Penobscot County High Point Trip Report

East Turner Mtn (2,456 ft)

Dates: October 31 and November 9, 2003
Author: Clifford Young

East Turner Mountain became the highpoint of Penobscot County, Maine on March 23, 1838 when a part of Penobscot County along with part of Somerset County were set off to form the new County of Piscataquis. Prior to this Katahdin was the highest point within Penobscot County. The highpoint is on privately owned land belonging to the JD Irving Company, a Canadian oil/manufacturing/transportation conglomerate.

Located at (45° 56' 46" N, 68° 49' 8' W), East Turner Mountain has a prominence of 116 feet above the col between itself and the unnamed point 2,795 just across the county line in Piscataquis County to the west. The elevation gain is 1,496 feet since the bridge over Katahdin Stream is at 960 feet.

Scouting trip on October 31, 2003

Previous parties had climbed East Turner Mountain by first ascending South Turner Mountain via the Baxter State Park trail and then bushwhacking across the ridge to East Turner. Roy Schwieker had scouted the possibility of an eastern approach and it is posted on the CoHP web site. I had previously debated pursuing an eastern approach but decided that the chances of success would be greater following in the footsteps of Fred Lobdell and others. Upon arrival at the Baxter Park gate house (no waiting in line at this time of year) the ranger took down my name, address and phone number then asked my plans. It would have saved some time if he had asked the plans first. He informed me that the road to Roaring Brook was gated at the township boundary, about five miles south of the campground and the South Turner trailhead. This immediately made the decision to seek an eastern approach very much more appealing.

I reluctantly headed my Ranger pickup back south to Millinocket (and cursing myself for leaving the four wheel drive Ramcharger sitting in my driveway) to pick up the Millinocket to Stacyville logging road. This road runs north to Whetstone Falls on the East Branch of the Penobscot River and on into Stacyville. This road is unsigned and leaves the Baxter Park Road just a few hundred feet north of the Millinocket Town Line. Going north out of Millinocket toward Baxter Park you will pass under a railroad overpass and shortly after will be Sixth Avenue on the right. About 0.1 mile north of Sixth is an ugly cinder block building on the right. Just before the building is the road you want. It is posted with various warning signs about logging operations, no bicycles, etc...

This road is passable with a passenger car all the way through to Stacyville. My first order of business was to investigate the old "Wassataquoik Tote Road" which was the road described in Roy Schweiker's report. I got to the same point as Roy and parked there, not daring to chance the next water hole without four wheel drive. I believe it would have been possible to go on some distance from there with a good, high clearance vehicle. I had preprogrammed my GPS for East Turner Mountain and this point was still 8 miles away. I continued on foot up the road for about a half mile or so and it continued to be passable. I then explored every logging road which seemed to have any chance of going into the right area. Some of the time it was more like driving down a stream bed than a road. We have had a significant amount of rain over the last couple of months and streams were at or above flood stage. Finally I managed to find the Rocky Pond Road which took me to 3.2 miles from East Turner Mountain. Unfortunately it was now mid-afternoon and dark comes early in Maine at this time of year. The climb would have to wait for another day.

Hiking trip on November 9, 2003

Turn right on Whetstone Falls/Stacyville Road just north of the Millinocket Town Line. Zero odometer. Staying on the main logging road reach a four corners at 3.5 miles. Continue straight ahead, and again staying on the main road past several lesser roads reach a second four corners at 11.9 miles. At present, this corner has a sign next to the left hand road stating "JD Irving Maine Woodlands". This sign may not be here much longer because the JD Irving Company has agreed to sell this area. Turn left here and at 13.2 miles the signed Kelloch Mountain Road intersects from the right (north). Continue straight ahead in another 0.1 mile there is an unsigned fork in the road. Stay right for the Rocky Pond Road. The Rocky Pond Road has mileage posts every mile and side roads are posted RP-2, etc. The road reaches a bridge over Katahdin Brook at 7.8 miles from the fork and ends about another quarter mile beyond the bridge. Park at a turnout on the right about 0.1 mile beyond the bridge. There is no place to turn around after this point and the road gets very rough and is no fun at all to back down. It is 3.2 miles from the bridge to the summit of East Turner Mountain. Mileage notes above are from my odometer. The mileposts on the Rocky Pond Road indicate that it is 8.4 miles to the parking spot vs. the 7.9 that I got. I would expect that you may record higher mileage values on the other roads as well.

Directly across the road from the parking spot there is a yellow blazed ATV/walking trail heading into the woods to the west. It is not marked in any way and the blazes do not start until about 100 yards or so into the woods. It can be found easily, however with a little searching. This trail leads to a junction with another yellow blazed trail heading off to the north at about a quarter mile in. I don't know where this northbound trail goes, the signs were unreadable. I didn't find this trail until on the way out or I may have followed it rather than the way I did go. I wanted to visit Rocky Pond first and the views of Katahdin from its shore were well worth the extra quarter mile or so it added to the hike. From Rocky Pond, I headed along the shore and eventually picked up the ATV trail which led me to the outlet of Katahdin Lake. Again, the views across the lake to Katahdin were magnificent.

I then went north along the lake shore, staying well back (about 200 feet) from the shoreline. I believe the traveling was much easier than right on the shore. The forest was quite open old growth beech, birch and maple with very sparse undergrowth. This area has not been logged in many, many years, possibly as long ago as the end of the 19th century. It was very good by northeastern bushwhacking standards all along the lake until reaching a boggy area at the north end. This was short-lived however, and within a couple of hundred yards or so north of the lake the land began to rise toward the southern flanks of East Turner Mountain. It very shortly begins to climb steeply through open beech stands and it becomes necessary to scramble over around and through a huge boulder field that extends most all the way to the top of the mountain. At about 1800 feet or so the boreal spruce/fir forest takes over in its typical nearly impenetrable fashion. Luckily this only lasted for about 400 feet (vertical) or so. The last couple of hundred feet, while still in the boreal forest, had many open areas and it was easy to move from one opening to another to reach the top. I could find no sign of a benchmark or other indication and in fact there are several areas that seemed to be at about the same elevation. I believe that moose use the south and east slopes of the upper mountain as a wintering area and that is why there are the open areas. Unfortunately there are very limited views from anywhere on the mountain.

The climb from the lake up the south side of the mountain is almost 1500 feet in just a little over one mile and makes for a strenuous hike. The whole trip was probably close to 8 miles round trip and took me (admittedly not in the best shape I've ever been in) 6 and 1/2 hours including some time for photos and lunch. It is recommended that you have good map and compass skills, (or a GPS) because it is a big tree-covered area and when the leaves are on the trees it would be very easy to lose track of where your vehicle is. I don't think this route could be much easier than the ridge line bushwhack from South Turner but it does avoid the hassle of getting into Baxter on busy weekends and if you want solitude, you got it.