What a day! The morning dawned clear and bright, and my husband Grant and I loaded the car for our trip to the Northwoods. It was only about 1.5 hours from Bangor to the KI Road (a dirt road that, after about 15 miles, lead us to the trail entrance). We stopped in at the checkpoint and visited with a couple of friendly ladies who offered us a map (we had printed one before we left, however) and who took our names and gave us a slip of paper to return to them on our way out. Why the paper, you ask? Well, not to intimidate you, but that’s how they know at the end of the day if someone doesn’t come out of the trails and needs to be rescued. I’m happy to report (spoilers!) that no such measures had to be taken for us!
For some background, the Gulf Hagas area is a part of the Appalachian Trail Corridor, and Screw Auger Falls boasts a 23ft waterfall. Affectionately entitled, ‘The Grand Canyon of Maine,’ my husband and I had set out to see if the rumors of its beauty were true.
Once we were parked, the hike began. First we had to ford the west branch of the Pleasant River, which as its name suggests, was actually rather pleasant. Of course it was freezing, but the water level was somewhat low and it never came much above our knees. Beware though! If recent rainfall has been heavy or you go right after a spring thaw, I’ve heard that fording this river can be more of a challenge.
From there, it was about a 2.5 mile hike to the falls. The hike was uphill, but never especially strenuous. If you’re bringing children, I would suggest keeping a close eye on them, as the trail drops off on one side at times.
Hiking has always seemed to me like spring cleaning for the soul, and as Grant and I alternated between conversation and a silence filled with drinking up the scenery, those 2.5 miles passed quickly.
Once we came to the Gulf Hagas Brooke, we turned and began following it down river, towards the falls. My heart skipped a few beats (in the best way) as we watched the river carve itself deeper and deeper into the trail, creating a gorge the likes of which I had never seen in Maine. The drop along this 1 mile trail totals 500 feet, and with each step the descent became more impressive. We stopped often in order to admire the view, climb down to the water level, explore the river, and (on my part) snap some pictures. I stood beneath a mini waterfall at one point on the trail and the water was so cold that it stole my breath and I couldn’t keep from laughing!
Finally, we came to the crown of Gulf Hagas, Screw Auger Falls. Its roar could be heard long before we came to it, and it was well worth the trip. The water crashed down and filled a basin below with clear, green mountain water. Moss draped itself along the rocks, and chunks of ice clung to the stony walls that bordered the gorge. Grant and I stood for a few moments in silence, just letting it all in.
We couldn’t tarry long after that, the sky was darkening with the threat of rain, and we wanted to get home before dark. There’s much more to explore in the Gulf Hagas area (including a few more waterfalls!) and we’ve promised to return another time. However, it was a quick hike out from there (always easier going back downhill!), and then back to our car for the journey home.
Overall? I’d give Gulf Hagas and Screw Auger Falls five stars. I highly recommend taking a Saturday, loading up the car, and experiencing the breathtaking sights of this place. It will be worth the time!
For maps, information, and to visit the Gulf Hagas area, check out the North Maine Woods Website: www.northmainewoods.org
What do you think? Is this trip up your alley? Have you ever been to Gulf Hagas? Have an idea for my next trip of discovery?? Let me know in the comments below!
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