Baxter Season Opening – Family Trip in Late May

48 pictures from a four day family trip to Baxter State Park.

We tempt the gods every year by making a reservation for a few days in the park the week before Memorial Day. It really is too early to be sure there won’t be snow, in the air or on the ground. We’ve only cancelled once due to a heavy rain forecast. This year we didn’t even let that stop us!

The first day we hiked into the Martin Ponds site so quickly I didn’t take any pictures on the walk in. I have some video of the girls walking across a bridge, but the still camera never came out. At less than three miles it is less than our usual morning walk, but we did have packs on. Still the hike just flew by and we were in camp early in the afternoon.

DSC01136aOnce we arrived I hurried to set up the new bug house we are trying this year. We’ve always set up our Kelty TR3 in lean tos previous years. The shelters vary quite a bit in terms of size and shape with some being a real challenge to squeeze the tent into. This big net rectangle can change shape to fit into what space is available. Thankfully the bugs weren’t too bad, it was cool and threatening rain, but it was good to have a safe place in case we were attacked.DSC01141aThe skies were looking like the bigger threat at this point. Baxter and Pamola both disappeared into the clouds on the far side of the pond.DSC01145aThere was still a lot of snow up in the Hamlin bowl. Looking at that under the dark and threatening sky made me look forward to getting under the quilts later. We were expecting a damp night before the real weather hit the next day.DSC01156aThere were only a few early trillium out and about as Spring was taking it slow this year. DSC01158aWith the increasing dampness we decided to get rigged for weather before dinner. This being our first trip with a tarp rather than a tent we thought it best to have a plan that had been put together before we got wet rather than after. First I rigged it for the coming storm, then pulled it back like you see above so we had more light and air inside. This way I could go back to storm mode in an instant if the wind started pushing rain at us.DSC01170aKnowing we’d be hiding out from the weather all too soon made me want to hang out down at the pond for a while after dinner. It looked very dramatic no matter which direction you turned your eyes in this light.DSC01187aEven South Turner, a lower peak just to the north of our camp, began to fade into the clouds. The sky was coming down to meet us and it looked like it was going to be a wet embrace.DSC01189aI said goodnight to the pond and what trees I could still see and headed up to join the girls in the lean to.DSC01191aA good night’s sleep, warm cereal in our tummies and even a little coffee for the big kids left us all smiles as we prepared for the short hike to the North Katahdin Lake site. The rain waited until we were ready and then started in earnest just as we left camp.DSC01196aYou can see puddles were forming before we even got started. I was taking advantage of the opportunity to test out a new rain skirt. Weighing almost nothing it kept my legs pretty dry until I topped my gaiters on a water crossing a little later in the morning. This soon after the snow melt things were pretty wet before the storm hit. After an hour or two of heavy downpour the two small water crossings we had to manage were a bit larger than we’d have liked.

The first we dealt with relatively easily with me carrying our daughter as we usually do. The second crossing looked bad so I started across alone without my poles to see how it might go if I tried to carry her. Glad I did because just a few steps told me this wasn’t going to work. Thankfully my wife and I work together well as a team. Just as I was feeling a bit stumped she noticed the brook split into two channels up stream and suggested we bushwhack to look for a better crossing. I married well!

It was an exciting crossing we won’t soon forget, but that is the stuff adventure is made of. Working as a team we got our little one safely across without her feet even getting wet. She actually led the way most of the day with a huge smile on her face.

DSC01197aWe call this the gumdrop look. You’ll notice my wife hasn’t even taken off her garbage bag skirt and we already have our little one in dry layers and swaddled in her 20°F synthetic bag. You can also see that she is staring intently at something she is about to devour heh. I stripped out of wet layers and applied dry ones to myself as well, though I opted to keep my down quilt packed up to avoid soaking up too much moisture from the air.DSC01200aThe scene in front of our new lean to looked a bit grim though there was more light in the sky than during the worst of the storm. The rain would linger throughout most of the day with some breaks later.DSC01202aWe made sure everyone stayed warm and dry. No duck left behind! is in fact one of our family’s official mottoes and we made sure this one, Boo Boo was as comfortable as the rest of us.DSC01204aAfter making certain our daughter (and her duck) was warmed up it was my wife’s turn to get under her quilt. Then the Skip-Bo battle reignited which also helped keep things warm.DSC01205aThe next day we took our time leaving camp so we could dry out a bit before putting on our wet clothes for the trail. It also made sense to give the water levels time to go down, or at least we hoped they would be lower rather than higher.DSC01212aThe rain had stopped but the damp air was cool and no one felt like paddling out on the lake. It wasn’t choppy, but it didn’t look inviting.DSC01213aThis is one of the camps where a canoe is included in your site rental at no extra charge. I have a feeling we will be back here for a warm weather visit so we can spend some time paddling and swimming in the clear lake water.DSC01215aThis was the little flow we used to  collect drinking water to filter. It didn’t look like it would last into the drier months but it was handy on this trip. The lake had a lot of debris on the surface and suspended after the storm despite being relatively clear by Maine pond standards.DSC01222aThen we were back on the trail headed to Martin Ponds for one more night. We stopped for a morning snack break next to this little falls.DSC01226aJust below it filled a swampy bog which looked about ready to explode with life. These areas and the larger ponds support huge populations of frogs. The sound can be deafening at times as multiple breeds try to all be heard at once.DSC01227aBeautiful to look at, but areas like this are why bushwhacking is not a good idea in large parts of Maine. If you don’t know how to get around all that wet then you are going to get wet!DSC01228aHere we had the luxury of relatively well maintained trail including the occasional, well placed bog board or two. DSC01231aThis was part of our exciting water crossing the day before. It was still exciting, but without the pouring rain and having survived the first attempt, it seemed less dangerous. The water level had dropped a bit too which likely helped.DSC01238aHere are the girls bushwhacking back downstream after we finished crossing the second channel. Again I have to acknowledge that I have been blessed with two strong and courageous trail companions. These two handle adversity better than most folks out there, staying cheerful and full of adventure.DSC01240aThis is where the two channels rejoined making for a wide, deep section that was flowing strong. I could have crossed this alone that day, but we don’t take any chances with our little girl.DSC01241aOnce we got back to Martin Ponds I got the bug house set up first, then set up my hammock down by the pond so I could air out a bit in the breeze. Good thing I had the bug net because this was their day and they were out in force.DSC01251aI also had a lot of time to play with the camera. Total count for this trip was 277 pictures over four days, plus some video that will show up once I’ve had a chance to do some editing. Here I was testing out the zoom function looking at Pamola and the start of the Knife Edge from a few miles away.DSC01261aIt isn’t all pretty out there though. After all the rain it was nice to have a chance to hang out the wet trail clothes. Something hopeful about stringing up the line and seeing if just maybe you can put them on dry the next day.DSC01263aThe girls were enjoying a bug free afternoon of Skip-Bo in the shelter. After one trip we have decided that we really like this new set up in the shelters. We just aren’t sure if we will like it under a tarp without a lean to. It would work well enough in good weather I’m sure, but rain might be difficult to manage.DSC01266aLater in the day the wind dropped enough for the pond to start reflecting the sky and everything around it.DSC01270aThis is the summit of South Turner which my daughter would like to climb later this month. If we have good weather on the day we’re scheduled to be there we’ll give it a shot. Not sure she can do it, but she wants to try so we’ll find out I guess. No harm in turning back I always say 🙂DSC01273aOne of the best parts of going on family trips is seeing how happy my wife is when she gets to play outside. I feel the same way myself, but it is nice to see that look on another person’s face. Just the simple joy of existing in a beautiful place with time enough to appreciate it.DSC01274aI don’t know exactly what she sees when she looks at the mountain. She has never been up there and I can’t imagine Katahdin looks the same to those who haven’t as it does to those who have been to the top. I hope we get the chance to do it together some day, with or without the little one.DSC01280aThe rhodora around the pond were just starting to put out their beautiful flowers. For now green was still the dominant color around the edges of the water, but within days the entire area would turn purple it seemed.DSC01282aDSC01289aAs the water became even more calm and the sun started drifting lower bringing softer colors out it was time to capture some magic. Camera and location get all the credit, I just lug it around and point it at this stuff, so I’ll be quiet and let you look at the pretty pictures for a few minutes…DSC01291aDSC01302aDSC01304aDSC01307aDSC01321aDSC01325aDSC01342aThe next morning started with fog hanging just above the trees. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful. It would have been a good morning to go back to bed, but after three nights in the woods we were all looking forward to the traditional on the way home cheeseburgers.DSC01343aStill there was time to stop and soak it all in for a few moments. To be here at this misty pond listening to the nothing and being the better for it.DSC01346aThese are ringed ducks I’m told which explains why they didn’t look like loons to us. Other than splashing about playing or fishing they made no sound we noticed. They were pretty though!DSC01348aAlso pretty! I rarely make a fire these days, but on this damp morning it seemed it would be appreciated. It looked picturesque as I recall so I thought it should be documented as a darn nice fire given the wet conditions.DSC01349aHomeward bound! Everything, wet or dry, crammed into packs one last time and then it was a sprint to the car. Cheeseburgers highly motivate us on the last day which is why everyone is sworn not to mention them earlier in the trip. DSC01350aDespite that we had to stop along the road on the drive out of the park for this view. In another week that meadow was probably filled with colorful flowers, but you won’t find me complaining about the way this looked.

Hope you folks are getting out! I am which is why I will be falling behind on these reports. Don’t expect anything to be posted for the next couple of weeks as I haven’t figured out how to to access this site via satellite 🙂

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