Ed Parsons: Hiking Mount Sabattus


mount-sabattusIsaac White (left) and Ridley Parsons on the summit of Mount Sabattus. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)Climbing 1,253-foot Mount Sabattus in Lovell, Maine, is always a pleasant half-day excursion. On the summit is a great south-facing clifftop view. If I lived nearby, it would be a place I would go all the time to witness New England weather, and with the blessing bestowed on all addicted hikers, get some exercise as well.

I was lucky enough to climb it soon after the 1998 ice storm on a magical day. The sun was sporadically reappearing in the morning a couple days after the storm. I started up the right-hand loop trail beneath clouds, as ice crashed with startling suddenness from scattered trees. As I approached the top, the sun came out, and light shone through the crystal forest. I stepped out onto the summit ledges to a white undercast below and a blue sky above, with nearby ice laden trees. Then the clouds slammed shut again for the rest of my time there.

On a sunny afternoon last Sunday, I climbed Mount Sabattus with my grandson, Ridley, and his uncle, Isaac White of Fryeburg, Maine. It was a fun family outing.

Mount Sabattus has its stories. It was named for the Indian Sabattus who had a hunting camp on its slopes. Legend suggests that he killed a mountain lion there, just as it sprang on him.

Sabattus was born in St. Francis, Canada, and with the influence of French missionaries, was named for St. John the Baptist, shortened to Sabattus. When Roger's Rangers destroyed St. Francis in 1759, Sabattus was about 10 years old. He was kidnapped and went south with the rangers. Later, he went to Fryeburg with one of them, and spent the rest of his life in the area.

Sabbatus had two children with the well-known area healer, Molly Ockett. In 1783, an earlier wife of his returned from a long trip to Canada, and claimed to be his spouse. To settle the dispute, Sabattus took them to the house of Mr. Wiley in Fryeburg so there would be a witness, and the two women fought, "hair and cloth flying everywhere." Mrs. St. Francis, as Molly Ockett called the former wife, was stronger and won out. Molly Ockett left and moved to Andover, Maine.

Sabattus' hunting camp on the mountain in Lovell likely doubled as a base for acquiring game, and a temporary refuge from domestic travails.

In much more recent times, much of Mount Sabattus was purchased by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. The trails are maintained by the Greater Lovell Land Trust. Up on the summit ledges, there are two metal personal memorial benches facing the view, and a small memorial photo and inscription affixed to the foundation of the old fire tower, now gone. The MBPL gave permission for these to be put there, though permission for more is unlikely.

The complete loop hike on the mountain is only 1.6 miles long.

Last Sunday afternoon, the three of us left Fryeburg and headed out Route 5 towards Lovell, passing through that town and in 3.8 miles further, reached the Center Lovell Store on the right. In another 0.7 miles we turned right on Sabattus Road. In a little over a mile, we bore right and uphill on the dirt Sabattus Trail Road. In another .7 miles, we turned right into the well-marked and fairly new parking lot for the Sabattus Mountain Trail.

I am a creature of trail habits, and once on the trail, we soon bore right at a loop junction and went up the western loop to the top. It is an easy-to-moderate hike, and in quick time we were there, and walked down to the right to sit in the sun on open ledge and bask in the southern view, which spread from east to west. It would take another column to adequately describe this view, which spreads from beyond Sweden in the east to Kezar Lake and beyond in the west.

We then walked back along the top to the east loop. In a few hundred feet, we came to a distinctive giant milky quartz ledge. I know of no other quite like it in the mountains. The trail took a left from there, and we descended the mountain through shady moist woods.

Later we stopped at the Weston's Bridge beach on the Saco River in Fryeburg to wash off the sweat. The current was swift and the water was chilly, a perfect combination for renewal after a hike.

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