An Adventure Across and Around Katahdin Lake – Baxter State Park

The huge battering wind that awoke me yesterday in my bunk here at Windy Pitch camp at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps is gone this morning.

Windy Pitch camp
Windy Pitch camp

In its place is the sound of gently falling rain, a total surprise, given the bright sunny day forecast for this place when I left home two days ago.

Today, Ivan and I planned for a 15 mile out-and-back hike to Twin Ponds from this little,  ancient, warm log cabin on the South shore of Katahdin Lake.

Katahdin from Katahdin lake
Katahdin from Katahdin lake

I got up in the waning dark to ignite the propane flame beneath the coffee percolator, fry up four slices of bacon, a couple of eggs, and some left over bread from last night’s meal up at the lodge.

The "kitchen" counter
The “kitchen” counter

I laid out all my day hiking gear last night, and was looking forward to carrying less than 5 pounds on my back. My 1 quart Tiki-Man was also coming along with his faithful sidekick Steripen by his side. I had my Garmin eTrex 30 loaded up with what I thought were fresh AA’s. I’m not going to pass up the chance to download some miles and smiles into Strava to share with my mileage hog pals.

The rain persisted so I volunteered to head up to the Lodge and get a refill on our five gallon water jug. While I was up there I poked my head into the kitchen and asked one of the staff if they had an updated weather report.  Folks that work outdoors make it their business to be up to date on the day’s weather.

“ Cloudy all day. Light rain, off and on,”  came his response.
I proceeded to push it a bit, and asked him what he thought of our plan to hike 15 miles today.
“You should canoe up to the far end of the Lake and hike up the rest of the way from there.  That cuts off walking half those miles,” the manager told me.
I’ve been a number of situations like this before on other hikes. It goes like this:  You meet a person who lives in or near some remote place in the wilderness-they pull up on a horse, four-wheeler, or even a car. They want to know exactly where you are heading.  You tell them.  They then unwrap for you some additional local factor and offering up a better idea, which turns out to be true. This has happened to me more often than not. It is now my default mode of response to a local who comes up a better idea, at least one that makes sense. There are obvious exceptions to this approach.

So Ivan and I clipped into our flotation vests and launched the Old Town Penobscot off the sandy shore of the Lake at 10 AM.  A little tail wind pushed us as we were paddled 1.5 miles north straight over the center of the Lake.

photo by Lynn Travis
photo by Lynn Travis

The majesty of Katahdin stood strong against the grey skies to the West, its upper shoulders enveloped in a swirling cloud.

When we reached the other side of the lake after a paddle of a mile and a half, we lifted the plastic canoe up over the rocks on the far shoreline, flipped it over to keep out the rain, and within 300 feet, veered right to walk north on the Twin Ponds Trail.

Playing it safe
Playing it safe

The path was nicely presented, wider than usual in parts, and relatively free of serious blow downs, except for maybe a half dozen times where we had to step up and over or go completely around fallen trees. The usual stuff for this time of year.

Ivan coming up Twin Ponds Trail

There were two strong flowing streams that we crossed on the 3.5 mile hike up.   We gained the steepest elevation just the last 10 minute walk to the table land of the ponds.  The first one was cross between a pond and a swap.
“You could call it a pool”, remarked Ivan.

First of the Twin Ponds
First of the Twin Ponds

We had to laugh at the route indicated by blue blazes dabbed on the rocks ahead.

Looks challenging !
Looks challenging !

Although it looked like there was no way that we would emerge from the crossing with dry feet, judicious foot placement on partially submerged rocks, aided by the balance that we gained from using our hiking poles made it good.

Waterproof boots would help here
Waterproof boots would help here

The second pond was the real deal.

The big Twin Pond
The big Twin Pond

It is twice as big, and sits against a wall of vertical cliff colored an off-shade white and light gray. There was just a single trail leading up to the thickly wooded and weeded shoreline. No side trails went off in either direction. You just stand there and look, or else dive right into the shallow mud just beneath the surface. This place is rarely visited, with this trail cut in 2009 or so after Baxter Park acquired this new parcel.

Ivan and I enjoyed jogging down from the top over the steeply descending, mogul run footpath that twisted and turned between rocks and roots.  Maybe Ivan also imagined that he was a  slalom skier.

Both of us took turns getting our feet drenched by dunking our complete boots in the mucky mud beside the lubricated puncheon walkways.

Puncheon path at Martin Pond with Katahdin. From previous day's loop hike.
Puncheon path at Martin Pond with Katahdin. From previous day’s loop hike.

Ivan detected various mushrooms long the way, the amazing little beings still struggling  to promote life before this earth freezes solid for at least four months.

We reached the North shore where we launched straight 180 degrees south to the Camp.  The rain was gone and the lake itself was flat calm. Thirty-five minutes later we were standing on the beach at 2:45 PM .
The steady warmth from the wood stove and the soft glow of the gas light globes were dominant as we made our way back to join Mame and Lynn, who looked like they both had encountered a few special trees today.

Mame and Lynn at Windy Pitch
Mame and Lynn at Windy Pitch

There was talk of Pad Thai tonight in our camp, so I dug out  a classic Whoopie Pie to split 4 ways later with the group after we’ve digested dinner.


It was another quiet night here aside Katahdin, on the shore of the lake with the same name.

Here’s the map of the route that Ivan and I completed on this adventure. I recommend the $5 canoe rental.

Twin Ponds from Katahdin lake
Twin Ponds from Katahdin lake

Spaces still available for my next Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventure in Camden Hills State Park, Oct. 23-25. Discounted rate !

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