Baxter State Park: Day 4 of 6

We’re back in Lean-to #4  at Russell Pond Campground for another day.  Russell is a grand place to take a rest day, explore the surrounding area, or just “watch the bark peel”.

Coolin' it
Coolin’ it

We did as a short day hike of 5 miles today, as we explored Grand Falls, on the Wassataquoik Stream.

Turn here
Turn here

A trip to Grand Falls is most rewarding, particularly on a hot day.  It’s 2.75 miles out to the east, and there are a couple of interesting features to pass by before you get there.

The first is a unique boggy area at around the two mile mark where you can observe one of Maine’s  carnivorous plants, the pitcher plant.  Pitcher plants are several different carnivorous plants which have modified leaves known as pitfall traps—a prey-trapping mechanism featuring a deep cavity filled with digestive fluid liquid.   Here one cluster:


Next comes Inscription Rock.


Here’s what it looked like back in the logging period:

screenshot 3
– Photograph by George H. Hallowell, 1900. Courtesy of Maine State Library, © Myron H. Avery Collection

This time of year, the waterway is much reduced.  One can only imagine the force of the flow here when the winter snow and ice thaws.

Grand Falls approach overlook
Grand Falls approach overlook

We found a spot to cool off in the water just above the Falls, where small groups like this one have been doing what we are doing for thousands of years.  Gaspedal told me this place was the highlight of his Baxter experience.

IMG_8163On the last mile back before reaching camp, Rokrabbit hiked exceptionally strong.  He charged the uphills, and appeared determined and focused in his foot placement in areas where the rocks were frequent and prominent. I had guided these same two men last year through the last 50 miles of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness and the growth of this young man’s comfort and skills along the trail are very satisfying for me to experience.

Here’s Rokrabbit displaying his knife collection, which gives a twist to the term ” heavy metal”:

Got blades?
Got blades?

Another feature of the day was meeting the newest addition to the ranger staff, another Greg, who comes with a trail name of Rainer.   It didn’t take long for him to decipher my leg tattoos and realize that here there were two Triple Crown hikers settling into Russell for the day. Rainer was 27- I am just about 40 years older.  We found some time to talk trail a bit.  Even better is that Rainer will be working on Sept. 22, when I’ll be spending the night in Lean-to #4  during  another week of hiking in Baxter with my pal Guthook.  We planned to meet that evening and share more time together. I enjoy having outdoor events set up to look forward to.

Rainer and Uncle Tom
Rainer and Uncle Tom

A second commonality was discovered in that he and I are both graduates of the same Catholic high school in Taunton, MA. I graduated from Monsignor Coyle High in 1967.

Russell Pond is approximately in the center of Baxter State Park.  You have to walk at least 7.6 miles to get there.   It is an area about as wild as the park has to offer.  Maybe that’s why Uncle Tom, Gaspedal, and Rokrabbit had the whole campground to ourselves the starry, open night of August 25, 2016.  How is it possible that the all the tent sites, the bunkhouse, and the rest of the lean-tos were vacant on this special summer evening?

Baxter is currently listed  as occupying 210,000 acres, with a maximum occupancy rate of 1,100 people.  I understand it is never completely filled.  Stepping away from the crowds around Katahdin brings rewards to those who take the chance to walk further from it’s main draw, the highest mountain in Maine.

We’re finishing up this trip by climbing up to the summit of Katahdin tomorrow.  We want that,  too !



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