Finally a chance to return to one of my favorite parts of Maine or pretty much any where else; Baxter State Park. Probably most famous for being home to the northern terminus of the AT the sprawling preserve offers a wide variety of access and terrain far beyond Baxter Peak atop Katahdin. Some beautiful areas can be simply driven to while others may take days to reach on foot or by paddle.
This trip was our first attempt at actually backpacking with our daughter. She has been camping with us every summer since her first trip at six months of age and we’d taken her to some walk in sites before so despite her being three this wasn’t a huge leap for us. We kept the terrain and distance easy enough so neither parents nor child got tired and cranky. A little rain on our way in the first day was dealt with by ducking under a tree while the shower passed. Both Mrs Stranger and I have great memories of the family huddled together trailside with our big hats shielding the little one below.
There were still some showers wandering around but we arrived at our first nights site a bit steamy but generally dry. We had time to explore our new home, set up the tent and then jump inside to let another shower pass. Then mother and daughter set out to find a good marshmallow stick while daddy filtered water and fired up the stove for dinner. We tested out a new concoction I came up with this year…mushroom curry sauce with chicken, mixed veggies, a bit of extra broccoli and then a mix in of powdered mash potato after everything else had steeped for a bit. This one is definitely going in the rotation as it is full of flavors and sticks to the ribs.
Someone was very interested in making sure the marshmallows had survived the trip. She carried her almost empty pack part of the way each day and then momma would cover for her. We want her to get the full experience, but are really making sure she is having fun and being safe, not working out there.
We heard an owl for a while around sun down and something big splashed into the water across the pond but other than a mouse and a few birds we didn’t have much wild life. We did see a bald eagle trying to find a fish though it was impossible to get him on camera as he never stopped moving.
The next day we had lots of sun to start the day. Luckily we always get up early so the 4am dawn chorus of birds didn’t surprise us. We took our time enjoying breakfast as we only had a short distance planned for the day.
Our plan was for momma to be primary child wrangler on the trail while daddy was primary pack mule. Just prior to the trip I made some custom straps so I could lash two Therm-a-Rest Trail Pros and the family sized Kelty TR3 to the top of my pack. With food for the three of us, a bunch of clothes I didn’t need plus a few liters of water just for sport I got the gross weight up to 55lbs to start the trip. That is close to the goal for the LT pack and it felt surprisingly good on this frame.
There are canoes available to rent at many of the camp sites in Baxter. Some, like these are locked and you need to pick up a key at the gate while others farther in the back country are purely on the honor system. The wind and the tot were both a bit squirrely that day so we opted not to go out despite having a key.
Mrs Stranger caught me multi tasking here as I work on adding a lure to my line while trying to blow black flies away from my face. Middle Fowler looked like a good fishing spot but conditions were windy and I had no luck. Later, after the rod was put away and the dinner fire was laying down the wind calmed and the fish began to rise. I think a return trip is in order as we met some fishermen hiking in the next day who confirmed the pond is worth fishing.
This loon who worked the lake pretty much non stop also seemed to think it was worth fishing these waters. We enjoyed watching him all day but were disappointed that he didn’t sing for us that night. We did have a wonderful frog chorus though. Dinner this night was a special chili mac I created to not be too spicy for the tot. The ground beef had a bit too much texture since I’d experimented with slightly bigger pieces, but the flavor was nice and the mix in cheddar topped it off well. Of course there were more marshmallows!
The last day we had the most ground to cover but we knew there would be cheeseburgers so we were motivated. The weather seemed about to turn again so we kept moving but took time to explore the outlet campsite on Lower Fowler. The view from the fire ring was nice with an exposure that would give a great view of the morning sun. The camp on the other hand seemed to be very rocky. We didn’t fully explore but we saw no place our family sized tent would fit. This seemed like a great place for a hammock rather than a tent.
I won’t pretend this was totally easy to pull off. It took a lot of planning, a lot of patience and a fair amount of luck, but everyone was glad we’d taken the chance to get out there together on the path less traveled by