After a snack break and a look at Eddy Pond (the trail doesn't actually directly skirt the shore, so if you want to see it you have to make a short side-excursion), we continued on. I could tell from my topo map that we were now about to make the main ascent up to the top of Saddleback Mountain - the first of the 4000-footer peaks we would be climbing on our journey. We were already at about 2700 feet, and the summit of Saddleback is only a bit over 4000 feet, so we didn't have too large of an ascent to make.
The trail made a right-hand turn, crossed a gravelled forest road, and started a north-eastward trending course up a flank of Saddleback Mountain. The grade was easy at first, then gradually got steeper. A pleasant surprise was the tread of the trail. Much of the way up, the tread of the trail was directly on smooth, grippy bedrock - something you don't usually encounter on eastern trails, especially in forests. This made for a very nice and efficient ascent up Saddleback's slopes.
After pleasantly climbing on the slabby trail, we started to emerge into patches of open-ness at around 3400 feet, and by 3650 feet, we were fully above treeline - quite low by northeastern standards. The clear and haze-free day offered great views back down to the ponds we had hiked past just an hour before and to the forests of Maine beyond. Above us, an extensive area of open alpine terrain led north-eastwards along a broad, rounded ridge towards Saddleback's summit.
Alpine Vegetation Warning
Just above treeline are a few ledges that the trail negotiates, one with a large A.T. logo painted on it. Above this, the trail ascends only very gradually through the beautiful tundra. A brisk north wind made it feel quite cool, in spite of the bright sun. Small cairns and splotches of white A.T. paint led the way towards the summit.