Last Saturday my husband and I woke up early to load our packs and our trusty trail dog, Arwen, into our 4-runner and head north. Outside of Greenville we met up with other volunteers from Moosehead Trails and state Bureau of Parks & Lands staff to put near-finishing touches on the new Prong Pond Trail.
The trip was exciting for me because, as a forestland steward for the Forest Society of Maine, I walked the “draft” route to Prong Pond years ago, back when it was just an idea and a trail of pink flagging hung in the branches of trees. Last summer, a professional Maine Conservation Corps crew roughed out the corridor and on Saturday volunteers cleared back winter debris and helped smooth out the footbed. It’s amazing the difference that a couple of leaf blowers, loppers, grubbing tools, and a half-dozen volunteers can make in less than a day!
The trail, once completed, will be just under one mile in length and run from the Prong Pond Road to the pond’s northeast shore. It’s a moderate hike, by Maine standards—no climbing over granite boulders, required—but it has enough elevation gain to reward hikers with an unexpected but outstanding view of Burnt Jacket, Big Moose, and Little Moose Mountains. It passes through a pleasant and relatively open forest of mature hemlock, yellow birch, and beech. The beech—like most in Maine—are suffering from the incurable and fatal Beech Bark Disease. Still, when the sun strikes last-year’s leaves, the whole golden understory glows. Sprinkled with interesting, glacial erratic boulders, the path to Prong Pond is going to be an especially great place for families to let nature-loving kids run wild and explore.
Construction of the trail came about as part of a years-long process to build or improve several non-motorized trails on the 359,000-acre Moosehead Region Conservation Easement (MRCE). The Prong Pond Trail is located on Weyerhaeuser (private) land, which the MRCE permanently conserved in 2012. The corridor is overlaid with a trail and access easement that was transferred from Weyerhaeuser to the state’s Bureau of Parks and Lands. In short: it’s complicated. But here’s the important bit. Once all the ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s crossed, Weyerhaeuser will transfer small parcels on either end of the trail corridor, to the state, to be managed as a trail head parking area and a shorefront campsite, respectively. That means that, by this time next year, we’ll be able to launch canoes and kayaks from the Prong Pond boat landing, paddle over to the campsite area, and hike up the trail to the viewpoint.
A note on wildlife: deer browse—where trees and other vegetation have been chomped back by hungry ungulates—is heavy through the trail corridor as it is located quite near to a Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife designated Deer Wintering Area. To minimize stress and impact on wildlife, BPL will promote the Prong Pond Trail as a three-season hike, and not a snowshoeing destination. Thanks for respecting wildlife and the good work of our state wildlife managers and biologists!
Arwen, for her part, had a wonderful time sniffing deer trails, accepting kind words and pats from fellow volunteers, and at one point even helping to chew off a stubborn root I was attempting to clip out of the trail bed. (We’re lucky that Arwen, who has herding DNA, is more intent on keeping her pack of humans together than chasing after wildlife, otherwise Prong Pond might not be the best trail for her.) She spent the day running up and down a freshly-blazed trail, and slept a deep, satisfied sleep on the way home.
Erica Cassidy Dubois grew up in Dover-Foxcroft and works as forestland steward for the Forest Society of Maine.