- Driving Directions
- Routes to the Peaks
The following is the account of a hiking trip in which we climbed Whitecap and the North Peak of Kennebago Divide, Boundary Peak and Cupsuptic Snow over the weekend of Sept 7 thru Sept 9 , 2002. We choose the approach beginning from Tim Pond Road and stayed in a motel in Stratton, Maine. Recommended gear for these hikes includes: DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas (map # 28), a compass, an altimeter, and most especially, the USGS Little Kennebago Lake Quadrangle Maine-Quebec, 7.5 Minute Series Topographical map. The above mountains are located in the upper left of this map.
First, some background. The “traditional” method of climbing White Cap, Kennebago Divide and Boundary is to do them over two days. On Day One an ascent is made from old logging roads into the col southeast of White Cap. From White Cap a heading is taken to Monument Peak, so named because boundary monument marker 450 is located on its top (the international boundary swath has markers located every mile). From there the international boundary swath is followed for 2 or 3 miles to Boundary Peak. On the return Monument Peak is again climbed, and a heading taken that will lead towards the old logging road left earlier before the ascent in the White Cap/Kennebago Divide col. On Day Two a second ascent is made in to the col and Kennebago Divide is climbed. To attempt this peak on Day One could make for a rather long day and jeopardize the ability to reach Boundary.
After reading Gene Daniel’s “Routes to New England Hundred Highest Peaks” and studying the topo map, we realized that another method was possible: we’d climb Boundary on Day One, and then on Day Two we’d climb both White Cap and Kennebago Divide, thereby reducing our bushwhacking and general thrashing about over what promised to be an unseasonably hot September weekend. To climb Boundary we’d drive past the White Cap trailhead, walk up the road past the boundary swath to find an old road which would loop around to the right to regain the swath, and follow the swath to Boundary, returning the same way. We found this route to be extremely buggy, especially with mosquitoes, so DEET is highly advisable at the beginning and end of the hike as you near the ponds.
Since all hikes use the same approach, directions from ME 16 for all hikes are similar. The trailhead for Cupsuptic Snow is reached first, followed by White Cap and Kennebago Divide and then Boundary Peak. The term “trailhead” is used loosely, in that there are no signs marking the beginning of each hike. In one instance (Whitecap & Kennebago Divide) the starting point is marked with surveyor ribbons. For vehicles we used a Ford Escape and a Toyota Tacoma 4x4. A 4x4 of some sort is recommended for travel beyond the trailhead to Whitecap, and to ascend the old road to Cupsuptic Snow. It should be noted that this section of road (to Cupsuptic Snow) is relatively short and can be hiked easily if risking the undercarriage of your vehicle an issue.
The Tim Pond Road is north of Stratton and Eustis. Travel north from Stratton (0.0m) on ME 16. At 3.7m pass the Cathedral Pines campground/Texaco station, and at 6.3m turn left onto Tim Pond Road, marked by a sign “Tim Pond Wilderness Camps”. From the beginning of Tim Pond Road (reset trip odometer to 0.0m) drive 17m to a large intersection and turn right on the Canada Road, marked by a sign. There are mileage markers along Tim Pond Road which are not particularly accurate. At 20.2m turn left onto Wiggle Brook Road. With each succeeding turn the quality of the road will diminish somewhat. The trailhead for Cupsuptic Snow is on the left at 24.5m, and at 24.7m turn right and down a hill on Cupsuptic Pond Rd. The trailhead for White Cap and Kennebago Divide is at 28m. It is on a slight downhill pitch on the right, marked by survey ribbons and a white sign prohibiting motorcycles and ATV’s. Immediately beyond this point is a bridge (excellent condition), and at 28.2m is another bridge which, while in good condition overall, should be driven over slowly as there is a loss of gravel on the right. After this bridge the road narrows considerably, and while the road surface is passable, alders press closely against the sides of vehicles and will cause some mild scratches, so take this into consideration. Cupsuptic Pond is reached at 29.3m, and there’s room for 3-4 vehicles, particularly if parked one behind the other. Local resident use this pond. The road beyond is technically passable (no bridge washouts) to the international boundary (about another mile) but the alder growth becomes so dense that paint removable is all but guaranteed.
To climb Boundary Peak we left our vehicles at Cupsuptic Pond and walked north along the road for about 15 minutes until we encountered the boundary swath. Shortly thereafter is a rusty gate, unsigned by either country, and a brook crossing where the bridge is out. Beyond this point it was obvious the brush and alders along road were being cut on a regular basis, perhaps by Club Arnold as we saw a few of their signs. In any case, about 10 minutes after the rusty gate, we took a sharp right up a grassy road which was well-maintained in terms of brush clearing until we encountered another gate. After this point the road was mostly an ATV trail. We followed this road for about an hour, traveling thru 2 logging yards. In the first yard we stayed low and somewhat right, and in the second went high and exited right.
When the ATV track came back out on the boundary swath, there was boundary marker # 448 about 100 yards up on the left as there were many ATV tracks from the Canadian side that come out on the swath, finding the right one could be somewhat confusing in terms of determining which one was our entry point. We made a note to turn back into the woods upon our return.
As others have noted, the section of the boundary swath is a shooting gallery for hunters who bait moose with salt licks and use trees stands, and the swath has many of these stands. The steepest climb came almost immediately in a steep grade lasting about 20 minutes. At the top of this hill the swath turned left for a time and pitched down slightly, then turned right and down a moderate grade before turning left again and climbing upward where it gained a minor ridge, turned right and make the summit after a moderate grade. We returned to our vehicles at Cupsuptic Pond the same way. Time from Cupsuptic Pond to Boundary was 2:30/2:45h at a moderate pace, and the return was 2:15h (does not include a lunch break and rest on Boundary. It should be noted that this route will take you a short distance into Canada. Whether this would be considered legal or not I will leave to others, since hiking along the boundary swath involves numerous short forays from one country into another.
The next day we climbed White Cap and Kennebago Divide, and we left our vehicle at the trailhead (2,480’), and climbed a low bank and immediately crossed Wiggle Brook. We followed old logging roads, generally choosing the one in better condition, (the gravel pit indicated on map was no longer visible) being careful to take the right at 2,720’ even when it appeared initially to turn away from the peak (going south) but quickly turned north again. Go right again at 2,720’. To follow Gene Daniel’s guide, turn right on an old logging road at 2,850’. The road pitched downhill, crossed the remains of an old bridge, passed thru a brief section of brush before the road again became more open. We took this route down, and can report a similar experience as others while the path leading down from the col is somewhat obvious, at times it petered out but quickly reappeared, and in general was relatively easy to follow. We took a different route up, and while we thought at the time it was the main route, we discovered our route made the hike somewhat easier overall. Rather than turning right as described above, we turned right about 200 yards below that point into what appeared to be a very old logging road. We soon crossed the remains of an old beaver dam, and gradually worked our way upwards thru mostly open hardwoods, keeping to the left of the summit (occasionally visible). We came out on a faint herd path about 5-10 minutes below the summit and found the canister easily. In retrospect we considered this approach easier as it involved less backtracking into the col than the traditional route. From Kennebago we used sight headings and occasional paths to find our way down into the col, up White Cap and return to the col. Overall, we encountered only occasional blowdowns over this entire route. It took us approximately 1:15-1:30h from peak to peak. We left our vehicles at 9:15AM and returned at 4:15, traveling moderately as the day was very hot. We had the good fortune of seeing a moose with her calf on the slope of Kennebago, plus 2 bulls on the Tim Pond Road.
On Day Three we climbed Cupsuptic Snow. We were able to drive up the hill about .4 miles over a very rough track, stopping first at a promising looking spot marked with lots of surveyor flags, only to find it was a commercial bear-baited spot for a guide service. We traveled about .2 miles further to another likely spot marked with tape. We attempted to stay on our heading while avoiding the worst of the blowdowns. About half way to the summit we found an old trail which we followed until we encountered an old logging road heading left and toward the summit. We followed it for a time, and when it began to turn right and away from the summit, we continued straight thru what was a rather dense patch of blowdown. On return, we realized there was an open area at the top of this blowdown, and that if we followed it to the left and then down and made a right that we could avoid the worst of the blowdown area and still maintain our heading. Nearing the summit the woods thin and we found a herd path and followed it to the summit canister. The summit area itself is much broader than its profile from the road would make it appear. On the return we decided to follow the old trail and it generally followed the heading. At times it was easier to parallel it in the alders as it was overgrown in places. As we neared the road we could see large patches of sunlight to the left, and we turned in that direction, returning to the road just downhill from our vehicle. As we drove down this road we watched carefully, and saw the remains of an old road which was not apparent on our drive up the road earlier. In retrospect, it appears that the fastest route would have been to follow this old road trail upward until it encountered the other logging road mentioned earlier entering from the left, and generally follow it (and the general heading) to the summit. In any case, our overall time for climbing Cupsuptic Snow was about 3 hours.
The northern Maine woods are filled with wildlife, and this trip proved no exception. In addition to many partridges (grouse to the city dwellers) we saw many deer, moose (including two bulls) and even a weasel. It was a great way trip overall, one of several I made with Jim, Tom and Kenny.