18 pictures from a rare car camping adventure in Baxter State Park. I’d made these reservations for a lean to at the Roaring Brook campground early in the year with a plan for the girls to be coming up to meet me at the end of my two week AT trip. They were going to bring lots of food and we’d joked about day hiking. As things turned out we had lots of food and went day hiking 🙂Car camping is very different from backpacking. Some parts are bad, like having neighbors and overused privies. Other parts are good like a cooler full of food, a full sized propane burner and a percolator full of fresh brewed coffee. My wife and I used to hit the road for weeks at a time when we lived out West and have enjoyed eating well in some very remote places.We didn’t let a damp start to the day keep us in camp. With hopes the clouds were about to part soon we headed across the brook via the Russell Pond Trail, but opted to swing off towards Sandy Stream Pond soon after the bridge. The RPT is a bit more rugged and has a rock hop that might have been a bit much for the youngster. Besides, while I’ve gone that way many times I’d never had a chance to try the Sandy Stream Pond Trail.Yup, definitely a bit less rugged this way. The trip out to the pond to look for moose is part of the standard visitor experience it seems and we met many other folks out enjoying the day. My trips to Baxter usually involve rushing away from the trailhead and out into the empty wilderness as fast as possible so it seemed odd to see so many people. I think there may have been a dozen over the four hours we were on this hike, so it wasn’t crowded. I just think of Baxter as empty.The clouds were starting to lift by the time we reached the first of several viewpoints on the edge of the pond. Hamlin and Pamola were starting to come into view, but Katahdin itself remained shrouded.The pond was quite shallow, at least around the edge we were on. The light was constantly changing along with the clouds making it a great day to just sit and look. Backpacking is fun, but there is something nice about not trying to get anywhere too. We had plenty of time to soak the views in before heading further down the trail.Most folks don’t realize it, but you are free to roam off trail in the Baxter wilderness if you are so inclined. There are a few exceptions though and the area around most of Sandy Stream Pond is set aside to allow the animals a place to be completely free of humans. The signs make me laugh because it seems odd to have a preserve in the middle of a giant park.We eventually rejoined the RPT and headed out to Whidden Ponds for lunch. The clouds had continued to linger on the mountains but it was a great day down below.What may have been an annoyance for those hoping for summit views made for a beautiful sight to us. I have stopped at this pond on every trip down this trail to take pictures and probably always will.This day was special though because I had the girls with me. Every other time I’d been to this spot I’d thought how nice it would be if my wife could see it. She has had to look at all the pictures I’ve taken from here over the years so it was nice that she finally got to see it in person. Baxter Peak was starting to be glimpsed through the clouds at times. Maybe the folks would get their summit view yet that day, but we finished up our tuna wraps and started back towards camp.Along the way we came across this well hidden toad. Actually we came across quite a few of a wide variety, but this one was so hard to spot at first I decided to take some pictures.If you couldn’t find him before this close up might help. Was glad I’d taken this picture to remind me in case I lost him in the wide shot.My daughter insisted we were going to climb up South Turner Mountain because the sign said it was only 1.5 miles and she was sure she could walk that far. No matter how much I tried to explain why that wasn’t going to actually happen she refused to be dissuaded. So we went a ways down the trail until we hit the boulder field that marked the start of the actual climb. She didn’t want to admit defeat, but the size of the rocks eventually convinced her we should wait till next year to see if her legs were longer. Later in the day we decided to explore the Nature Trail which is a small loop just across the brook from the campground. It wound through the forest, first along the brook and then away from it. Eventually it gave access to two separate boardwalks that let you travel well out into a large bog. There were several interesting types of plants to be found. A ranger later explained that there are two types of carnivorous plants in this bog, though they like to eat tiny flies so we were never in any real danger.Besides the bog there was also a really nice view of South Turner. My daughter was still saying we should go up there and I think she’s right, we should. Late in the day to be on the summit, but the views definitely opened up. I’m sure there were a few folks coming down in the dark with their headlamps on with memories to last a lifetime. We had it much easier on this trip. Unless you count the hard work of carrying our gear into our walk in lean to or the challenge of cooking the perfect campfire pizzas we didn’t do much to earn our reward, but we left with memories to last too.
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