offered one day a week.
Because the Maine Central Railroad had a station in town, Fryeburg residents saw the ski area as a means to support businesses during the Depression. Leaflets proclaiming “Weekends for Your Winter Sports” mentioned “good motels, good restaurants, good rooms in private homes, all prices reasonable . . . use the lighted ski-tow, Friday and Saturday nights, a brilliantly lighted slope and rope to pull you up the hill, a new thrill for winter sports enthusiasts” were distributed in the Portland area. The cost for a ride on the snow train from Portland to Fryeburg was $1.50 and a ski ticket was about $1.00.” (I should mention that the photo above was made possible to Lake Living by the Fryeburg Historical Society.)
But we weren’t at Jockey Cap today. And this ski area was a wee bit newer as I quoted former Lake Region High School principal Roger Lowell telling me he’d skied at Burnt Meadow Mountain, which had one lift and a lodge. If you look below the arrow, the top tower was the end of the line and skiers had to exit off the T-bar at that point.
From my article, “According to NELSAP (New England Lost Ski Area Project), in 1967 the Burnt Meadow Mountain Recreation Area received a loan from the Farmer’s Home Association to create a ski area that opened for the 1971-72 season, but saw its demise when several bad snow years followed. In 1980, Wendell Pierce, owner of a northern Maine ski area, purchased Burnt Meadow and renamed it Zodiac Skiway.”
“‘It had pretty good skiing from the top,’ recalls Roger, ‘but three quarters of the way down it flattened out and you had to get up steam to make it all the way without poling.’ He and his team got into trouble for going too fast. ‘WE were bombing the thing so we wouldn’t have to skate to the lift,’ he says.
While there on his own one day, Roger learned about a race. After discovering he couldn’t inspect the course, he found himself last in line. ‘I figured what have I got to lose so I went fast. It didn’t matter if the gates were down a bit. You would have thought I was Jean-Claude Killy.’
Roger won the race and received a blue ribbon similar to what they award at the Fryeburg Fair. ‘I think it said something like FIRST on it,’ he says, a wry look on his face. ‘It was very generic. A conversation piece.’ That was the last race held there. The ski area continued to lose money and closed in 1982. The T-bar still stands intact.” That was 11 years ago, but today’s photos speak to the fact that it still stands intact.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the summit, where we walked around taking in the views beyond, this a look toward Stone Mountain, which is accessible via the Twin Brook Trail.
Finally, we sat upon lunch rock to enjoy our sandwiches, followed by Fly Away Farm’s Almond Biscotti with Mocha Drizzle. MG just thought it was chocolate so let’s keep that secret between us.
At last we began our descent, with a goal to find Mount Washington. And we did. Do you see it between the trees?
And then we found it again when we slipped off trail to take in the scene from a ledge. We always love to know where we are in the world. Our little world.
As we continued downhill, I was stopped in my tracks. That happens occasionally. (Insert smiley face) But this tree that leaned across the trail begged to be noticed and I’d missed it on the climb up the mountain.
Its manner of growing needles upon the trunk like no other evergreen that I know of gave me an immediate identification.
Add to that the number of needles that grow in short individual bundles: 3. Three strikes and you are out. Pitch Pine. Get it?
In the end, we thought we’d lost winter, but we found it alive and well and holding on for a wee bit longer. And even longer than that if you are at the summit of Mount Washington.
At the same time, because we are on the cusp of a seasonal change, we found spring in the form of swelling Red Maple buds . . .
and Striped Maple.
We also found some stuff left behind by other recent hikers. We left the sunglasses on a cairn at the summit.
And a glove at the trail intersection.
In fact, just after putting the glove on the sign we found an optic cleaning clothe–maybe to clean the sunglasses?
This was indeed a lost and found Mondate.
Oh, and thanks again to Allen Crabtree for his write-up and directions to the trailhead and mention of my friend Marita Wiser’s book: Wrote Allen: “The origin of the name “Burnt Meadow” is not clear. Most trail guides attribute the lack of large trees on the mountain to the Great Fires of 1947 which also burned more than 80% of the old homes in Brownfield. Marita Wiser, in her Hikes in and around Maine’s Lake Region says,”…the name of Burnt Meadow was established long before . It is shown on…an 1858 map of Brownfield.’”
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