Hike Mt. Cutler in Hiram, Maine

Mt. Cutler trailhead signWe wanted to get one last hike in before school starts. After a heatwave followed by a stretch of rainy days we were ready to get out. When I asked my kids if they wanted an easy or difficult trail they asked for something difficult. My daughter brought a friend along, so I took that opportunity to have them share the safety rules with her. They are simple enough to remember:

  1. Stay within sight of your grown-up and stop at every fork, and
  2. If you get separated, stay where you are!

The trailhead was easy to find. We took the Barnes Trail marked with a red blaze.

Little toads were abundant, so many that we had to watch our step. The kids were thrilled to find a cave.  Really, we could have spent hours here and then gone home, and nobody would have been disappointed. My six-year old was especially pleased because he happened to have a flashlight in his backpack (along with two heavy field guides, which had to be transferred to my backpack at our first water break). But hey, it’s a brand new backpack, it was probably too much fun packing it full!

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It starts out steep…

And then it gets steeper.

And then it gets steeper.

The ascent continued, and it was challenging in some places. I would NOT recommend this trail for children under six. I had to frequently remind my six-year-old to pay attention to his feet. But they were all delighted when we turned around at a rock face and saw, just below, the bridge we had crossed a few minutes ago in the car, the railroad tracks running in a straight line, and the Saco River winding back and forth through the valley.

One of the kids said, “It’s like a toy village!” and as if on cue a bright orange town truck pulled up to a stop sign near the bridge.

It took us exactly an hour to reach a view at a summit. Not the true summit but a beautiful view nevertheless.

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We continued on the Barnes Trail for a few more minutes, until we stopped for lunch at a fork in the trail. Here we considered going ahead to the true summit (the notch) or turning back and going down the same way we came up.

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We were tempted by glimpses through the trees of views to the west, but decided to go back down (carefully!) after lunch.

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The trail is tricky but gorgeous where it crosses a gully full of boulders. On the way back we said hello to the only other hiker we encountered. Although they had just been complaining a few moments before, they cheerfully related to him all the highlights of the hike.

We went off the trail for 50 yards to see the goldmine, which must have been much deeper once upon a time. I let the kids photograph this large, circular opening in the bedrock, and every picture came out blurry.

My daughter stopped to admire this beautiful purple mushroom as we left the goldmine. This is one of my favorite things about hiking with kids, they notice all the wonders, from the sweeping views to the tiniest bits of mica.

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Next time we will do the loop. The best trails we always leave with promises to return. As usual, the conversation at the end of the hike turned to the question of ‘what’s next?’ Soon we’ll have to fit the hikes in on weekends and between soccer games, but I’m looking forward to the cooler temps and the shift in the colors and feeling of the landscape. My son, my oldest, is talking about taking on longer, more challenging hikes, of being gone all day instead of just a few hours, and I am swept along by his enthusiasm.

nicole-smithNicole Smith grew up near the AT in Cornwall, CT. She now lives in Maine where she enjoys exploring the outdoors with her kids, and recently started a blog at more mountains tomorrow.

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Maine Trail Reviews
Wow! You made it all the way to the bottom. If you enjoyed this article, please check out my book, Open Season: True Stories of the Maine Warden Service on Amazon or at www.wardenstories.com. You can also follow Northeast Hikes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as contribute to our sponsored Google+ Community.

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