Saturday, October 19, 2013

Two Ways to Hike Rattlesnake Mountain in Raymond

Rattlesnake Mountain is the most common hike done by hundreds of Boy Scouts camping at Camp William Hinds in Raymond, ME each year.  A climb up the mountain can afford some good easy-intermediate hiking and nice views of the surrounding lakes including Panther Pond, Thomas Pond, Crescent Lake and Sebago Lake.  It's also a good family day hike that I highly recommend to anyone spending a few days in the Lakes Region.

This year, I climbed Rattlesnake twice with my youngest son and other boys from troop 817.  We used two different routes to summit the mountain and climbed at two very different times of year.  The two experiences each offered their own unique features, but I thought I'd present them together.  Both trails are depicted on the map below, and a detailed description of our excursions follow.

Our April hike followed the route marked in blue, while the fall hike followed the Bri-Mar trail, marked in red.


The Nubble Pond Trail

We first climbed Rattlesnake Mountain in late April, on a cool, sunny spring weekend before any leaves were on the trees.  We are at Camp Hinds for a weekend camping trip at which we focus on advancement activities for the Tenderfoot and Second Class ranks.  As it happens, a five mile hike is one of the requirements for Second Class.

For our five miler, we started in the parking lot across the street from the Messer Rotary Scout Training Center on Plains Road, and hiked down Plains Road to the trailhead (below). Right away, you notice the snowmobile signs and the sign that indicates the trail is on the property of Kingsley Pines camp.

One of the first things I noticed as I headed down the trail was a small brook to our right, which turned out to be the outlet of Nubble Pond.

Nubble Pond

A little further on, we came to Nubble Pond, which is a beautiful small pond with some very interesting cliff faces along its eastern shore.  We got a good view of them as we hiked along the western shore of the pond. And took a short break to enjoy the view at the Northwest corner.

The real climb began.  The trail, which is used by snowmobiles in winter, is quite wide and begins gradually at first, getting steeper as you continue up the mountain.  At its steepest points, you find yourself grasping trees to help pull yourself up, but nevertheless the hike was manageable for our eleven year olds. 


We ended up stopping short of the summit, which is tree-covered anyway and paused to enjoy the view from a granite ledge close to the summit.  My photos from here are not the best, but you get a door view of Panther Pond and Thomas Pond from here, as well as a view of Sebago Lake in the distance.

We hiked back to the Training Center along our original route.  In all we covered about 4.85 miles - close enough for the boys to have completed their requirements. 

The Bri-Mar Trail

In September, we hiked a shorter trail called the Bri-Mar Trail.  Whereas the Nubble Pond trail is accessible from the Plains Road, this trail is accessed from further north along Rte. 85.  The trailhead is in a hay on your left as you head North, and a sign in the small parking area explains that the land is owned by the Huntress family and the trail is named for Brian and Marlene Huntress, who used to hike there.

Hitting the Trail

After the short walk across the field, you enter the woods, and enjoy a nice walk through the trees before. The trail forks a short distance in, affording you the option of a longer, more gradual slope or a shorted uphill climb.  Take your pick, the two trails converge not too far on.

After the trails come back together, you come quite quickly upon an extended steep incline.  You gain most of the altitude you're going to climb on this stretch, so take breaks when needed. 
As you near the top, things level off almost as suddenly as the incline increased at the bottom.  You do encounter a number of downed trees that need to be climbed over, but for this stretch the inclines are modest and down-hills come almost as frequently as up-hills.


As you near the top there is a fantastic overlook with wide open views of Crystal Lake, Panther Pond and Thomas Pond.  I'm afraid this panorama taken on my iPhone just doesn't do it justice.  If what you're looking for in climbing Rattlesnake is a great view, this route definitely offers the best.


We hiked on a bit further until the our routes converged near the location of the overlook we'd visited in the spring.  It was actually remarkable to note the difference with the leaves on the trees.  We debated splitting up because a few of the boys wanted to hike out on the trail we had used in the spring.  Unfortunately, we lacked adequate adult supervision to split into two groups, so we went back the way we came. 
In all, this hike was much shorter than the first - a round trip of about 2.5 miles.  It made for a great afternoon hike however, and was perfect for the time we had available. 
Both trails are great.  If you can leave vehicles at each end of the trail and hike the whole thing, I'd definitely try that.  If not, the Bri-Mar trail is probably the one I would do first, since it offers the best overall view and is a shade better marked.

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