Freezeout Loop Revenge – Baxter With the Boys July 2016

39 pictures from a second attempt at a trip that ended waist deep in a flood when we first tried a few years back. This time we finally got to see the entire loop and no one was at much risk of being swept away.IMG_6279aBut let’s start at the beginning, loading up in the parking lot. Once a year the boys from Texas fly up to Maine to eat lobstahs and allow me to drag their butts through some mud or over a mountain or two.  Like our previous attempt we were headed counter clockwise around the loop, but this time Frost Pond would be our last night rather than our first so we were starting from a different spot in the Trout Brook area.IMG_6280aThis trip was a month later in the year and we were hopeful the weather would be kinder as the forecast called for little chance of rain during the week. It was warm and a bit humid, but we had only five or six miles of relatively flat trail for the first day.IMG_6281aOn our previous visit to the Little East campsite we’d had wonderful luck pulling dinner out of the brook before the storm hit. We all broke out our rods and got busy soon after reaching camp in hopes of a repeat performance.IMG_6283aSadly we were only getting hits from undersized fish for the most part, though my nephew did manage to find a couple of keepers to have for a snack. I felt bad about torturing the little ones that kept taking my lures and decided I’d settle for eating out of my food bag and sleeping better instead.IMG_6286aThe brook was running quite a bit lower than normal as the Summer had been pretty dry. Certainly a far cry from the muddy and foaming flood that was pouring through here on our way out last time.IMG_6287aThe confluence of the Little East Branch of the Penobscot and Webster Brook was peaceful as evening came on. After a first day of easy trails everyone was feeling pretty good, but I could tell the horrors of the previous trip had left a mark on everyone, leaving us all a bit nervous despite the lack of reason for concern. I knew once we made it to camp the next day that would all be gone.IMG_6289aThe peaceful sunset continued as sunsets do and we passed a relatively peaceful night. There was a brief shower and the patter of rain on the shelter roof was enough to make us all sleep a bit less easy. Thankfully the morning dawned clear and we were on our way up the brook.IMG_6290aHaving been here just a few years ago the trail seemed familiar, yet very different since it was so dry. Last time the rain had been coming down for more than twelve hours by the time we were in this spot and trail was puddling heavily already. IMG_6293aThe brook was flowing well enough as it is fed from Webster Lake via an outlet near our next campsite. Last time it had seemed like it wanted to eat us, but now it looked like a relaxing spot to camp.IMG_6295aWe stopped for lunch where the old Webster Stream LT used to be. I’m pretty certain it stood somewhere right about here. Not sure if they helicoptered out the debris, but the site restoration was so well done that we weren’t really sure if this was the exact spot. I did find a tiny piece of roof shingle to verify it had been here close by.

We took shelter here after being turned back by the flood on our previous attempt. Soaked after a long day of hiking in a deluge and then wading back out of the flood at the Hudson Brook crossing we were happy to spend the night here. In talking to the folks at the Baxter office they said almost no one ever reserved this site and after the tornado it was removed as part of the rehab effort.IMG_6297aIt really was a pretty spot and I’d imagine early in the year the fishing might be good as there is a deep channel here. The boys headed down to filter some water rather than fish as we still had some miles to go that afternoon.IMG_6300aWe passed through this area filled with raspberry bushes and I was grateful to find they weren’t quite ripe yet. I have a feeling this spot is bear central once those berries turn red. As much as I like eating those wild berries I don’t want to have to wrassle a bear over them.IMG_6301aAhhhh, camp. We found the newly created bypass trail to be an amazing bit of work. Shortly after the flood we enjoyed there followed a tornado that toppled a huge swath of trees. That one two punch left a mess easier bypassed than recovered so a couple of miles of new trail were created from scratch. When we crossed over Hudson Brook it was so tiny we didn’t even realize what it was at the time, but we were moving along quickly in anticipation of finding our campsite.IMG_6302aOnce we found it we were a bit less enthused heh. Clearly this site being so far from the park road and accessible via means other than walking (boat & snowmobile) meant it saw a lot of use and some of it by folks not too concerned with being good neighbors. Most sites with canoes will have a bunch of life vests and certainly more than just one paddle. On the other hand this site came with an old burnt up pan and a latrine filled to the top with trash so there was a trade off, though not in our favor.IMG_6304aIt did also come with some great views. Right on the lake it was exposed to the wind, but there was full sun and lot of beauty to soak up.IMG_6305aIMG_6306aIMG_6307aThe LT here is pretty small, but this site is also a tent site which is rare, allowing a total of twelve in a party. The boys decided they would set up their tents on the grass to enjoy the breeze leaving me the lean to all to myself. Well except for a shelter mouse heh.IMG_6311aThere were two different looking snakes living in the rocks around the fire ring. They would come out to sun themselves, only withdrawing into the rocks if we walked too close. I was hopeful at this point that they had eaten all of the shelter mice since they looked to be fat and happy snakes.IMG_6315aSpeaking of fat and happy, this flock of geese swam right through our front yard later in the afternoon. There were also some loons and at least one bald eagle working the edge of the lake.IMG_6319aThe boys decided to see if they could hang their food bags which made for good entertainment. They each took a shot at it and in the end settled for what they could make of the situation. Since mice and chipmunks were our biggest threat they did just fine, but I think a smarter than average bear might have gotten their bags.IMG_6321aThe campsite may have had a bit of a dumpy feel to it, but there was a lot of good to be seen here as well. There was a great moon to enjoy once the sun set, but we were sleepy campers and missed it for the most part.IMG_6330aPacking up in the morning I’d survived my night with the shelter mouse. He survived too, but not unscathed. At one point, a particularly bad point for him, he jumped up onto the side of my tent that I’d pitched to keep him at bay. I happened to be sitting in just the right spot that the instant he hit the tent my hand instinctively slapped him off. He flew into the night and didn’t return 🙂IMG_6332aLeaving Webster Lake in the morning headed towards Hudson Pond we found ourselves crossing Hudson Brook again. It was hard not to giggle at the thought that this tiny creek had given birth to the raging flood we found ourselves trapped by on the last trip. Of course that was the nervous giggle that only a man whose found himself thigh deep with a rising flood roaring all around him knows isn’t all that funny, but still, this seemed impossibly small.IMG_6336aHeading up the hill towards Hudson Pond we entered the Forest Science area of Baxter State Park. First we passed through an area that had been logged some years before. The trail there was very hard to follow at times with few blazes and little in terms of an obvious treadway. Some trees had been cut about ten feet up leaving a tall stump with a blaze on it, but there were areas where we had to really pick our path carefully while avoiding both mud pits and fallen branches hidden under deep grass.

Then we came to a warning sign that we were entering an active area and sure enough we crossed paths with a man hauling logs along a path slashed through the forest.IMG_6337aYou can just make out the tail end of his tracked vehicle rounding the corner with a full load. The experience of watching and listening to this mechanical beast after several days on trail was most odd. Even stranger than the feeling one gets watching cars zip by at the average road crossing. Soon enough we were out of sight, but we would hear this man working for the rest of the afternoon.IMG_6339aWe arrived at Hudson Pond early enough in the day for some exploration, though it was a bit hot for hiking much more.IMG_6342aThankfully this site not only came with a canoe, but two paddles. We took turns paddling with just two going out at a time to avoid overloading the canoe. There was a pretty stiff breeze out on the water though we were able to head up wind first and then coast home.IMG_6346aI took a series of wild, over the shoulder, no look shots of my brother with the rest coming out worse than this. Managing a camera and a paddle while bobbing up and down in a canoe is not an exact science so I was happy to have him actually in one of the shots.IMG_6353aLater he headed out with his son who is studying aquatic bugs and turned our trip into a collecting expedition as well. He brought along numerous containers and a net for hunting down specimens. He also used his collection skills to wipe out a lot of deer flies which never seemed to end up in a collection jar so I’m guessing that was just personal.IMG_6363aThe next day we had a lot of miles to cover to reach our last campsite. We got an early start and soon were passing through a day use area where the forestry people have an open shelter and a privy. Once we passed this road we were back into the Baxter we know and love so well with lots of boggy sections.IMG_6365aThis crossing was one of the best parts of the  trip. The trail just ended in this swampy pool being held back by a naturally formed debris wall. The murky water was about a foot deep with no clue as to how deep the mud below might be. The boys started talking about taking off their boots for a water crossing when I spotted the debris just down stream. Walking quickly as my feet were sinking in with each step, I carefully worked my way across. Seeing me on the other side is all it took to inspire them to follow quickly behind and I just barely managed to get my camera out for this shot. I think that is my nephew behind the tree, but it is hard to tell. I do know they both got their feet a bit wet but at least no one got sucked down into a mud pit.IMG_6368aGathering our courage for the big climb ahead of us. Well not a really big climb, but the only real mountain we’d see the entire trip. Hot and low on water due to nothing but swamps along the trail all day it was a bit of a struggle to the top.IMG_6373aThere was a bit of a view from some open rocky areas near the summit and we stopped for lunch. It was hot in the sun and the low water supplies kept us from staying here too long. The boys were very dry by the time we reach our final campsite at Frost Pond and while I drank the last of my water soon before finding the camp I too was ready to soak up a couple of liters of Gatorade.IMG_6378aI was astounded to see this fancy new privy on the hill above camp. On our previous visit here the latrine was an open metal cage with a toilet seat bolted over a hole on top. This beauty smelled of fresh cedar and the boys kept saying it smelled like the lumber store. So in two days we went from one of the worst latrines I’ve ever seen to this brand new marvel. I feel bad for anyone doing the loop in the other direction. This is the sort of privy that spoils a person.IMG_6382aThis relaxing late afternoon down by the pond cost me a few bug bites, but it was totally worth it. The canoes here were locked up, perhaps because they are closer to the trailhead. We were content to soak up water, then some dinner and then more water with no need for a paddle around the lake. I have heard good things about the fishing here though and would like to come back next Spring just after the season opens and spend some time with my pole here and at Little East.IMG_6394aIMG_6400aIt was a great last night on the trail and with only a few miles back to the car our confidence of surviving this adventure was growing. Of course once you’ve survived everything seems easier and there had been some struggles along the way. Still it was nice to think we’d finally complete the loop that had eluded us.IMG_6406aIt was warm and steamy, but nothing was going to keep us from finishing the next morning. We all had our thoughts on the cheeseburgers we knew we’d find down the road once we reached the car. The boys were moving right along considering they were on day five of what for them is a rare chance to get out on trail. I’m thinking next year we need to find something with a real mountain in it or they are going to get soft on me. This was a great relaxer of a trip though and I always look forward to getting out on trail with the boys from Texas.

The aborted trip with the epic rain storm was before this site existed. If you are interested in reading the details of that adventure in more depth you can find the trip report I posted on Trailspace here Along with the epic tale of flood survival you can also find a picture of the old Frost Pond latrine 🙂

If you are considering heading out on this loop be sure to come prepared. This is definitely a path less traveled by and you will not find any friendly park rangers out there to assist you. Be prepared to navigate and take your time in the logged out section as that is very hard to follow. Once a person lost the trail there it would be very difficult to find again. Also, during dry years, be wary of the lack of usable water between Hudson Pond and Frost Pond other than possibly Boody Brook after coming down Wadleigh Mtn. In between we found everything to be thickly stagnant and didn’t bother to try filtering. It isn’t a terribly difficult trail, but wilderness should always be respected and despite the forestry science logging this is definitely a wilderness adventure!

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