Popping in to climb Fawn Lake Mountain
As you can imagine, a day in the Moose River Plains is only enough time to merely scratch the surface of the possible exploring that can be had there. But on this day I only had a brief amount of time, and I had one particular standalone peak in mind: Fawn Lake Mountain.
I mean why not? It’s a lovely name, and the lake itself is gorgeous.
Early one morning, I overslept through my annoying alarm only to be nudged that I was running late. All I remember is throwing on my hiking pants, with my shirt on backwards and my hair close to that of Don King.
Stumbling to my car, I realized I still had my slippers on, so back in I went to fetch my hiking boots.
As a side note, coffee really doesn’t have that, “Irish Spring” effect on me like other folks. It takes a while for the fuel to reach my brain.
I was to meet at the trailhead for an 8 a.m. start time, and I actually almost made it. Funny enough, I was the first one there. This would prove to be my hiking partner’s first-ever bushwhack. Guess I never did ask that question. Thankfully, I didn’t choose a much more difficult transition from trail hiking.
This day would only be about a 3-mile loop, giving Cordell a taste of trailless travel without a total burnout of his new outdoor activity.
We started at the obscure trail that leads to Limekiln Lake — it was even obscure in finding the start. I typically will use a trail when I can to access the base of the mountain, then gain as much elevation as I can before I step off the dotted line.
This trail didn’t get us much elevation, but it was perfect to get us over a stream. This flow into Limekiln Lake had the chance of being a beaver swamp mess in many of the low-lying areas. I wanted to avoid that if I could, and Cordell did not oppose.
The trail descended a bit and on a wide berth as we hiked through a dark forest of evergreens. Passing through a make-shift camp that rested right on the trail, we made excellent time to the inlet crossing.
My hunch was right on the money about the beavers. The bog bridge that crossed the inlet also doubled as a foundation for a beaver dam.
With a deeply flooded flow upstream and a wet mess downstream, we played a sketchy game of balance on an oversized field of pick-up sticks. The old bridge poked out through the beaver twigs, but luckily it was a short traverse to the other side. Had it been spring, this story might be a more soggy affair.
Once across the flowage, we settled right in and hit the forest. Setting our course almost directly north we began our climb through the ever so familiar beech sapling forest.
The terrain was moderately steep, but Cordell soon found that a “moderate” scale on a bushwhack is much closer to that of a “difficult” scale on a trail hike. His coursework was about to near its first chapter.
After a bit of push and pull through the beech trees and an occasional spruce band, we crested the initial shelf and onto a flat region for a bit.
Now with a slight breather under our belt, we prepped our final ascent to the summit ridge. To avoid the steep portions of the mountain, we edged a bit more west in a switchback motion which proved to be a charm as we topped out along the lengthy ridge.
The steep slopes looked promising for views, but the trees were just a bit taller than the grade, leaving us with great views of their foliage. We popped out just below the actual summit, which was not all that different than our actual location.
The dead branches of the past succession of trees were not giving us much room for relaxation, so we didn’t hang around for long.
“How about we make this a loop and check out that hidden pond on the shoulder of the mountain?” I asked Cordell.
“There’s a pond? Sure!”
He accepted the challenge, almost sounded excited about it. What a trooper.
The pond only lay about a quarter-mile off the summit, but it was an abrupt quarter-mile. We busted through the thicker growth around the summit and pushed our way downhill, and quickly we could see the glistening of the blue waters below.
I was happy to see water, because as many of you may know, heavy drainage, a bursting of a beaver dam, a dry season or even over the course of time, and some of these backcountry ponds you see on a map become a massive field of grasses, stumps, snags and woody shrubs. Not to mention a mosquito colonies.
The shore of the pond was very steep with small cliffs that blocked easy passage along the edge. We had to stay high, work low and again climb back up until we cleared the shore for a final descent to the lowland.
The higher reaches above the pond were very tough, very steep, and very dead. It proved to be more of a challenge than I expected, but we were elbow deep into it, so we had to manage to wiggle out back to the car.
Cordell didn’t have any idea what to expect, but I sold it well.
The pond was actually quite gorgeous for what it was, and we were both happy to be experiencing it. I don’t imagine this place gets much for human visitation.
We hopped a small inlet and back into the hardwood forest we went.
The descent now was as easy as it gets. As we made our way through, we could feel the road getting closer and on occasion hear the sounds of a passing car over the washboard dirt road. We emerged from the forest almost as green as a spruce trees we walked through, but emerged grateful to have experienced the beauty of the Moose River Plains.
I will be back, and I am sure Cordell will be back too. Maybe I can talk him into another bushwhack someday.