A detailed look at this year’s three night trip around one of Maine’s prettiest areas and one of my favorite hikes. This is long, so grab an appropriate beverage and settle in a comfy spot. Enjoy!
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 🙂
Video from an overnight visit to one of my favorite oceans. Enjoy!
I’m usually one to urge folks to get out there, but today is a good day to be inside. Soon…
32 pics and more than a wee bit of babbling from three days of blue sky and snow on one of my favorite mountains!
I’d had my eye on the weather for these three days. With a recent foot of fresh snow I was really hoping that someone would break out the trail over the weekend. Saturday was blown out but sure enough, some nice folks stomped me a trail on Sunday.
The buried signs at the side of the road were an early indicator that the snow was deep. Many blazes were between knee and ankle height along the way.
The weather totally came through for me. Cold, in the 20s at the parking lot, but lots of sunshine. Gusts of wind at time, but not the steady sort that makes you wear a lot of clothes.
Down low the trail was really well stomped. The route up to the viewpoint at the cliff is very popular. The folks over the weekend had to break trail from where the AT extends beyond the short loop.
This would have been a lot more work if I was breaking trail. As is, it was a bit of a sweaty climb given my load and lack of any real climbing in months.
I didn’t use my normal winter pack on this trip because I’m doing some testing with a different one. It was interesting paring down my winter kit to fit the reduced capacity. With three different sized thermos bottles of water and the big bottle of stove gas it came in at right around 40lbs. I did add some donuts on the drive in. They are tucked into the stove bag behind the shovel in this pic.
The shelter was well buried, but the wind had swept the front cleaner than other years. The snow over all was deeper than I was used to, but the wall in front wasn’t there. That blue sky was amazing. I recall worrying that I was missing the good day.
I had things to attend to though, so the summit would have to wait. First I wanted to get the hammock up and try out the new tarp. This one has doors on the ends and may become the distance shelter. That blowout on the Cohos last Fall made me see the benefits of doors heh.
Then there were evening chores to attend to. At this time of year there is no access to running water at this site. That means spending a lot of time melting and boiling snow. I started filling my thermos bottles, then got dinner soaking while I finished the bottles. With the temp dropping fast it was easy to get into the hammock before dark. With a good dinner and a chocolate donut in my belly it was easy to fall asleep before dark too heh.
There were some great stars during the night, but the blue skies were already returning by the time I rolled out of bed in the morning. I always love the feeling of coming out from under the quilts in the morning light and feeling the sting of the air. It feels like survival heh.
This is why I carry a cheapo refrigerator thermometer on all my trips. It is easy to read without glasses and the decimal comes in handy during wild temperature swings. I was glad to have the warning that morning on the Cohos when the flash freeze hit.
Time to melt some breakfast snow while I waited for the sun to do its thing. Coffee and a bag of breakfast slurry warmed the belly nicely. It had been a while since I’d been able to get out, but everything seemed vaguely familiar.
I stashed what I didn’t need for the climb at my camp. While I was there I grabbed one of the quilts and stuffed it in my pack…just in case heh. Then it was up up and up, into the trees. The snow was so deep that much of the climb was a wrestling match with branches that are normally well over head while walking on the ground.
On the way up I heard some footsteps in the distance below me. Thankfully I’d noticed him and stopped singing before he knew I was there heh. We chatted briefly as I let him pass by. He moving faster as he was dressed to sweat inside a shell. I was going for the cooler approach with thin wool layers and taking lots of breaks on the way up. It is hard for me to not attack a hill, but I kept making myself take slow steps. It didn’t work heh. I was still a little damp when I reached the top.
We took turns taking pics for one another and chatted a bit before he had to head down. Company is always appreciated more when you haven’t seen anyone for a while.
He was wearing some Baffin boots he was very pleased with. If you are out there man, I’d love to see a review on Trailspace 🙂
After he left I had to take my own pics. It was a lot of work so I treated myself to cheese and sausage because I’m worth it. OK, I’ll shut up and let you look at the pretty pics for a while…
Even with dark sunglasses I was pretty much blinded after a few hours up there. I knew I had a very steep descent and a few trees in my way so had to say good bye long before I wanted to.
Well, maybe just a few minutes more. I try to remember that there are no guarantees in life and every mountain may be my last. Sure hope not, but this was a darn good one to go out on!
On the way down there were some really steep drops. At the top of some of them were amazing views. It was important to view and drop separately hehe. With the soggy afternoon snow traction was entertaining enough that focus was important. Like I always tell my daughter about climbing mountains; You can look or you can walk, but don’t do both at the same time.
Nice views of the Whites on the other side of the border in NH. Spring is eating into the snow and the wind has helped in that regard. Won’t be long and there will be plenty of mud, at least down low.
With two solid days of blue sky it was hard not to hear the old ELO song in my head…”Mister blue, you did it right.”
“But soon comes mister night, creeping over, now his hand is on your shoulder”
“Never mind, I’ll remember you this, I’ll remember you this way.”
The second night was a bit warmer, but seemed very long. I was ready to get up and get moving. With the temp around 26°f it was easier to swap camp clothes for hiking clothes than the previous morning. Thankfully I managed to get everything loaded back up and I was on my way.
It was going to be another fabulous day. The light in the forest was amazing and I had to keep stopping to look at it. I recognized the terrain from some of the video I shot snowshoeing in deep powder here on a previous trip and was again pretty happy to be there.
Rather than complain about all the times I wasn’t there this Winter I was thinking about how happy I was at the moment. Good times heh.
Lower down I began to meet people day hiking. Maybe time to stop singing…or not heh. Spring definitely was waking up after a few days of strong sunshine. Up top it will take a while to eat through that deep snow. Even here it may be a while unless there is a warm rain. Soon though…soon.