By Gregory Naigles
Location: Weld, Maine
I got bored during Senior Week; no more work, graduation preparations haven’t begun yet. Thus, I figured that the natural thing to do was to go hiking. I debated a bit about where to go – I wanted to climb Mt. Abraham (which I will do on Thursday), but I wasn’t sure about the snow and ice situation at the tops of those mountains. Thus, I decided to climb a slightly lower mountain before doing Mt. Abraham. I eventually chose Little Jackson Mountain, which is just east of Tumbledown, and about 400 feet higher, and has lots of open ledges at the summit and great views (on nice days, at least). Thus, Wednesday morning I left Colby eager to climb a great mountain (and do my first solo mountain climb in Maine).
I had waited until Wednesday because of the rain on Tuesday, and the weather forecast said that Wednesday would be partly cloudy but without any rain. However, this forecast proved to be a bit optimistic, as twice during the drive to Little Jackson there were brief periods of rain. However, the temperature was excellent (not too hot and not too cold), and there were very few insects to annoy me.
I decided to park at the trailhead on Morgan Road, rather than at the Brook Trail area and have to walk an extra mile. This isn’t recommended by Maine Trail Finder or the AMC Maine Mountain Guide, however it worked just fine. Morgan Road is a dirt road that is more rugged than the dirt road where the Brook Trail trailhead is located, however my tiny vehicle still managed to traverse it just fine, so it would be a piece of cake for Big Red or the Bossi-van.
The trail was easy to follow. The only unsigned junction is the first one, maybe 0.2 miles from the trailhead, where the Parker Ridge Trail goes left and the Little Jackson Trail, which I took, goes right. There’s a sign for the Parker Ridge Trail, but not for the Little Jackson Trail. The trail then ascended at a moderate grade. It includes two well-blazed detours around the dominant woods road where the road was washed out. The Pond Link junction was well-signed, and I continued to the right at that junction toward Little Jackson. The next part of the trail involved crossing several streams (very easy) and then went up a short, steep section on rocks and dirt. This part certainly requires exercising caution, but it wasn’t that hard.
The steep section leveled out at same time as the trail finally reached above the trees and onto the open ledges. From here, it was a very windy 0.8 miles to the summit. So windy, in fact, that I put on the extra layer that I brought just in case, and took off my hat since I was concerned that it would blow away. The day was a bit foggy, so the views weren’t quite as amazing as they would be on a clear day, but they were still excellent. The trail was a mix of open rock, and the kinds of vegetation that Sam is named after. It took me, a relatively slow, solo hiker, almost exactly 2 hours to hike the 3.4 miles and 2,300 vertical feet to the summit.
The summit had a large cairn and a USGS marker, and helpfully also had a small rock structure that offered some protection from the wind. If Eric had been there, we all know what he would have done, however I didn’t do that, since there really isn’t much point if there’s no one else there to document it.
I headed down relatively quickly, since I wanted to eat lunch somewhere that wasn’t quite as windy. On the way down the open ledges, the wind picked up, and my ears started to get very cold. I began to think that a hat like Lydia’s yeti hat might have been useful. I ultimately ate lunch just before the trail went under the trees – there were great views of Webb Lake and the mountains to the south.
I then ducked under the trees and went down the same way. It took slightly less time for me to go down. Ultimately, the whole hike took 4 hours and 10 minutes – 2 hours to go up, 20 minutes for lunch, and 1 hour and 50 minutes to go down. By this point the weather had improved, and the 90-minute drive back to Colby went smoothly.
I highly recommend this hike for people who want an alternative to Tumbledown in the same area, that is a little higher, a little longer, and still has lots of open ledges. The views were pretty good even today; I can’t imagine how nice they would be on a clear day. Additionally, Little Jackson is much less crowded than Tumbledown – I didn’t see a single other person on the trail today.