A trek on a seldom-used trail off Route 3 outside of Redford
A year or so ago, my brother and I decided to hike the short trail to Mud Pond in the Northeastern part of the park. He was coming from the north, I was coming from the south and, not having which Mud Pond we were aiming for, we arrived at two different Mud Pond trails.
Neither of us lacks for patience, so we just sat there, 10 miles apart, waiting for the other to show.
I was at Mud Pond (Terry Mountain State Forest edition) while he was at Mud Pond (Taylor Pond Wild Forest edition). There are, of course, other Mud Ponds throughout the park, but these two are so close it seemed as if one or the other should be awarded first-mover status, and the other forced to change its identity.
Well anyway, we tried again at the Mud Pond that’s in the Taylor Pond Wild Forest, the trailhead being located on Route 3, 12 miles north of Vermontville, or seven miles west of Redford. The parking lot is on the north side of the road, across from the trail.
One of the route’s selling points is its solitude, being largely unencumbered by other hikers, or for that matter, anyone doing anything like trail maintenance. In spots, it almost appears that the trail has been intentionally brushed in with fallen spruce and striped maple.
Coupled with a few inches of snow covering the tread, this made things a little problematic, and at one point we zigged when we should have zagged, costing us a chance at the Fred Noonan Prize for advanced navigation.
But this is a minor irritant, and on the positive side, the trail is mostly well-marked with red discs and an accompanying course of orange tape, for some reason. The UMP icons suggest this is a trail compatible with skiing and mountain biking as well as hiking. Skiing, forget it. And I know mountain bikers are crazy, but I don’t think any self-respecting lunatic would want to tackle this one, even if it weren’t for all the debris.
The trail is never particularly steep, but the tread is uneven and, in one spot, under water. None of this is any great impediment for a hiker, but if your sport of choice includes thousand-dollar technology, there are better choices out there.
According to the trail register, the last person to hike this lonesome trail (or admit to it, at least) had done so nearly a month prior. The route starts out in an evergreen forest and switchbacks steadily until hardwoods take over. It crests a hill at the one-mile mark that at 1,558 feet is sneaky tall and occupies a commanding position with (heavily) obstructed views of distant mountains. The citadel is studded with birch, maple and ash, and in the dead of winter when the light is traveling right to left instead of up and down, the trunks acquire a warm, buttery glow that contrasts with the frigid blanket of white on the forest floor.
The trail descends the south side of the hill and the woods turn back to balsam, spruce and cedar just before encountering MP itself at 1.5 miles. Mud is far too dirty a word for this triumphant, polished pool, the forming ice giving the appearance of cut glass, reflecting jagged images of surrounding mountains, hillsides and on the far shore some mutant white pines which somehow escaped early 20th century axmen.
Dominating the scene is Alder Brook Mountain and a toothy ridgeline of lower hills. To the left the trail will continue on along the pond’s outlet until it hits private land. Through the open valley to the right you can see for miles, including what I believe to be Kate Mountain in Vermontville, which brushes up against 3,000 feet — a big one for that neck of the woods.
All told, this 3-mile out-and-back includes about 550 feet of ascent and can be completed in two hours, including plenty of time for appreciating its spectacular shoreline. This pond’s name might be mud, but don’t let that fool you.
Photo at top: The Alder Brook Mountains over Mud Pond. Photo by Tim Rowland