When I heard there was a hiking trail to the summit of Lobster Mountain, I resolved to return to remote Lobster Lake for a climb. The pristine body of water with an impressive shoreline is located northeast of Moosehead Lake in northern Maine. Letting your imagination soar, it’s shaped something like an asymmetrical lobster. Both a destination for outdoor adventurers and a popular way-stop on the iconic West Branch of the Penobscot River canoe trip, I had been there twice never realizing Lobster Mountain existed. More proof there is still much for us old folks to learn.
My first visit to Lobster Lake was an overnight stop on the multi-day canoe trip. Arriving at the most accessible campsite on Ogden Point in the dark on a cold fall evening, my brother-in-law and I departed early the next morning without enjoying the benefits of the picturesque tarn. A few years ago, I returned with three Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society (PPCS) Chowderheads intent on exploring the entire lake during a three day visit. Powerful northwest winds kept us marooned on Ogden Point for the entire stay.
Planning a return, I recently scheduled a PPCS three day Lobster Lake and Mountain surf and turf trip. The proposal received substantial club interest. Unfortunately, remnants of hurricane Delta resulted in postponement. A few days later, three acceptable weather days were identified with short notice. My retired friend, Jean Miller, was able to quickly adapt to the new timeframe.
You can’t get to Lobster Lake from here. More accurately, it’s not easy to get there from here as all routes entail extensive driving on rough logging roads. Prior experience indicated paved roads extended closest to our destination by traveling through Millinocket. Not anymore, the erstwhile paved section of the Golden Road was an unrelenting succession of lapses in pavement, potholes, ruts, and pooling water. Heavy rain and snow the previous day worsened conditions. After paying day-use and camping fees at the North Maine Woods Caribou Gate, the drive mercifully ended at a boat landing on Lobster Stream at the confluence with the Penobscot River.
Paddling sea kayaks against a modest current on Lobster Stream with cloudy skies and cool temperatures, our adventure began by navigating about 1.5 miles to Lobster Lake. Entering the lake, prominent Lobster Mountain could be observed almost due south. Our research indicated Lobster Mountain Trailhead originated at a campsite in Jackson Cove located south of Ogden Point, an additional two plus miles. Calm conditions facilitated an easy journey to a spacious site situated atop a steep bank on the southern shore of the cove. Arriving shortly before dusk, our reconnaissance quickly located the trailhead. The convenient location would be home for the next two nights.
On the trail early the following morning, the distance to the summit was unknown. Initially traveling through a wide well-marked path in a mixed conifer and deciduous forest, the route narrowed and steepened in a severely eroded area. Encountering a blanket of snow at higher elevations, we arrived at the 2,230 foot wooded summit after 1.5 miles. Just below, an east facing overlook provided a phenomenal panoramic vista of most of the lake. Call me unimaginative, but I struggled to see the shape of a lobster. While lingering to enjoy the remarkable view, the itinerary for an afternoon of lake exploration was plotted.
After confronting winter-like weather during the hike, late summer conditions were experienced on the lake. Kayaking south on Little Claw with sunny skies and a warm light breeze, our first objective was locating a passage between the southern terminus of Big Island and the shore. Indiscernible from the overlook, a narrow twisting channel was detected leading to Big Claw on the eastern side of the lake. Turning south, perpetual views of distinctive Big Spencer Mountain were enjoyed while traveling to a campsite with an expansive sandy beach at the far end of the claw. Benefiting from a tailwind cruising north around Big Island, the voyage culminated with a late afternoon return to our campsite. Concerned about a forecast for rain in the night, a tarp was erected. A full day of adventures behind us, headlights were out early.
A cold steady rain fell in the night. Sporadic showers were endured while quickly breaking camp in the morning. Departing Jackson Cove, gusty winds were confronted during the traverse to Lobster Stream Boat Landing. Opting for a return through Greenville, the roads were worse.
The onerous driving was worth the effort. Lobster Lake and Mountain is a truly special place.
Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.