Step 1: Pick a trail.
It’s summertime and it has been hot. When thinking about summits to sleep on for an overnight getaway, we wanted a trail with great access to water. We hiked to Speck Pond last summer with friends, which was a blast, but for this trip, we wanted to wake up on a peak we never had before. Although we’ve hiked Tumbledown many times, we’ve never spent the night on top.
Step 2: Get ready.
Cam and I are avid outdoors people and seek adventure as often as we can. We grab our gear from the basement and load up our packs. The saying “you need just as much to be out for one night as you do for one week” certainly held true here.
Step 3: Hit the trail!
From Portland, the trailhead is about two hours away. We decided to hike midweek as the mountain sees quite a bit of traffic on the weekends. We grabbed a map, scouted our route, and hit the trail.
The topography of this mountain is pretty unique. There’s a flatter amble through a beach forest, which leads to the face — a steep, rocky wall on the mountain where the trail kicks up. Our packs were heavy with gear, which only amplified each vertical foot gained. It was hot and humid in the forest and sweat was dripping off our faces like a nagging faucet. Morale stayed high with stories and banter. We made it to the last creek crossing on the map and splashed our faces for a much-needed reprieve. The views from the final stretch distracted from the gnarly granite scramble and before we knew it we had summited.
Step 4: The Summit.
Tumbledown is set in the Western Maine Mountains and stands out for its alpine pond (a tarn), perched at 2700ft on the edge of a cliff between Tumbledown and Little Jackson summits. We headed over to the cold alpine waters to refresh and refuel. We kicked off our hiking boots and pulled out lunch.
Our love for smorgasbords resurfaced as I dug for the block of cheddar, the stick of pepperoni, the apples, and veggies. We picked at the bounty and celebrated with some Allagash White and River Trip — because it’s mountain time, right?
Step 5: Camp.
After lunch, we searched for a place to set up camp and started to settle in for the night. We found a great spot overlooking the pond and set up our tent. It went up effortlessly, and we threw our sleeping bags and pads in and changed into our swimwear for a cleansing dip.
In the pond, we were met by dozens of baby brook trout. Curious about the intruders, they greeted us by swimming circles around us and between our legs. The water was comfortable — warmer than other swims we’ve done this summer. With time to spare, we sun-dried on the rocks until it was time to start on dinner.
Step 6: Dinner.
Chicken pesto pasta was on the menu that evening. We grabbed the pot from our Sea-To-Summit kit and we went down to the pond to collect some water to boil.
As we waited for the water to roar, we cracked some Allagash River Trips and had ourselves a happy hour. The crisp, hoppy ale was the perfect way to settle in for the evening.
When the water was ready, we tossed the pasta in. While it was cooking, we cut up some chicken and tomatoes. Sea-to-Summit made straining the pasta easy with their built-in strainer lid and before we knew dinner was ready. We mixed pesto, cheese, chicken, and tomatoes together and served ourselves some dinner.
Our spread overlooked Tumbledown Pond with a setting sun beyond the trees. The lake took on a golden glow and we marveled at the beauty of nature. We paused our conversation and let the birds and bullfrogs fill the air. The chorus was complete with the sounds of summer.
Step 7: Sleep!
As the sun sunk, we followed suit and got ready for bed. A blanket of stars draped over the night sky as we did our final puttering of the day. Sleeping under the stars is simplicity at its finest and, with no distractions and exhausted from the day, we quickly drifted into dream world.
The winds awoke us the next morning after a restful sleep and we slowly crawled out of our tent to face the day. We took down the tent, enjoyed a bagel for breakfast, and packed our packs.
Step 8: The Descent.
The following morning we grabbed a quick bagel before we bid adieu to Tumbledown Pond and cautiously descended the granite face that gave our legs a run for their money the day before. With heavy packs, we carefully calculated each step, often with three points of contact. Once we made it down the wall, things moved quickly as we bounded back through the beech forest. We passed groups of hikers on their way up for the day, envious of their adventure ahead. By the time we made it to our car, our legs were worn and our water bottles were empty. We made our way back to reality, richer for the memories we had made on Tumbledown Mountain.