Bald and Speckled Mountains are hidden gems. Situated in the heart of the Oxford Hills in the rural communities of Peru and Woodstock, just finding them is a chore. Once located, the two distinctive peaks offer a moderately demanding trek to open summits with spectacular views.
I think my retired friend, John Stokinger, would be disappointed if I didn’t periodically dream up new outdoor adventures for the two of us. It had been several years since I’d hiked Bald and Speckled mountains, so that suggestion was my latest attempt to keep him entertained. It’s all about John.
In the DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer, the trailhead for Bald and Speckled Mountains appears easy to locate. It’s not. After leaving Route 4 in North Turner, the labyrinth of roads is confusing and in poor condition in winter. Fortunately, John is quite adept at operating his GPS. He downloaded the directions from the All Trails website, and we followed them to the remote trailhead on Redding Road with only one insignificant malfunction.
The weather was partly sunny and seasonably warm when we arrived at the trailhead, where there is parking for a few vehicles and a conspicuous kiosk. The trail surface was hard-packed at the beginning, but it was difficult to predict the conditions at higher elevations. We began wearing microspikes but carried snowshoes. As we were leaving, another hiker arrived who also expressed uncertainty about trail conditions but planned to wear crampons.
Initially, we enjoyed easy hiking progressing up a gradual incline with a couple of minor stream crossings. After about a half mile, we arrived at ice-covered Little Concord Pond. A trail circumnavigates the pond, but the route to Bald Mountain angles hard right.
A hiker negotiates a steep pitch (left) on Bald Mountain, which featured well-packed trails (top right) and exceptional views (bottom right). Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase
The ascent of Bald Mountain began with a steep icy pitch. Beyond, the well-packed trail rose steadily in mixed hardwoods and softwoods to a trail junction that leads northeasterly to Speckled Mountain. We followed a short spur path on the right to open ledges at the summit of Bald Mountain. The overlook on the 1,692-foot peak provided excellent views of the surrounding ponds and mountains.
The trail in the saddle between Bald and Speckled mountains was only partially broken. The hiker met at the trailhead had bypassed Bald Mountain summit and could be seen a short distance ahead of us as we traversed through a sparse hardwood forest. Despite postholing, we elected to continue wearing spikes in anticipation of an imminent precipitous climb on Speckled.
Shortly before reaching the steep sector on Speckled Mountain, we met the other hiker who had experienced difficulties with her crampons and decided to return. She declined an offer to join us.
We entered a dense conifer forest and proceeded gradually onto a plateau with some open areas. Soon after, the challenging ascent began. Icy sections required careful maneuvering to a snow-covered escarpment that offered spectacular views facing west. After our strenuous effort, emerging onto that splendid location was cause for celebration.
The prominent overlook initially appeared to be the high point but was in actuality a false summit. On the opposite side, the trail dropped into a stand of stunted spruce trees before rising relentlessly. We lost the trail on another expanse of snow-covered ledges. After some exploration, a partially buried cairn revealed the correct route that turned abruptly right. We finished our quest with a dramatic climb to the top of the 2,200-foot peak.
Light winds and glorious panoramic vistas provided the ideal opportunity for an extended respite. The distant peaks of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range were easily discernible from our vantage point.
The summit of Speckled Mountain provides 360 degree views. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase
Treacherous conditions required careful negotiation on our descent of Speckled Mountain. We took our time to avoid potentially hazardous falls. Once safely at the bottom, the remainder of the trek to Bald was uneventful. We couldn’t pass Bald without another short digression to enjoy the views.
We completed the journey without ever using our snowshoes. The total distance was slightly less than 5 miles with about 1,600 feet of elevation gain. John expressed satisfaction with the endeavor, so I think he’s up for more of my quixotic proposals in the future.
My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates nine more mountaineering adventures around the state. Many of them take place during winter.