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Thread: How to Retrieve a Through Hiker from Baxter

  1. #1
    Senior Member Puck's Avatar
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    How to Retrieve a Through Hiker from Baxter

    My son will be on the AT this summer with a targeted completion date at the end of August begining of September. Obviously I need to pick him up, hose him down, feed him and bring back into civilization.

    How have people handled collecting through hikers in Baxter with uncertain dates of completion? I am concerned with the reservation system, parking etc.

    Thanks for any help I canget.
    Trail adopter Dry river Cut-off.

  2. #2
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    Generally the approach is your son will call you from Monson and let you know when he expects to arrive at Baxter. He will most likely be hiking with a group of other thru hikers and they have a very good idea on their pace. Given the potential for BSP to be enforcing the 12 thruhiker limit at the Birches campsite (for long distance AT hikers only) quite strictly this year, there is a lot to be said for trying to get some last minute reservations in the park instead of having him rely on the Birches. You can always give him a ride to the birches to meet up with his buds if you are camping nearby in the park. The park keeps a portion of the campgrounds open for last minute reservations by Maine residents two weeks in advance. If a Maine resident doesn't grab them, they are open to anyone but they go quickly.

    If you just want to pick him up, you can agree on a time he will be down off the mountain and just show up at the gate and pick him up at Katahdin Stream. There is no restrictions on how many vehicles can enter the park but there are restrictions on parking at Katahdin stream so if you elect to pick him up you have a choice, get a day use pass at KSC which is through the park website or just drive to KSC and meet him at the agreed upon time. The key is if you elect to wing it you can not double park or hang out at KSC and have a picnic and there is no close by place to park nearby. Note that the Day use passes are usually available until the day before during the weekdays but in late summer, they fill up on Friday Sat and Sunday. A real nice alternative is to meet your son at Roaring Brook so he can go over the east side of the mountain if he hasn't been there. Oddly enough there is fairly good cell service (or at least text) on the summit of the mountain so he can call you from up top to confirm his meet time with you. Once you get past Labor day weekend the use drops down in the park but weekend day hikers will still grab the parking passes.

    One thing to keep in mind is that if you are staying anywhere in the park, you do not need a day use pass at KSC or roaring brook but you have to be parked before the day use folks drive in for the day. This can mean a very every morning as its 1.5 to 2 hours to drive from KSC to roaring brook and you need to do it before the Togue pond gate is open. Therefore although there may be campsites up in the north end of the park, its just not practical to get to a trailhead in the AM.

    The other thing to consider is that it may be crappy weather the day your son arrives, there is a lot to be said for booking a site for a couple of nights so he has the option of finishing on a nice day. Most thru hikers want to finish with their friends.

    There are a couple of commercial campgrounds and cabins outside the park with amenities. Many folks elect to stay there and then drive to the park. They may or may not have cell service. Even from the closest one, its 2 hour trip to KSC when you factor in the stop at the gate. By the way unless you have Maine plates, you have to pay a road fee to drive in the park. I don't know the current cost but I think its around $15. If you buy a day use parking pass that will also cost you.

    Contrary to the complaints on the reservations system, it is quite straightforward. Just log on the BSP site and do a dry run or call the folks at the headquarters as they can be quite helpful.

    The closest place to jump in a lake after his hike is Abol Pond swimming area or the lake just past the main gate where there is a swimming area. The best restaurant by far north of Bangor is the River Drivers Restaurant at the Twin Pines Campground off the road back to Millinocket. Not cheap but great food.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bob Kittredge's Avatar
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    I've never tried it, but I should think that any number of Baxter campers would be tickled to give a genuine AT thru-hiker a lift to the front gate, to Millinocket, to southern Maine or even to Boston (though he might want to shower first). It might take him a few days to line up a ride, but that gives him time to call home and let you get started.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member Guthook's Avatar
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    Peakbagger says it all! I would just reiterate one point about reserving a campsite, and add one.

    First, do call the park office– they are very helpful, especially for first-timers who haven't used the reservation system before.

    Second, I've had great luck with last minute reservations at Nesowadnehunk Field campground. It's about a half hour drive from Katahdin Stream, so not too bad for base camping. And it's way more gorgeous than Abol and KSC. And there's a great swimming spot on the way there, which may be good as an alternative to hosing your son down.
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    I was going to mention Nesowadnehunk Field but couldn't spell it. I agree there are some nice spots and the drive past Doubletop is one of the nicest views on a road in the park. I even heard from a ranger at opening day that the park is going to brushhog the field which was looking pretty grown in a few years ago. I would probably bump the 1/2 hour up to 45 minutes for the drive to KSC. If there are any fisherman in the group the road from the field to KSC follows a brook with lots of variety of water. There is also a spot along the road with a slate bed in the stream that is loaded with slate rocks with small sea shell impressions in them.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Puck's Avatar
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    thanks guys. these are meaty answers.
    Trail adopter Dry river Cut-off.

  7. #7
    Senior Member TJ aka Teej's Avatar
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    Thanks Peakbagger!
    One caution - avoid a Labor Day Weekend finish.
    Not only is Katahdin Stream Campground completely booked by the Penobscot Nation, there's seldom any parking at all.
    Pick up your feet!

  8. #8
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    I have checked in with a ranger multiple times at KSC and other campgrounds and offered rides for thru hikers, I have never been taken up on the offer as many folks make the same offer. I believe the AT lodge in Millinocket does a daily shuttle to their lodge in the Millinocket and then shuttles folks to the Irving station in Medway.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Guthook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    I was going to mention Nesowadnehunk Field but couldn't spell it.
    Haha. Ever since I learned to pronounce and spell it, I do both as often as I can ;-)
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  10. #10
    Senior Member 1SlowHiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Kittredge View Post
    I've never tried it, but I should think that any number of Baxter campers would be tickled to give a genuine AT thru-hiker a lift to the front gate, to Millinocket, to southern Maine or even to Boston (though he might want to shower first). It might take him a few days to line up a ride, but that gives him time to call home and let you get started.
    I gave a section hiker and his dog finishing their last 100 mile section to Millinocket to get cell service. I would have gladly given him a lift to his car at the start of the 100 mile wilderness, but he wanted to hang in town for a while. Evidently there are numbers that they can call volunteers for a lift. And yes I was tickled pink.
    BTW though he may get cell service on the summit you probably wont down low in the park. There is a road section nick named the phone-booth XX miles from the gate were you can get phone service.
    Last edited by 1SlowHiker; 01-22-2015 at 10:46 AM.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Papa Bear's Avatar
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    Couple of ideas not mentioned:

    1) When we finished the 100 Mile Wilderness, we stayed a night at Abol Bridge C.G. There are actually 2 there: a State Park c.g. on the south side of the road and a private C.G on the north. We stayed in the private C.G since it had picnic tables etc. and there were spaces available. But we would have stayed across the road if we had to. There is a place there to resupply, plus parking (we stashed our car there before going back to Monson for the 100). So consider meeting your son there. You can also let him stow his big pack there and do the rest of his trek (about 10 miles to the Birches) with minimal gear. And if he and his cohorts stay over a night there with you, they'll be first in line getting into the park the next morning and so more likely to get Birches spots.


    2. After summiting we went down via the Knife Edge and Helon Taylor trail (don't go down to Chimney Pond) and hitched a ride back from Roaring Brook to where we could walk out to Abol and get our car. Not an issue for your son. BUT if you stayed at Abol you could get into the park a lot sooner than if you had started in Millinocket.

    Here's my report on all this: Abol Bridge / Summting /Knife Edge / Back to Abol

    3. Summit with him! Why not.

    4. We stayed at Big Moose cabins, near Katahdin Lake and close to the Baxter gate for a few days of peak bagging. Nice place and much closer than Millinocket. We had a cabin with a kitchen. Assuming it's still there, it's another good alternative for a place to stay.

    Good memories. 10 years ago. Seems like yesterday.
    Last edited by Papa Bear; 01-22-2015 at 11:14 AM.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Whiteman's Avatar
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    And don't forget to check the Baxter State Park website for all of the latest updates and rules changes.
    http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/
    -David

    41/46, 48/48, 66/67, 109/115 (and closing fast)

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