Winter Bikepacking in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument- Part 2/2

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Despite being the only guest in the Mount Chase Lodge last night I was served a most excellent breakfast at 7:30, the time of my choice. Sky prepared pancakes, fruit slices, and bacon from a pig that had secured full employment here, on table scrap  duty this past season.  Fresh coffee, home made muffins and a fresh fruit bowl rounded out the meal.

Smilin’ Sky’s the guy
I was more than willing to take up Sky’s offer of leftover bacon and last night’s brisket.  At two degrees outside, I was not concerned about food spoilage.

I’ve waited for this winter bike camping trip for a long time. My last bike packing trip was in 2012 on the Sunrise Trail when I joined my neighbor and biking pal Andy Hazen on a stretch from Ellsworth toward  Cobscook Bay. You can check out that most interesting bikepacking trip  here.

I have that same Surly Pugsley now. It was the perfect choice for these two pristine winter biking days.

Rollins Trails/ Ragged/Snow Bowl
It’s a fat tire bike, with 4 inch wide tires, inflated to 7 pounds of pressure, enabling the wide footprint to track easily over this packed groomed snow.

It is a 15 mile ride directly west over a roller coaster of a tarred road from Mt. Chase Lodge to the parking lot for the Monument.

Ask the staff at the Lodge about the signage that marks the left turn after the bridge over the Penobscot River just before the end of the pavement.  A short drive down a plowed gravel road leads to a small parking lot where the winter trail begins.

I parked right next to Guthook’s VW, as we were the only visitors here for these two days.

The map on the KWWNM website is detailed enough to be all you’ll need.  One caution-print your own copy in color.  Mine was in gray scale. I would have been easier  to navigate if my map was color coordinated with the  red, orange, yellow, and blue triangles marking intersections and trails.

With my parking pass visible on the dashboard, I unloaded the bike from inside my Honda Element and took off, smiling from ear to ear at the superb condition of the surface beneath my wheels.   Access to trails and these huts is free of charge, however, overnight use requires reservations.

Hard to tell if smiling !
There hasn’t been any fresh snow here for more than a week.  KWWNM’s snowmobiles tow dedicated groomers that have packed the trail!   There were two faint cross country ski grooves that I stayed out of, preferring to ride to the side of the fresh snowmobile track.

The surface was not at all icy, but composed of groomed snow that refroze into a decent grip of a track.

This screen shot of my Strava feed summarizes my mileage, speed, and moving time.   It was a relatively quick 10 mile ride into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.

Here’s the elevation profile.

There were three parts  to this ride.

The first was four miles over relatively flat terrain on the Messer Pond-Orrin Falls Road, an old logging path eventually passing through a summer gate leading to Haskell Hut on the shore of the expansive Haskell Deadwater.

Overflowed stream beside winter trail
Haskell Lodge is only a tenth of a mile off the trail and is worth a rest stop.

It is the smaller of the two cabins that are options for your over night in The Monument.   The doors are unlocked, but day users are asked to refrain from using the propane cook burners, lights, and firewood.

These are community huts, where everyone is welcome up to the maximum number of sleeping platforms and reservations are required.

Next, I rode along the edge of the Deadwater where I made a brief stop at the spectacular view at Haskell Rock Pitch.  I heard it well before I saw it.      Impressive!

From there the trail enters thicker, older forest for almost a mile when you reach a fork.   With the spring melt down, extra caution is advised with regards to deep meltdown holes on the bridges and sections of deep animal tracks on the trail.

This is dangerous:

The riding is fast and the setting is isolated.


The last segent  starts with a right on the blue diamond trail for three more miles or so out past Little Messer Pond where the path ascends to a high point on 900 feet.

  You will know a turn is coming when you pass over a flowing stream up high and then see the signage pointing left for the 0.3 mile descent into Big Spring Brook Brook Hut.

Big Spring Brook Hut
It took me two hours to cover the 10 mile distance, which included stops for photos, and my snack break at Haskell Hut.   Guthook skied in earlier, pulling a plastic sled that was loaded with 5 days worth of food and gear.  It took him 5 hours.   Fat bikes shine under these travel  conditions.

Big Spring Brook Brook Hut is appointed with basic pots and pans, and is heated with a wood stove with drying racks above for hanging wet clothing.

Water in drawn from the stream in front, with an outhouse out back. There is a large sleeping loft as well and half dozen wooden sleeping platforms on the first floor. The capacity of his hut is listed as sixteen.

Guthook and I combined forces to come up with a superb one pot supper.  I added  Mt. Chase Lodge’s bacon and brisket to his tortellini, cheese, and tomato sauce.

This trip was brief but rewarding. I spent one night sharing the Lodge with Guthook, who was bushwhacking round the area on several long day hikes.

The snow was solid enough that you could walk anywhere, and with no leaves on the trees your line of sight is immeasurably better in the winter than in the summer when the green word covers all.    It was a most satisfying and unique experience for us to warm ourselves by the glowing embers of the stove as we pondered the vast wilderness surrounding us.

I joked with Guthook that we finally made  time to do nothing.

We were the only people spending our time within this  87,000 acre  National Monument. God bless America!

And I thank you, Roxanne and Lucas, for allowing me to have this unique place to explore for the rest of my life !

MONUMENT RESERVATION INFORMATION:

Mark and Susan Adams
Elliotsville Plantation INC.
Recreation Managers
881 Shin Pond Road
PO Box 662 Patten Me. 04765
Susan,  207-852-1291
Mark,  207-670-8418
Lunksoos@gmail.com
katahdinwoods.org
Facebook: Katahdin Woods & Waters
Maps and info to KWWNM  at www.nps.gov/kaww

The staff at Mt. Chase Lodge are knowledgeable about current trail conditions and travel within The Monument.  They are ready to serve as a launch point for your own adventure.  Information and Reservations: (207) 528-2183

7 thoughts on “Winter Bikepacking in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument- Part 2/2

  1. Very descriptive article. Folks should realize there is a bit more info needed before heading into the monument. As a rule, when the conditions are good for skiing , and trails are groomed, we do groom for fat tire bikes on them,so communication with whomever is the SUP holder for that year is very important. A lot of resources are put into grooming for skiing .

    Huts are by reservation only, they are completely User maintained and we are not able to communicate that very well with day users. Dogs are not allowed in or near the huts for sanitation reasons . (Snow gets harvested and melted for water outside the huts)
    So it is not something we encourage, but we do not want to lock the huts , in case of an emergency.

    We do recommend more than the rec trail maps , an experienced back country user will bring a topo map and compass , often an INreach or SPOT. We have a long , detailed information sheet was required reading for all overnight users in the monument ,as well as requiring overnight parking permits for vehicles .
    Trail Signs can disappear out there very quickly , and one thing Tom forgot to mention is that there is no one patrolling any of this. NPS does not have the staffing in place at this time for winter months.
    The only EMS is 911, cell phones do not work and a small incident could quickly turn into an emergency due to this. At some point when planning is done , winter use will be decided and staffing will hopefully occur . Until then , this is true back country , and an overnight is for experienced back country only. This is not BSP , or any where else yet. We want to keep offering these huts, one incident could affect visitor access for these interim years .

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  2. Typo up there, We DO NOT GROOM FOR FAT TIRE BIKES>
    WE GROOM FOR XC SKIING> I am so sorry about that! By the way kudos to Tom for promoting this area of the Katahdin Region. We need more promotion for the entire region, it is a 4 season area. Please contact us at lunksoos@gmail.com for more info before coming all the way up here to ride your fat tire bikes this time of year through the spring.
    The skiing is still fantastic and we even have our annual Head North Ski Days going on the week of March 17-25th with free ski rentals each day at the Matagamon Trail head starting at 10 am. Staffed by KAWW VIP’s (Volunteers in Parks. )

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  3. Susan,
    No typo.
    We spoke via email about me riding there last year. I did promote KWW as a venue for winter biking, and the two days I was there were superb for that. I rode outside of the ski tracks , and in fact, the snow was so refrozen that you could have ridden anywhere through the woods. Folks also enter the monument on snowshoes, which also should stay out of the ski tracks.

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    1. The typo was that I said we groom for Fat Tire biking, which we do not. There are certain conditions that can be excellent for fat tire biking, but right now would not be it for example . Are actually working on some snow shoe trails that will keep snowshoers off the trails as much as possible. We are grateful to folks like yourself that can appreciate the time and resources that go into grooming for xc skiing, but that is not always the case unfortunately . Maybe one day in the future groomed fat tire bike trails will be in the cards. Who knows? For now , they are awesome at Carrabassett Valley , I checked them out last February break.

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