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Hiking Elephant MountainBack to Hiking
While there are others in the pine tree state, the Elephant Mountain east of Greenville actually does look like an elephant - without the tusks, of course. Its sloping southern brow and a small ledge referred to as its "eye" are features easily recognizable from many neighboring mountains such as Barren, Gulf Hagas and Borestone. Unlike those mountains, there has never been a trail to its 2,636 foot summit. It doesn't need one. A trail of much greater significance lies in its lower elevations.
On January 24th, 1963 a B-52 Stratofortress-C departed Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, its mission routine: low level maneuvers to avoid current Soviet radar technology. Some miles east of Greenville, the $8 million dollar unarmed bomber encountered turbulence. Attempting to avoid it, a great wrenching sound was heard. The pilot, who lost and could not regain control of the bomber, ordered ejection. Of a crew of nine, there was only enough time for the pilot, Lt. Col. Dante E. Bulli, the navigator, Capt. Gerald J. Adler and the copilot, Maj. Robert J. Morrison to do so before the plane crashed into the side of Elephant Mountain, killing all six remaining onboard - Lt. Col. Joe R. Simpson, Jr, Maj. William W. Gabriel, Maj. Robert J, Hill, Capt. Herbert L. Hansen, Capt, Charles G. Leuchter, and T-Sgt. Michael F. O'Keffe. Morrison died as he struck a tree while parachuting.
Outside it was a harsh Maine winter evening, with the air temperature at 14 degrees below zero and dropping fast. Bulli survived the frigid night inside his sleeping bag, burrowed into the deep snow. Adlers parachute did not open. His ejection seat was so bent after the impact he could not reach his own sleeping bag, so he wrapped his parachute around him like a sheet and waited. The road nearest to the crash site was buried in snow drifts nearly 15 feet high, but rescue efforts soon arrived. Both Bulli and Adler were rescued.
Three decades later on the 30th anniversary of the crash, a broad slab of slate was placed at the crash site as a memorial, engraved with the names of the deceased and the survivors. Adler attended the event, returning to the site for the first time since being airlifted out 30 years earlier. He was honored at several ceremonies.
Getting there: Drive north 7.1 miles on the Lily Bay Road. Look for a dirt road on the right called the Prong Pond Road (marked by a white sign which reads No Hunting - Men Working). Turn here. After 4.7 miles the road winds up through a clear-cut on a hillside from which there is a grand view of Elephant Mountain before you and Baker Mountain in the north. Drive 1.2 miles further, crossing North Brook, continuing up-hill where you will see signs marking the way and another sign at the trail head which reads B-52 - Baker Pond Trail. Park here.
The trail: There are two ways to see the crash site, although its actually the same trail (only 1 mile long). Its finishing and starting points, 200 yards apart, are not well defined. It matters little; whichever path you take - both start out wet and muddy, but improve shortly - will ultimately bring you a few hundred yards to the crash site. While the entire trip is only a half hour long, you may find yourself spending several hours amongst the bombers stirring remains.
As the sign at the trail head indicates, there is a path from the B-52 site to Baker Pond 1.6 miles away on the opposite side of Elephant Mountain. Yet much of it has been obliterated by clear-cutting and it is only maintained as a snowmobile trail, not a hiking trail as was in the past (before the clear-cuts). Begin by walking uphill from the B-52 site. You will soon enter a clear-cut. Walk to the upper left corner to where you will encounter the trail. Stay on the trail as it winds through a second clear-cut, from which the views are superb: Prong Pond Mountain in the west with Big Squaw behind it, Upper Wilson Pond and a distant Bigelow in the southwest and Lily Bay and Baker in the north.
The unblazed trail stays level, rising little as it enters a forest of birch and fir. After a few wet spots it descends into maple and oak forest. The trail is easy to follow until it comes to a field of raspberry bushes, where it almost disappears. Once you find your way through the bushes the trail reappears, a bit wet, now marked by blue tape. Follow it north for a few hundred yards and on your left will be the diminutive Baker Pond and in the background will be the impressive 3,300 foot southern peak of Baker Mountain. Local legend has it an unknown fisherman once made his campsite on the shore. When you visit this beautiful, remote setting you can easily see why.History
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