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.

Baxter State Park / International Appalachian Trail Loop – July 2015

Baxter State Park / International Appalachian Trail Loop – July 2015

About time I started working on getting the adventure reports up to date. It has been a great year so far and this trip was definitely one of the highlights. Some of you might recall I tried to do this loop last Fall and was hit by a freakishly hot day that just about did me in. Not to spoil the suspense, but while there were some serious challenges along the way, I didn’t die this year either!

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As is so often the case, things started out looking calm enough. I again made arrangements to park my scoot with the folks at Matagamon Wilderness Camp. They let folks park for free in their lot along the road, but I feel safer leaving the bike with them and it gives me an excuse to have an ice cream cone while I’m there.

From there it is just a short road walk to Baxter’s north gate. Amusingly, the ranger at the gate was the same lady I registered with on this trip last year. She recalled meeting me then but was surprised to hear about the trouble I’d had. I figured that was a good sign that the park rangers weren’t all sitting around laughing about my previous debacle and set off towards the trailhead.

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The weather was on my side this time it seemed. Much cooler and while things were on the dry side the forest was inviting after a long motorcycle ride and a few miles of road walk.

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After spending so much time in New Hampshire, the forest here seemed very different again as it had on the trip with the boys from Texas. Pines and birches dominate both areas, but they don’t feel the same. Something about the density of the woods and how sunlight comes through it I think.

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Horse Mountain was just a little bump as my legs warmed up and I hit a good stride. I found myself down the other side and enjoying the cool breeze coming across Billfish Pond in no time at all. There are in fact no billfish in this pond or on Billfish Mt beyond. Seems the area was named Bill Fish long ago and somewhere lost the space in the official records. There is a campsite here that is rarely used and pretty easy to get to, though it isn’t right on the water.

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This route took me through lots of intersections. I’ve walked through this area enough on solo and family trips that there was no confusion, but I can only imagine a novice hiker coming across that signpost in the middle and being overwhelmed. Definitely a good time to break out the map if you aren’t totally positive as to which way you’re headed.

IMG_4769aThis is where I was headed. North campsite on Middle Fowler Pond looking towards the outlet. The site was very overgrown and looked as though it had seen very little use this year. The entire Fowler Ponds area is lightly used and often available to reserve on short notice. Great spot for family trips or anyone looking for more relaxing and casual terrain compared with the nearby mountains.

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My daughter sent this little guy along at the last minute. She was worried I might be lonely and need someone to snuggle with. I told her I’d bring back pictures so she could see the adventure it went on.

IMG_4776aA few years ago I reported to the rangers that the tree they had tacked the campsite sign to was in danger of falling. It still makes me chuckle to see it there right where they pushed it over after moving the sign to a new tree. Very peaceful little site with the rental canoes just down the trail and I’ve seen locals hiking in to fish here so might make a nice place to hang out for a few days.

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Morning came with some expected cloud cover and a light mist during breakfast. I lingered a bit and let it blow through before heading to the other side of the pond and beginning my climb up to Barrel Ridge.

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If you look between the pine needles you can just make out this beautiful white tailed doe on the other side. I was glad I was able to get this glimpse on camera because as soon as I tried to move to get a better shot she was gone.

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Last year this was a very wet sub-alpine bog, but on this trip it was bone dry. Well at least when I was passing through…

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Last year I skipped Barrell Ridge because of the heat. This year I figured I had plenty of time because I’d made camp three miles farther along and the weather seemed nice enough.

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A few ridges of mossy rocks brought me to a nice ledge where I took a break and looked around. About that time the mist started up again and I noticed how slippery the lightly traveled rocks were becoming. Rather than push on to the top of the ridge I started back down just to be safe.

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Looking back up at the ridge from a distance I could see where I’d stopped and the steep section I’d skipped. I’m thinking that this place will make a great day hike in a few years when my daughter can hike up there from the pond below.

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I stopped for a nice long break at the South Branch campground.  There was plenty of time for snacking and photographing wildlife.

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Things looked a little gloomy in the direction I was headed, but there wasn’t any sense of impending doom. Of course there rarely is heh. This is one of the last pictures I’d take for the next two days, but oh the stories I have to tell!

The mist turned to a light shower about half way through the six mile hike to Pogy Pond. Another mile on and it was a hard rain headed towards downpour. Then things got serious. The last mile and a half were done at almost a running pace through a white wall of near solid water with lightning flashing through the trees at times for added incentive.

By the time I reached the LT at Pogy my boots were literally filled with water that had run down my body. Thanks to good packing and organization I was able to quickly get the wet clothes hanging from the rafters with warm, dry clothes covering my bones. The rain continued for another hour or so with great intensity. I captured a little video I’ll be sharing later, but you really have to be inside a good mountain storm to truly understand how impressive they can be. Thankfully the wasps that had been in the LT on my visit here the previous month were gone so I had the place to myself.

The next day was cloudy and while there was no rain in the morning the woods was wet from the previous day. My trail clothes were wet when I put them on and only got wetter as I walked. An hour in I hit Russell Pond and swung by the ranger station there just to say hi. They made a note of my name which was the point of my visit and I was back on trail. I took the more direct Russell Pond trail towards Roaring Brook which I don’t recall taking before. Very nice trail, easier than the Wassataquoik Stream trail I always take I think, though perhaps not as pretty.

With little elevation to deal with I made good time to Roaring Brook, signed the register at the rangers cabin there and headed out through the parking lot. It seemed strange to sign in and then leave rather than enter the park but the Katahdin Lake trailhead is a few miles of road walk along the narrow park access road. If you’re doing this walk keep your ears open for traffic and be ready to jump off the road as many folks ignore the speed limit on their way in to the park it seems.

The trail follows old logging roads and is quite easily navigated. I was nearing the end of a roughly 16 mile day but making good time until the light mist rapidly turned to another downpour. Again I arrived at camp totally soaked with boots full of water.  The LT at South Katahdin Lake was huge so I soon had wet things spread out all over and dry fleece all over myself. Mother Nature was throwing everything she had at me this trip but other than some very wrinkly feet I was holding up pretty well.

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The rain let up enough for me to finally unwrap my camera. Here is my luxurious abode at Katahdin Lake. This site is super easy to access, about three miles of easy trail and is right on the lake. Lots of day hikers and proximity to the camp next door seem to keep this place underused it seems.

IMG_4810aThe lake was shrouded in mist so it was hard to get a sense of how big it really is. I know from the map it is a lot larger than what I could see.

IMG_4811aThe sky seemed to melt right into the water and after two days of rain it seemed that everything, including me, was all wrapped up in one big cloud of moisture. Some parts were less wet than others, but nothing could truly claim to be dry at this point.

IMG_4812aWith a canoe right there in camp this looks like a place to come do some exploring on the water. Might make a nice family trip next year if I can convince my daughter to stay in the canoe for more than twenty minutes at a time.

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This is your standard trail sign documentation picture until you notice that tree in the background. Guessing there might have been a bit of wind gusting off the lake to snap that trunk like that. Neat to see after the fact but probably a bit scary to listen to in the dark.

IMG_4815aDay four again started without rain, but also without sun. The clouds seemed to reach all the way to the ground and everything was still dripping. Reaching the border between Baxter State Park and the start of the International Appalachian Trail I found an old logging road disappearing into the fog.

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The mileage sign laid out my itinerary pretty well, listing the shelters I’d sleep at, the highest mountain and finally, thirty miles on, the road where I’d finish my week long hike. I remember now thinking with a grin that it would be easier to go forward than to go back so there was no need to worry about failure any longer.

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This section of road was pretty open, but there were other areas where the berry bushes have reclaimed most of it. Between the thick fog and the heavy brush I found myself instinctively breaking into song to warn the bears I was coming. The number and size of the bear scat piles was a clear reminder that this was their turf.

IMG_4823aThe first LT on the IAT seemed functional, but without much character. There was a small stream nearby for a water source and it was peaceful enough, but with another shelter a few miles farther on it doesn’t seem to get much use. About this time the showers started up again.

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Much like my previous deer picture this one will require some sharp eyes. If you peer through the fog you may see a doe peering back at you. We studied one another like this for a while before I edged too close and she darted off into the mist.

IMG_4827aThankfully I only got wet rather than soaked. When I got to the Wassataquoik Stream IAT shelter it was filled with gear much to my surprise. A crew of trail workers soon arrived and informed me they’d been camped there for a week, but were just about to move off. Me and the zebra were just getting settled in for the night when a couple of IAT hikers arrived. Gen and Emmanuel were from Quebec and planning on heading all the way to the Canadian border. Considering they were on their first night out and I’d been hiking in the rain for three days at this point I thought they were pretty brave to share the shelter with me.

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The next day we set out together and did the big stream crossing to start our day. If you look closely you can spot him putting his shoes back on while she looks back over the ford we’d just completed.

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Just in case you were thinking you didn’t have to cross this stream they made it pretty clear. There is a high water route that adds about eight miles of hiking if you really want to skip this crossing, but it was only a bit above knee deep on this trip so not a big deal.

IMG_4835aJust before the Deasey Mountain climb begins in earnest the trail passes the remains of the old lookout cabin. They are slowly dismantling this and seem to be crowdsourcing the removal labor. There is a box of construction debris bags and a sign explaining that volunteers can hike out a bag of debris to help out. The goal is to completely restore the site eventually.

From this spot to the top of Deasey is listed as .8 mile, but it is a rough, up hill section that was slippery in spots. My reward on reaching the top was to be totally socked in. That is why there are no summit pics from Deasey.

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After descending into way too deep of a col and slabbing my way up to the top of Lunksoos I was at least allowed a few minutes with the clouds above me before they settled back down stealing the views.

IMG_4842aI just barely had time to snap this zebra shot before a gust of wind nearly tossed him off the top of the mountain. I headed on down to the Lunksoos shelter to see if my Canadian friends were there, but they had apparently headed farther on.

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A pity as they missed some wonderful views the next morning. The folks who built the Lunksoos LT seem to have tossed LNT ethics beside and chopped down some trees to open up the view of Katahdin in the distance. Since the damage was already done I figured I may as well enjoy it.

IMG_4852aAfter three days of hiking in the rain I was thinking today might finally be the day to break out my dry socks. With luck I might keep my feet from falling off over the 17 or so miles I had left.

IMG_4856aThe mountain looked like an exciting place to be that day with clouds coming and going rapidly. I was headed the other direction so enjoyed it while I could and then hiked into the forest again.

IMG_4858aOf course the sun soon changed to clouds and I was getting rained on a bit, but these flowers kept my spirits up. Later I had my first ever bear sighting right on the trail. What looked to be a yearling was foraging until he noticed me approaching. Before I could even think of pulling out my camera he was bounding off away from me. Thankfully flowers can’t run!

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This is the bridge across the East Branch of the Penobscot that leads to Bowlin Camps. I had a nice chat with the caretakers there and will be devoting a post to my visit with them in the future.

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After setting up camp at the Grand Pitch shelter I took advantage of the opportunity to break out my fishing pole. I didn’t feel like fighting my way down to the pool right under the falls and settled for this one a bit farther below.

IMG_4871aMy efforts were amply rewarded with this good sized trout. One of his smaller cousins swallowed a hook and had to join him for dinner, but this one would have been a meal in itself.

IMG_4873aOf course after four days of rain making a fire was a bit of a challenge. Being in a well used campsite didn’t help as the easily foraged kindling had already been gleaned. Thankfully my fire skills were up to par and despite wet wood and gusting winds I managed to get a cooking fire started. I’ll admit there was a moment when it was getting darker and I was starting to wonder if I could make trout soup in my kettle.

The fish were fantastic! I’m sure six days on the trail whetted my appetite, but fresh trout with a little garlic and dill roasted over a fire is darn fine eating any day of the week.

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This bit of wildlife was for viewing only. Not sure any amount of herbs and spices would make that taste good. Pretty to look at though!

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They seem to have some bird nesting problems at this shelter. Guess it is better than wasps, but I was glad they didn’t seem to be around while I was there.

IMG_4878aThis shelter was on the small side, but with plenty of room to set up tents around it. With the river right near by it seems like a great place to set up to do some fishing or paddling.

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I took the portage trail down to see the falls near sunset. Even in a dry year there was plenty of water headed down river.

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I had the place to myself and with the sunset slowly coming on it was a great place to spend my last night on the trail. The weather hadn’t made things easy and I still wasn’t convinced my feet wouldn’t fall off, but it had been one heck of a great trip as far as I was concerned.

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This rock in the middle of the river is iconic enough to have a name; Haskell Rock. Looks like it has been there a while and try though it might the river isn’t moving it any time soon.

IMG_4907aI believe this is the section known as the hulling machine. An eater of canoes and kayaks that has led to more than a few rescues over the years.

IMG_4909aAnd of course on the final day we had to have at least one shower. The clouds came down and did their best but I knew I was getting close so didn’t let it bother me.

IMG_4912aHorse Mountain coming up on my left confirmed I was just about back to Grand Lake Road. This area showed signs of having a lot more traffic, but I only met one person the whole day.

IMG_4915aBack on the road I was treated to great views of the river. Well and if you look closely you can see the ice cream cone shaped sign up ahead telling me I’d finished my loop. Time for one of their giant cones full of vanilla! Roughly 70 miles,  much of it in the rain and I’d totally do it again. Maybe next year?

As a bonus, on my ride out I spotted Gen and Emanuel hiking down the road. The next section of the IAT is a long road walk so they’d be dodging logging trucks for a while. I stopped to chat with them and found they had put in a 20 mile day after we parted, then did a very short day and camped at a Matagamon Wilderness site to recover. These two were always smiling it seemed and I hope the rest of their adventure went well.

A little technical info: Rough mileage worked out to about 70 actual trail miles. The Baxter trails are pretty well maintained and easy to follow. The IAT is sparsely blazed in places and the lack of foot traffic can make following the trail a bit tricky at times. Good path finding and navigation skills will come in handy when the trail just seems to disappear. A lot of the IAT section follows old logging roads and is very easy to follow. Most of the difficult sections were between the Wassataquoik Stream ford and Deasey Mountain.

Reservations are required for Baxter State Park camping so some planning is required. Keep the miles manageable so you can be certain of reaching your intended sites. Once on the IAT  it seemed wilderness camping was allowed between shelters so you can be more flexible, but the shelters are nicely spaced.

This route traverses some lightly traveled areas and has some challenging terrain. Definitely not a good first trip, but if you are looking for adventure this is a great route to find some.

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Long Pond Family Trip – Baxter State Park July 2015

Long Pond Family Trip – Baxter State Park July 2015

This impromptu family trip came together on just a few days planning. There was some time between the trip with the boys from Texas and my upcoming second attempt to put together a Baxter-IAT loop. Rather than sit home thinking about that looming over my head, a few days of relaxing at one of our favorite spots seemed like a great idea.

Whoops! Our spot, Long Pond Pines, was only available the second night, but we soldiered on by booking the Long Pond Outlet for the first. The plan called for starting from the trailhead near Trout Brook camp and looping around Trout Brook Mt counter clockwise. This trail was new to all of us, but we knew the distance was in our daughter’s range.

LongPondLoopThe trailhead seemed a bit confusing with three different trails leaving directly from the parking area. The girls actually started up the wrong trail that would have taken them straight up the mountain, but I caught them before they took more than a few steps.

 

IMG_4706aThe trail was moderately even with rolling ups and downs. It sees enough traffic from day hikers to keep it well trod and easy to follow. In one of the low sections we came across this beaver dam just up from the trail with a small pond forming behind it.

IMG_4715aIt was a warm and muggy day so we were happy to find the short side trail to our camp. There was plenty of room for tents at the site, but it didn’t seem as open to the breeze as the spot on the other side of the pond. We went topless to catch what breeze we could in the tent and to watch the stars.

IMG_4711aUnlike previous trips where we paid for canoe use by the hour the ranger at the gate asked us for two days worth of fees. Since it was paid for I hiked over to where they are stored and paddled it back to our camp. Well first I made the mistake of exploring the pond a bit and had to fight a strong, afternoon headwind to get back to where the girls were. It has been a while since I paddled alone and the wind had some fun with me before I eventually returned to camp.

IMG_4716aThe outlet looked to be barely flowing, but the air was filled with the sound of frogs, birds and bugs. This looked like a great spot for a moose to wander through, but family trips tend to be a bit too noisy for them to get close.

IMG_4720aOnce the afternoon breeze died down the pond became like glass. I love the reflections the mountains leave in these ponds. It is hard not to feel peaceful when looking at the reflections and listening to nature’s music.

IMG_4728aWe went out for a family paddle in the morning. Then later when it was time to move camp the girls walked over while I took most of the gear in the canoe. It certainly seemed like a relaxing way to travel.

IMG_4729aSpeaking of relaxing the plants around the water’s edge were certainly easy on the eyes. That feeling didn’t extend to the ears though due to some unusual “barking” frogs that lined this side of the pond. I’ve never heard this particular sound before despite having camped at this pond several times previously.

IMG_4736aStill it is hard not to feel at peace when looking at floating water plants. The girls spent some time splashing in the pond to cool off, but I was happy to just sit on the hill and soak in the day.

IMG_4746aThe roof was on the tent just in case, but furled to preserve the view. The Trail Ridge 3 is hard to fit between the roots at this site, but sleeping next to the pond is always restful.

IMG_4738aSpeaking of which, after a long hard day of play our daughter decided a nap was in order. Good thing she got her rest because the walk out the next day seemed a bit harder than the walk in. Maybe it was the heat, but we were all ready to be done by the time we reached the car.

IMG_4748aDefinitely worth the effort though! These moments when we all are out there together are so special. The downside is that my solo trips feel much more alone after one of these family adventures.

I’ll leave you with this quick video of moments from this family adventure. Hope you’ve had a chance to get out there with those you enjoy spending time with this summer. There is never enough time, but that is all the more reason to get out there when you can!

Upper South Branch and Pogy – Baxter State Park June 2015

Upper South Branch and Pogy – Baxter State Park June 2015

As usual the boys from Texas came up looking for adventure in the wilds of Baxter State Park. Once a year they arrive freshly steamed from the south to enjoy our pleasant climate, eat lobstahs and try to find a mountain to make them appreciate their flatland home for another year. Time constraints forced us into an early date in mid June and we hit the trifecta as far as bugs go. The black fly bloom was at its peak, but there were already plenty of mosquitoes and deer flies as well.IMG_4577a

The plan was actually quite tame compared to some years. We had reservations for two nights at the Upper South Branch LT in hopes of doing the Traveler Loop followed by two days of relaxing at the Pogy Pond LT.IMG_4582a

We had great weather to start and enjoyed the relaxing two miles or so we had to hike in to our site. Mostly flat with a big ridge in the middle it provided lots of different views of the pond. This view is from the camp site looking at the ridge we came over which sits at the base of the main part of the mountain and would be the start of our climb the following day.IMG_4604a

The lean to at Upper South Branch is advertised as having room for four, but it definitely is one of the smaller ones in the park. The boys used their tents as bivies while I hung my bug net. I had a tarp prerigged so it could easily be deployed if a storm came up overnight as was expected, but we left thing open to enjoy the view and the breeze.IMG_4605a

Sunset brought a period of complete stillness as I often find to be the case in these mountains. No matter what afternoon breezes blow there seems to be at least a short period of rest before the evening comes on.

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There had been talk of a front coming through over night, but the red in the sunset made me think perhaps it had fizzled out. We’d have to see what the morning brought because this loop would not be safe to do if wet. Things certainly seemed peaceful as dark fell.IMG_4620a

That peace didn’t last too long though. During the night the wind began to blow through the trees with gusto. It wasn’t as loud as being in the White Mountains when the wind comes up, but it made for restless sleep.  Morning dawned to wind driven clouds covering the mountain. We never really saw much in the way of rain where we were, but we could see the peaks were scraping the clouds and at times the entire mountain disappeared from view.IMG_4629a

Being wise old men with slow healing bones the elder block voted to stay safely below and watch the storm roll by. The youngster was wise enough not to argue. Based on how slippery the rocks were on the Pogy Notch trail the next day I think we made the right choice. Later in the year there is enough traffic to wear some of the moss off, but even on level ground it was pretty slippery at times so I’d guess that ridge would have been mighty treacherous.IMG_4646a

So we moved on to Pogy Pond on day three. The storm had moved on leaving lots of sunshine and a pretty strong breeze. The bugs were bad here as well, but the views were fantastic.IMG_4656aThe wind made fishing a bit pointless so I kept up with the relaxation theme. Between swatting at bugs I found time to enjoy some of the good things Nature has to offer. These water plants had some very impressive blooms.

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The pond also had some wild life. There were a lot of these giant tadpoles swimming about near the shore. I’m not certain if they are related to the booming bull frogs we heard later, but those sounded big as well.IMG_4668a

The youngster studies bugs as part of his college program, but has a strong aversion to feeding them. He often relaxes completely covered from head to toe for protection. I tend to rely on swatting as much as possible so I don’t have to wear all those clothes.IMG_4672a

We did have one bug issue I couldn’t abide by. There were a couple of wasp nests inside the lean to. I’m a pretty big stickler for following rules, but opted to be an outlaw in this case and sleep outside. The price was a vicious no-see-em attack on the second night, but I’d never have been able to sleep next to those wasps.IMG_4677a

The boys took the canoe out for a spin and tried some fishing but the wind made both a bit challenging. Darn pretty place to paddle around though. I did some casting from a rock near shore, but the wind made it seem more like a comedy routine than fishing. IMG_4692a

I did get this shot of a huge dragon fly. Always happy to see these guys around as they love to eat mosquitoes. No wonder it was so big when you consider the food supply it had access to.IMG_4695a

The wind finally calmed down towards the end of our last day. Watching the sun set light up the mountain without having to climb it seemed a bit too easy, but still wonderful to enjoy.IMG_4698aNot the trip we had planned, but so much more relaxing than our previous struggles with roaring floods and gravity. The talk is of trying to get back to more serious efforts next year, but to tell the truth, I’m ok with this style once in a while.

BSP/IAT Loop Cut Short

BSP/IAT Loop Cut Short

Slowly catching up on a back log of Adventure Reports and this one definitely qualified as an adventure, though not all in good ways. The plan called for a seven day loop cutting through the middle of Baxter State Park south from Matagamon Gate to Roaring Brook and then looping back north on the IAT.  Some pretty pictures and a story to tell as my reward I have no regrets at how things turned out, but I hope to get another chance at finishing this loop next year.

IMG_3471aSince the park doesn’t allow motorcycles I made arrangements to leave my scoot at a campground near by. The gentle up hill road walk to the gate was a nice way to stretch out the legs after a long morning of riding.

IMG_3472aIt also allowed some time looking up towards the first climb. That is just one of the lower knobs with the peak of Horse Mt behind the trees on the left. Still it put the road walk in perspective so I enjoyed it instead of complaining. After a quick check in with the ranger at the gate it was great to finish with the road and get out into the forest.

IMG_3473aIt was a hot day, but the climb of 800′ or so was spread out over more than a mile making for a pretty quick trip to the overlook trail. It isn’t often I make time for side trails like this, but as you’ll see in the next few pics this one was worth the time.

IMG_3475aLooking north towards the knob seen on the road walk in. If I was day hiking this I’d have bushwacked over to it so I could get the reverse picture of the road.

IMG_3477aLooking southwest towards the Fowler Ponds though I’m pretty sure that is Long Pond on the left

IMG_3478aThe east branch of the Penobscot is down there somewhere but mostly I was getting a pic of the clouds in this one as I recall

IMG_3479aBillfish and Bald Mts to the south, again with nice looking clouds.

 IMG_3484aThere were a few quick peeks at Billfish Pond as the trail headed towards the camp site and intersection with the Five Ponds trail. The site there is not right on the water so rarely booked. Might be nice with small children you needed to keep away from the pond.

IMG_3488aBeautiful late afternoon at the Long Pond Pines site. It was early September, but hot and still so what bugs remained were quite active.

IMG_3493aDead calm made for muggy to go along with the buggy, but you can’t beat still water for great reflections

IMG_3495aLate afternoon sun almost made the trees look to be in fall color

IMG_3494aDespite the weather it was a great night for sleeping on the water. Once the beaver finally clocked out for the night it was just me, the loon and a few thousand mosquitoes whining outside my netted tent.

IMG_3496aDawn was in a word steamy. Totally still, warm and humid. I noted that I was sweating as I broke camp around 530a and realized it was going to be a day to be taking care of the body.

IMG_3497aOne last look at Barrel Ridge in the distance before leaving Long Pond Pines

IMG_3500aI stopped at Middle Fowler North campsite to top off my water supply and camel a liter or so. While there I noticed the rangers had come through and toppled that tree I’d reported as ready to fall. Looked like they just pushed it over and moved the signs.

This spot also provided a great view of the next leg of my trail as it climbed up the high end of Barrel Ridge. North Traveler pokes up beyond as well.

IMG_3504aLooking back across Middle Fowler with the north face of Billfish Mt behind the camp site

IMG_3505aNever having visited the south camp site at Middle Fowler I was a bit underwhelmed when I found it. Also a bit confused because it showed up prior to the trail intersection rather than after as my maps indicated. Turns out the site had to be moved and it looks like they took a minimalist approach. It would be fine for solo or duo but seemed a bit cramped for a larger group.

IMG_3507aFound this wonderful sub alpine bog near the top of the notch between N Traveler and Barrel Ridge. Bogs at elevation always seem a little special.

IMG_3509aI stopped for some feeding and pondering at this sign. Things were really hot and steamy by late morning, but this sign was made to tempt hikers to the top. I poked my head around the corner to look and could tell that .3 miles was a serious climb. Conditions being what they were I had to leave this view on my to do list. In talking with rangers later they confirmed it is both a hard climb from this point and an extraordinary view.

IMG_3514aLooking up at the exposed southern side of Barrel Ridge

 IMG_3520aLooking across Upper S Branch Pond towards Pogey Notch.

I arrived at the South Branch Pond campground by 2p and while there was a bit of a breeze blowing across the lake the only way to describe the day was sweltering. By Maine standards and especially for September it was just way too hot. Temperature was in the low 90s and so was the humidity from the feel of it. I decided to be careful and spend an hour in the shade at the campground. I feasted on a variety of trail treats and filtered yet more water.

Leaving a little after 3p with an expectation of making the last 6 miles to my site at Pogey Pond before dark I was feeling pretty good. Knowing how the rest of this story turns out I can’t help but laugh at how naive that sounds.

I made pretty good time around the Lower S Branch Pond and met a very happy man at the intersection with the Howe Brook trail. He’d spent the day exploring the pools up and down the brook keeping cool all the while. His grin told me that adding this experience to my to do list was a necessity.

Shortly after that the trail seemed to dead end into the waters of Upper S Branch Pond. Confused I looked to my left and saw a giant slab of rock rising above me blocking the shoreline. I realized that I’d followed the portage trail instead of the one I needed and more importantly I was about to hit a very steep climb.

IMG_3524aLooking down at the upper pond from near the top of the slab. The air in the notch was still and hot which is the last thing I need while climbing. I remember making a point to really reduce my pace to avoid overheating and stopping for these pics was a great excuse to catch my breath.

IMG_3525aHigh above the pond I could tell the sun was headed for the far side of the notch, but with a long twilight I still expected to reach my site before dark.  Again, with hindsight it is easy to see the warning signs, but I missed them at the time. My pace really slowed and I was taking more and more breaks. Thinking I’d soon reach camp I didn’t bother to keep eating and that did me in.

Darkness came and I was still on trail. Bonking hard, my stomach churning acid in futility but refusing to let me eat I had to admit I could no longer make out the trail. Dropping my pack I realized that not eating wasn’t my only mistake. That morning while breaking camp I did something I’d never done before; I left my headlamp inside my tent and at the time figuring it was not going to be a late day it didn’t matter. Thankfully I had my pop up camp lantern accessible though I had to hang it from a hiking pole and hold it aloft to keep from blinding myself.

Telling the story later to a ranger he described my progress as hobbit-like as I followed my bouncing lantern through the darkness. I finally reached the site at Pogey Pond around 9p and set about attempting to recover. I made Gatorade, I made soup but little wanted to stay down. Knowing the next day was short miles helped, but I also knew a major line of storms was expected and I needed to get down from the notch I was in as early as possible.

IMG_3528aThe lean to at Pogey was on the small side for a party of 4, but plenty of room for me. There were several grills and a cast iron frying pan hanging on the wall which leads me to think there might be some fish in this pond. It has to be terribly buggy earlier in the year, but I would like to spend a couple nights here in the future.

IMG_3529aPretty short toss to get the canoe into the pond from here.

IMG_3536aThe day started out hot and muggy again. If not for the approaching storm I would have stayed but I knew I had a deep water crossing ahead and didn’t want to risk it getting too deep with runoff. The next day called for a 17+ mile day so I couldn’t afford to get caught on the wrong side of that crossing.

By the time I made the 4 miles to Russell Pond camp my priorities had been reassessed and changed heh. My stomach was still very angry and without lots of food recovery wasn’t going to happen. The idea of doing big miles the following day became entirely unrealistic. Doing the math on food supplies and trail I made the call to stop at Russell and unless things vastly improved overnight I’d head back north through the park the following day.

The ranger there was able to change my booking for a nice lean to right on the pond and I spent the afternoon working my way up the food chain. Starting small and ending with a full dinner I rode out what turned out not to be such a big storm and got a good nights rest.

IMG_3537aJust before dawn at Russell Pond

 IMG_3539aSteamy morning at the Russell Pond canoe dock

IMG_3542aMy decision to go back the way I’d come confirmed I had time to enjoy the sunrise over the pond.

IMG_3544aThe long bog board bridge headed up towards the ranger cabin at Russell Pond

The ranger at Russell and I go back quite a few years. Not sure if he remembers me since he deals with so many folks, but I look forward to seeing him every year. Since I missed him on my July trip through this area I was glad he was on duty this trip. He used his radio to get me a reservation back at the South Branch campground for that night and I was on my way.

The 10 miles or so went pretty fast, but by the time I reached the campground I was glad I hadn’t tried to stick to my original plan. There is a big difference between a 10 mile day and a 17 mile day!

IMG_3558aThis is the view of my lean to from the pond

IMG_3565aIMG_3567aIMG_3570aSunset series from the lean to

IMG_3577aIMG_3579aIMG_3594aIMG_3603aSunrise series from around Lower S Branch

Just three nights after almost steaming to death this last night was in the mid 30s. Much more expected for September in Maine and much more appreciated. The cool air made for a different sort of steam as the sun came up.

IMG_3614aThe road walk was a bit longer heading out this way, but the last few miles were along Trout Brook so quite pretty.

I was able to exchange my unused parking time for a giant ice cream cone back at the campground where I’d parked so even though I cut the trip short I can’t complain too much. Of course surviving to tell the tale was also appreciated.

Looking back on the day when things went wrong it is easy to see the mistakes, like the headlamp in the wrong spot and the not forcing myself to eat while I still could. Lessons to be remembered and hopefully learned from, but there were good points too. Despite bonking hard I kept my wits enough to make it to camp when there were ample opportunities to panic in the dark. The big effort I made at staying hydrated that day also helped so when things got rough I wasn’t already two quarts low. Making the choice to turn back rather than push on was also probably a really good idea.

So since I survived it was an adventure not a failure! Some great pics, some great memories and a chance to push some limits and survive. Even the bad days are pretty good on the path less traveled by

BSP-Fowler Ponds Family Adventure August 2014

BSP-Fowler Ponds Family Adventure August 2014

Since our first attempt at back country camping with a three year old went so well we decided to do some more family adventuring. The first night was again spent at Lower Fowler Pond on the northern side of Baxter State Park. You can read the adventure report on our previous trip there for more details. This report picks up on the second day as we headed north to explore a part of the park that we hadn’t visited before.

IMG_3397aLess than a mile from our camp brought us to the Five Ponds Trail intersection. There were some muddy sections on this part of the trail with one small water crossing, but once we turned the corner most of our route was on top of a long esker. Created by glaciers an esker is a long deposit of sand and gravel and this one created High Pond by trapping water above it.  It made for an interesting walk with ponds visible on both sides at times.

IMG_3407aHigh Pond seemed shallow and was quite popular with the local duck population.  We watched several groups swimming about as we walked along the esker.  Eventually the trail dipped down to cross a mostly dry outflow that sends water through the ridge and into Long Pond.

IMG_3408aOne more good look at High Pond from the outflow.

IMG_3401aIf you’re visiting this area be warned that while intersections are well marked with big signs some of the camp sites are not. This is the side trail to the Long Pond Outlet site. That sign doesn’t exactly pop out at you even if you are looking for it.

IMG_3403aJust a bit of Long Pond peeking through the trees.

IMG_3412aThe sign for the Long Pond Pines camp site was more freshly painted, but still a bit hard to spot.

IMG_3415aThe fire pit inside a large pile of stones was only used to make a small marshmallow fire, but would be great for colder weather camping.

IMG_3464aThis site has a large open area under the pines perfect for our three person family tent.

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IMG_3453aThe site has a great view of Long Pond and even a bit of Barrel Ridge in the distance.

IMG_3458aAfter a peaceful night listening to the water and a lone loon the girls were ready for some breakfast.

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Morning started out looking a bit threatening

IMG_3422aIMG_3417aBut the clouds broke up enough to let a little late summer sun through.

IMG_3465aPerfect for a little more family adventuring…

We retraced our steps back to the car and met a father/daughter pair on the trail. The girl was 6 and they had been out hiking for a week already in a series of short trips exploring the park. Our 3 year old isn’t quite ready for mountains, but this girl had managed to do the Traveler Loop. We were impressed and their company made for a fun walk back to where we’d both parked.

This second trip confirmed that the Fowler Ponds area of Baxter is a great place to get the kids started. The terrain is relatively gentle and just a few miles gets you access to some great sites. We’ll definitely be headed back again next season!