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CC's Outdoor Journal; Black & White Trail is open
Do you have a favorite local mountain to hike, one that you just can’t get enough of? For me, the short hike up Whitecap with the ledges, blueberries and vast views of the Androscoggin and Ellis River valleys is one that never gets old.
Over the past couple of years that I’ve been hiking as a regular part of my exercise routine, I’ve realized that I really like the thru trails. The eastern side of the Grafton Loop Trail and Grafton to Andover via the Appalachian Trail have been favorite adventures of mine.
Well, now there is another thru trail that is only five miles, compared to the 22 or 10 miles of the two I previously mentioned.
On Saturday, a long-awaited dream of a trail connecting Black Mountain of Maine to Whitecap was officially opened with an inaugural hike hosted by Mahoosuc Land Trust and led by MLT board members Bonnie Pooley and Dan Elliott.
The newly constructed Black and White Trail began with a short opening ceremony at the base of Black Mountain of Maine and a group photo of the dozen or so participating hikers. Each hiker was given a complimentary bag of trail mix for their journey and left to make our way up and over the mountain.
As we made our way up the BMOM ski trail, we lost sight of the Black & White Trail through a recent logging operation. After a little bit of following property boundaries, we reconnected with the B&W Trail and got to see the work in progress by the teams from the Maine Conservancy Corp.
The hike up over Black Mountain was steep, but as we crossed over the top and snuck back into the trees surrounding the second mile of the new trail down the back side of Black, we were all relieved to find a nice winding and well-marked trail of orange flags and white tree markings to follow.
With black flies and moose flies finding their way out in the heat of the day, we kept moving in order to try and ward them off, not to mention the promise of cold drinks and a complimentary barbecue just a mile away at the helicopter clearing.
As we went along, we chatted with one another and found out that two friends were out training to do a section hike of the Appalachian Trail, others were just out to enjoy the day and yet others were curious as to the work that had been done to get the trail completed.
All of a sudden, we all resembled that famous skunk in the cartoon, Pepe Le Pew, we got a smell of a charcoal fire and picked up our pace a little and emerged into the clearing at the half way point.
There stood Bob Isles and Bob Duplessie, both MLT board members, waiting with smiles on their faces, greeting us with high fives, hot dogs, burgers, snacks and cold drinks. It was a welcome sight to know that we were halfway, especially in the heat of the day.
At that point in the hike, it’s important that the public know that if anything of an emergency nature were to happen on the trail and Lifeflight were needed, that is where they would be able to land. There is full cell service all along the Black & White Trail.
After visiting, filling our bellies and getting the necessary nourishment to continue on, we headed out up over the trail that would lead us to within a 20 minute walk of the Whitecap summit.
Along this 1.5-mile part of the trail there were two beautiful views from grassy clearings in the woods. The sky and the mountains in the distance looked especially vast.
When we began the hike, Bonnie Pooley read a poem that reminded us to enjoy the journey and to make it our own. Well, by that time in the hike we had all separated a bit, going at our own pace. I found myself hiking alone, enjoying my time in nature. Listening to the birds, feeling the breeze through the trees, feeling the weight of my pack lessening as my water was being depleted in the first of the summer heat.
I had made up my mind that I would not see the Whitecap summit due to the extra mileage of losing the trail in the beginning, but that was okay. It was hot, I was low on water, and I had the opportunity to experience a great new trail in progress of becoming a very well-traveled connector to between Andover and Rumford.
I did get to witness the progress in action, as I was descending Whitecap, on an old side hill in the trail, the Maine Conservancy Corp were busy shoring up the banking and flattening the trail. Five hard working young adults with hand tools and a lot of motivation were busy with a 100-yard section of trail they had been working on over the weekend. What an improvement, with stepping stones through the side of the hill, and even more boulders down the slippery loam slope.
They all agreed that it was pretty hot, but they enjoyed their work and couldn’t wait to see it all complete after the hours they had put in that day.
The MCC camped out during the fall of 2012 while working on the trail before winter set in. They’ve spent a lot of time bushwhacking and getting the trail to the point that it is. The land trust is hopeful that the BMOM management will allow the corp to camp out at the mountain this summer in order to work on the Black Mountain side of the connector trail.
After five hours, and six very hot miles, I emerged onto the East Andover Road where the MLT volunteers were waiting with cold drinks and leftover snacks from lunch. They also had a shuttle arriving to carry hikers back to their vehicles at Black Mountain. They made every provision to ensure a great experience for all of us.
This hike was most certainly an adventure and I look forward to making my way up and over the trail again from the Whitecap side and seeing the improvements to the Black Mountain end.
If anyone is looking to hike this trail, I would suggest beginning on the Whitecap side and following the Black & White Trail to Black Mountain.
As always, I enjoyed tagging along on a Mahoosuc Land Trust event and look forward to the next one.
As the MLT stated in one of their previous press releases, the Black and White Trail has been a cooperative effort from several organizations. Initial funding for trail design and layout came from the Quimby Family Foundation in the summer of 2010. Trail construction was funded in part by the Recreational Trails Program.
Teams from the Maine Conservation Corp cut the trail, put in water bars and stabilized the trail for hiking. Volunteers from the Mahoosuc Land Trust added to the trail construction efforts, spearheaded by the Whitecap Stewardship Committee.
Members of the Stewardship Committee are Bob Iles, Chairperson, Leon Akers, Dennis Breton, Bob Duplessie, Dan Elliott and Jon Starr.
Additionally, the Black Mountain Board of Directors and General Manager, Jim Carter, were very supportive of the trail work.
The Mahoosuc Land Trust is an accredited community land trust encouraging public interest in conservation in central Oxford County, Maine, and eastern Coos County, NH, supporting a balance of growth and conservation and emphasizing sustainable and traditional land uses.
For more information, visit www.mahoosuc.org or call 207-824-3806.