The South Turner Mtn Expedition – Family Baxter Trip June 2017

36 pics and some babbling about a great family adventure to Maine’s beautiful Baxter State Park. This was supposed to be a reunion after I’d spent eleven days doing the 150 miles from Caratunk to Katahdin Stream Campground, but that plan changed after one treacherous day on trail. Everything, including the sort of rocks you usually can trust when the mud and wet roots are too dangerous, was slippery as heck. I fell down three times on that first day including once while I was standing still talking to some other hikers. I’m too old for that sort of adventure and the weather for the next week justified my decision by raining almost every day including some tremendous thunderstorms. I would have been miserable out there even if I didn’t break my leg.

So instead of walking to Katahdin Stream I drove up with the girls and a cooler full of food. We’d never stayed on this side of the park before so it was fun to explore a new spot even if it was a campground.DSC01537aWe got camp set up right away because rain was expected. We set up the bug house and a giant plastic tarp was strung over the picnic table.DSC01538aThe girls had a safe place to play cards if it rained and I had a place to cook.  The real genius of this set up showed up later as I toasted marshmallows over a giant fire while safely protected from the rain. We are backpackers at heart, but car camping does have some nice perks.DSC01539aBefore the rain started we did a little exploring by walking around the campground. We found the sign that points the way for the southbound AT hikers as they head out of the park.DSC01545aWe also found this lovely mushroom which my assistant is so nicely pointing out here.DSC01549aKatahdin Stream was flowing well giving us water right in our front yard both for drinking (filtered) or just listening to the burbling brook thing.DSC01557aThe weather did catch up to us and there was some fair bit of rain though only a little thunder and wind. We were content to enjoy our dinner, toast marshmallows and snuggle in for the evening.DSC01560aThe next day we decided to take our time enjoying breakfast before moving the car to the day parking lot. While eating and enjoying a pot of coffee (Car camping rocks!) we watched the day’s summit seekers head past our site to the trail head. Then we headed up the Hunt Trail to see how far we’d get before we’d had enough. There were no delusions that we were climbing Katahdin that day as parts of the climb are too much for our daughter yet.DSC01573aIt was a great day to start, though you could feel the humidity of the day building into more rain. We climbed for much farther than we expected and were rewarded with several nice views and water features including this falls.DSC01575aOut on an open ledge we could see the clouds were building and sure enough the bottom fell out. No more pictures for a while as we threw on rain gear and carefully made our way back down hill.DSC01582aAbout the time we reached the spot where the little bridge crosses the stream the sun came back out so we stopped in the open to dry a bit. These butterflies seemed to think they’d found long lost kin when they saw my gloves drying on this rock.DSC01587aThe girls were happy to have the sun back out but I think you can tell mama is worried about her baby going over the falls.DSC01593aIt was a great hike back to the car and then we drove back to the gate before turning towards Roaring Brook campground where we had another two nights booked.DSC01597aAnother beauty spot with the brook running right past our site. It is campground camping so there are voices and cars, but a nice brook can cover a lot of that up.DSC01600aThese LTs are a bit close, but we had nice neighbors the whole time which makes all the difference. They were from NJ as I recall and ended up bailing a day early because the bugs were driving them crazy. We’ve really enjoyed having the bug house on our lean to stays this Summer.DSC01603aThen it was time for the big event of the trip. Ever since our trip to Roaring Brook last year my daughter had been working up to climbing South Turner Mountain. Telling her that she couldn’t do it then seemed to inspire her and this year we said we’d let her give it a shot. Any party member had the power to stop this trip at any time if they felt it was too much, we aren’t out there to get anyone hurt, but you can see the look of determination on that face. She was ready!DSC01605aThen we headed down the Sandy Stream Trail a ways until the mountain came into view through the trees. I told her to take a good look so she knew where we were going. The first test of her determination.DSC01606aNo problem she says, we got this!DSC01608aThere was time for a few beauty shots as we walked through a Sandy Stream Pond viewpoint or two.DSC01612aHard to resist standing there and watching that cloud pour over the Knife Edge with only Pamola in sight, Baxter Peak completely obscured.DSC01614aThen we remembered what we trying to do. That mountain with the big lumpy thing near the top was calling us out. We had some climbing to do!DSC01618aLots of little steps, lots of daddy holding his hands out as she did the steep parts and plenty of rest stops to drink water and eat snacks got us up the first half of the climb. Then we dug into our reserves of determination to get us up the next sections.DSC01621aFinally we emerged from the trees onto a little ledge below the big lumpy thing. I kept expecting either mother or daughter to say that’s crazy and I’d have been happy to turn around here if they did. Nope, excelsior was the word of the day!DSC01627a.JPGThis is the last pic until we reached the summit because it was the last time I wasn’t right behind my daughter with hands ready to catch her if she stumbled. She may be strong and courageous, but I worry. Both ladies were amazing considering the unstable, rocky terrain. They took their time and soon we could see the post at the top.DSC01624aPosts are nice, but first you’ll notice that the clouds have shifted and not only has Baxter Peak come into view, but Hamlin and its bowl were clear as well. DSC01628aNow back to our post! The sign was just leaning there, but the geo marker made it clear we were in the right spot. We had just climbed a 3100′ mountain as a family setting a new elevation record by far.DSC01630aDSC01632aDSC01634aDSC01635aJust such a beautiful day out there everywhere you looked. Sunshine and puffy clouds as far as the eye could see.DSC01639aThen there was this beauty! She had said she was going to climb this mountain and given the chance, she proved she could do it in style. DSC01641aWhile mama was equally proud of her little girl I have to say I was really impressed with my wife’s bravery as well. This was her first time climbing a mountain like this too, plus she had parental worrying to deal with just like I did. Everyone had a lot to feel good about after this adventure, that is for certain.DSC01652aBack down at the pond we stopped for a break and to soak in more of the mountain views.DSC01657aLooking back up to where we’d been it was hard to believe we were up there just a little bit before. The descent went much quicker than the climb 🙂DSC01665aBack to camp for a giant celebratory dinner and of course more marshmallows over the fire. We didn’t have to worry about climbing mountains or long miles back to the car in the morning so we could pull out all the stops. Back country adventures are always nice, but we’re ok with a little car camping too!

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