The Saddleback Spur Series: Hiking With the Caretaker
Meet Bob Greene, a Saddlebacker though-and-through. In the winter you might have seen him between the horns, but I bet you didn’t know he also spends his summer months volunteering on the mountain. Thanks to the efforts of the High Peaks Alliance and its team of volunteers, land has been conserved and maintained for The Flyrod Crosby Trail. Luckily, The Saddleback Spur is a part of the Fly Rod Crosby system. I had the chance to hike the network of trails with Bob and his sidekick Josie to learn a bit more about his slice of Maine.
It was a beautiful morning after days of rain so the trails were pretty muddy. "These trails are usually wet, but this is the wettest I've ever seen them," Bob noted while describing how he was going to prevent erosion. Over the past couple of years, The traffic at Rock Pond has increased dramatically and you can see the disastrous effect of the footsteps. He plans to make some slight re-routes and take some trees from the area to create a section of bog bridges and rock hops.
We created a loop by hiking along the FRCT out to the Stream Bed trail and returning via the Bobcat Cut [map]. The Stream Bed trail used to be an old Snowmobile trail, but now no motorized vehicles are allowed on this conserved land. It was broad and beautiful descent with waterfalls and gorges along the side. We picked up blowdowns and Bob noted spots to return to with his handsaw.
"You were right," Bob exclaimed just as we made the turn back toward the trailhead, "The biggest blowdown is usually the furthest away." There was a chuckle in his tone which I interpreted less as annoyance and more as that's-the-way-she-goes. For a caretaker, a long hike and a big trunk are usually the start of a good story.
"The purpose of this section is to allow hikers of all abilities the opportunity to get out here," he continued as we approached a new bridge across a small stream. "That's why we built this bridge here. This isn't a big crossing, but it is quite difficult for some people. We added the bridge to make sure everyone can make it."
It was truly an enjoyable hike. Bob and I swapped fish stories, explored a waterfall, and stopped at each stream to peek for some gold. We even spotted some flakes sitting on the bottom. Josie got the zoomies while we cleared some brush, and then she went swimming and got as muddy as possible right before we were about to load up and roll out.
With easy access, but such a remote feeling, the Saddleback Spur is a true Gem of Western Maine's Appalachian Mountains. If you are looking for a simple hike, but true immersion into the forest, this is the trail system for you.
How did you first hear about the FRCT?
My father was an avid angler and our family vacationed at Pickford Camps, for two weeks over several summers. He knew about Cornelia Crosby and took me on my first hike to Rock Pond. When I returned to live in Rangeley full-time in 1986, It was easier to get there as Rock Pond Road had been constructed and the efforts to map and maintain the Fly Rod Crosby Trail were underway.
What do you and your team of volunteers do?
A great group of trail enthusiasts from near and far work on all sections of the FRC. In recent years, we constructed the kiosk at the Saddleback Spur trailhead. We build bridges, over streams and wet areas, and try our best to keep the trail clear of blowdowns and debris. We install and maintain signs to identify the location of the ponds, and direct hikers as they work through the trail network.
What is it that drives you to show up?
I like to be in the woods, and I enjoy fishing. Maintaining the trail system means that others will have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful and peaceful atmosphere that only the mountain forest can offer.
What new sections have been blazed?
None recently, but I am scoping out some possible routes that will require sanction by the landowners. Stay tuned.
What kind of outdoor activities can you do along The Saddleback Spur?
Hiking, fishing, and sighting wildlife are experiences that are attainable on the FRC trail. The first section up to Rock Pond is relatively easy to hike and can be done by all ages. One of the best day hikes is to pack some lunch and gear, then hike the Saddleback Spur through to the main branch of the FRCT. Turn left and hike up to Eddy Pond where the Appalachian Trail crosses. From there you can hike a section of the AT up to the summit of Saddleback, and back down the Saddleback hiking trail right back to where you parked.
Do you have a favorite spot or activity?
The view from the “lookout” trail is great. Both Midway and Rock Ponds are beautiful.
What kind of wildlife have you seen?
Moose, Deer, Bobcat, Eagles, Osprey, Hawks Owls, Spotted Salamanders, Squirrels and Chipmunks, and one Black Bear several years ago… and a few native Brook Trout.
Is there a message you want to share?
Yes… shut off your phones (except to take photos) and take a walk in the woods. It will restore the soul. Visit the Fly Rod Crosby Trail (Saddleback Spur) Facebook Page to learn more. Maps and Trail Logs are available at all Trailhead Kiosks and When hiking the FRC, please enjoy the experience and leave only footprints.