Pogy Pond & Wassataquoik Lake – Baxter with the Boys 2017

40 pictures and some babbling about the return of the Boys from Texas for a five day centeral Baxter State Park adventure. The plan was a simple and relaxing one on paper, but the weather made things interesting at times.DSC01685aI hope you like this picture from the South Branch camping area looking towards Pogy, not so much because I put a lot of effort into it, but because it is the only picture from day one. We parked and loaded up packs just in time for a few sprinkles. I took a moment as we walked through the campground to the trail head to snap this. Good thing because soon after the sky opened and we were walking in rain for the rest of the day’s hike.DSC01687aWe were soaked when we arrived at the Pogy LT, but the rain stopped about that time so setting up camp was easier at least. A good dinner and sleep helped, but putting on wet clothes the next morning was not part of the original plan.DSC01692aThings were still wet, on the ground and in the air. We set out in rain gear to protect against the wet undergrowth of the campsite spur.DSC01694aDSC01695aSome nice views across Pogy towards the mountain despite the less than nice weather.DSC01700aThings were starting to brighten up a bit as we passed through the Six Ponds area. Here we had the chance to test our balance using the outflow debris as a bridge at no risk since our boots were wet anyway.DSC01701aThen things really started to look up as we made our way around Wassataquoik Lake. We had sunshine, a nice breeze and glimpses of the mountains and cliffs rising up around the lake.DSC01703aThe view from the shore in front of the Wassataquoik Lake LT didn’t include the island at the far end of the lake and we had no sense we were sharing this wilderness with anyone else.DSC01706aDSC01708aDSC01709aNone of my maps give a name to this little knob but it can be easily climbed via a trail that loops around the far side and has great views.DSC01710aI had a nice view from under my tarp in camp too. With the lingering threat of showers it was nice to have some additional protected space since we were staying here for two nights.DSC01713aI think the boys may have tried some fishing that first evening, but I was content to just shoot some pictures.DSC01715aThe mountain was getting ready for night, wrapping itself in what clouds it could find.DSC01718aIf we had known this was the last calm we’d see at this site we would have been out paddling or fishing. I was too busy enjoying how pretty it was to think that far ahead.DSC01722aThe next day was bright and breezy. Great weather for hanging out the hiking clothes, at least for a while. The boys were planning a quiet day around camp with hopes of fish for lunch, but I had a day hike up to Little Wassataquoik Lake on my to do list. DSC01729aDSC01730aIt was a great day for hiking, not too hot and I had almost nothing in my pack besides water and lunch. Hiking below these cliffs was interesting in several ways.DSC01739aSeeing these chunks that had come down long ago standing next to the trail made you think about gravity and time. Well they did that for me at least.DSC01741aDSC01747aThen I reached my target for the day; the tent site named after Little Wass Lake, but not actually on the water. We had reservations to camp here later in the year as part of a family trip and I wanted to do a site inspection so we’d know what to expect. There was hope of leaving the tent at home and using the tarp and bug net to save weight. I made some measurements and took notes so I could figure out a plan later at home.DSC01748aThen I headed up the back side of that cliff via a short viewpoint trail and while it was steep it was definitely worth the climb.DSC01750aLooking back down at the lake our campsite was on the big point sticking out into the lake from the right side. It really isn’t that far or hard of a hike and would make a great day hike if staying down below.DSC01751aDSC01760aLittle Wassataquoik Lake is indeed little in comparison to the larger neighbor. It seemed shallow and rocky. I don’t believe there is a canoe here for that reason. Just a nice place for peace and quiet. DSC01761aI was quiet enough to not drive this doe off when she was first startled by my approach and announced her presence.DSC01767aI resisted the urge to move to get a better angle and she rewarded me by moving around the trees to see what I was doing. She kept moving until I found myself snapping shots of her in this spot as she bobbed her head at me trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. This went on for a few minutes and I only wish I’d thought to hit the movie button.DSC01769aLong time readers will know who this shot is for 🙂DSC01775aBack in camp there was still plenty of time left to enjoy a lazy day off. Instead of planning a rugged mountain climbing adventure we were trying to relax more this year.DSC01779aThis camp on the lake was certainly a nice spot to spend some time. The water was amazingly clear and still nice and cool in the middle of Summer. The wind kept us out of the canoe and made for poor shore fishing, but we had a nice couple of days there.DSC01792aOn our way back out on day four we stopped at Green Falls reached via a short and wet side trail.DSC01801aIt is a neat spot I’ve been to several times now and I think I’ll always be willing to make time for this side trip when I’m near by.DSC01803aStopping to take pics and some video I sent the boys on ahead. Racing to catch back up I missed my turn onto the main trail and almost walked right into the lake. Since I was there I figured I would take a few more pics before racing back the other way after them.DSC01812aThen we were back at Pogy for our last night on trail. This time we were dry and in much better spirits. Sunshine and dry socks will do wonders for morale.DSC01828aIt was hot though with barely a puff of breeze now and again. We sweltered through the late afternoon and then began to hear murmurs of thunder in the distance. As it drew nearer we made some efforts to prepare for a little shower while grumbling about the 10% chance of rain in the forecast. Given the lack of wind we expected vertical falling rain so I set up my tarp in a bit of a porch mode to get some air. Then there was this odd noise for a few minutes that we eventually placed as powerful wind and rain because it was upon us 🙂

Credit for the following pics goes to my brother who first pulled everything he could into the lean to and then took time to take pictures of me trying not to drown as my tarp floundered in the storm.

P1000443aThe Tato tarp connector sliding down the ridgeline is what led to my doom. This was after ten minutes of driving wind and rain. My brother has done some sailing so I trust his judgement of the winds which he thought were maxing out north of 40mph. Combined with the heavy downpour there was a lot more stress put on that tarp than I’d rigged it for. I never settle for a single hitch on that connector now and always double it up so it can’t go anywhere.P1000444aAfter a while the storm tapered off into just a shower, but it had left a flood behind. This had been one whopper of a summer thunderstorm. Felt bad for anyone caught out on trail in that one.P1000447aI stepped out into a bit of a puddle, but was able to stay under the tarp while getting it hooked back up properly. The next day while driving out we kept finding tree limbs and entire trees laying across the road. Guess there had been some sort of storm come though 🙂 The Boys from Texas always bring out Baxter’s best weather when they come! Thanks again to my brother for documenting my fight for survival. DSC01829aDay five started with some heavy looking skies over Pogy Pond. We knew the trail would be wet from the previous day, but now we were worried about more rain falling too. Still it looks sort of pretty and we were walking back to the car which is always easier.DSC01831aOne last long look at the pond. Never enough of these moments so I try to soak them in when I can. Nature can be rough, make life difficult, but even at its darkest, there is great beauty.DSC01836aClimbing the bluffs along Upper South Branch Pond is always bittersweet. It is the last real effort before the flat trail that returns to the parking lot. I’m always happy to be up there and done with the work, but know that soon it will be time to start seeing the end of the fun too.DSC01839aDSC01841aSomeone paddled over from the campground to start their day hike. We’ll end this trip here looking across South Branch Pond towards the campground, the car and civilization beyond.

It is always a pleasure to do this annual trip with the Boys, but boys do grow up. Not sure how long they will keep coming so I’m always glad when they say it is time to start making plans. Hope you folks have had a chance to make some plans this year. I know I have…

The South Turner Mtn Expedition – Family Baxter Trip June 2017

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!

Baxter Season Opening – Family Trip in Late May

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 🙂

Freezeout Loop Revenge – Baxter With the Boys July 2016

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 http://www.trailspace.com/forums/trip-reports/topics/146513.html 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!

Baxter With the Girls – Roaring Brook June 2016

Baxter With the Girls – Roaring Brook June 2016

18 pictures from a rare car camping adventure in Baxter State Park. I’d made these reservations for a lean to at the Roaring Brook campground early in the year with a plan for the girls to be coming up to meet me at the end of my two week AT trip. They were going to bring lots of food and we’d joked about day hiking. As things turned out we had lots of food and went day hiking 🙂IMG_6218aCar camping is very different from backpacking. Some parts are bad, like having neighbors and overused privies. Other parts are good like a cooler full of food, a full sized propane burner and a percolator full of fresh brewed coffee. My wife and I used to hit the road for weeks at a time when we lived out West and have enjoyed eating well in some very remote places.IMG_6221aWe didn’t let a damp start to the day keep us in camp. With hopes the clouds were about to part soon we headed across the brook via the Russell Pond Trail, but opted to swing off towards Sandy Stream Pond soon after the bridge. The RPT is a bit more rugged and has a rock hop that might have been a bit much for the youngster. Besides, while I’ve gone that way many times I’d never had a chance to try the Sandy Stream Pond Trail.IMG_6222aYup, definitely a bit less rugged  this way. The trip out to the pond to look for moose is part of the standard visitor experience it seems and we met many other folks out enjoying the day. My trips to Baxter usually involve rushing away from the trailhead and out into the empty wilderness as fast as possible so it seemed odd to see so many people. I think there may have been a dozen over the four hours we were on this hike, so it wasn’t crowded. I just think of Baxter as empty.IMG_6225aThe clouds were starting to lift by the time we reached the first of several viewpoints on the edge of the pond. Hamlin and Pamola were starting to come into view, but Katahdin itself remained shrouded.IMG_6227aThe pond was quite shallow, at least around the edge we were on. The light was constantly changing along with the clouds making it a great day to just sit and look. Backpacking is fun, but there is something nice about not trying to get anywhere too. We had plenty of time to soak the views in before heading further down the trail.IMG_6235aMost folks don’t realize it, but you are free to roam off trail in the Baxter wilderness if you are so inclined. There are a few exceptions though and the area around most of Sandy Stream Pond is set aside to allow the animals a place to be completely free of humans. The signs make me laugh because it seems odd to have a preserve in the middle of a giant park.IMG_6236aWe eventually rejoined the RPT and headed out to Whidden Ponds for lunch. The clouds had continued to linger on the mountains but it was a great day down below.IMG_6237aWhat may have been an annoyance for those hoping for summit views made for a beautiful sight to us. I have stopped at this pond on every trip down this trail to take pictures and probably always will.IMG_6239aThis day was special though because I had the girls with me. Every other time I’d been to this spot I’d thought how nice it would be if my wife could see it. She has had to look at all the pictures I’ve taken from here over the years so it was nice that she finally got to see it in person. IMG_6241aBaxter Peak was starting to be glimpsed through the clouds at times. Maybe the folks would get their summit view yet that day, but we finished up our tuna wraps and started back towards camp.IMG_6245aAlong the way we came across this well hidden toad. Actually we came across quite a few of a wide variety, but this one was so hard to spot at first I decided to take some pictures.IMG_6247aIf you couldn’t find him before this close up might help. Was glad I’d taken this picture to remind me in case I lost him in the wide shot.IMG_6248aMy daughter insisted we were going to climb up South Turner Mountain because the sign said it was only 1.5 miles and she was sure she could walk that far. No matter how much I tried to explain why that wasn’t going to actually happen she refused to be dissuaded. So we went a ways down the trail until we hit the boulder field that marked the start of the actual climb. She didn’t want to admit defeat, but the size of the rocks eventually convinced her we should wait till next year to see if her legs were longer. IMG_6253aLater in the day we decided to explore the Nature Trail which is a small loop just across the brook from the campground. It wound through the forest, first along the brook and then away from it. Eventually it gave access to two separate boardwalks that let you travel well out into a large bog. IMG_6260aThere were several interesting types of plants to be found. A ranger later explained that there are two types of carnivorous plants in this bog, though they like to eat tiny flies so we were never in any real danger.IMG_6263aBesides the bog there was also a really nice view of South Turner. My daughter was still saying we should go up there and I think she’s right, we should. IMG_6265aLate in the day to be on the summit, but the views definitely opened up. I’m sure there were a few folks coming down in the dark with their headlamps on with memories to last a lifetime. We had it much easier on this trip. Unless you count the hard work of carrying our gear into our walk in lean to or the challenge of cooking the perfect campfire pizzas we didn’t do  much to earn our reward, but we left with memories to last too.

Martin Ponds and South Katahdin Lake – Family Baxter Trip May 2016

Martin Ponds and South Katahdin Lake – Family Baxter Trip May 2016

36 pictures from a late May, early season, visit to Baxter State Park. The girls were ready to get out for their first trip of the year so we booked three nights in an area near the south end of the park.

IMG_6043aWe aren’t afraid of the early season bugs because we come prepared. Good thing too because those early season bugs certainly weren’t afraid of us! I’d treated our clothing with permethrin which only left them with our heads and hands to target. Head nets might look a bit silly, but they make all the difference on a visit to the Maine woods in the late Spring and early Summer.IMG_6041aThe light in the forest was amazing! Still the clear, white light of Spring, but strong with the coming intensity of the approaching Summer. IMG_6046aWe didn’t have far to travel compared to my usual solo adventures, but part of keeping it fun for everyone is keeping the distances realistic for a five year old. Starting out from the Avalanche Field trailhead we covered the first two miles pretty fast as the trail followed an old logging road and was pretty flat.IMG_6048aReaching the turn off for the Martin Ponds trail we left the flat of the old road and walked on some authentic Maine hills, mostly up, towards our destination.IMG_6051aApproaching from the boggy end we could see the open water of the pond ahead. Later, after a good look at the pond I realized that all the ends were boggy.IMG_6052aThe Martin Ponds lean to advertises room for six. This was our first attempt at family camping in a lean to so we were glad to have plenty of room. I was able to rig up our Kelty TR3 to keep the bugs off of us while we slept which was our hope. Pretty sure we’ll be investing in some sleeping nets in the near future which are a lot more flexible in terms of fitting inside LTs. I have used one on solo trips for years. Best $7 I ever spent, but I think I may invest in something more substantial for us.IMG_6055aThe girls headed down to the pond to enjoy the breeze. I’d often heard that this spot was one of the best places to view Katahdin and I have to agree. So much easier than climbing up there and seeing it up close, that’s for sure!IMG_6062aLater I went down to spend a moment alone on the shore only to notice that I wasn’t alone. Mrs Moose had been standing on the far side, out of the water until she saw me. She moved into the water and browsed for a minute so I ran to bring the girls down to see.IMG_6064aBy the time we returned the cow was swimming half way across the pond. We watched, whispering in awe, as she swam towards us and then veered off as she approached. I can never tell if they are just checking us out when they do this or putting on a show for the cameras.IMG_6066aShe took to the shore and dawdled a bit making sure we had time to get a few more shots before disappearing into the forest.IMG_6067aWe still had plenty of nature to enjoy though. There were a wide variety of frogs providing background music throughout the afternoon and evening. There also were some lovely Spring flowers to be seen including this Hobblebush which we mistook for some sort of dogwood.IMG_6069aWe also were there at the right time to see some Painted Trillium at their peak. These only last for a few days and then disappear for another year.IMG_6074aSunset over the pond was calm and quite froggy. Things cooled rapidly once the sun dropped and a shower came through overnight.IMG_6079aIn the morning we were off to our next camp at South Katahdin Lake. It was only about a two mile hike, but with lots of interesting terrain for a five year old. We were all happy to reach the lake shore, especially since it looked like there might be more rain on the way.IMG_6080bThe ceiling was a bit higher than the last time I visited this site, though only the foot of East Turner was visible on the far shore. We’d see some rain as the afternoon went on, but nothing like that trip thankfully!!IMG_6083aI think the expression is “Great weather for a duck.” but the local loon population seemed pretty happy as well. There seemed to be a group of at least four or five that was hanging around near our camp on the shore.IMG_6101aWe had some breaks in the clouds near sunset, but not enough to reveal the big mountains to our west.IMG_6104aMorning brought definite signs of clearing, but this bank of clouds remained for some time. Watching it closely I realized it was a long narrow tube of moisture being pushed around the side of the mountain in a steady stream. Weather does some weird things around these big peaks poking up all of a sudden.IMG_6107aWe had a great day for hanging around and exploring. This flowage enters the lake just downstream, but is backed up by something resembling a beaver dam.IMG_6108aNot sure if any beaver were involved in this or not, as they usually do a better job on construction. I do know those bog boards are the trail crossing we arrived on the day before and that tilted one towards the top was very interesting while wearing the big daddy pack.IMG_6111aThis was a day of many walks as our daughter was taking full advantage of her time in the woods. We’d no more than sit down from one than she would announce it was time to begin another. We visited all the local landmarks and even roamed through the nearby Katahdin Lake Camp and some distance beyond. I have no real account to rely on, but would guess we did at least seven miles that day.IMG_6117aThere was some time for cards though. This girl never stops even when she stops so we know to bring along plenty of things to keep her entertained. Of course that is never enough which is why I’m sure a few minutes after this picture it was time for another walk.IMG_6133aWith the low cloud deck finally gone the mountain came into full view. We couldn’t see it from our camp site, but thankfully we had plenty of chances to see it on our walks.IMG_6138aLater in the afternoon the breeze died down enough we felt confident enough to try taking the canoe out. On a lake this size the weather can cause a lot of trouble so we opted to just take a tour around the nearby island.IMG_6141aBetween the breeze that was still blowing and my wife’s incredibly powerful paddling stroke I had to spend most of my time focused on manning the rudder. I did manage to get a few shots of the mountain from this unique perspective in the middle of the lake.IMG_6144aWe earned our dinner that day for sure! Between all the walks and a bit of paddling everyone was ready for a bag of dinner. She may be only five but she is getting the hang of eating out of a freezer bag like a pro. I made her a special chili mac without the added dehydrated salsa that went into the parent’s portions which were also a bit larger.IMG_6147aI didn’t want to fill her up with chili mac and have her turning down toasted  marshmallows. My wife is an artist when it comes toasting, patient and always aiming for perfection.  IMG_6150aOne last sunset over the mountains before the clouds moved back in. Again I was reminded of my previous visit, tired, wet, wet and wet. That was an adventure, but I’m pretty sure this was more fun. Maybe next time we’ll try the north end of the lake!menv1The next day brought showers which arrived just about the exact time we left camp. We had three miles of trail to cover including some wet and slippery bog boards. The girls put on raincoats but in warm temperatures like this I prefer to just get wet. Well up to a point at least heh.IMG_6156aWe didn’t let a little shower keep us from stopping for a snack break. Loading up afterwards I could tell the little one was enjoying being out in the rain. I didn’t realize just how much until she saw a trail head sign on the drive out and tried to get me to stop so we could go on a hike. That’s my girl!!

Pogy Pond Rain

Quick video from the BSP/IAT week long loop. This was just the tail end of a whopper of a storm that caught me a few miles out from Pogy Pond. Never been wetter in my life even in my surfing days heh. Sorry there is no video of the thunderstorm that preceded this rain but I was too busy racing down the trail to document properly.