Speckled Mtn Haystack Notch Loop – 2 Nights of Wilderness Backpacking

Speckled Mtn Haystack Notch Loop – 2 Nights of Wilderness Backpacking

50 pics and some babbling from an early June adventure to the Caribou Speckled Wilderness in Western Maine. I’m mostly making YouTube videos these days, but this many pretty pictures deserved a post here too I thought!

Being trapped in Maine I’ve had to get more creative in planning my trips rather than wandering all over New England as usual. While we have done a family day hike of Blueberry Mtn and I enjoyed a fabulous Baldface Circle/Wild River loop a few years back, I’d never explored the Caribou Speckled Wilderness. Some research led me to put together this loop, with the open section a road walk on Hwy 113.

The plan was a relaxing two nights to cover about 15 miles of wilderness with a 1.5 mile road walk on one end. I’d wanted to make the second night the big summit night, but weather suggested I go the other way. That meant a short hike up to Speckled via Spruce Hill Tr. on day one so I got a late start, arriving at the East Royce Tr lot about noon.

A pretty quick stomp later found me setting up camp in the short trees just below the summit. I’ll be posting video later of this part of the hike, but the first pics I took were on top of the mountain.

Speaking of which… here come the pics!

This was supposed to be my good weather day, but as the afternoon wore on there was wind and sleet. I could see sunshine down in the valleys in the distance, but it was dark and cold on the summit. I wondered why no one else had come to camp, though I did meet one nice day hiker up there.

Given the dark skies and threat of frostbite I gave up on getting sunset pictures and retired to camp for dinner and bed. There was a plan to get up early for sunrise, though I had my doubts looking at the skies.

It was definitely worth getting out of bed for, though it was cold enough that I brought my quilt with me to the summit. It said 36ยฐf on the thermometer in camp and the breeze on the summit had some bite to it.

I pulled this pic from my morning coffee video ๐Ÿ™‚ You can just make out the top of Mt Washington over the ridge behind me. It was a little warmer now so I wasn’t wearing my quilt, but I can see from the look on my face that it wasn’t exactly warm up there heh.

Then it was time to head into the less traveled part of the wilderness. I had no clue where I was going, never having been here before. It was fun to have that sense of adventure that comes from not knowing what comes next.

The Red Rocks Trail was a steady series of rolling ups and downs as it traversed several mountains before finally reaching its namesake, Red Rock Mtn and then rolling down towards Miles Notch. I say rolling because despite dropping down it managed to go up hill more than a few times too.

The Miles Notch trail follows a brook for most of its length. There were a series of small crossings, easy rock hops at current levels. There also were an amazing number of bugs. There were enough black flies I had to put on my headnet for a while at times, despite the humid heat of the afternoon. There also were enough skeeters that I had to break out the picaridin, which almost never happens since I’ve begun treating my clothes with permethrin. Just a small squirt on the back of the hands and the back of the elbows did the trick.

There was some logging at the end of Miles Notch a while back, but I was able to follow the trail well enough to find the forest again. Once I reached the WMNF boundary I made camp for the night and enjoyed a little rain on the roof.

There are no pics from the rest of the trip I’m afraid. Haystack Notch Trail was an adventure like no other I’ve had before. It disappeared at times completely, with no trace of where it might have gone. Resorting to GPS I was able to relocate it, though even that was challenging at times. Somewhere in there I got turned around and found that the trail is much easier to follow heading in the other direction. I was making really good time until I realized that I was walking past where I’d camped the night before ๐Ÿ™‚

Look for a video in a few days that tells the story more fully. This post was mostly about sharing all of those pretty pictures. This really was a great trip, despite getting lost in the wilderness heh. If you go this way I highly suggest coming armed with a GPS and a good .gpx track. A compass came in handy at times as well because phone compasses often seem to have no clue where they are pointing when you’re in the mountains. That is how I managed to get turned around even while looking at the GPS ๐Ÿ™‚

Hope you are able to get out somewhere despite all the troubles in the world. Nature can be a soothing respite, though you may prefer smaller doses unless you appreciate getting lost in the wilderness as much as I do!

Gear Testing

A short video to give you a little insight on what goes into really testing gear before I write my Trailspace reviews. The first part needed subtitles, but I think you can hear me shouting over the wind after that.

I suppose now that I’ve brought the subject up I should really do an update on my review page on this site. Its only been four years since the last one ๐Ÿ™‚

Baxter Part 3 – Six Days on the Wassataquoik Lake Trail

Baxter Part 3 – Six Days on the Wassataquoik Lake Trail

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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!!

Baxter Part 2 – Martin Ponds & Katahdin Lake

Baxter Part 2 – Martin Ponds & Katahdin Lake

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Katahdin – Two Night Chimney Pond with Bonus Hamlin Descent

Katahdin – Two Night Chimney Pond with Bonus Hamlin Descent

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 20ยฐ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚