By Shawn Russell, Staff Writer

UMF's Ski and Outing Club members on a trip to Saddleback Mountain (photo courtesy of Matt Rolfson)

UMF’s Ski and Outing Club members on a trip to Saddleback Mountain (photo courtesy of Matt Rolfson)

As   the weather becomes milder throughout the spring, area-hiking trails around Franklin County will become more accessible for those who wish to get outside and explore.  With temperatures already into the 60’s on some afternoons, Spring fever is definitely settling in.  This healthy and mentally rewarding activity should be taken advantage of by everyone, and should not be overlooked.

“It’s perfect to get a full day of exercise for myself and the dog,” said Matt Rolfson, a senior ORBA major at UMF.  Rolfson has worked as a hiking and camping guide for the past two summers in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Rolfson frequently hikes the mountains and hills around western Maine and always brings his black lab, Jazzy, along with him.  Although he admires the rugged terrain of the Whites and the Appalachian Trail, the close proximity of Bald Mountain, Tumbledown Mountain, Blueberry Mountain, Mt. Blue, and the Jackson’s offer great day trips with extraordinary views. “With a rewarding lake on top of the finish [Tumbledown], it’s the perfect way to end a good day. Blueberry is another quaint gem that is actually owned by a church group. They allow public access through their property to a short hike with a beautiful view of Franklin county and beyond at the top. There’s a dog that lives at the church commune that will hike the mountain with anyone who comes up. Talk about a good life.”

Although there may not be snow here in Farmington, once one travels out into the mountains, snow could still linger into late May.  Because of this, access roads to Tumbledown, Blueberry, and Mt. Blue might not be plowed until early May.  Students who feel ambitious can rent snowshoes from the FRC at no cost, and it could save one from having to trudge through the deep snow to access a trail or summit.

“Bald is great because it is so close,” said Simon Labbe, a senior anthropology major.  From Farmington, Bald is only a 20-minute drive, as it is a few miles past Wilson Lake Country Club on the left side of the Weld Road.  The trail is located off of the road, and hikers can park in a small parking area off of the shoulder.  Labbe hiked up Bald with a few friends during mid-April and skied down from the summit through the hiking trail.  “It had a loose snow pack due to the quick warmth.  We had a lot of fun.  We took our time getting up, but it was well worth it.  The view was fantastic.”

As the thaw brings snowmelt and mud, waterproof hiking boots and extra socks are highly recommended to keep feet dry.  For those who are not looking for a great challenge, Mt. Blue state park offers the Center Hill trails have more of a gentle slope compared to the mountains.  Mt. Blue State Park is located on the Center Hill Road in Weld, and also provides an access road to the Mt. Blue hiking trail.