Mount Chase is one of those spots that, while not quite located on the IAT, is definitely worth a visit. From the summit one has a view of nearly the entire IAT in Maine, from Mount Katahdin – 25 miles to the southwest, to Mars Hill – 44 miles to the northeast. Inveterate trail explorers and north woods history buffs Elaine and Eric Hendrickson made a visit to Mount Chase this past December. Here’s Elaine’s story.
In Northern Maine, our snow did not arrive until mid-December. On a crisp, cold day early in the month, Eric and I decided to hike Mount Chase. Located at Mile 51.3 northbound (Mile 87.0 southbound), the 1.7-mile side trail begins at the intersection of Mountain Road and the Shin Pond ATV Trail, where a picnic table sits in a small field. An old wooden sign that reads “Mountain Trail” locates the beginning of the trail.
Both my Eric and I love to explore remnants of the past. Mount Chase was the site of a fire tower for many years. There have been two towers built on the summit. The first built in 1909 was a wooden structure. In 1917 this was replaced with a sixteen-foot steel tower that was removed in 2001 and can now be seen at the Patten Lumberman’s Museum. The watchmen lived in a cabin below the summit on a spot that is fairly level. A one room cabin was built in 1909 and used until 1922. At that point, it was replaced with a second larger cabin.
A light dusting of snow covered the ground and water ran down the middle of the old road the trail follows leading to the site of the former tower. Our first stop was a pile of wood and old rusty sign that was once a Maine State Forest picnic area, about 0.5 miles up the trail.
Our second stop on our hike was to explore the watchman’s cabin – a bit over 1 mile from the trailhead. Most of the cabin is still standing.
It consists of two rooms, one that contains the kitchen and living space and the second a sleeping area with bunk beds.
All old camps have dumps, so we scoured the area looking for the dump. Eric found it first, not too far from the cabin and the accompanying shed. It contained rusted cans, old broken pails, liquor bottles, and the remains of a wood stove. Who knows what else is buried in the ground!
After crossing a brook beyond the cabin, the trail got steeper with ice forming on the rocks requiring caution. As we got closer to the summit, we hiked through deeper snow. Cresting the 2440 ft. summit, we encountered beautiful blue skies and a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains.
The cement corners of the old fire tower are still visible with the anchor points used to tie down the tower.
Old fire towers had lightning shacks where the keeper could shelter during a thunderstorm. We found the wooden remains of the one located near the summit. Now there is a radio tower at the summit that we sheltered behind out of the wind to eat our lunch.
On the way down, we decided to take the Waterfall Trail that ends up in the same area by the picnic table where we parked our truck. It was a steep descent, but well worth it. The trail wove around a stream that was dotted with a number of spectacular falls.
Mount Chase is a great hike. Add it to your wish list! I recommend going to the summit on the Mountain Trail and then descending on the Waterfall Trail.
Maine IAT Vice President