Difficulty: Easy-moderate but not well-traveled and difficult to follow as of October 2012.
How to get there: On Route 220 in Montville, approximately 6.75 miles north of its intersection with Route 3, turn onto Walker Ridge Road (on the right if coming from the south, on the left if coming from the north). On Google, this road is called Not Town Road and is across from Bean Road. Park behind the brown state-owned buildings for the management area, which are visible for Route 220. An old, rundown outhouse will be near the parking area.
To reach the trailhead, leave your vehicle and walk back to Route 220. Turn north (right) and walk a couple tenths of a mile beside the road. You will pass a gravel pit on your left. You will reach a snowmobile trail that crosses the road. Hogback Mountain is to the left (west) and Frye Mountain is to the right (east). The trail to Hogback Mountain starts with a few bog bridges spanning over a muddy area. These bridges were in need of repair on Oct. 26, 2012.
Information:Hogback Mountain rises 1,115 feet above sea level in Montville, Maine, just west of Frye Mountain (1,139 feet in elevation), the more popular of the two for hiking. The long ridgelines of these mountains, oriented from southwest to northeast, offer several outlooks for hikers. The trail that climbs both of these mountains is a part of the Georges Highland Path, 40 miles of connected, low-impact hiking trails in Midcoast Maine.
The exploration and flagging of the trail up Hogback Mountain was completed in the spring of 2004. That July, youth and instructors at the Tanglewood 4-H Camp and Learning Center constructed a bog bridge out of cedar logs in a low-lying area near Route 220, at the very beginning of the trail to Hogback Mountain’s ridge. And in August, the Portland-based Maine Outdoor Adventure Club joined Dave Getchell in a day of trail-clearing on Hogback Mountain.
While the trail to Frye Mountain is located within the 5,240-acre state-owned Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area, when the trail crosses Route 220 to head towards Hogback Mountain, it heads onto privately-owned land. The trail passes through mostly hardwood forest (beech and birch trees) with conifers sprinkled in here and there.
The trail, marked with blue blazes, was difficult to follow as of October 2012.
“That particular trail, over the past three years, has undergone some changes,” said Jay Astle, stewardship program manager for the Georges River Land Trust. “There has been some logging activity up there, which the private owners are free to do, and we’ve had to reroute it a couple of times. It’s kind of like a moving target at this point.”
In fact, the Georges River Land Trust plans to send someone to the trail this fall to stake out a better route to the Hogback Lookout with wooden stakes with blue painted tops, Astle said, and the trust is thinking of ways to make the trail on both Hogback and Frye mountains easier to follow.
For information about this trail and a number of other trails in the area, visit www.grlt.org or call 594-5166.
My experience: Hiking buddy Derek Runnells and I explored the trail on Hogback Mountain on Oct. 26, 2012, and dressed as ninja turtles in celebration of Halloween. We chose the trail because the description in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide mentioned that the trail would bring us to a small cemetery, and we thought that would be spooky and ideal for a Halloween hike.
But I think the scariest aspect of the hike was how many times we lost our way. No matter how careful we were, we kept losing track of the blue markings on the trees. Each time, we had to backtrack to the last blaze and search the surrounding forest until we located the next mark. We eventually lost the trail completely before reaching Hogback Overlook.
After the bog bridges at the beginning, the trail lead steadily uphill, then turned back downhill, where we walked by a few interesting boulders. We then passed a small spring on the right and hiked uphill, where the trail crossed over a small brook. The trail then came to an old woods road.
Across the road was a clearing that caused a gap in the trail. Following directions from the newest edition of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, we walked to the far left end of the clearing, where we found a blue blaze on a tree to the left, and another blue blaze on the right. If you take the trail left, you will soon reach a tiny family cemetery dating back to the 1800’s — a few standing gravestones guarded by an old oak tree.
According to the tenth edition of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, past the cemetery, you will “reach the junction of two wood roads and a trail junction at 1.4 miles. To the left, it is 0.7 mile to Hogback Overlook. To the right, it is 0.4 mile to Hogback Connector, a spur trail leading to the Sheepscot Headwaters Trail Network.” We were confused about this. When we continued on the trail, it simply led back to the woods road.
Back at the clearing, we tried taking the trail that leads off to the right. From this point on, we continually lost the trail, which eventually led to another woods road, and we did not make it to any outlooks.
Just before losing the trail, we found an old rock wall that may have marked old pastureland. We didn’t find the cemetery until we hiked back. The hike, with all of our wandering around, took us about 5 hours rather than the 2 hours and 15 minutes estimated in the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Was it a failure? I don’t think so. We found the key landmark we were hoping to find, the gravestones of Samuel Howard, Lucy Ripley, Louisa J. Carr and Samuel J. Howard, all of whom lived in the 1800s.