Reblogging this 1/4/17 article from The Hiking Project!
Welcome to the low pay lives of some of the best hikers in the world!
I have hiked and sometimes camped with 5 of these 6 folks, on my 2010 PCT and 2013 CDT thru-hikes. They are all truly genuine individuals. Freebird told me that his goal every year that he thru hikes is to be the first person on and the last person off the trail.
Here is a pic of me and Billy Goat on Sept. 8, 2014 at the Millinocket Hannaford’s in when Billygoat was resupplying while he was providing car support for a buddy who was hiking the International AT from Katahdin to Quebec.
The collection of log cabins goes way back to 1885.
The Monument encompasses 87,500-acres of mountains, rivers, and forests abutting the eastern edge of Baxter State Park, land donated by Roxanne Quimby, whose company, Bert’s Bees, sold to Clorox for $925,000,000 in 2007. Through President Obama’s executive action, the unit was added to the National Park Service in September as a national monument, bypassing the need for Congress to authorize it a national park.
Despite media portrayal of this Monument as an unfair land grab by the Feds, it’s 87,000 acres represents less than 1 percent of the total forested lands of Maine. According to the North Maine Woods website, there are 3.5 million acres that are considered North Maine Woods. That’s a whopping 0.236% of those privately held lands.
The move to make the land public was a long, protracted battle that is still being waged by a local faction that strongly resists any government encroachment on their traditional uses of the land, be it hunting, snowmobiling, or riding ATVs . There are still prominent National Park-NO! signs greeting the approaching tourist who exits I-95 in Medway to reach the Monument. Unless the citizens of Millinocket decide to upgrade unimproved gravel roads leading out of town into the area, this won’t be much of an issue for them, because both the South and Northern entrances to KLWWMN completely avoid traffic into Millinocket or even East Millinocket.
I stopped into the new storefront office of KWWNM on Maine Street, Millinocket, just a few doors down from one of my favorite eating establishments, The Appalachian Trail Cafe. The ranger there informed me that entrance, lean-tos, campsites, and even some cabins are free right now on a first-come, first-serve basis but campfire permits are still required from the Maine Forest Service (207-435-7963).
In my case, I was pleased to finally walk it, although it was a brief visit. Make no mistake about it, these is not 87,000 acres of pristine forest. This lower portion of the Monument is made up of recently cut-over land and it still shows. Critics point this out, but my review of Governor Baxter’ initial purchases of what is now Baxter State Park was largely made up of land that had been burned or denuded. Here’s an example of Baxter land pre Baxter State Park.
Pretty bleak, I’d say. Regrowth will also happen here, but it may take 50 years or more. I have walked thousands of miles of trails in the past 10 years, and cut over and/ or burned forests show up, but then they tend to grow back to be enjoyed by future generations. Same here.
Today, my hiking partner Ivan and I decided to walk up as far as the first new lean-to and then meander our way back to KLWC. There were exactly 9 cars sitting in the parking lot leading from the gravel Loop Road. Others were in there, on overnights, or day trips. The lean-to was a mile from where the Baxter side trail came into the Monument. The path was still a logging road, and damn straight as well.
The lean-to was built in 2012, of standard log construction with a new outhouse nearby. There was water flowing close for drinking ( purify!).
We sat and ate lunch and then headed back.
We decided to try and walk back one of the old logging roads that went in just below Rocky Pond, east of the outlet of Katahdin Lake. The road looked relatively new, and was probably upgraded ten years ago for timber. A half mile in, it dead ended. I fired up my GPS and saw that if we went directly south through the woods, it would take a quarter of a mile to intersect he mid-point of the same trail we took from KL camps to get to the Monument.
Ivan was totally up for it and led the way, bushwhacking through fairly thin saplings and dodging several unruly blow downs.
It didn’t take very long for us to reach the KL trail back to the camps. In fact, we came out within 50 feet of the northernmost section of that trail, a very fortuitous happening. I have done a bit of bushwhacking, where results are generally more elusive.
I plan to get further into the Monument, for canoeing and backpacking. I might even pack my fly rod. I hope to get away for a couple nights during deer hunting season here in November, as the largest western parcel bordering Baxter is free from hunting. Four additional parcels east of the East Branch are established for traditional hunting ( minus bait and dogs on bear).
I have enjoyed walking most of the trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park, which is just 90 minutes drive along the Maine Coast from my house. I think it is time for me to explore my share of the Maine woods.
Sept. 23, 2016- Here’s a first: a snowflake icon appearing on the LCD window of my Steripen Ultra. The rapid onset of a wet cold front that spit out a feeble 0.2 inch of rain hit Russell Pond campground last night and chilled my water purification device. No matter, the UV light bulb was able to fire up for a 90 second burst of bacterial DNA killing action to render another liter of life-supporting drinking water . Plenty more water came at me today.
Hans (AKA the Cajun Cruiser), Guthook, and I experienced a unique morning here at Russell Pond as we waited out the tail end of the rain, which was to end sometime before noon. We enjoyed the company of Rainer (trail name), one of the seasonally employed rangers here at Baxter. Rainer invited us over to his cabin right around the time that he was getting a radio update of today’s weather. After the skies clear, the temps are predicted to drop into the 30’s tonight at Russell Pond.
Rainer communicated his knowledge of the local trails, and put out leftover coffee and breakfast before we struck out to head over to the lean-to at Davis Pond. I especially enjoyed viewing xeroxed copies of antique black and white photographs that depicted Baxter scenes from the period predating Governor Percival Baxter’s purchase of the property.
Rainer and I share a most unique situation. We are both Triple Crown hikers (completed hikes of the AT, PCT, and the CDT) that graduated from Monsignor Coyle High School, a tiny Catholic school in Taunton, MA, exactly 40 years apart. What are the chances?
We eventually packed out at 1:15 PM, reaching the trail head to Davis Pond in only 1.2 miles. Our total mileage to Davis Pond was only 5.5 miles, via the Northwest Basin trail. Russell Pond sits at 1331’ and Davis is up at 2,946’, so there is a bit of up on this walk.
Although it is no longer raining, the brush, trees, and shrubs that our bodies moved through were covered with cold water. By the end of the afternoon, my feet were uncomfortably cold and wet. Even with the drought, there were some wet sections of muddy trail in the first couple of miles of hiking.
Normally there is a wet ford of the Wassataquoik Stream on this hike, but with a drought in force, it was possible to walk on top of the big rocks and make it over with dry feet. Here’s Hans making his leap.
Part of the path from Wassataquoik Stream is a stream bed of a tributary leading down from Lake Cowles into the upper reach of Wassataquoik Stream, which has its headwaters in the morass known as The Klondike. Note the blue trail marker behind Hans.
The view here from the shore of Lake Cowles, approaching Davis Pond takes in at this glacial cirque that extends up a thousand feet.
A closer shot from the shore of Davis reminds me of being at Chimney Pond looking up the wall toward Baxter and Pamola Peaks, but with no crowds.
As long as I kept moving I was fine, but when I stopped, the effect of the cold was very apparent. I am reminded of the last 5 days in September of 2010 as I finished thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the northern Cascades. The temps never got above the mid forties, and my whole world was drizzly, wet, and punishingly cold.
I ate a ton tonight. Guthook gave me an extra two person package of mashed potatoes to eat after I had already consumed potato chips, dehydrated chili, 1/2 a large Chunky candy, and two cups of hot tea. My feet continued to be uncomfortably cold even sitting on my pad inside my bag in the lean-to. My sleeping bag is rated at 20 degrees, but that was some 8,000 miles ago when it was new. I am extending its range tonight by wearing dry wool sleep clothes. I’m also testing out a custom bivy sack that I had made by Peter Marques at Tentsmiths over in Conway, New Hampshire.
I’ve only been to Davis Pond once before, way back in 1970. I do not have any photos of Davis from that trip, but do remember sitting on the ledge in front and having an unimpeded view of the whole cirque in front. I definitely was surprised by the size of the trees and the thick foliage I’m encountering this time. Does anyone have a photo of the lean-to at Davis Pond from that time?
It’s 7:19 pm now, and pitch black out. Baxter is Maine’s real wilderness deal, with Davis Pond listed by some bloggers as the most remote lean-to in the Park. It also has the best outhouse.
Here’s my Strava elevation profile of what we are going to experience on tomorrow’s hike from Davis Pond to to Hamlin Peak and back.
On Friday, I finished up my third complete hike of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness section of the Appalachian Trail.
The first time I hiked through The Hundred was with my whole family: my wife Marcia, my two boys Lincoln and Arlo, and my sister-in-law V8 and Ruth, a family friend. It might have been 1989. I hiked it again in 2007, on my AT thru hike. You can read about that effort from my Traijournal here.
Hiking The Hundred is difficult, with many people underestimating the challenges. Going south, the elevation gain is 18,500 feet, with elevation losses (downhills) of 18,000 feet. The perennially slippery trail is punctuated with beaucoup roots ,rocks, and many split-log elevated walkways.
AT thru-hikers walking through this prelude to Katahdin are propelled by an overwhelming sense of wanting to be done with it all, with few taking the time to do side trips, like the superb Gulf Hagas loop.
I had originally planned for a ten day journey, with plenty of time for swimming, and possibly a side trip to Gulf Hagas. We came out in 7 days instead, pushing the daily average to about 15 miles.
Here is a particularly good article detailing The Hundred that appeared in Backpacking LIght magazine.
The Hundred is made up of two distinctly different trips of approximately 50 miles each. The southern section is an advanced hike, with the other half, (Crawford Pond headed north) a beginner’s effort when walked at 8-10 miles a day, with the exception of a relatively short but steep ascent of the prehistoric Nesuntabunt Mountain.
If you want to taste the Hundred, then plant your car at Abol Bridge and get a shuttle from Ole Man at the AT Lodge to the drop off at Crawford Pond where you would head north for 4 nights. Alternatively, catch a float plane shuttle from Katahdin Air, which drops you off on the shore of Crawford Pond where side trail puts you on the AT in 100 feet.
Three and a half miles after you depart Crawford Pond you reach the pool in front of Cooper Brook Falls shelter- a must swim. Enjoy more swimming at Antler Camps, and Sand Beach at Lower Jo-Mary Lake.
If you have the bucks , consider a side trip of 1.1 miles and splurging for a night at the Nahmakanta Lake Sporting Camps. I haven done that yet , but plan to do so the next time I go through.
Make no mistake, spending a week backpacking The Hundred is tough. If you stuff your pack with lots of food, you can eat your way as you move along. My rationing of a 3,000 calorie a day plan resulted in a 6 pound weight loss for the 7 days it took me to make this 100 mile trip.
There is something mammalian about avoiding going outdoor when it is raining sheets. I voiced this point to Gaspedal and Rokrabbit, while I was driving them through the rainstorm above Bangor on I-95 this morning.
We’re on schedule for day one of a week in Baxter State Park. I would hike in this hard rain all day, if necessary, but my innermost core recoils from the image of my self at the end of a day of rain, especially when I am also run down from long miles of hiking through the woods.
So I conjure up a whacky Plan B for today that would not require any hiking in this rain. We would get a motel room in Millinocket and wait it out. Tomorrow morning we would drive to the north Matagammon Gate and begin to dance around our reserved space camping itinerary.
However, life would be much simpler if we just stuck with our original plan, which we did when we walked out of the Appalachian Trail Cafe and saw that the rain had stopped and the skies were starting to clear.
We only encountered four other hikers today walking into Russell Pond from Roaring brook.
The young woman of couple #1 said that the ford of Wassataquoik Stream was waist high. I could have told her that. Her long pants we’re still drenched as she spoke to us. We also met a couple of Maine women who we also headed to Russell Pond for the night.
I’ve hiked the Russell Pond Trail at least a half dozen times over the years. A few things stood out today.
#1- Wassataquoik Stream rises quickly after a strong rain of an inch and a half. The water was up to my waist during the ford. I have always experienced lower water levels coming through here. On the positive side, it was painless to do the fords with bare feet, even including the short walk along the trail that was on land that connected the two.
#2- This is moose country. Walking through the alder patches in an area known as New City, Gaspedal, who was walking point, turned silently gave us a hand signal. One second later, a bull moose with full rack of antlers crashed off into the brush. This was the first moose that either of my two traveling partners had ever seen in the wild.
I’m a Licensed Maine Guide who is guiding these two folks from Boston through their first visit to Baxter.
Last year I guided these two repeat customer plus one more though the north 50 miles of Maine’s Hundred Mile Wilderness. Our walking itinerary here is less demanding than out on the Appalachian Trail, but our trek up to 5,267 foot high Katahdin on our last day should test the tendons.
If I make it, it will be my twentieth summit of Maine’s best shot at reaching the heavens.
Our five day adventure began by squeezing into Katahdin Air Service’s little float plane for a 50 mile flight, with pontoons touching down at Crawford Pond in the middle of the fabled One Hundred Mile Wilderness segment of the Appalachian Trail.
Jim, our pilot, flew low enough that we were able to see good detail right to the edges of the ponds and streams below as he pointed out the path of the Appalachian Trail that we’d walk some 50 miles back to my car around Abol Bridge on the Golden Road.
We thanked Jim for his skill in placing us here on this beach, and I told him that I’d be sure to fly with him again next season.
After departing the inviting sand beach at the southern end of the pond our band of four entered a dark slot in the dense forest and started walking north.
My clients came to Maine from Boston to sample the simpler life in the Great North Woods. I’m up here guiding a father and his two sons through their first backpacking experience. I secured my Registered Maine Guide credentials in November, and have had some luck in scoring up some customers. Dino, Nick, and Jake have purchased, borrowed, and rented gear that they have cobbled together for as they experience trail life for the next five days.
This family has actually listened to some of the suggestions that I made to them. Consequently, we had no issues with blisters today, and I was encouraged by strong hiking from all three.
We met our first three thru-hikers at Cooper Brook Falls lean-to three miles into our hike. We swam in a deep pool with two young women that had started the AT in Georgia.
They made it north as far as Harper’s Ferry, VA where they skipped all the way up to Maine to turn around and head south, hiking to Virginia where they hoped to complete their 2,200 mile hike. Also cooling his body was a young man from Norway who had just left the towering Katahdin on his own southbound journey, hoping to reach the southern terminus of the AT at Springer Mountain in Georgia.
On my fifth time through here, I still love this Cooper Brook Falls shelter. There is a broad rushing water fall to the right and a deep wide pool of water in front of the shelter. We jumped right into the slowly flowing water and rinsed off the copious sweat that drenched our shirts in just three miles.
I had originally planned to spend the night here at this shelter, but Dino and his boys pressed me to go a bit farther on the first afternoon so that they would not be faced with walking 12 miles on their second day. I gave in, which ended up being the right thing to do.
Tonight, we ended up camping “au sauvage” at Cooper Pond, 0.2 miles down a blue blazed (side) trail off the AT, turning my original 3 mile plan to an 8.2 mile accomplishment.
In the end, we pushed an extra 5 miles, and walked late enough so that we were using our headlamps before we had the campsite settled, our dinners done, and the tents up.
When you reach Cooper Plond, the path ends at an old dam. I crossed the shaky , wet rocks at the top of the falls and explored past it, where the path went no further. I noticed a fresh dump area with open clam shells visible beneath the water near shore, where I suspected that an otter had been engaged in some kitchen prep of his own.
The terrain around our campsite is fully punctuated with rocks and hummocks but we were eventually able to find two flat spaces that held the one three-man ( them) and single 1 person (me) tents.
The humidity and heat were unrelenting. We later learned that it reached 90 degrees today, with close to 100% humidity, in Maine ! It was so hot that I laid out on top of my sleeping mat. The humidity and heat were the worst that I’ve ever remembered hiking in my home state. Thankfully, we were headed past numerous ponds, lakes, and streams, which we’d put to good use tomorrow.
At least I slept. Dino told me he was tossing and turning all night. I listened to the sound of the pond water rushing over the dam nearby and the strange cry of a single loon wailing out on Cooper Pond.
Here’s the map of our first 8 miles in The Hundred:
I recently completed my first experience as a paid Maine Guide. In June, I launched a web page for Uncle Tom’s Guided Adventures, where I am offering a group backpacking trip a month in Maine during August, September, and October.
In July, I received a request from a client to guide them up the 5.5 mile ( 11 miles round trip) Hunt Trail (Appalachian Trail). My suggestion to alter their route choice and make the summit trek less demanding by spending an overnight at Chimney Pond, and choose either the Saddle or Cathedral Trail was declined.
We made it to the top of Katahdin.
However, I learned a lot on that day:
-An advanced backpacking course from the Sierra Club that includes summiting Mt. Baldy, outside Los Angeles, at 10,064 feet may not be sufficient preparation for that hiker to reach the top of the 5,267 foot Katahdin.
-Trails in California tend to employ switchbacks that make going up easier.
The Hunt Trail goes straight up.
-Clients appreciate guides that will carry that client’s 3 quarts of water.
-Trails out west tend to have limited rocks, boulders, and roots to walk or crawl over.
The Hunt Trail has plenty of obstacles, which may also have streams running down them.
-The 10-12 hours that Baxter Park suggests it takes to summit and return via the Hunt Trail out of Katahdin Stream Campground may not be sufficient for some parties. We left Katahdin Stream at 6:55 AM and returned at 10:30 PM. Our round trip took us 15.6 hours.
-There is a reason why Baxter State park has many rules, including this one: “Hikers must carry a working flashlight.” I learned that having a client read this rule, and be reminded twice to pack the headlamp in the day pack, does not ensure that the light will be in that pack when it becomes pitch black out.
-If two hikers share one headlamp, that the headlamp should be worn by the hiker in front. The guide needs to give that headlamp to the client and walk close behind.
-Upper body strength is needed to ascend the Hunt Trail, when walking becomes insufficient at the 2.9 mile mark. It is particularly necessary when the hiker needs to extend their arms overhead, grasp the first iron rung that is imbedded in a tall boulder, and pull, hard. There is more than one of these iron rods at the base of a giant boulder field.
-Hikers with shorter inseams may benefit from assistance in ascending these boulders from other hikers. The aspiring hiker may need to step on body parts of the assisting hiker, for example, placing one’s foot on an implanted knee that is secured against a boulder or even walking on the other hiker’s back.
-Bring a wind shirt, even in the summer. It may get windy on the Hunt Spur.
For example, on our day the wind was steady at 20-25 mph with gusts to 40 mph.
-The Hunt Spur is above treeline. The upper portion is unusually exposed.
Hikers with a fear of heights will be challenged on this portion, particularly if the wind is gusting to 40 mph.
-Some hikers find It considerably easier to ascend than to descend the Hunt Trail. In our case, we had a 1 PM turn around time. While we made it up a few minutes after 1 PM, within the expected 6 hour window, our descent took close to 9 hours. This is why spare batteries and even a spare headlamp should be considered.
-It’s good sense to turn back when you feel you are “ over your head” on the Hunt Trail. We met several parties who were in this situation, and wisely chose to head back down. If the famed walker Henry David Thoreau can retreat just below the Tableland in 1846, so can you.
-It is quite difficult to get up and down Katahdin on the Hunt Trail. A reputable source told me that while number of Southbound thru-hiker wannabees had increased by 40% this year, 90% of them went home. Some failed to make the summit, others made the summit but tore up their feet, or they underestimated just how hard it was to keep walking in the woods after their big day heading up to the top.
-When it is pitch black out, and crawling on the ground becomes a viable option, have a bunch of trail tales to tell and maybe a few songs to sing. Humor lightens the load.
-Consider yourself fortunate to be with a hiker who is able to maintain a positive attitude despite the long, steep, and tough nature of the Hunt Trail. I did.
-It’s really satisfying to assist another hiker to the top of Katahdin . My client told me that, ” I couldn’t have done it without you.”
– Think long and hard about guiding an individual up Katahdin’s Hunt Trail.
It’s Party-on meets the Guardians of Wild time here in Maine.
For the past week, there has been a heated and expansive discussion on Facebook, Twitter, and gear/outdoor adventure-related blog/websites in response to the legal action that Maine’s Baxter State Park has initiated against Scott Jurek. Jurek recently completed the fastest known supported thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
In case you were engaged in focused partying in Barcelona over this past week (a location which is also in the process of beefing up it’s own regulations regarding celebratory behavior), here’s BSP’s initial post about the event, which as morphed 616 shares, and 717 comments to date on Facebook.
I live in Maine, am a dues paying member Friend Of Baxter State Park, and have put in as much as a week of my time volunteering for maintenance up on top of the Saddle Trail. I generally hike there every year. Just last year I spent a week on a “thru-hike” of Baxter State Park.
I treasure BSP. I have summited Katahdin 17 times, dating back to 1970. At 20 years of age, I was stunned that I couldn’t just drive in there and start walking around. That’s when I first learned about the details list of The BSP Rules. I am going to try and reach the top again in two days, and will be following all those rules when I am there.
I was ( and according to my wife continue to be) one of the great unwashed who completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2007.
I was a member of MeGaTex, a group of 7 , who had our own celebration in the cold blowing mist and fog on September 16, some 5,268 feet in the sky.
Something is going to change, not just about what you can or can’t do in BSP, but about the whole AT experience. Twice in the past 4 years, I have returned to Virginia for a week to backpack some of my favorite sections of the AT.
In 2014, I did not enjoy my last week as much, due to large doses of inconsiderate behavior that I experienced from other hikers on the trail. Twice, I came upon one of the shelters at the end of the day, after a long day of hiking, expecting to settle in for night, only to find that shelter filled with over a dozen thru-hikers, most of who were unapologetically smoking cigarettes (Smoking hand-rolled tobacco is a recent thru-hiker trend on the AT.) One of those guys sat right beside me and proceeded to boil up his dinner. He was too busy with too many things at once, and knocked a pot of boiling water into his lap. It then drenched my gear, including part of my sleeping bag. He scalded his thigh, which I knew would result in a second degree burn, but he shoofed off my recommendation for immediate treatment. The group hung out there for two hours before they thankfully moved on and I was able to spread out my bedroll for the night.
I think about Scott Jurek and the extreme discomfort and heroic effort that it took for him to cover over 200 miles on his last 4 days on the AT as he approached Katahdin. I rooted for him. Scott also slept only 10 hours over his last 4 days. In the end, Scott had to be only marginally coherent and cognitively intact- how could it be otherwise ? He was not capable of steering the Jurek ultramarathon machine at that moment, and maybe nobody in his party was either.
But, you gotta have rules. Baxter State Park has the most rules of anyplace that an AT hiker has to contend with, and that’s a problem to many hikers who has dreamed, sweated, fallen, and bruised themselves as they labor toward their final footsteps in the sky.
How does a place with a unique vision and mandate do with hundreds, and now possibly a thousand or more people who have lived the past half-year with no one telling them what to do ? They have one or two last days of freedom before they re-enter the ” shower world” again.
The numbers on the AT are expected to balloon big-time for 2016. Jurek’s media coverage is definitely pumping interest.
Discussions had already begun last year, exploring the possibility that the Appalachian Trail may be re-routed around Katahdin and linked onto the International Appalachian Trail.
I’ll still going be able go up and go into Baxter State Park , due to living here in Maine, but others from places and even continents far away won’t find it easy to do so. They may not be able to stand on top of Katahdin to experience the most fitting end to their extended time out in the great forest. It would be a sad conclusion for sure.
This clash between preservation of the wild versus big numbers of users, corporate footprints and media is not just playing out on on isolated granite massif in Maine Maine- it’s going on all over the world right now. Check out today’s New York Times feature–>> – The Revolt Against Tourism.
Rob Caldwell’s Maine-based TV news magazine “207” (named after Maine’s one and only area code) interviewed me at my kitchen table two weeks ago. Rob’s program will feature a conversation we had about adventures, walking for months on end at a time, and being awarded the Triple Crown of Hiking.
The interview will air in two parts : November 24 & 25th—part 1 on Monday, part 2 on Tuesday. Catch it at 7:00 p.m. on channel 6 in Portland and channel 2 in Bangor. It will also be posted in the 207 section of www.WCSH6.com .
Rob told me to, “Tell everyone you’ve ever met. We want even people on hiking trails who are fifty miles away from the nearest TV to watch.”