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Hiking Big Spencer MountainBack to Hiking
One of the most recognizable landmarks of the Moosehead Lake Region is Big Spencer Mountain, an impressive wall of volcanic lava 3,230 feet high. It stands as a sentinel over the endless beauty of the North Woods, whose rivers and streams stitch together patches of forests, mountains and lakes into a breathtaking quilt. So it was the logical place to erect a fire tower.
And it proved to be the logical place to keep a fire tower too. While many fire towers were deactivated and/or abandoned decades ago, as was the case with Big Squaw and Number 4, Big Spencer's fire tower, the fourth ever erected in Maine, was active for nearly eighty-five years from 1906 until 1991. No other fire tower in all of Maine can boast of a longer service record. Only Rocky Mountain in extremely remote northwest Aroostook County comes close.
Getting there: From Greenville, drive north on the Lily Bay Road 19 miles. A good place to view Big and Little Spencer comes as you drive down Blair Hill in Greenville. As you come into Kokadjo the pavement abruptly ends; turn left at the fork. As you drive the 5 miles to Sias Hill Checkpoint (you can obtain a map here, be sure to ask the clerk for it) you will again see the wall of Big Spencer to your left. After the checkpoint, continue driving 3.2 miles. A narrow, one-lane bridge crosses Bear Pond Brook (to the right is Bear Brook Campsite). Turn left after crossing the bridge and drive another 6.1 miles. The trailhead is on the left. There is no designated parking area, most hikers park at the trailhead itself.
The Trail: For the first half-mile, the old woods road ascends gently beneath a leafy canopy. It is not a blazed trail but it is very wide, easy to follow and is well maintained. As it becomes steeper there are a few wet spots you may wish to walk around or use a shortcut that rejoins the trail a few hundred yards later.
After one mile of hiking, the last of which is very steep, the trail evens out, passing through a mix of spruce and birch to the fire wardens cabin. Few fire warden cabins remain standing in the Moosehead Lake Region; of those that are even fewer remain in such perfect condition. Although the cabin is locked, the views from the front porch are impressive: Blood Pond in the foreground with Blackcap Mountain (1,923 feet) behind; Ragged, Caribou and Chesuncook Lakes in the east and dominating the skyline are some of the tallest peaks in the state, including O-J-I (3,434 feet), North Brother (4,143 feet), Barren (3,681 feet) and Doubletop Mountain (3,488 feet). The cone-shaped Soubunge Mountain (2,104 feet), which has a deactivated fire tower, stands in the northeast behind Chesuncook Lake.
When you leave the cabin you come face to face with the steep northern end of Big Spencer. Crossing a small stream the trail at once becomes very steep, rising over gnarled roots and large boulders. To assist the warden - and the hiker, too - there are several convenient ladders on the trail. Other than Boundary Bald Mountain (3,640 feet) Big Spencer's trail is the only one in the Moosehead Lake Region which has any ladders at all (placed by the Maine Forest Service) and as you come to the first ladder look for the claw-shape of Lobster Lake in the northwest.
The final ladder brings you to the summit from which are spectacular views in every direction - except the southwest, which is where much of Moosehead Lake lies; the southern end of Big Spencer blots much of it out. However, in every other direction there is so much to see: Baker, Lily Bay and Joe-Mary Mountain (2,904 feet) in the southeast; the two highest peaks in Maine, Baxter Peak (5,267 feet) and Southern Peak (5,240 feet) in the northeast; the northern end of Little Spencer and Lobster Mountain (2,318 feet) and Lobster Lake in the west with Boundary Bald near the horizon; the southern end of Moosehead along with Big Squaw and Little Squaw in the south. By climbing the ladder to the tower you can discover even more of the North Woods of Maine and understand why it has always been so important to protect and preserve its beauty.Back to Hiking
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