Access to the Beech Mountain hiking trails is from the Echo Lake parking area or from Beech Hill Road located on the western side of the mountain. We took Beech Hill Road and opted for the shorter route up but had a steeper climb. On the way down we took the longer gradual decline where we saw more wildlife, streams, forest and rock formations which included little caves along the way.
The observation fire tower was once a wooden tower constructed by the men who lived at the Civilian Conservation Corps camps on Mount Desert Island. The fire tower used between 1941 and the mid 1950s. Because of weather the wooden one was deteriorating, so the original tower was replaced by a steel tower in 1962. The tower was manned during day hours by Rangers until 1976, then it was no longer used at all. They did have a day that was open to the public which we missed. The top level is locked but the stairs to the first platform is open for viewing.
Dave and I about to hike our second trail for today. Going to see if we can get into the ice caves
The trail is mostly up hill going to the caves. There are many rocks to climb over and go around.
This whole area has so many glacier rocks. It is a spectacular sight.
what a guy! He would have heisted me up but luckily we could walk around this rock.
The trail to the ice caves is about one mile and goes through the tall pines and extremely large glacial rocks, the rocks are covered in moss and ferns, many have trees that have grown up and the roots surround them.
There are metal rungs, courtesy of the Nature Conservancy, to climb down into the cave. As you go down, the temperature drastically changes. Just standing in front of the entrance today my glasses fogged up. Down inside it's the same as the temp in a freezer. If visiting in springtime you should have warm clothes, mittens and ice grips for your shoes and a long piece of rope so that you can get yourself back up again. During the spring and summer, the ice covers the walls of the caves and starts to melt and forms ice cycles .
There are a few rooms in the caves, the first one is big enough to walk around in and head into the back rooms. The back rooms are smaller and harder to get squeeze into. If you are claustrophobic it won't be something that you would want to investigate. If you like searching small places make sure you bring warm cloths and flashlights because even the larger front room is very dark.
Dave wasn't able to get into the larger room very far because of the ice build up and snow on the ground. He could get down but the problem would have been trying to get back up. We didn't know if the snow covered floor was solid where their is a stream that runs through keeping the floor in ice and snow. We didn't bring a rope to get us back out and the snow slope would have made it impossible to get out. It will be getting dark in a few hours so we didn't attempt to go down. The ice cycles were like bars on a jail cell today. They extended all the way from cave ceiling to the floor. The cave height is about 8-10 feet high normally but the snow inside made it a crawling experience.
This location is also the location of an EarthCache for those that follow the Maine Earth Cache
This cave is a talus cave, which means huge boulders of rock lying in a heap and do not really fit together, so there are crevices and cracks between them. The shrinking glacier, leaving huge boulders which came from the north, formed these caves. Talus caves are rather rare, especially the big ones.
The ice cycles were thick and barred the entrance to the cave. Dave was able to snap a few pictures of the ice formations inside.
It was rather warm outside today in the middle 60's but the fog escaping from the entrance left the cave a mist. This is the entrance to one of the rooms
Dave stepped down into the cave. The snow sloped down another 8 to 10 feet. He wasn't going any further without a rope or snow axe, but he sure wanted to.
If we would have had more time we would have gone the distance down to Debsconeag lake but it was getting late and I wanted to get my feet out of the woods before dark.
While going to the Ice Caves today, Dave and I were talking so not paying attention to the driving and veered right when we should of hopped on the Golden Road from Millinocket but found ourselves at the Baxter State Park at the park gate and was greeted by a park ranger. We planned on turning around but when she told us it was free for us to go through because we were from Maine, we felt privileged to check out where this road went. We entered the park and was given a map showing directions to the big and little Niagara Falls we have in Maine. Since we were planning on hiking today we thought we might hike the mile or so in to check out these falls as we thought with all the rain we have had it would be worth seeing. Dave said we can never take a wrong turn in Maine, it's all just a bunch of happy discoveries. Today proved to be one of those happy discoveries.
The road toward bubbling brook was closed off because of the flooding in the area so we went left...it was our only choice today. The drive in was approx. 13 miles/ 20 miles an hour. We headed toward Daicey Pond from Abol campground road.
we passed many ponds and Appalachian trails as well as lean to's for hikers to sleep over on after a long day trip. Signs say bear territory.
a very scenic view of the moutain
walking on the Appalachian trail
Good information in case I get too close to a bear.
Dave signs in that we are heading to the falls
The ranger told us the trail is mostly flat and easy going. I didn't see much of that...although they were hiking trails they were not mostly flat and easy going.
lots of debris in the trail we went around. It is still early in the season, it looks like the winds raised havoc in this area. Still a very pleasant hike, just had to find a way around
Listening to the rapids as we walked. about a mile in we came to our first view of the water.
The Toll Dam-was it named for a reason... guess I will need to do a little research.
Research-this is all that remains of the "Toll Dam" that was built in 1880. The dam was built by the Sourdnahunk Dam and Improvement Company. The picture below is a sketch of the wooden logged dam that was built in the 1800's
Logging companies cut wood during the winter and in the spring they would dump the logs into Nesowadehunk Stream.
The logs were guided down stream by the river drivers with each log having markings on it so they could be told apart by what company they belonged to. When the logs reached the Toll Dam the Rivers Drivers would count and sort the logs by company and a fee of .63 cents per 1,000 board feet was charged to allow the logs to pass through the dam. After passing through the dam the logs then went over both Little and Big Niagara Falls. At the end of their journey at the West Branch of the Penobscot River there was little or no bark left on them because of this when the logs reached their destination they could tell a Sourdnahunk log from the rest because of the bark lost going through the falls.
To make sure the logs drifted freely along the river, men called "log drivers" guide the logs. These drivers usually divided into two groups. The more experienced men were called the "jam" crew or "beat" crew. They watched the spots where logs were likely to jam, and when a jam started, tried to get to it quickly and free the logs before too many got stuck, otherwise the logs would pile up and create a dam that would back up for miles. This back up could take weeks to break up the millions of board feet, losing some to the shallow waters. The jam crew would use peavey and dynamite to break up the logs. The River Drivers stood on the moving logs and ran from one to another keeping them moving. Many lost their lives as did an unknown Candadian who is buried at Foster field a mile or so going straight instead of turning at the Daicey Pond marker. Being a jam crew was a very dangerous job, many fell and were crushed by logs.
A larger group of less experienced men brought up the rear, pushing along the straggler logs that were stuck on the banks and in trees. They spent more time wading in icy water than balancing on moving logs. They were called the "rear crew." Other men worked with them from the bank, pushing logs away with pike poles
photo of the 1800's River Drivers
Heading to Big Niagara Falls
For a wrong turn taken today...it sure was a happy little discovery.