Backyard Testing Family Style

DSC03203aAfter waiting for weeks we finally found a weekend night warm enough to do some backyard camping. I’d done some work to get a new site set up, but didn’t want to drag the girls out there if it was going to be freezing. With the fire going to roast some weenies and warm beds waiting for us we were happy folks.DSC03204aIt wasn’t all fun and games though. We were doing some serious testing. The girls were going to see if they wanted to start using hammocks on some trips. I put up my big hammock for my wife to test out and my little one for my daughter to try. With the outside walls staked down and the middle tied together to make a double porch they were all set.

I slept in my Hubba for the first time in over a year and on the ground for the first time in almost as long. Setting up the tent was nostalgic as I’ve been on a lot of adventures with that little green coffin. Laying on a mat felt bad at first but I slept like a baby. I was glad to find I could still do that as I have reservations for LTs on an upcoming Baxter trip. Those boards are harder than ground, but I’ll probably survive.

Ordered a new hammock for my wife, so I guess the test was a success. The little one is on board too so this means we can start heading out to the places where big family tents fear to tread. I just realized how funny that sounds if you know the places we’ve been over the last few years ๐Ÿ™‚

Stay tuned for field testing reports once school lets out next month!

Spring Pemi Snow Trip – 2 Nights March 2018

Spring Pemi Snow Trip – 2 Nights March 2018

DSC03067aA little work on the traces and my sled was ready for more real world testing. Well and I was ready for more playing in the snow! Loaded up and headed to New Hampshire to see what the snow looked like over that way. The late March sun was melting everything around home, but in the mountains there was still plenty to be found.DSC03069aI headed out on the Eastside Trail which was broken out for the first three miles until the wilderness gate. I bare booted this far and then wore shoes to handle the deeper stuff beyond.DSC03072aDSC03074aWith lots of sun and temps a bit above freezing I took lots of breaks to avoid over heating. Dragging is easier than carrying most of the time, but those other times can be hard heh.DSC03076aDSC03077aDSC03080aCan’t complain too much though because the Spring sun on the snow makes a person pretty happy. I wasn’t sure where I was headed, but I knew I had a few days to find out. There was some talk of climbing a mountain, though that would involve a long walk to reach the start of the climb.DSC03083aThe Cedar Brook crossing was worth posting two pics, though having someone to shoot video would have been better.ย  Several feet of open water bordered with ice with steep banks on either side.DSC03086aI folded the traces back, grabbed the sled with two hands, carried it across and tossed it on to the shelf above me. When I came back the other way I couldn’t imagine how I’d gotten across heh. It was a much bigger deal to try walking across with the sled for some reason and I ended up just sort of tossing it across.DSC03088aThe deep snow allowed me to dig a nice cooking hole to help block the wind. I used the snow from the hole to build a sitting spot right next to it.DSC03089aThe sled really opens up new possibilities when it comes to winter camping. Instead of stopping for a donut on the ride to NH I stopped for half a dozen and four managed to make the trip into the woods with me. None returned ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03090aHiding under the donuts is my box of crap. Keeping all your crap in one place provides the illusion of organization. Not losing your crap in the snow is vital since finding crap in the snow is pretty hard. In the box I’ve got a pot, a kettle, a canister stove and fuel for it, a white gas stove, coffee mug, a few sporks, a wrench for the sled bolts and some duct tape for everything else.DSC03091aNow you can see my well placed sit spot heh. That let me get off my feet while still keeping an eye on the stove and pot.DSC03094aI camped early because based on how fast I was moving I had no chance of reaching that mountain I’d been thinking about. What a relief! Now I could enjoy the rest of the trip and focus on being happy where I was rather than wanting to keep moving. Where I was seemed pretty nice to me.DSC03099aI brought the big Cooke tarp and tied off to conveniently located trees for the most part. Had to bury one stick in the snow but unless I’m setting up for serious wind this sort of limp pitch does the trick without much effort. My reasoning is that making gentle tie offs to what I see is better than stomping down big areas without knowing what is under foot. Thankfully I camp alone so no one is there to make fun of my tarp ๐Ÿ™‚DSC03100aDSC03101aMorning sun shining through the steam means coffee and breakfast soon will be ready. With no big plans I was able to relax and enjoy the morning. Frozen chocolate donuts and hot coffee in the snow are now a moment I will always carry with me. Also pretty sure I’ll be carrying those donuts again next Winter!DSC03107aSlowly everything was condensed back into the sled. The hammock came down later after I sat down to pull my frozen Limmers on. Much better feeling the frozen leather compared to the frozen synthetic boots on my last snow trip. Seems to soften up easier or something.DSC03113aI opted to head back closer to the highway for my second night so that meant crossing back over Cedar Brook. The sled is really nice except when it flips upside down and when you have to get over water crossings. This crossing took a while, though at least the sled didn’t flip over heh, and I was ready for a break when I finally got across.DSC03117aOh look, a perfect place for a break!! This big snow drift is actually right in the middle of Cedar Brook. Sitting there in the sun was a perfect place for elevensies so out came the sausage and cheese. Eventually the sun moved enough for a tree to cast a shadow on me so I moved on, but I was there for quite a while.DSC03119aThen it was back into the woods to find a place to camp for the night. My goal was to seek out a spot part of the way up the ridge that runs parallel to the river and trail in this area. First I scouted out a spot leaving my gear down below. Then when I tried taking the sled up I quickly realized that without a climbing brake that wasn’t going to happen.

To be honest I’m not sure I could have hauled the load up that slope even with a brake. In the end I made two trips, one with the pack and one with the sled, to get everything up there. It took me probably 90 minutes to break the trail, haul both loads up and set up camp.DSC03120aTotally worth the effort! I kept a little of the ridge above me to block some of the wind if needed as I camped on a little perch well above the river. A set of small deer tracks passed near the spot, but no other sign of animals were on the ground. The trees were full of rampaging squirrels though hehe. Two tiny reds came through engaged in either a major frolic or battle. It was epic acrobatics as they never stopped moving unless it was to scream at one another for a few seconds. Nature puts on some great reality programming ๐Ÿ˜‰DSC03122aDSC03124aDSC03125aDSC03126aDSC03127aJust an incredible place to spend the night. Far enough from the river that it became a distant murmur allowing the other sounds of the forest to come through. I recall standing there eating my dinner and being blown away by what a great place I was in the universe. Well and the chicken noodle dinner in my bag was pretty darn good too leading to some more happiness.DSC03130aDSC03133aDSC03139aA bit of a snow squall came through over night. I knocked most of it off trying to get out from under the tarp. The sound of snow sliding down the tarp is very relaxing. Not sure about snow bombs though heh. Maybe I’ll get to test that out next year.DSC03140aDSC03141aDSC03143aDSC03144aDSC03147aDSC03148aDSC03150aI’ll just leave you with the pretty sun on snow pics from the walk out. It was great to get another chance to get out in the snow. These trips are hard to make happen, but always end up leaving me wanting to go back. Snow is going fast and I’m in Mud Season mode right now which means working on projects around home so I can go camping later. Hmm, now that I think of it, time to make some Baxter reservations!

Six Day Family Baxter Trip – August 2017

Six Day Family Baxter Trip – August 2017

78 pics and some babbling from an amazing family trip to Baxter State Park that included visits to Center Pond, Little Wassataquoik Lake and Wassataquoik Lake Island.

DSC02308aOur little one is not so little any more and after some discussion we decided that she was ready for something a little more ambitious than previous family trips. We planned out a six day back country trip that meant the parent packs would be not so little as well. The Mama Pack came in at 38lbs with 2L of water while the Daddy Pack weighed 57lbs with 2L of water. That might seem unfair, but I had most of the food, so my pack lost more weight each day than hers ๐Ÿ™‚DSC02309aThe first day called for a 4.5 mile walk from Nesowadnehunk Campground to the Center Pond LT via the Wassataquoik Lake Trail. Other than a bit of a climb right at the start this was a pretty level trail with little challenge. Great for folks getting out of the car after a four hour drive and donning heavy packs!DSC02311aThere was one small, two part, water crossing to navigate. Here Frau Stranger is demonstrating the extra safe, four pole technique. Well, in truth she is carrying our daughter’s poles as I had carried her over this section rather than let her get her shoes wet. She was not happy about that, but I knew doing the rest of the day’s hike wet would make for unhappy feet later and this was day one of a long, long adventure.DSC02314aThe weather was cool for August, mid 60s, with an amazing blue sky between the clouds zipping around above us. We stopped more than once to just stare at the view between the trees. We also stopped a few times to just look at the trees.DSC02318aThere were lots of bog boards in this section, even in places that didn’t really need them. Flat trails near the road always seem to be over improved while the deep back country sections get less love because they are harder to reach.DSC02322aWhen the trees gave way to this large bog I knew we were getting close to Center Pond. Both the inflow and outflow areas were giant bogs as the flat elevation profile didn’t promote fast drainage.DSC02323aThen we reached the pond itself as it came into and out of view a few times before we reached the short spur to the lean to.DSC02330aIt was a bit choppy out there and you can see from the color of the bag of water on the canoe that the pond had some tannin content, most likely from the bog feeding into the pond. Once filtered it would be fine to drink though still a bit brown. Easier to drink from an opaque bottle than a transparent bag despite the taste being just fine.DSC02331aAnother of Baxter’s fine latrines. Each one is of a slightly different design it seems and I always enjoy their craftsmanship. This one came with a clear roof that gave it wonderful light inside.DSC02332aThe LT was on the small side being a 4 person model, but enough room for us and all we’d carried in. With the cool weather we were happy to have a few walls to keep the wind off of us, though there was only a bit of a breeze.DSC02334aEveryone seemed happy with day one and a bit amazed to think about having five more ahead of us. We were ready for bed when darkness came, though we were disappointed in the lack of a loon crying out there.DSC02335aDawn came with some interesting clouds on the mountains and some cool damp in the air.DSC02337aDSC02340aThe girls went out to pick some blueberries and the sun had warmed things up nicely by the time they returned. Most of these ended up in their morning oatmeal, but some went directly into our bellies. Just shy of being perfectly ripe they were riding the line between sweet and tart.DSC02342aThen we were packed up and heading to the Little Wassataquoik Tent Site. Another 4.5 mile walk, but this one had a bit of a climb at the very end. Nothing too serious, but it looked scary on an elevation profile just because the rest of the trip was relatively flat.DSC02346aThere were a few water crossings, just small rock hops, but one stream paralleled the trail for quite a while. It was nice to hear the rushing water as we hiked but not have to worry about wet feet.DSC02352aSoon it was time to hit the big climb. I am sort of joking, because it wasn’t really that much of a climb. I’m also a bit serious because with the heavy packs, getting up the little hill was a good workout. This is the beginning of the climb, but it got much steeper as it went up. I was definitely puffing by the time we reached the top.DSC02355aMy wife sounded hopeful as she read this sign and saw it was only 1 mile to the LT. She was really happy when I pointed out we weren’t headed there, but aiming for the tent site 400 yards the other way instead ๐Ÿ™‚DSC02356aThere were some clouds floating by that looked a bit threatening and a chance of rain in the forecast so the first thing we did was get the tarp up. This would be our first time using the bug house under a tarp rather than inside a lean to which is why I came up here on a previous trip to scope things out. Thanks to that research I came prepared with a 50′ ridgeline rather than the 30′ I normally use for tarps. By getting the tarp up, just in case, I managed to keep the rain away which was my hope all along.DSC02359aThis is the view from in camp, looking at the rocky path that crossed over the brook on its way to the latrine. Definitely a place to keep your shoes and headlamp handy rather than trying to make the trip barefoot in the dark heh.DSC02362aI got our house set up under the tarp, learning as I went exactly how I was going to do that. It worked well enough, but the next time I set it up I was smarter and it worked even better. The girls broke out the Yahtzee using my grill bag to roll the dice on.DSC02365aBy late afternoon the threat of rain had passed and we were back to watching happy clouds racing through deep blue skies.DSC02375aHere is the view looking out at the campsite from bed the next morning. It felt extra special to wake up in this big, open air house rather than our tent. We weren’t covered in dew, so it didn’t feel like cowboy camping. It was similar, but better I’d say thanks to the tarp over head.DSC02380aThis shot almost captures how happy I was to be sitting there drinking coffee, but neither pictures nor words can really do it justice. Waking up in this site with the waterfall burbling and my two favorite girls there was already pretty dang special. Hot coffee was just the frosting on top!DSC02383aSpeaking of burbling waterfalls…here it is up close. There is a small spring just up the hill from the campsite and it was flowing nicely even this late in the year. We still filtered it, but it was some of the coldest, clearest water to be found in the park.DSC02385aOn our way to the Wassataquoik Island site we took the side trail to the viewpoint on the cliff. A short, 0.3 mile spur, but a hefty climb to the top.DSC02387aThe reward is an amazing view of most of Wassataquoik Lake down below. Our hike for the day would take us around the right side, all the way to the other end out of view behind the ridge on the left.DSC02394aBeing late August, late season flowers were wrapping things up before going to seed. With the cool weather there was a definitely sense that Summer was coming to an end and soon.DSC02395aWe had a glimpse or three of Little Wassataquoik Lake along the way. It really is little compared to its bigger sibling.DSC02400aGreen Falls is found via a very short, but wet and slippery, spur and is always worth the danger and effort of visiting. We stopped for snacks and pics as is the custom, at least it always is for me.DSC02403aDSC02409aFinally we found the turn off to our island retreat. This was my first time visiting this site as it is only open for a few weeks of the year and hard to book.DSC02410aThe loons have right of way on the island and nesting there keeps humans off until the chicks have hatched and moved out into the lake.DSC02412aThese folks were out for a day paddle and seemed surprised to find us watching them from the lean to on the island.DSC02416aWe were glad to have a lean to that night as the sky was looking a bit ominous. There were a few periods of rain in the late afternoon, but we had some time to explore a little as well. We would like to come back again if we can get a two night reservation so we can explore both the island and the lake for an entire day.DSC02422aHere you can see our canoe on the island and the rack on the far shore where we launched from. It wasn’t far, but much drier to use a canoe than walking across hehe.DSC02423aI’ve gotten pretty good at setting up the bug house in shelters now. It makes a great place to play cards, rain or shine.DSC02424aFinding wood on the island was a bit challenging, but I put together enough to make a small fire. Fire of course leads to marshmallow toasting!DSC02428aIt looks like this one turned out pretty well if she does say so herself.DSC02434aI bought my daughter a small, blank paged journal for the trip that she could use to create an art journal. Each day she created a few pictures to capture the story of part of the adventure or to show something she found worth sharing. If she says it is OK with her I may post some of those pictures here in a future post.DSC02436aMy view outside as the sun began to rise. So quiet, so peaceful, so beautiful.DSC02437aThat goes for these two as well! So wonderful to come to such a special place with them instead of being here alone wishing they’d been able to come. They had worked hard to get here and deserved the chance to rest so I let them sleep in peace.DSC02444aLater I caught this beautiful shot of my daughter looking out at the lake. That is no special filter there. That is shooting through the bug net, into the sun with a lot of zoom, but it sure looks nice to me.DSC02448aThen came a series of challenges that might have sent other folks into fits of rage or despair, but only served to leave us laughing. We packed up fast and were well on our way to an early lunch until I tried to put on my pack after we put the canoe away. It seems I had lost part of my belt buckle and there was no way I was carrying the Daddy Pack without a belt.

After looking around to be sure it wasn’t on this side of the crossing I paddled back alone to search for it. Just as I reached the far shore I heard my wife shouting out that she had found it under the canoe rack! So I paddled back, we stowed the canoe for a second time, donned our packs and started off. About three minutes later my wife made a comment about turning on her step tracker which made me reach for my inReach….which wasn’t there!

I had set it down by the fire ring when I sent a request for a weather report that morning and forgotten to pick it up after getting distracted by six other chores. Back to the canoe rack…this time my wife paddled over since I had gotten to have the fun the first time. That is her up above, happy as a clam because she loves to paddle. Finally we stowed the canoe for the third time and were on our way…and this time, we meant it!!DSC02455aIt was another beautiful day in the forest and everyone was happy to be moving finally. We were trying something new on this trip and eating hot lunches once we finished our hike for the day so we were motivated.DSC02461aGoing back the way we’d come now we had familiar landmarks to tell us of our progress. DSC02463aThe girls were headed up the final bit of climb and showing no signs of slowing down.DSC02472aI ducked down a short path to Little Wassataquoik Lake to grab a few pics and feel the breeze blowing across the water.DSC02486aThen it was back to the tent site to set up camp and eat that hot lunch. We had delicious potato soup on two days and salmon with rice one day and noodles on another. Heavy stuff to carry, but boy were we happy to be eating like royalty out there.DSC02488aThe next day dawned cold for August. I took a reading of 38ยฐF that morning which I consider beyond cool for the time of year. We were glad we had packed plenty of warm layers along with the swimsuits that were never used.DSC02491aLast year our daughter completed the Baxter Junior Ranger program and received an official badge which we augmented by buying her an official looking hat. Now she takes her duties very seriously, including raking the sites before we leave if there is a rake available.DSC02494aShe also watches out for her mother on trail. Here you can see her waiting to make sure Mama is safely across this little water crossing before heading down the trail.DSC02495aRelaxing is not her forte though I’m afraid. After hanging the hammocks both parents would gladly have taken a nap, but someone had to stay on duty to keep the little one from jumping in the pond. My total hanging time after putting up both hammocks was probably less than ten minutes, but still worth the effort, especially because Mama got at least a tiny nap in.DSC02497aDSC02498aDSC02501aDSC02506aA very peaceful afternoon on Center Pond even if I didn’t get a nap. The trip that had seemed impossibly long to start out now seemed to be ending too soon. Having some time to reflect (get it? ๐Ÿ™‚ ) on our adventure was nice.DSC02509aAfter dinner we decided to try putting some of those fresh blueberries to use in a couple of muffins. This is the first one going into the pot.DSC02510aI’d been carrying the gear for days and was glad we were giving it a shot to justify the effort. We’ll see how they turned out later….DSC02513aThis wood grouse was making a lot of noise near camp so I had my camera ready expecting a deer or a moose to pop out. Frau Stranger whispered for me to hand her my camera and caught this shot around the corner from our camp.DSC02515aDSC02520aMore quiet reflection time (OK I will stop now)DSC02525aAlso time for more marshmallows. Not sure this one was as good as the one on the island, but she seemed happy enough with her effort.DSC02528aI wasn’t that happy with my muffins though. The large pot seemed to leave the muffins below the heat at the top needed to brown them. They tasted fine enough, but didn’t fully rise like they should. We’ll apply the lessons learned next time and either use a shorter pot or a taller rack.DSC02529aDSC02535aLast sunset of the trip with just a sliver of moon floating in the sky and in the pond.DSC02548aDSC02550aOne last peaceful morning on the shore. Definitely time to soak in that peace so you can carry it home with you.DSC02553aAnother chilly morning encouraged us to get moving though, first to make breakfast and then to break camp.DSC02555aFirst we said our goodbyes to the camp and lean to…DSC02559aDSC02563aThen we said our goodbyes to the pond….DSC02565aDSC02567aThen we stopped to eat a bunch of blueberries!!!DSC02572aThese are the “Holy cow we survived!” faces as we reached the trail head with our car just around the corner. Who could have guessed that we would make it through six days out there and still be smiling?DSC02573aThis made me laugh when we got back to the car. You could see the rangers had to keep wiping off that spot to read our permit. I can imagine them each time thinking those poor folks must be lost for their car toย  be here so long, then seeing our permit through the dust and realizing we meant to be gone so long. Now that we’ve pushed our limits I can’t wait to see what we plan for next years adventures!

Pogy Pond & Wassataquoik Lake – Baxter with the Boys 2017

40 pictures and some babbling about the return of the Boys from Texas for a five day centeral Baxter State Park adventure. The plan was a simple and relaxing one on paper, but the weather made things interesting at times.DSC01685aI hope you like this picture from the South Branch camping area looking towards Pogy, not so much because I put a lot of effort into it, but because it is the only picture from day one. We parked and loaded up packs just in time for a few sprinkles. I took a moment as we walked through the campground to the trail head to snap this. Good thing because soon after the sky opened and we were walking in rain for the rest of the day’s hike.DSC01687aWe were soaked when we arrived at the Pogy LT, but the rain stopped about that time so setting up camp was easier at least. A good dinner and sleep helped, but putting on wet clothes the next morning was not part of the original plan.DSC01692aThings were still wet, on the ground and in the air. We set out in rain gear to protect against the wet undergrowth of the campsite spur.DSC01694aDSC01695aSome nice views across Pogy towards the mountain despite the less than nice weather.DSC01700aThings were starting to brighten up a bit as we passed through the Six Ponds area. Here we had the chance to test our balance using the outflow debris as a bridge at no risk since our boots were wet anyway.DSC01701aThen things really started to look up as we made our way around Wassataquoik Lake. We had sunshine, a nice breeze and glimpses of the mountains and cliffs rising up around the lake.DSC01703aThe view from the shore in front of the Wassataquoik Lake LT didn’t include the island at the far end of the lake and we had no sense we were sharing this wilderness with anyone else.DSC01706aDSC01708aDSC01709aNone of my maps give a name to this little knob but it can be easily climbed via a trail that loops around the far side and has great views.DSC01710aI had a nice view from under my tarp in camp too. With the lingering threat of showers it was nice to have some additional protected space since we were staying here for two nights.DSC01713aI think the boys may have tried some fishing that first evening, but I was content to just shoot some pictures.DSC01715aThe mountain was getting ready for night, wrapping itself in what clouds it could find.DSC01718aIf we had known this was the last calm we’d see at this site we would have been out paddling or fishing. I was too busy enjoying how pretty it was to think that far ahead.DSC01722aThe next day was bright and breezy. Great weather for hanging out the hiking clothes, at least for a while. The boys were planning a quiet day around camp with hopes of fish for lunch, but I had a day hike up to Little Wassataquoik Lake on my to do list. DSC01729aDSC01730aIt was a great day for hiking, not too hot and I had almost nothing in my pack besides water and lunch. Hiking below these cliffs was interesting in several ways.DSC01739aSeeing these chunks that had come down long ago standing next to the trail made you think about gravity and time. Well they did that for me at least.DSC01741aDSC01747aThen I reached my target for the day; the tent site named after Little Wass Lake, but not actually on the water. We had reservations to camp here later in the year as part of a family trip and I wanted to do a site inspection so we’d know what to expect. There was hope of leaving the tent at home and using the tarp and bug net to save weight. I made some measurements and took notes so I could figure out a plan later at home.DSC01748aThen I headed up the back side of that cliff via a short viewpoint trail and while it was steep it was definitely worth the climb.DSC01750aLooking back down at the lake our campsite was on the big point sticking out into the lake from the right side. It really isn’t that far or hard of a hike and would make a great day hike if staying down below.DSC01751aDSC01760aLittle Wassataquoik Lake is indeed little in comparison to the larger neighbor. It seemed shallow and rocky. I don’t believe there is a canoe here for that reason. Just a nice place for peace and quiet. DSC01761aI was quiet enough to not drive this doe off when she was first startled by my approach and announced her presence.DSC01767aI resisted the urge to move to get a better angle and she rewarded me by moving around the trees to see what I was doing. She kept moving until I found myself snapping shots of her in this spot as she bobbed her head at me trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. This went on for a few minutes and I only wish I’d thought to hit the movie button.DSC01769aLong time readers will know who this shot is for ๐Ÿ™‚DSC01775aBack in camp there was still plenty of time left to enjoy a lazy day off. Instead of planning a rugged mountain climbing adventure we were trying to relax more this year.DSC01779aThis camp on the lake was certainly a nice spot to spend some time. The water was amazingly clear and still nice and cool in the middle of Summer. The wind kept us out of the canoe and made for poor shore fishing, but we had a nice couple of days there.DSC01792aOn our way back out on day four we stopped at Green Falls reached via a short and wet side trail.DSC01801aIt is a neat spot I’ve been to several times now and I think I’ll always be willing to make time for this side trip when I’m near by.DSC01803aStopping to take pics and some video I sent the boys on ahead. Racing to catch back up I missed my turn onto the main trail and almost walked right into the lake. Since I was there I figured I would take a few more pics before racing back the other way after them.DSC01812aThen we were back at Pogy for our last night on trail. This time we were dry and in much better spirits. Sunshine and dry socks will do wonders for morale.DSC01828aIt was hot though with barely a puff of breeze now and again. We sweltered through the late afternoon and then began to hear murmurs of thunder in the distance. As it drew nearer we made some efforts to prepare for a little shower while grumbling about the 10% chance of rain in the forecast. Given the lack of wind we expected vertical falling rain so I set up my tarp in a bit of a porch mode to get some air. Then there was this odd noise for a few minutes that we eventually placed as powerful wind and rain because it was upon us ๐Ÿ™‚

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

P1000443aThe Tato tarp connector sliding down the ridgeline is what led to my doom. This was after ten minutes of driving wind and rain. My brother has done some sailing so I trust his judgement of the winds which he thought were maxing out north of 40mph. Combined with the heavy downpour there was a lot more stress put on that tarp than I’d rigged it for. I never settle for a single hitch on that connector now and always double it up so it can’t go anywhere.P1000444aAfter a while the storm tapered off into just a shower, but it had left a flood behind. This had been one whopper of a summer thunderstorm. Felt bad for anyone caught out on trail in that one.P1000447aI stepped out into a bit of a puddle, but was able to stay under the tarp while getting it hooked back up properly. The next day while driving out we kept finding tree limbs and entire trees laying across the road. Guess there had been some sort of storm come though ๐Ÿ™‚ The Boys from Texas always bring out Baxter’s best weather when they come! Thanks again to my brother for documenting my fight for survival. DSC01829aDay five started with some heavy looking skies over Pogy Pond. We knew the trail would be wet from the previous day, but now we were worried about more rain falling too. Still it looks sort of pretty and we were walking back to the car which is always easier.DSC01831aOne last long look at the pond. Never enough of these moments so I try to soak them in when I can. Nature can be rough, make life difficult, but even at its darkest, there is great beauty.DSC01836aClimbing the bluffs along Upper South Branch Pond is always bittersweet. It is the last real effort before the flat trail that returns to the parking lot. I’m always happy to be up there and done with the work, but know that soon it will be time to start seeing the end of the fun too.DSC01839aDSC01841aSomeone paddled over from the campground to start their day hike. We’ll end this trip here looking across South Branch Pond towards the campground, the car and civilization beyond.

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

The South Turner Mtn Expedition – Family Baxter Trip June 2017

The South Turner Mtn Expedition – Family Baxter Trip June 2017

36 pics and some babbling about a great family adventure to Maine’s beautiful Baxter State Park. This was supposed to be a reunion after I’d spent eleven days doing the 150 miles from Caratunk to Katahdin Stream Campground, but that plan changed after one treacherous day on trail. Everything, including the sort of rocks you usually can trust when the mud and wet roots are too dangerous, was slippery as heck. I fell down three times on that first day including once while I was standing still talking to some other hikers. I’m too old for that sort of adventure and the weather for the next week justified my decision by raining almost every day including some tremendous thunderstorms. I would have been miserable out there even if I didn’t break my leg.

So instead of walking to Katahdin Stream I drove up with the girls and a cooler full of food. We’d never stayed on this side of the park before so it was fun to explore a new spot even if it was a campground.DSC01537aWe got camp set up right away because rain was expected. We set up the bug house and a giant plastic tarp was strung over the picnic table.DSC01538aThe girls had a safe place to play cards if it rained and I had a place to cook.ย  The real genius of this set up showed up later as I toasted marshmallows over a giant fire while safely protected from the rain. We are backpackers at heart, but car camping does have some nice perks.DSC01539aBefore the rain started we did a little exploring by walking around the campground. We found the sign that points the way for the southbound AT hikers as they head out of the park.DSC01545aWe also found this lovely mushroom which my assistant is so nicely pointing out here.DSC01549aKatahdin Stream was flowing well giving us water right in our front yard both for drinking (filtered) or just listening to the burbling brook thing.DSC01557aThe weather did catch up to us and there was some fair bit of rain though only a little thunder and wind. We were content to enjoy our dinner, toast marshmallows and snuggle in for the evening.DSC01560aThe next day we decided to take our time enjoying breakfast before moving the car to the day parking lot. While eating and enjoying a pot of coffee (Car camping rocks!) we watched the day’s summit seekers head past our site to the trail head. Then we headed up the Hunt Trail to see how far we’d get before we’d had enough. There were no delusions that we were climbing Katahdin that day as parts of the climb are too much for our daughter yet.DSC01573aIt was a great day to start, though you could feel the humidity of the day building into more rain. We climbed for much farther than we expected and were rewarded with several nice views and water features including this falls.DSC01575aOut on an open ledge we could see the clouds were building and sure enough the bottom fell out. No more pictures for a while as we threw on rain gear and carefully made our way back down hill.DSC01582aAbout the time we reached the spot where the little bridge crosses the stream the sun came back out so we stopped in the open to dry a bit. These butterflies seemed to think they’d found long lost kin when they saw my gloves drying on this rock.DSC01587aThe girls were happy to have the sun back out but I think you can tell mama is worried about her baby going over the falls.DSC01593aIt was a great hike back to the car and then we drove back to the gate before turning towards Roaring Brook campground where we had another two nights booked.DSC01597aAnother beauty spot with the brook running right past our site. It is campground camping so there are voices and cars, but a nice brook can cover a lot of that up.DSC01600aThese LTs are a bit close, but we had nice neighbors the whole time which makes all the difference. They were from NJ as I recall and ended up bailing a day early because the bugs were driving them crazy. We’ve really enjoyed having the bug house on our lean to stays this Summer.DSC01603aThen it was time for the big event of the trip. Ever since our trip to Roaring Brook last year my daughter had been working up to climbing South Turner Mountain. Telling her that she couldn’t do it then seemed to inspire her and this year we said we’d let her give it a shot. Any party member had the power to stop this trip at any time if they felt it was too much, we aren’t out there to get anyone hurt, but you can see the look of determination on that face. She was ready!DSC01605aThen we headed down the Sandy Stream Trail a ways until the mountain came into view through the trees. I told her to take a good look so she knew where we were going. The first test of her determination.DSC01606aNo problem she says, we got this!DSC01608aThere was time for a few beauty shots as we walked through a Sandy Stream Pond viewpoint or two.DSC01612aHard to resist standing there and watching that cloud pour over the Knife Edge with only Pamola in sight, Baxter Peak completely obscured.DSC01614aThen we remembered what we trying to do. That mountain with the big lumpy thing near the top was calling us out. We had some climbing to do!DSC01618aLots of little steps, lots of daddy holding his hands out as she did the steep parts and plenty of rest stops to drink water and eat snacks got us up the first half of the climb. Then we dug into our reserves of determination to get us up the next sections.DSC01621aFinally we emerged from the trees onto a little ledge below the big lumpy thing. I kept expecting either mother or daughter to say that’s crazy and I’d have been happy to turn around here if they did. Nope, excelsior was the word of the day!DSC01627a.JPGThis is the last pic until we reached the summit because it was the last time I wasn’t right behind my daughter with hands ready to catch her if she stumbled. She may be strong and courageous, but I worry. Both ladies were amazing considering the unstable, rocky terrain. They took their time and soon we could see the post at the top.DSC01624aPosts are nice, but first you’ll notice that the clouds have shifted and not only has Baxter Peak come into view, but Hamlin and its bowl were clear as well. DSC01628aNow back to our post! The sign was just leaning there, but the geo marker made it clear we were in the right spot. We had just climbed a 3100′ mountain as a family setting a new elevation record by far.DSC01630aDSC01632aDSC01634aDSC01635aJust such a beautiful day out there everywhere you looked. Sunshine and puffy clouds as far as the eye could see.DSC01639aThen there was this beauty! She had said she was going to climb this mountain and given the chance, she proved she could do it in style. DSC01641aWhile mama was equally proud of her little girl I have to say I was really impressed with my wife’s bravery as well. This was her first time climbing a mountain like this too, plus she had parental worrying to deal with just like I did. Everyone had a lot to feel good about after this adventure, that is for certain.DSC01652aBack down at the pond we stopped for a break and to soak in more of the mountain views.DSC01657aLooking back up to where we’d been it was hard to believe we were up there just a little bit before. The descent went much quicker than the climb ๐Ÿ™‚DSC01665aBack to camp for a giant celebratory dinner and of course more marshmallows over the fire. We didn’t have to worry about climbing mountains or long miles back to the car in the morning so we could pull out all the stops. Back country adventures are always nice, but we’re ok with a little car camping too!

Baxter Season Opening – Family Trip in Late May

Baxter Season Opening – Family Trip in Late May

48 pictures from a four day family trip to Baxter State Park.

We tempt the gods every year by making a reservation for a few days in the park the week before Memorial Day. It really is too early to be sure there won’t be snow, in the air or on the ground. We’ve only cancelled once due to a heavy rain forecast. This year we didn’t even let that stop us!

The first day we hiked into the Martin Ponds site so quickly I didn’t take any pictures on the walk in. I have some video of the girls walking across a bridge, but the still camera never came out. At less than three miles it is less than our usual morning walk, but we did have packs on. Still the hike just flew by and we were in camp early in the afternoon.

DSC01136aOnce we arrived I hurried to set up the new bug house we are trying this year. We’ve always set up our Kelty TR3 in lean tos previous years. The shelters vary quite a bit in terms of size and shape with some being a real challenge to squeeze the tent into. This big net rectangle can change shape to fit into what space is available. Thankfully the bugs weren’t too bad, it was cool and threatening rain, but it was good to have a safe place in case we were attacked.DSC01141aThe skies were looking like the bigger threat at this point. Baxter and Pamola both disappeared into the clouds on the far side of the pond.DSC01145aThere was still a lot of snow up in the Hamlin bowl. Looking at that under the dark and threatening sky made me look forward to getting under the quilts later. We were expecting a damp night before the real weather hit the next day.DSC01156aThere were only a few early trillium out and about as Spring was taking it slow this year. DSC01158aWith the increasing dampness we decided to get rigged for weather before dinner. This being our first trip with a tarp rather than a tent we thought it best to have a plan that had been put together before we got wet rather than after. First I rigged it for the coming storm, then pulled it back like you see above so we had more light and air inside. This way I could go back to storm mode in an instant if the wind started pushing rain at us.DSC01170aKnowing we’d be hiding out from the weather all too soon made me want to hang out down at the pond for a while after dinner. It looked very dramatic no matter which direction you turned your eyes in this light.DSC01187aEven South Turner, a lower peak just to the north of our camp, began to fade into the clouds. The sky was coming down to meet us and it looked like it was going to be a wet embrace.DSC01189aI said goodnight to the pond and what trees I could still see and headed up to join the girls in the lean to.DSC01191aA good night’s sleep, warm cereal in our tummies and even a little coffee for the big kids left us all smiles as we prepared for the short hike to the North Katahdin Lake site. The rain waited until we were ready and then started in earnest just as we left camp.DSC01196aYou can see puddles were forming before we even got started. I was taking advantage of the opportunity to test out a new rain skirt. Weighing almost nothing it kept my legs pretty dry until I topped my gaiters on a water crossing a little later in the morning. This soon after the snow melt things were pretty wet before the storm hit. After an hour or two of heavy downpour the two small water crossings we had to manage were a bit larger than we’d have liked.

The first we dealt with relatively easily with me carrying our daughter as we usually do. The second crossing looked bad so I started across alone without my poles to see how it might go if I tried to carry her. Glad I did because just a few steps told me this wasn’t going to work. Thankfully my wife and I work together well as a team. Just as I was feeling a bit stumped she noticed the brook split into two channels up stream and suggested we bushwhack to look for a better crossing. I married well!

It was an exciting crossing we won’t soon forget, but that is the stuff adventure is made of. Working as a team we got our little one safely across without her feet even getting wet. She actually led the way most of the day with a huge smile on her face.

DSC01197aWe call this the gumdrop look. You’ll notice my wife hasn’t even taken off her garbage bag skirt and we already have our little one in dry layers and swaddled in her 20ยฐF synthetic bag. You can also see that she is staring intently at something she is about to devour heh. I stripped out of wet layers and applied dry ones to myself as well, though I opted to keep my down quilt packed up to avoid soaking up too much moisture from the air.DSC01200aThe scene in front of our new lean to looked a bit grim though there was more light in the sky than during the worst of the storm. The rain would linger throughout most of the day with some breaks later.DSC01202aWe made sure everyone stayed warm and dry. No duck left behind! is in fact one of our family’s official mottoes and we made sure this one, Boo Boo was as comfortable as the rest of us.DSC01204aAfter making certain our daughter (and her duck) was warmed up it was my wife’s turn to get under her quilt. Then the Skip-Bo battle reignited which also helped keep things warm.DSC01205aThe next day we took our time leaving camp so we could dry out a bit before putting on our wet clothes for the trail. It also made sense to give the water levels time to go down, or at least we hoped they would be lower rather than higher.DSC01212aThe rain had stopped but the damp air was cool and no one felt like paddling out on the lake. It wasn’t choppy, but it didn’t look inviting.DSC01213aThis is one of the camps where a canoe is included in your site rental at no extra charge. I have a feeling we will be back here for a warm weather visit so we can spend some time paddling and swimming in the clear lake water.DSC01215aThis was the little flow we used toย  collect drinking water to filter. It didn’t look like it would last into the drier months but it was handy on this trip. The lake had a lot of debris on the surface and suspended after the storm despite being relatively clear by Maine pond standards.DSC01222aThen we were back on the trail headed to Martin Ponds for one more night. We stopped for a morning snack break next to this little falls.DSC01226aJust below it filled a swampy bog which looked about ready to explode with life. These areas and the larger ponds support huge populations of frogs. The sound can be deafening at times as multiple breeds try to all be heard at once.DSC01227aBeautiful to look at, but areas like this are why bushwhacking is not a good idea in large parts of Maine. If you don’t know how to get around all that wet then you are going to get wet!DSC01228aHere we had the luxury of relatively well maintained trail including the occasional, well placed bog board or two. DSC01231aThis was part of our exciting water crossing the day before. It was still exciting, but without the pouring rain and having survived the first attempt, it seemed less dangerous. The water level had dropped a bit too which likely helped.DSC01238aHere are the girls bushwhacking back downstream after we finished crossing the second channel. Again I have to acknowledge that I have been blessed with two strong and courageous trail companions. These two handle adversity better than most folks out there, staying cheerful and full of adventure.DSC01240aThis is where the two channels rejoined making for a wide, deep section that was flowing strong. I could have crossed this alone that day, but we don’t take any chances with our little girl.DSC01241aOnce we got back to Martin Ponds I got the bug house set up first, then set up my hammock down by the pond so I could air out a bit in the breeze. Good thing I had the bug net because this was their day and they were out in force.DSC01251aI also had a lot of time to play with the camera. Total count for this trip was 277 pictures over four days, plus some video that will show up once I’ve had a chance to do some editing. Here I was testing out the zoom function looking at Pamola and the start of the Knife Edge from a few miles away.DSC01261aIt isn’t all pretty out there though. After all the rain it was nice to have a chance to hang out the wet trail clothes. Something hopeful about stringing up the line and seeing if just maybe you can put them on dry the next day.DSC01263aThe girls were enjoying a bug free afternoon of Skip-Bo in the shelter. After one trip we have decided that we really like this new set up in the shelters. We just aren’t sure if we will like it under a tarp without a lean to. It would work well enough in good weather I’m sure, but rain might be difficult to manage.DSC01266aLater in the day the wind dropped enough for the pond to start reflecting the sky and everything around it.DSC01270aThis is the summit of South Turner which my daughter would like to climb later this month. If we have good weather on the day we’re scheduled to be there we’ll give it a shot. Not sure she can do it, but she wants to try so we’ll find out I guess. No harm in turning back I always say ๐Ÿ™‚DSC01273aOne of the best parts of going on family trips is seeing how happy my wife is when she gets to play outside. I feel the same way myself, but it is nice to see that look on another person’s face. Just the simple joy of existing in a beautiful place with time enough to appreciate it.DSC01274aI don’t know exactly what she sees when she looks at the mountain. She has never been up there and I can’t imagine Katahdin looks the same to those who haven’t as it does to those who have been to the top. I hope we get the chance to do it together some day, with or without the little one.DSC01280aThe rhodora around the pond were just starting to put out their beautiful flowers. For now green was still the dominant color around the edges of the water, but within days the entire area would turn purple it seemed.DSC01282aDSC01289aAs the water became even more calm and the sun started drifting lower bringing softer colors out it was time to capture some magic. Camera and location get all the credit, I just lug it around and point it at this stuff, so I’ll be quiet and let you look at the pretty pictures for a few minutes…DSC01291aDSC01302aDSC01304aDSC01307aDSC01321aDSC01325aDSC01342aThe next morning started with fog hanging just above the trees. Everything seemed quiet and peaceful. It would have been a good morning to go back to bed, but after three nights in the woods we were all looking forward to the traditional on the way home cheeseburgers.DSC01343aStill there was time to stop and soak it all in for a few moments. To be here at this misty pond listening to the nothing and being the better for it.DSC01346aThese are ringed ducks I’m told which explains why they didn’t look like loons to us. Other than splashing about playing or fishing they made no sound we noticed. They were pretty though!DSC01348aAlso pretty! I rarely make a fire these days, but on this damp morning it seemed it would be appreciated. It looked picturesque as I recall so I thought it should be documented as a darn nice fire given the wet conditions.DSC01349aHomeward bound! Everything, wet or dry, crammed into packs one last time and then it was a sprint to the car. Cheeseburgers highly motivate us on the last day which is why everyone is sworn not to mention them earlier in the trip. DSC01350aDespite that we had to stop along the road on the drive out of the park for this view. In another week that meadow was probably filled with colorful flowers, but you won’t find me complaining about the way this looked.

Hope you folks are getting out! I am which is why I will be falling behind on these reports. Don’t expect anything to be posted for the next couple of weeks as I haven’t figured out how to to access this site via satellite ๐Ÿ™‚