Thursday, July 12, 2012

Baxter State Park: Appalachian Trail Hike

One interesting thing about this area is that while Baxter Peak is over 5,000 ft high, the surrounding area is rather flat!  There are 10 miles of the AT that are inside Baxter and over those 10 miles you only gain 600 feet of elevation!  It’s practically flat!  Since Dad and I weren’t hardy enough to make it to the top of Katahdin and back (we both could make it to the top, it’s the AND BACK down that’s the issue!), we decided to hike the rest of the AT in the park. 

We drove to the Abol Bridge store and found where the AT crossed the road.  Dad and I set off and Mom took the car back to the campground.  She was going to pick us up later at the Katahdin Stream Campground.  The first part of the trail was flat as promised.  It was a little nerve wracking knowing what we got into yesterday and wondering if we’d run into something similar today, a thought that was much more daunting considering the mileage we hoped to cover today.  Lucky for us the AT really is like the interstate of hiking trails and it was in perfect condition for us!

Soon after we started we got to a registration kiosk and we were signing in when another hiker came up.  We asked if he was a thru-hiker and he said he was and that he’d started on Dec 16 and hiked all the way from Key West!  WOW.  That’s crazy! Said he wanted to give his grandkids something to think about or something like that.  We congratulated him on making to nearly the end and he sat down to rest while we walked on, we expected to see him again but we didn’t. 

The trail meandered along the banks of the West Branch of the Penobscot River, which is very wide and slow at this spot.  It was a nice walk, flat trail with a few “PUDS” (pointless ups and downs).  After about 3.5 miles the trail turned north and followed a more exciting creek/river.  The river had lots of cascades and pools and waterfalls! 

About 4 miles in we came to a spot where we had to ford the creek!  We were prepared for this with Tevas and Dad even had his dry bag.  We reached the spot and couldn’t see the white blazes on the other side of the creek!  We knew the trail went on on the other side so we made our preparations to ford – changed out of our boots, put electronics away, stowed stuff in the dry bag.  I crossed first and it was actually rather easy and I didn’t even get my pants wet!  The cold creek water felt great on my feet!  Once on the other side though I started looking for a blaze.  I couldn’t find one in the direction I thought we needed to go!  uh-oh.  A repeat of yesterday.  I turned around and walked the other way and discovered a blaze!  phew!  Later when we hiked on we saw that there was a spot where you could see the white blaze from the other side if we’d looked more carefully!  The AT is nothing if not well marked!

Right after we put our boots back on and put everything back where it normally goes, I looked at the map and learned that we had another stream to ford in a mile!  Kinda wish I’d seen that sooner but oh well!

The 2nd stream crossing was more exciting!  It looked easier from the bank, we could see the white blaze on the other side and there were some big rocks that made it look like you could rock hop.  I changed out of my boots and prepared to go across.  I got about a 1/4 of the way across and probably could have made it without getting wet, but the step was a little too big and I was afraid I’d miss so I sat down to try and get to the next rock, my foot slipped and I ended up waist deep in running water!  It actually felt really good and I didn’t mind being wet.  Since I was already wet I didn’t worry too much about the rest of the crossing and kinda made my across slipping and sliding and lacking all grace.  I was about 1/2 way across when I looked up and saw 6 thru hikers standing on the other side looking for how to get across!  How embarrassing to be practically swimming rather than fording and have an audience!   The thru-hikers (on their last 10 miles by this point) pretty much levitated across.  Only one took off his shoes and he didn’t even get his feet wet! 

I talked to the hikers for a few minutes and congratulated them on making it all the way from Georgia!  They were upbeat and excited and it was fun to be a small part of their hike! We saw them again later at the campground but didn’t talk to them. 

After the 2nd stream crossing the trail went up more and there were 2 falls – Big Niagara and Little Niagara – then we reached Daicey Pond.  We had to walk up a small hill to get to the pond but it was worth it! Dad sat on the porch of the library and chatted with some other folks and defended our stuff against attack chipmunks, while I went for a swim in the cool crisp lake water!  It was awesome!  Any hike that includes a swim stop is a great hike! I swam with a view of Katahdin for about 30 minutes then sat on the dock to dry eating a snack and watching the tadpoles!  There were a ton of tadpoles, all in different stages of development. 

Soon it was time to hike the last 2.3 miles to the campground.  The 1st mile went fast – we were refreshed from the break and still cool from wet clothes.  The 2nd 1.3 not so much.  It felt like the trail was just winding around and not getting anywhere, but finally we came out on the road and walked up to the campground to wait for Mom. 

When Mom got there she told us that the Roaring Brook area was open (it had been closed yesterday because the parking area had reached capacity – this is the area where most dayhikers park to hike Katahdin) so we decided to take our moose hunt over there so I could see the other side of the mountain.  Mom had made dinner and brought it so when we got to Roaring Brook we found a picnic table and ate our pasta salad and crackers before heading down the nature trail.  It was only about a 1/2 mile to a boardwalk with a great view of the basin on the “back” side of Katahdin!  It was a very cool view but the light was horrible since we were looking west and it was about an hour from sunset!  There was however a cow moose out in the pond and she was close enough I could get some pictures – they came out pretty good, even though they are grainy!

Baxter is an amazing place, but tomorrow AM we are heading south to Bar Harbor & Acadia NP!

Baxter State Park: AT Hike 7.12.12

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