Thru-hiking Baxter State Park – Day 1 of 7

3.3 miles

IMG_3417.JPGI welcomed myself back to Baxter State Park today. It’s been two years since I’ve been to this most unique setting. Katahdin’s fantastic granite glacial cirque is set within in a 200,000 acre public state park that is run with a management style that has been strictly preservationist. Decades old man-made structures are generally razed rather than replaced. Here is one place on earth that graces wilderness, showcasing it quietly.

Despite my friend Chris and I rendezvousing at Guthook’s house at 6 AM, we weren’t able to reach the Roaring Brook Campground until 2 PM. This trip involved a lot of driving. Guthook and I drove both our cars all the way up to Exit 264 on Maine’s I-95 and then wound our way through the backwoods hardscrabble of Patten, a tiny berg that is slowly being populated by Mennonites.

We eventually passed through the northern Matagammon gate of Baxter, and then I stashed  my Caravan in the parking lot at South Branch Pond Campground, where we each saved out three breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, as well as any snacks that we’d need for our last several days in the infrequently visited northeast corner of the Park. Then Guthhook and I got into his Jetta and he proceeded to drive us some 47 miles, and mostly obeying the 20 MPH speed limit on the Park Tote Road to the southern gate and then twelve more miles northeast to Roaring Brook Campground.
The trail from the parking lot to Chimney Pond Campground is not flat. I remembered it as very gradually going up for the whole 3.3 miles. It’s REALLY not flat, ascending 1,500 feet in that distance, most of the rise coming in the middle mile. It’s a pretty tough right out of the parking lot, especially with a sack full of gear and food in your back.
I am still stunned at the granite studded footpath, one interspersed with roots of all textures, depths, and angles that are criss-crossing the trail.

Our reservations tonight are in the Bunkhouse, which holds twelve. It’s functional, with an enclosed outer hallway with one common room that has a picnic table off to one side, a stainless steel clad cooking surface along one wall, and a big honking airtight wood stove in the center of the room. When I arrived at 2 PM, the place was loaded up with about 10 people, some playing cards at the table in 2 groups, and others laying around on the bunks chatting and sleeping. In a little while another group of 3 newcomers came in, along with even more people. It got really noisy. I wanted to claim a bottom bunk and just lay out for a while. That’s when I learned that most of this crowd had slept there the night before and had remained through the next afternoon. They were in no mood for giving us the spaces we had reserved four months ago. I had to ask a vacantly gazing teenage girl to please move her self and her gear so that I could set up my slotted space. It still took a couple of hours for them to clear out, and then things became much more enjoyable.

A young bilingual couple from Quebec, a three generation set of males from Benton, Maine, and a father and his son rounded out the evening’s other occupants. The place was quite dark, but had a couple of propane lights that illuminated and also heated the room a bit.
It was an early night.

Tomorrow we hike Katahdin. I am always nervous about how I will do. Could  be a Knife Edge day.

Guthook’s own blog entry for this day is here

6 thoughts on “Thru-hiking Baxter State Park – Day 1 of 7

  1. Do you remember when I and my BF Ira joined you, Marcia and the boys on a couple-day I trip in the mid 1980s? We had trouble with the Chimney Pond trail. It was our first backpacking experience, and we did everything that the clueless do. I was scared of the Knife Edge, but your boys just bounced right along. It is a fine memory, and now I’m a backpacker; it just took 25 years!


  2. What a great adventure and I’m coming along in spirit. Yeah me.
    I’ve never slept with strangers like your bunkhouse, I would but it would be different.
    I will wait for your update to learn what a Knife Edge day means.
    What fun.


    1. The closest thing to the Knife Edge I have ever experienced was Goat Rocks in the Cascades in WA state. But it was easier, and so cloudy I could not appreciate the exposure. Stay tuned!


  3. Pingback: Baxter Backpacking, Day 1: Drive and Run | Guthook Hikes!

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