Saturday, September 6, 2014

Circumnavigating Mount Kineo

   About 15 years ago, I looked at a map and thought "Huh, Mount Kineo (one of Maine's geographic wonders) is less than a thumbs width (about 3/4 mile) from a launch site.  We could do that."
A map at the launch area
   And so we packed up a Naturebound canoe, a Wilderness Systems Cape Horn kayak, two small kids, a bunch of paddles and life jackets and headed for Rockwood, a tiny town on the western shore of Moosehead Lake.  When we got there the wind was blowing and large white-capped waves were funneling through the squeeze point in the big lake.  It didn't take but a glance to see that there was no way this particular set of paddlers and boats was going to make it to Kineo.
  Instead of attempting the crossing, we paddled into Barrows Cove and explored there.

  Then a few weeks ago, while paddling on Mathew's Cove in Moosehead Lake, I saw Mt. Kineo in the distance and thought, "This would have been the perfect day to do that paddle."  It was a still day, and, unlike years ago, even if the wind picked up we had seaworthy kayaks and spray skirts.  But the day was more than half over, and there was work to get to at home.  

   This Friday was another calm day, so we packed up our Current Designs Sirocco and Wilderness Systems Zephyr, spray skirts, life jackets, paddles and assorted gear and headed once again to Rockwood.

   At the launch we discovered a dozen or so hikers hoping to catch the Kineo shuttle, a pontoon boat which makes the crossing about hourly in season. 

  But we didn't have to wait, we could take right off for Kineo.
One the way there!

   Mount Kineo has hosted a huge resort hotel between 1848 through 1938.  Presently, it's home to some lovely, grand cottages, a golf course (with a restaurant open to all), and a fairly large structure which was merely the employee housing for the old hotel.
The employee housing is the palest building
   We paddled into shallow waters of Frog Pond(actually a bay), admiring the views.
Mark paddles by a shallow area in Frog Pond.
  At the back of that bay is the narrow causeway which connects Kineo with land.  Kineo is not an island, but a penninsula.
Boats beside the causeway
  On the North Bay side of Kineo the mount is revealed in full splendor.  The top is about 760 feet (45 sea kayak lengths) from lake level.  The sheer cliff must be at least 700 feet straight up and portions are concave.

It's hard to capture how grand it was:
The cliff alone against the sky:

A concave section with Mark for scale.
Can you even see my tiny yellow boat in this photo?
We did not know it at the time, but that small bay below the cliff is nearly 250 feet deep.

  Mt. Kineo is composed of rhyolite, a form of flint.  Flint from the mountain is found throughout New England and beyond, showing its value as a trade item to Native Americans.   A few pictures of the rock face close up:
A cedar clings to the cliff

Rocks at the base
  We stopped for lunch at Hardscrabble Point, a backcountry camp site with picnic tables, fire ring, pit toilet and space for several tents.  These sites are first-come, first-served and shortly after we left, we passed a dozen canoes headed there for the night.
At the campsite
   The rest of the paddle was upwind in choppy water, enlivened by views of hikers on the shoreline trail or heading up the hill. 

   Now you might think finally getting to Kineo,  sans two children would be a "Cats in the Cradle"  event. 
  But it wasn't, because that misadventure was not the end of paddling with our kids.  First one child then the other grew into individual kayaks.  Our trips shifted from short paddles on lakes and streams to short paddles on the sea, to visiting Ironbound and Isle au Haut.  Along the way we explored lighthouses and forts, sea caves and islands.  We've paddled with whales, dolphins, seals, alligators, manatees, and much more.  There were also non-kayak adventures: biking, hiking, museums, attractions, family, friends, school, scouts etc.  The years have gone by in a flash, but they were traded for some wonderful memories and two incredible adults with their own lives and interests.  
   Instead of being melancholy, we were thankful we'd had the opportunity to see another Maine marvel and looking ahead to our next adventure.

More information:  Hiking Mount Kineo
                             Backcountry Camping: Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry
                             Mount Kineo Golf Course, Shuttle and Restaurant

Summary:  Launch:  Paved, about thirty spaces, half trailer length.  Pit Toilets.  Distance, 7.8 miles, about 3 hours with 3 stops.  Moosehead Lake is a part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail
Greenville (another community on Moosehead Lake) Police on ATV patrol


  1. Beautiful paddle! I'd love to do this one someday too. So glad you finally got to make the trip.

    1. Glad you liked it, it was a lovely paddle, especially since the weather co-operated. You would probably enjoy walking to the top of Mount Kineo as well.

  2. Nicely done- we have not visited there yet

    1. Thank you, there's so much of Maine, that you can't expect to have gotten everywhere. But dogs are allowed on the hike, and hopefully on the shuttle as well ( I guess I'd call and confirm that first.)

  3. Wow! "Breath taking" photos! Mt. Kineo makes for a fantastic backdrop for your paddling adventure!