44 pics from an early season visit to Baxter State Park. The Traveler Loop was still off limits, but we found a fine replacement in Black Cat. It certainly was a lot easier 🙂
Other than a bit of a cliff face hanging over the lake it was a pretty casual hike in to our camp. The cliff is pretty, but also pretty exciting in a few spots. The camp at Upper South Branch is nicer than in years passed with a new lean to and latrine a few years back. Very relaxing, but very buggy!
Very peaceful provided you have bug protection. We didn’t bring the pie irons but managed to make do with foil for our campfire pizzas. Many were eaten, none remained for the bears to scavenge. Best way to keep a clean camp is put all the food in your face!
Morning dawned sort of purple and fuzzy, but coffee and hot mush solved most of our problems in quick order.
Black Cat took a little longer, but was a nice consolation prize for Traveler being closed. Many flies on the summit, but we did not let that deter us from our sausage and cheese. Then it was time for the views!
Dinner that night was not as photogenic as the pizza. A wonderful mashed potato concoction with mixed veggies and bacon, but no thought was given to taking pictures. Might have been hungry, might have been the rain that started just before we ate.
Wet night, wet morning and a wet hike out. It stopped raining soon after we left camp and no one fell off the cliff, so definitely a pretty good ending to the trip. There will be a couple of videos at some point, but I am really busy getting things ready for the next couple of trips on the calendar, so no promises.
Grab a coffee or cocktail as appropriate and relax with a Fall tour of the interior of Baxter State Park. The second half of the video includes an ice and snow covered ascent and crossing of the tablelands for those looking for more excitement!
52 pics and some babbling from the grand finale of our two weeks in the Baxter State Park area.
We dropped our little camper girl back at Girl Scout Camp for her second week and headed towards the Baxter gate as the sky over the mountain turned ominous. Just past the gatehouse it began to pour for most of the ride out towards Nesowadnehunk where the Wassataquoik Lake Trail leaves the tote road. Thankfully it let up just before we parked so we started with wet trail, but not in the rain.
We’ve done this trail before with our daughter, so we knew despite our late start we could get to the Center Pond LT in time for dinner. Some blue sky and sunshine after the storm was appreciated.
The sun didn’t penetrate this dense forest though and the trail was a bit treacherous at times. Thankfully being very flat for the most part the boots stuck to the ground most of the time.
The outlet bog from Center Pond told us we were close, which was reassuring as we watched more storm clouds building on several sides.
After setting up the bug house in the lean to we headed down to the pond to see where the weather was headed. This one moved left to right at a distance, but another passed over head with some thunder and more rain.
Hiking past the inlet bog the next morning we were happy for more sunshine. This trail is wet enough without more rain.
Bog boards can be your friend or your enemy, sometimes both at once. We were only doing about a five mile day, so took our time. Somewhere in this section Frau Stranger’s foot slipped off of a board and she sunk in up to her knee. The same board that was to blame saved her when she sat down on it laughing. She told me she’d wait while I got my camera out, but I insisted on digging her out with my hiking pole.
Thankfully there were plenty of small water crossings to help wash some of the mud off. This part of the trail is wet and sort of dark with lots of roll to the terrain. Neat to walk through, but always a pleasure to finish. There is one short, but steep climb at the end that makes it a joy to reach the spur to the tent site at the top.
There is an open area that is totally exposed to the early afternoon sunshine, but the Little Wassataquoik Tent Site has a place to hide from it. This tree provides part of the canopy over what we like to call The Grotto 🙂
Sitting on the rocks, listening to the waterfall, relaxing in the shade were our reward for climbing up here. There were several frogs and even a couple very tiny fish. Easy access to nice cold drinking water was also a joy.
The next morning we were sorry to leave this spot. I’d reserved this trip late and patched together what I could from the few available sites. Our day three itin was taking us all the way around Wassataquoik Lake and then up to Russell Pond Campground in the middle of the park. We hadn’t met anyone else on trail up to this point, but today we’d see plenty. Day hiking out of Russell is very popular.
The hike past Little Wassataquoik in the morning light was very pretty. A little bumpy to start and then down towards the big lake below. We’d be staying there the following night, but today were headed to Russell.
The LTs 1-4 along the shore are better for moose watching, but #5 is way off by itself. You get privacy at the price of a really long extra walk in and out of the site.
You probably didn’t notice the moose in that previous picture that was made with a GoPro. I ran back to camp and dug out the camera with better zoom to shoot this one on the far side of the lake.
On the way back to the LT I noticed some of the blueberries were looking ripe. Tasted darn nice as a pre dinner snack. A storm passed over and left everything wet, but we timed it well and were under the roof when it hit.
Speaking of roofs…the privy at this site is a Baxter work of art. Plein air indeed!
Day four was meant to be a relaxing, shorter hike back to the Wassataquoik Lake LT. Green Falls is a short side hike along the way we’d skipped on the way in and we were looking forward to revisiting a favorite spot. Then the sky darkened and we stepped up our pace. At the spur to the falls it was decided that making haste to the lean to would be wise. We were walking in the shadow of a rather large cliff at this point, so the storm hit with no warning. Our luck had run out and were were soaked when we arrived at camp in time for the storm to end.
We put on our dry camp clothes and put the wet stuff out to drip dry. This site is one of the prettiest in the park and we weren’t going to let a little wet stop us from enjoying it.
We lingered a bit on the fifth day as we only had a very short hike back up to The Grotto with a stop at the viewpoint for lunch. Husky Dog, ready to leave when we were said, “Arooo?”
Those last two are shots of the top of the cliff looming over us. If I am going to carry that heavy camera with me I’m darn well going to play with it heh. I took a bunch of these super zooms, shooting through gaps in the leaves, until I realized I didn’t want to think about those big chunks falling down on me.
The climb up to Little Wassataquoik went quickly. We were looking forward to lunch on top of the viewpoint. Definitely motivated hikers!
The ridge behind us totally blocked the breeze so we were baking in the sun on the hot rocks. We ate and hung out for a long time and then enjoyed the shock of the cool breeze just a few yards into the woods behind us.
Back to The Grotto to relax before our last night’s dinner. We made plans to get up at 5am and hit the trail early. Our goal was to drive into town for lunch before heading back to pick up our Girl Scout.
Still a little time to relax though. Time to appreciate what a wonderful two weeks we’d had. The weather had been gentle in terms of heat and we’d danced between the rain aside from the one soaker.
We took long enough to have some coffee while we broke camp, but were on our way darn early by our standards. It was cool and we moved at a good pace.
When we reached the mud pit that almost ate Frau Stranger we stopped to check how deep it was. I started to meet resistance at this point, but could have pushed deeper.
Sitting on that bog board may have saved her because it looks like she would have gone well over the knee otherwise. Just glad I was there to dig her out, though she says she could have done it alone.
We reached the Center Pond spur in just a little over two hours and that was the hard part of the day. If we didn’t break our legs on any bog boards that lunch plan was looking totally doable.
And just like that we found ourselves back at the first and last water crossing of our six day jaunt. Clean clothes stashed in the car were a joy as was lunch a few hours later. Given the chance I am pretty sure we’d all have been willing to do a third week!
Videos from this trip have yet to be edited and I’ve already been on another adventure around my old favorite, the Grafton Loop. Catching up as I can here as I can. Hope your Summer has been busy with fun as well. If not, hurry and get out there!!
20 pics and darn little babbling about a very relaxing, three night visit to an easy to reach, quiet part of Maine’s Baxter State Park. After two nights at Chimney Pond and a visit to Baxter and Hamlin peaks we were ready to relax on some flat trails.
Sandy Stream, mid crossing via frame capture from video. Seems the bridge, like many others in the park, did not survive the floods.
This was our first real, boots off water crossing in some time. Since we weren’t in any hurry it was fun. On the way out, racing for cheeseburgers it was a bit more trouble 😉
Martin Ponds LT is on a small rise just off the first of the two ponds along the trail. We have seen a moose here before, but no luck this year.
Lots of amazing views though. This site has one of the best views of the sunset behind the mountains.
Those are bugs, not dragons you see against the sky. We had lots of bugs, birds and frogs, but no loons. Such a peaceful spot it was hard to leave the next day.
We got over it though! North Katahdin Lake LT hasn’t got the same feeling to the campsite, but it does have a pretty darn nice front yard.
The views of the peaks and bowls of the mountains are fantastic from out on the water.
Pretty nice from the shore as well!
Pardon me while I play with my zoom 🙂 Can you tell I carried the heavy camera on this trip?
Our lunch spot, on a rock, on an island, at the far end of the lake, was perfect. We had the entire lake to ourselves and tried not to interrupt the silence too much.
This got us making some “oooooooo” noises though! We’d seen this eagle near the island earlier in the day from a distance. Then we spotted him again while paddling back towards camp.
Again I was happy I had the heavy camera. This was taken with big zoom from the back of a bobbing canoe.
Again, the camera gets all the credit heh. This was taken by zooming through 50 yards of trees while I was sitting in camp. Well, I guess I get some credit for the manual focus. Poor computer saw nothing but trees 🙂
Last night of the first week meant we had to put the canoe away. Just as well because we realized the newly arrived neighbors at the far end of the lake were the sort you could hear from a distance.
No matter, we had plans to leave early the next day. A small window of time to pick up supplies and the little one from camp for a family zero day at a cabin. We’ll pick up the Baxter extravaganza with the final, six day section on the Wassataquoik Lake Trail in a few days…maybe. Might be on trail next week 🙂
25 pics and some babbling from the 1st section of an amazing, two week, Baxter State Park extravaganza. Hope you enjoy. I know we did!
With our not so little any more hootah tucked away at Girl Scout camp we got a late start heading up to Chimney Pond from Roaring Brook. Thankfully a gully washer of a storm had come through a few hours earlier and dropped the temperature about 20° so we enjoyed the fast hike more than expected.
We didn’t have much time to enjoy the pond views so soaked up what we could while bagging water for dinner.
We were the first folks signed out the next morning and didn’t see another human until we reached the summit. Pamola had done his worst the day before and appeared content to let us climb so we did.
First through the low scrub with views of the ridges at times.
Popping our heads out at times to look back where we’d started. If you follow my finger you can just make out a small shiny spot in the shadow of Pamola which is Chimney Pond.
Yup, some climbing in there! The Saddle Trail is the easy way up heh.
Now we just needed to climb the rest of the mountain. This part seems easy after the Saddle ascent, but the air has less air in it and the rocks are rocky.
Our faithful companion and mascot for the two weeks, Huskie Dog! Often known to say “Arrooo?” he was howling with the call of the wild on making his first summit a visit to the Greatest Mountain.
We were pretty excited too, but kept our voices down out of respect for the gathering crowd.
We were glad we’d gotten an early start and reached the summit by 10am or so. A steady stream of arrivals turned into a torrent and we fled back towards the tablelands after less than an hour at the peak.
The last patch of snow near the top of the Saddle. They didn’t open the Saddle Trail until early July this year due to snow.
We had Hamlin Peak all to ourselves other than a few folks celebrating briefly at the summit sign. A long lunch was enjoyed as were some amazing views.
This is looking back up the Hamlin Ridge Trail after we’d come down a bit. We had some regrets about not taking the shorter route back to Chimney Pond, but decided those were better than the regrets we’d have had if we’d missed out on coming this way.
Alpenglow lighting up Pamola and the Knife Edge was a wonderful way to end an amazing day. Despite tired feet Frau Stranger ran down to the pond to experience it while I settled for camera zoom from the bear line.
Such a great trip! Wait, that was just the appetizer. The next day meant phase one was over, but also the start of the next leg of the extravaganza! More on that in a few days 🙂
Trail journals are a personal thing by nature. Just as hikers hike in their own way, they journal in their own way too. Some folks spend a great deal of time during the day on trail and in camp, focused on filling pages with notes about their experience or something. Not sure as I haven’t ever been rude enough to ask what all the scribbling was about heh. Other folks carry a journal that they never remember to write anything in at all and the rest either fall in between or don’t even think about it in the first place.
I tend to fall into the group that carries a journal, but rarely remember it is there when I’m on an adventure. Partially that is due to my focus on what I’m doing at the time rather than thinking about documenting it. Partially it is because of the way my memory allows me to retrieve the experience later negating the need to write it down at the time. The rest of the explanation likely has to do with my love of cheese and sausage. Why spend time writing when I could be eating‽
My journals tend to come along for several trips before anything gets written down. By then the paper has soaked up humidity and dried out again numerous times. Combined with the friction of the pages rubbing against each other while riding hundreds of miles in my pack that gives the paper an odd feel; Sort of spongy and porous so neither ink nor pencil produce sharp lines. I find that fitting for the notes I tend to leave myself in my journals as they are often just a few hazy words giving a slight indication of what was on my mind. Just enough to remind me of what I was thinking when I made the note with no effort made to convey complete thoughts. These notes can be amusing when seen later at home with a head full of coffee and a roof over my head.
The note in the picture above is a great example of that. “Existential crisis averted Day 4” has few details, yet conveys enough of a message to fill pages of notes as I look back on that moment now. This is from a week long, solo trip I took to Baxter State Park in early June of this year. It was my first chance to get out on trail for over two months and over the first few days of the trip my brain was a mess. There seemed to be a lot of questions about who I was and what I was doing wandering around the forest by myself. Should I be home being a husband or daddy? Should I be working or saving the world? It seemed that I had only questions and answers with no clue which were important in either category. Who was I supposed to be?
So I wandered through the forest for a few days, going through the actions of making water, camps and meals with all of this turmoil in my head. Then on the fourth morning, as I relaxed in camp before loading up for the day, I realized that the noise had stopped. Questions and answers had stopped swirling and I could see what was important…the answer to who I was supposed to be.
I was just a guy, sitting in the woods, happy. There could be no more clear answer than that. While I remain husband and daddy wherever I roam and those callings come first, I am at heart a man who is happy in the wilderness. Alone or with others, being out there is time well spent and accepting that fact empowers a person with the conviction to go and do and be.
If you’re the sort who doesn’t carry a journal or remember to make any notes, maybe give it a shot sometimes. Just enough to jog your memory later and bring back a moment. If you’re the sort who fills pages of notes in one of those big books every day on trail, maybe ease up and experience the ride a bit more without letting the notes take all your focus.
Just that one faded, scribbled line in a rumpled notebook was enough to take me to that moment and bring it back in full detail. I can see the camp at Long Pond in the morning light, hear the red-wing blackbird and woodpeckers, and know what it feels like to be where I’m supposed to be. Soon…
Just a few pics from the first family outing of the Summer. We had to change our plans due to the broken backpack and there were a few bugs, but we had a blast.The Daddy Pack was light by Daddy Pack standards, but a bit bulky. Think it was around 55 lbs wet, carrying food for just two nights at a time since we’d be stopping back at the car mid trip. What I did have was three hammocks, three tarps and a three man tent. Well there were a few other things in there too 🙂 Since the tiny frying pan worked out so well on my solo trip I decided to bring a larger pan for family cooking. We fried up the hash browns with peppers and onions, then rolled it all into tortillas with fire roasted salsa. Here is a good view of our hammock village at the Long Pond Pines site. It rained hard for about 10 hours starting just before dark and continuing till a bit past dawn. In the night I shone my headlamp out and could see a big puddle where the tent is usually set up. The second morning started off great with another fantastic breakfast. Then after the pack incident we changed our back country adventure into a car camping escapade. There was ice cream at Matagamon Camps, swimming at South Branch and more bugs. Not a lot of pics though. I was too busy having fun with the girls and the camera never seemed to be handy. Did get a few nice sunset pictures though. Would have been more but I was busy swatting bugs heh. June in Baxter is not for the timid, but we did have a great trip all the same. Once the bugs die down the crowds get thick and people are worse than bugs because you aren’t allowed to swat them 😉It was neat to hang out in some of the same spots again so soon, but with family instead of solo. Either way is nice and has good points and bad. I appreciate getting out there whatever form it takes. Certainly less road walking when you take the car and more opportunities for ice cream!
That terrible moment when a piece of vital equipment fails is something you can’t really practice for. Still, it can happen at any time so you’d better be prepared to deal with it. Your assets may include all the stuff in your pack, but your wits are the biggest thing you’ve got going for you. Depending on just how vital the equipment is or the circumstances which caused the failure there may be some adrenaline or emotional stress to deal with first. Cuss, cry or meditate as you think best, but taking a few minutes to get your head together can be a good idea before using it to figure out what to do next. First do no harm applies here. You don’t want to make the problem worse.
That fractured aluminum tube in the picture is the base of the frame from my backpack. After tearing down camp on the morning of day 3 of a family Baxter trip we were ready to get an early start heading to our next site. Throwing my pack on was the final thing to be done and when I tossed it up onto my back there was an odd snapping sound and I could feel the pack lose its shape, slumping off my shoulders. Can’t recall if there was any cussing, but there definitely was some adrenaline. We were only about 3 miles from the nearest trailhead, but the Daddy Pack is key to moving the majority of the weight and a large part of the volume as far as the entire family gear load.
Thinking fast I implemented that all important step; mellow out. Rather than rush into some ill guided, frantic effort, I told the girls to take off their packs because I didn’t know how long we’d be. Then I sat down by the fire ring and did some pondering. Once I started I was surprised at how fast I went from freaking out to finding solutions. Needing a strut to stabilize the bottom of the pack I considered dismantling one of my hiking poles and using the bottom section. One look told me that it was too large to work very well so I was glad I didn’t rush into tearing apart the pole. Then I had another idea…
With the guyline attached this tarp stake made a darn fine splint. Using first aid skills I set the bone, err I mean I set the frame so it was lined up properly and then laid the stake across the two pieces. By wrapping the guyline around and around while looping it through the loops from the pack I was able to get a pretty solid connection despite the break being at such a difficult spot.Rather than hope the line would hold for the hike out I opted to keep going. Belt and suspenders can be a good idea sometimes 🙂 I didn’t want to risk the jagged frame cutting through the guyline if the fracture opened up on trail. I’ve carried this nice cloth tape for blister treatment and other first aid for years without using it once. Now I was glad I had it along because it made for a strong addition to my repair.
I was happy to feel the pack remain intact as I tossed it onto my back to test it out. Before I fully hooked it up I asked Frau Stranger to scope things out from behind and see if I was going to stab myself with the stake if I stood up. She said things looked good back there and I figured she was talking about the pack so gave it a go. That repair may not look like much, but it held up just fine to get back to the car. The pictures were actually taken after we got home a few days later so it held up very well I’d say. We changed our plan to camp closer to the car for the last few nights rather than risk heading into the back country, but I think it may have held up on trail for quite a while if necessary.
Like I said at the start, you can’t really practice for repairs because you never know what might break or how. What you can do is start thinking about what you carry that can be used for other purposes in an emergency. A repair kit that includes a needle and thread and some duct tape or other strong, waterproof tape can come in handy. Zip ties and spare pack buckles are also common additions. I don’t actually carry a dedicated repair kit, but my first aid kit includes scissors, needle, thread and tape. Like most things on trail, repairs are just another puzzle to be solved. That is why the best thing to have in your repair kit is your wits. Should you hear an ominous snap or tear on your next trip, and I really hope you don’t, remember to get your wits out first 🙂