78 pics and some babbling from an amazing family trip to Baxter State Park that included visits to Center Pond, Little Wassataquoik Lake and Wassataquoik Lake Island.
Our little one is not so little any more and after some discussion we decided that she was ready for something a little more ambitious than previous family trips. We planned out a six day back country trip that meant the parent packs would be not so little as well. The Mama Pack came in at 38lbs with 2L of water while the Daddy Pack weighed 57lbs with 2L of water. That might seem unfair, but I had most of the food, so my pack lost more weight each day than hers 🙂The first day called for a 4.5 mile walk from Nesowadnehunk Campground to the Center Pond LT via the Wassataquoik Lake Trail. Other than a bit of a climb right at the start this was a pretty level trail with little challenge. Great for folks getting out of the car after a four hour drive and donning heavy packs!There was one small, two part, water crossing to navigate. Here Frau Stranger is demonstrating the extra safe, four pole technique. Well, in truth she is carrying our daughter’s poles as I had carried her over this section rather than let her get her shoes wet. She was not happy about that, but I knew doing the rest of the day’s hike wet would make for unhappy feet later and this was day one of a long, long adventure.The weather was cool for August, mid 60s, with an amazing blue sky between the clouds zipping around above us. We stopped more than once to just stare at the view between the trees. We also stopped a few times to just look at the trees.There were lots of bog boards in this section, even in places that didn’t really need them. Flat trails near the road always seem to be over improved while the deep back country sections get less love because they are harder to reach.When the trees gave way to this large bog I knew we were getting close to Center Pond. Both the inflow and outflow areas were giant bogs as the flat elevation profile didn’t promote fast drainage.Then we reached the pond itself as it came into and out of view a few times before we reached the short spur to the lean to.It was a bit choppy out there and you can see from the color of the bag of water on the canoe that the pond had some tannin content, most likely from the bog feeding into the pond. Once filtered it would be fine to drink though still a bit brown. Easier to drink from an opaque bottle than a transparent bag despite the taste being just fine.Another of Baxter’s fine latrines. Each one is of a slightly different design it seems and I always enjoy their craftsmanship. This one came with a clear roof that gave it wonderful light inside.The LT was on the small side being a 4 person model, but enough room for us and all we’d carried in. With the cool weather we were happy to have a few walls to keep the wind off of us, though there was only a bit of a breeze.Everyone seemed happy with day one and a bit amazed to think about having five more ahead of us. We were ready for bed when darkness came, though we were disappointed in the lack of a loon crying out there.Dawn came with some interesting clouds on the mountains and some cool damp in the air.The girls went out to pick some blueberries and the sun had warmed things up nicely by the time they returned. Most of these ended up in their morning oatmeal, but some went directly into our bellies. Just shy of being perfectly ripe they were riding the line between sweet and tart.Then we were packed up and heading to the Little Wassataquoik Tent Site. Another 4.5 mile walk, but this one had a bit of a climb at the very end. Nothing too serious, but it looked scary on an elevation profile just because the rest of the trip was relatively flat.There were a few water crossings, just small rock hops, but one stream paralleled the trail for quite a while. It was nice to hear the rushing water as we hiked but not have to worry about wet feet.Soon it was time to hit the big climb. I am sort of joking, because it wasn’t really that much of a climb. I’m also a bit serious because with the heavy packs, getting up the little hill was a good workout. This is the beginning of the climb, but it got much steeper as it went up. I was definitely puffing by the time we reached the top.My wife sounded hopeful as she read this sign and saw it was only 1 mile to the LT. She was really happy when I pointed out we weren’t headed there, but aiming for the tent site 400 yards the other way instead 🙂There were some clouds floating by that looked a bit threatening and a chance of rain in the forecast so the first thing we did was get the tarp up. This would be our first time using the bug house under a tarp rather than inside a lean to which is why I came up here on a previous trip to scope things out. Thanks to that research I came prepared with a 50′ ridgeline rather than the 30′ I normally use for tarps. By getting the tarp up, just in case, I managed to keep the rain away which was my hope all along.This is the view from in camp, looking at the rocky path that crossed over the brook on its way to the latrine. Definitely a place to keep your shoes and headlamp handy rather than trying to make the trip barefoot in the dark heh.I got our house set up under the tarp, learning as I went exactly how I was going to do that. It worked well enough, but the next time I set it up I was smarter and it worked even better. The girls broke out the Yahtzee using my grill bag to roll the dice on.By late afternoon the threat of rain had passed and we were back to watching happy clouds racing through deep blue skies.Here is the view looking out at the campsite from bed the next morning. It felt extra special to wake up in this big, open air house rather than our tent. We weren’t covered in dew, so it didn’t feel like cowboy camping. It was similar, but better I’d say thanks to the tarp over head.This shot almost captures how happy I was to be sitting there drinking coffee, but neither pictures nor words can really do it justice. Waking up in this site with the waterfall burbling and my two favorite girls there was already pretty dang special. Hot coffee was just the frosting on top!Speaking of burbling waterfalls…here it is up close. There is a small spring just up the hill from the campsite and it was flowing nicely even this late in the year. We still filtered it, but it was some of the coldest, clearest water to be found in the park.On our way to the Wassataquoik Island site we took the side trail to the viewpoint on the cliff. A short, 0.3 mile spur, but a hefty climb to the top.The reward is an amazing view of most of Wassataquoik Lake down below. Our hike for the day would take us around the right side, all the way to the other end out of view behind the ridge on the left.Being late August, late season flowers were wrapping things up before going to seed. With the cool weather there was a definitely sense that Summer was coming to an end and soon.We had a glimpse or three of Little Wassataquoik Lake along the way. It really is little compared to its bigger sibling.Green Falls is found via a very short, but wet and slippery, spur and is always worth the danger and effort of visiting. We stopped for snacks and pics as is the custom, at least it always is for me.Finally we found the turn off to our island retreat. This was my first time visiting this site as it is only open for a few weeks of the year and hard to book.The loons have right of way on the island and nesting there keeps humans off until the chicks have hatched and moved out into the lake.These folks were out for a day paddle and seemed surprised to find us watching them from the lean to on the island.We were glad to have a lean to that night as the sky was looking a bit ominous. There were a few periods of rain in the late afternoon, but we had some time to explore a little as well. We would like to come back again if we can get a two night reservation so we can explore both the island and the lake for an entire day.Here you can see our canoe on the island and the rack on the far shore where we launched from. It wasn’t far, but much drier to use a canoe than walking across hehe.I’ve gotten pretty good at setting up the bug house in shelters now. It makes a great place to play cards, rain or shine.Finding wood on the island was a bit challenging, but I put together enough to make a small fire. Fire of course leads to marshmallow toasting!It looks like this one turned out pretty well if she does say so herself.I bought my daughter a small, blank paged journal for the trip that she could use to create an art journal. Each day she created a few pictures to capture the story of part of the adventure or to show something she found worth sharing. If she says it is OK with her I may post some of those pictures here in a future post.My view outside as the sun began to rise. So quiet, so peaceful, so beautiful.That goes for these two as well! So wonderful to come to such a special place with them instead of being here alone wishing they’d been able to come. They had worked hard to get here and deserved the chance to rest so I let them sleep in peace.Later I caught this beautiful shot of my daughter looking out at the lake. That is no special filter there. That is shooting through the bug net, into the sun with a lot of zoom, but it sure looks nice to me.Then came a series of challenges that might have sent other folks into fits of rage or despair, but only served to leave us laughing. We packed up fast and were well on our way to an early lunch until I tried to put on my pack after we put the canoe away. It seems I had lost part of my belt buckle and there was no way I was carrying the Daddy Pack without a belt.
After looking around to be sure it wasn’t on this side of the crossing I paddled back alone to search for it. Just as I reached the far shore I heard my wife shouting out that she had found it under the canoe rack! So I paddled back, we stowed the canoe for a second time, donned our packs and started off. About three minutes later my wife made a comment about turning on her step tracker which made me reach for my inReach….which wasn’t there!
I had set it down by the fire ring when I sent a request for a weather report that morning and forgotten to pick it up after getting distracted by six other chores. Back to the canoe rack…this time my wife paddled over since I had gotten to have the fun the first time. That is her up above, happy as a clam because she loves to paddle. Finally we stowed the canoe for the third time and were on our way…and this time, we meant it!!It was another beautiful day in the forest and everyone was happy to be moving finally. We were trying something new on this trip and eating hot lunches once we finished our hike for the day so we were motivated.Going back the way we’d come now we had familiar landmarks to tell us of our progress. The girls were headed up the final bit of climb and showing no signs of slowing down.I ducked down a short path to Little Wassataquoik Lake to grab a few pics and feel the breeze blowing across the water.Then it was back to the tent site to set up camp and eat that hot lunch. We had delicious potato soup on two days and salmon with rice one day and noodles on another. Heavy stuff to carry, but boy were we happy to be eating like royalty out there.The next day dawned cold for August. I took a reading of 38°F that morning which I consider beyond cool for the time of year. We were glad we had packed plenty of warm layers along with the swimsuits that were never used.Last year our daughter completed the Baxter Junior Ranger program and received an official badge which we augmented by buying her an official looking hat. Now she takes her duties very seriously, including raking the sites before we leave if there is a rake available.She also watches out for her mother on trail. Here you can see her waiting to make sure Mama is safely across this little water crossing before heading down the trail.Relaxing is not her forte though I’m afraid. After hanging the hammocks both parents would gladly have taken a nap, but someone had to stay on duty to keep the little one from jumping in the pond. My total hanging time after putting up both hammocks was probably less than ten minutes, but still worth the effort, especially because Mama got at least a tiny nap in.A very peaceful afternoon on Center Pond even if I didn’t get a nap. The trip that had seemed impossibly long to start out now seemed to be ending too soon. Having some time to reflect (get it? 🙂 ) on our adventure was nice.After dinner we decided to try putting some of those fresh blueberries to use in a couple of muffins. This is the first one going into the pot.I’d been carrying the gear for days and was glad we were giving it a shot to justify the effort. We’ll see how they turned out later….This wood grouse was making a lot of noise near camp so I had my camera ready expecting a deer or a moose to pop out. Frau Stranger whispered for me to hand her my camera and caught this shot around the corner from our camp.More quiet reflection time (OK I will stop now)Also time for more marshmallows. Not sure this one was as good as the one on the island, but she seemed happy enough with her effort.I wasn’t that happy with my muffins though. The large pot seemed to leave the muffins below the heat at the top needed to brown them. They tasted fine enough, but didn’t fully rise like they should. We’ll apply the lessons learned next time and either use a shorter pot or a taller rack.Last sunset of the trip with just a sliver of moon floating in the sky and in the pond.One last peaceful morning on the shore. Definitely time to soak in that peace so you can carry it home with you.Another chilly morning encouraged us to get moving though, first to make breakfast and then to break camp.First we said our goodbyes to the camp and lean to…Then we said our goodbyes to the pond….Then we stopped to eat a bunch of blueberries!!!These are the “Holy cow we survived!” faces as we reached the trail head with our car just around the corner. Who could have guessed that we would make it through six days out there and still be smiling?This made me laugh when we got back to the car. You could see the rangers had to keep wiping off that spot to read our permit. I can imagine them each time thinking those poor folks must be lost for their car to be here so long, then seeing our permit through the dust and realizing we meant to be gone so long. Now that we’ve pushed our limits I can’t wait to see what we plan for next years adventures!