After hiking Mt Chase, just east of Mt Katahdin, I headed out to see the sunrise on Mars Hill Maine. Given is location and elevation in the far northeastern part of Maine, it is the first place in America to see the sunrise. Its the last summit on the International Appalachian Trail before crossing over into New Brunswick. Whether you're on the IAT or just out for a day hike in Aroostook County, this is a sight worth seeing.
Early morning fog on the summit of Mars Hill, Maine
Previous: Hiking Mt Chase, Maine. 

After hiking Mt Chase in the fog and dark, I was ready for some better views and I got them on Mars Hill! Mars Hill is a picturesque mountain in Aroostook County Maine, just shy of the New Brunswick border. Its somewhat of a strange sight to see a relatively prominent mountain rising out of the rolling hills of Northern Maine. Aroostook County and the St John River valley sharply contrast the rest of Maine; instead of thick pine forests and rugged coastlines, this area is composed of rolling potato fields and farms. In fact, it looks like something more from the Midwest than Maine. The St John River Valley of New Brunswick and Maine is very fertile and hence, "Famous Potatoes" could be a moniker for Aroostook as well as Idaho. 

But on this particular day, I was here for the mountain, not the potatoes!
International Appalachian Trail on Mars Hill, Maine
Mars Hill could be argued as the "most northeasterly mountain" in the mainland America and this is significant because it sees the first rays of the sunrise during the summer months. I've previously written about Maine's West Quoddy Head being the first sunrise in America which is also true. However, it actually depends on the time of year. Cadillac Mountain, West Quoddy Head and Mars Hill all see the first sunrise at some point in the year. Geeks like me can read this article for more information. But on the day of June 24th, 2013 at the summit of Mars Hill Maine... damn it, I was the first to see the sunrise and nobody can argue this!

*Whew* Moving on...
America's first glorious sunrise on Mars Hill, Maine
(I was there)
The International Appalachian Trail crosses this summit and there is a nice little lean to at the top. Today I just climbed in from the Mars Hill Ski Area trails which was steep but not long. There is an actual trail that climbs it too but I couldn't find it when I was there. It was perfectly fine to park my car at the empty ski resort parking long and saunter on up.

While it was foggy and cloudy to start the day, I managed to catch a glorious sunrise indeed. Slowly, the rays pierced through the clouds and I could see all of splendor of the St John River Valley. It was so dramatic that it was almost funny. Clouds, low lying fog, sleepy farms and angle ray sunlight... it was like a child's painting of a sunrise. 
Sunrise over the potato farms of Aroostook county
Here's a map of the trail and location-

View Hiking Mars Hill, Maine in a larger map

As you can see, its not too far to the top although its steep. The summit does have panoramic views of both New Brunswick and Maine. So even if you're not up for seeing the sunrise, its a great hike regardless.

After coming down from Mars Hill, I turned north and headed up through the centers of commerce in Aroostook County: Presque Isle and Caribou. They were quaint and lovely towns and I wished I had more time to stay and poke around. "The County" is well regarded in Maine as being full of friendly, unpretentious people and this was evident as I walked around downtown Presque Isle. Cafe Sorpreso was one place I stopped at and it was every bit as classy as any restaurant you could find in Portland or Boston, great coffee too! 
Driving through Aroostook County
As with so many of my trips, they always end up being a way to make a list of things I want to come back to see. It seems like the longer the trip is, the larger the list is when I get back. I didn't get to see as much of the County as I would have liked- I wanted to spend more time in Presque Isle/Caribou and eat all the potato dishes they have, wanted to hike in Aroostook State Park, wanted to see Madawaska and and most of all, I wanted to see the Allagash River. On a more quirky note, I wanted to see Estcourt Station which is the most northern town in all of New England. In time, I am sure that this trip will happen!

For now, I was happy to see that sunrise over Mars Hill and the County. It would have been worth the drive if that was the only thing I saw on this trip.

Next: Hiking Mt Carleton, NB: Highest Point in the Maritimes 

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