Difficulty: Easy-moderate. Rocky footing and a few steep sections of trail add some challenges to this 1.4-mile hike. Fear of ghosts may also present a challenge.
How to get there: Catherine Mountain is located between the towns of Franklin and Cherryfield. From Route 1 and Route 182 in Franklin, turn east on Route 182 (Blackwoods Scenic Byway) and turn right onto Dynamite Brook Road, a dirt road marked with a blue public reserved land sign. Drive a short distance and park in the first small parking area on the left. The parking area is marked with a brown public reserved land sign and a smaller sign pointing to the trailhead, which is farther down the road on the left, just before the narrow bridge. The trailhead is marked by a boulder painted with a blue blaze. A short distance into the trail will be a sign that reads “Caribou Mt. Trail.” This trail will lead you to a juncture, where you will turn left to hike Catherine Mountain (right to hike Caribou Mountain).
Information:Just 942 feet high, the sparsely wooded top of Catherine Mountain offers spectacular views of surrounding mountains, lakes and ponds. To locals, this mountain is known as “Catherine’s Hill,” and it is the setting of a particularly spooky legend known as “Headless Catherine.”
The legend has many versions, one of which is recorded in “A Ghost a Day: 365 True Tales of the Spectral, Supernatural and… Just Plain Scary!” by Maureen Wood and Ron Kolek. Their version of the legend states that motorists driving between the town of Franklin and Cherryfield on Blackwoods Road often see a ghostly spectre of a headless woman named Catherine. The story goes that Catherine and her boyfriend were driving back from prom on Feb. 17, 1974, when they lost control of their car and hit a tree. Catherine, beheaded, died immediately, but her boyfriend’s body was never found. Some say that her ghost is looking for him. Beside the road, she haunts the banks of Fox Pond and Catherine Mountain.
Regardless of the reason she’s there, authors and tellers of the legend insist that if motorists see the headless ghost, they must stop to pick her up or meet a disastrous fate. Other versions of the legend place Catherine’s death as early as the 1860s (a carriage accident) and specify that her ghost wears a long blue gown.
Aside from being the home of a ghost, Catherine Mountain is known as a place to find a variety of minerals. Evidence of mining activity can be seen on the east side of the mountain. For geological information about the mountain, view a Maine Geological Survey document at www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mgs/explore/minerals/guide/maps/catherine.pdf.
The hike up the west side of Catherine Mountain leaves from Dynamite Brook Road on Caribou Mountain Trail, which is marked with blue blazes and blue tape. The trail climbs gradually through a forest of tall evergreens. The trail becomes steeper for a short section right before the trail junction. A sign at the junction will point left to Catherine Mountain and right to Caribou Mountain. Turn left and climb the western side of Catherine Mountain on a trail marked with blue blazes, blue tape and the cairns (rock piles).
The trail will soon reach several open, rocky areas and ledges that offer open views of the surrounding land and water. When you reach a large open rock that climbs sharply to your left, this is the start of a small loop. Climb up the open rock and you’ll see a chair-like construction made out of sharp, broken stone. This is near the actual mountain summit. It is also the beginning of a small loop trail, which at the far end, connects to a trail climbing the east side of Catherine Mountain.
I did not explore the east side of Mount Catherine or much of that trail, but according to several online sources, the trailhead to that trail can be found just west of Tunk Lake near a parking area off the Route 182 (Blackwoods Scenic Byway).
Personal note:I didn’t know the ghost story until after hiking this trail alone, and that’s probably a good thing. If my headless ghost tale doesn’t scared you off, I suggest you enjoy this short, rewarding hike.