Day 5 Upper South Branch Pond lean-to to South Branch Pond lean-to #2 via Traveler loop
Big day on a tough loop hike in the northern part of Baxter State Park. The miles today were either pushing up in elevation or depending on my hiking poles to brake on the steep descents. The total elevation gain for the day was a foot-pounding 3,500′.
Guthook and I broke out of camp at 7:30 am, after getting fresh drinking water from the flowage coming into Upper South Branch Pond. Then time to be careful on the wet and slippery elevated split log walkway that brought us back out north on the Pogy Notch Trail, the main north-south path through the central part of the park.
Chris ended up choosing to go up to the summit of Black Cat Mountain, then come down again, when he headed up the Pogy Notch Trail to our lean-to at South Branch Pond campground
We saw no one today out on the Loop itself. It was one of the top 5 best days of the summer, a Friday yet, with no one but us on The Traveler Loop. What a unique name for a giant mountain! This mass of elevation has three peaks to ascend: Center Ridge ( 3,152′), The Traveler ( 3,550″), and North Traveler Mountain (3,152′).
One additional feature of this massif is it’s status as the highest volcanic mountain in New England, and possibly the highest of the East Coast. The unique sound underneath our feet on the North Traveler- the clatter of what might have been interpreted as shards of porcelain dinner plates- attest to the nature of the volcanic rock in this particular spot. I have heard the sound only once before, while hiking on the rugged Goat Rocks volcanic peaks in the Cascades, roughly between Mount Rainier and Mount Adams in southern Washington state.
On the way down to the campground, in the last mile’s steep descent from North Traveler Mountain we eventually encountered two small parties, well at that point they were sitting parties.
The Traveler Loop gets short listed due to popularity of Katahdin. The vast majority of visitors are here for one thing-the Big K, but this loop is world class hiking as well. The Traveler has a mini Knife Edge of it’s own, between the Center Ridge and Traveler Mountains and affords a 360 degree view of the Great North Woods into Canada.
At one point Guthook and I were not able to discern any evidence of man made structures in any direction, all the way out to the horion. We also heard no man made sounds, a near impossibility in 99.99% of the USA. It’s a healing green world that can absorb any of he pain, sadness, or regrets in one’s life.
[Note: There is no water on the loop. Plan accordingly, as it would be dry and parching on a hot, clear-sky day.]
I walked into camp tonight with no food or water left in my pack, the goal of any backpacker. I was working with calorie counts for my daily food plan this week. What I didn’t know was how many calories I would be burning each day, so I threw in an emergency bag of Doritos- 1600 calories right there. I ate a portion each of the 4 days were were out so far. Without it, I would have been hungry.
Guthook and I spotted my Voyager here 4 days ago. Inside is a sheet rock bucket with our final three days of backpacking food.
Lots of car campers, everything was full. The campsite next to us has two people in it with their 8 big beach towels hanging on a clothes line. I prefer one 6″ by 12″ microfiber towel that dries me up just fine.
Here’s our lean-to at South Branch:
Chris was impressed with me using my Moro knife to split wood and chop it for cooking.
We both regretted not shifting to car camping mode for the rest of our trip when we’ll be with this car. It would have been nice to have folding chairs, or even some fresh Whoopie Pies, the official state treat of Maine (not to be confused with the official state dessert, which is blueberry pie).
Guthook and I think too much like backpackers, not just when we are hiking.Next time we’ll do better.
I’m thinking a cast iron Dutch oven or two, so that we could bake ourselves up a big fresh greasy pizza, and even a blueberry pie for dessert.
I did remember to pack a six of the appropriate beer, though.