Baxter - Katahdin - Brothers, Fort and Coe - NEHH

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Oct 4, 2006
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New Hampshire
Day 1 - Monday - Travel Day

On Labor Day Monday, I packed the car bright and early, including Gryffin (my puppy) and drove from my house in NH to my mother-in-law's in Wells, ME. There I left Gryffin with my wife and son, and headed north to Saco to meet Roberta, Whitney and Chris. We left three cars at the Park-and-Ride and just as it started raining, crammed clothing, gear, and enough food to feed a dozen thru-hikers into Roberta's truck. Roberta, the driver, was the only one without stuff piled on top of her. We drove north for 5 hours or so through various phases of a downpour to arrive at our home for the next 4 nights - Big Moose Cabins. Here we each grabbed a bunk, and Whitney and I set about making dinner for the first night - ribs, chicken, potato and garden salads. Making a charcoal fire in a camp grill was a challenge, but with creative wind/rain proofing from aluminum foil proved workable, and dinner was ready just as Mike and Stef pulled in. With not a lot else to do, we played some games and began denting the beer supply.

Day 2 - Tuesday - Easy/Rain Day


The famous landmark painted rock outside the park; Little Niagara Falls

The forecast for Tuesday was for a relatively warm day, but with a high chance of thunderstorms along with gusty winds and small hail. Since Wednesday and Thursday looked much better, and Mark wasn't due to arrive until Tuesday at dinner time, we opted to use our built-in buffer / weather day by doing a short park visit along the AT from Daicey Pond. Here we followed Nesowadnehunk Stream to Toll Dam, Little Niagara Falls and Big Niagara Falls. With all the rain from Monday, they were moving right along, producing significant white water and a decent roar. This is a well-documented "rainy day" / backup / half-day hike and worked out well.


Big Niagara Falls; Katahdin from Daicey Pond (Library Dock)

Once back from the falls hike, we ate lunch at the trailhead and wandered up to Daicey Pond campground just to have a look. Contained herein is the library, which has many books, informational posters, and a pile of board games. We hung around the library, porch and dock, watching the fish jump in the pond as the clouds slowly cleared, revealing the first views we'd had of Katahdin. On the way out, we stopped at Togue Pond for our second swim of the day (took an early morning dip in Lake Millinocket behind the cabins). Mike and I swam out far enough to see Katahdin through a cove where the trees were shorter. Quite an impressive site. We tread water for 5 minutes or more and just looked it over. Mid afternoon found us back at the cabin where Mike and Chef Stef made spaetzle and goulash for dinner (outstanding!) Mark showed up a little after we'd finished and had some of the still-warm specialty. We discussed the forecast, again, at length and decided to wait for the early morning. At 4:30, we got up and made breakfast, checked the weather, and after a lot of discussion, Mike made the executive decision "I want to hike Katahdin!" With Wednesday being forecast windier than Thursday, but 15 degrees warmer, and given an extra day to dry out the Coe Slide for Thursday, we all agreed that this was the best course of action.

Day 3 - Wednesday - Katahdin


Double rainbow on Keep Ridge (Helon Taylor); South and Baxter Peaks from Pamola

Had the weather favored a Katahdin (Baxter) finish, we'd have gone counter-clockwise, but today we went with the flow and followed the traditional clockwise Knife Edge loop. We were at the gate at 5:55am, armed with one DUPR, which was completely unnecessary as there were 20 unclaimed spaces. We parked at Roaring Brook and were on the way up Keep Ridge via Helon Taylor by 6:40am. The skies had clouds, but also large patches of blue, and the forecast strongly suggested a morning undercast followed by afternoon clearing. This is exactly what we got. The overcast and 25 MPH wind (gusts to 46 per Mark's Kestrel anemometer) provided dramatic accents to the already spectacular scenery. At treeline, we were greeted by clouds spilling over the tablelands and these clouds formed a double rainbow, accented by bright red mountain ash berries all around the trail


Stef down-climbing Pamola; Chris on the Knife Edge after Chimney Peak

Pamola Peak was the first summit of the day and was in the clear. Excitement was high as we could see the entire Knife Edge ahead of us. Only the tip-top of Baxter Peak was in the clouds. The contrast between the sunlit and shadows rocks hid many of the details until we got close. We down-climbed Pamola and then climbed Chimney Peak without incident. I had been told these were not as "bad" as the guides made them out to be, and found them to be challenging (on par or slightly more challenging than Huntington Ravine), but not scary. We made our way carefully along the Knife Edge, and while it was exposed, there are really only a few parts that are no-fall zones.


Chris almost at South Peak; Me on Katahdin

After Pamola and Chimney Peaks, the next named summit is South Peak. When we got there, it was just at the cloud level, with the views coming and going a few times per minute. We admired the Knife Edge route from above and marveled at what we'd just done. For all the times I've heard Katahdin and the Knife Edge exalted, it really is the gem of New England. The Great Basins are much bigger than the Great Gulf, and the walls are steeper and slabbier too. While waiting to regroup, we heard the joyous shouts of thru-hikers finishing their journey. Once all together, we completed the trek to the highest point in Maine, and got in line to take summit pictures. Baxter was #95 of 100 for me. It was the first time for Mike and Stef as well.

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After hanging out for 30 minutes at the top of Maine, we headed down the Saddle Trail and across the Tablelands. While on Baxter Peak, the clouds below us all but vanished, and as we descending, Baxter Peak opened up. There were still high clouds, but the views were all there and we could see all of South Basin, Hamlin, and Hamlin Ridge Trail.


Tablelands and South Basin below Hamlin; Me on Hamlin

The first third of the trail was over small, smooth rocks... baby talus if you like, or large marbles is perhaps a better description. Beyond this, the going is pretty easy. There are few spots of scrub here and there, mostly to the west side of the ridge, and not in the way of the views of South Basin and the Basin Ponds. The spring below Hamlin was running well, and although none of us needed water, I pumped some for a couple from Maryland who we'd leapfrogged all day (and thank you very much for taking lots of our group pictures, if you're reading.) From there, it was an easy jaunt to tag Hamlin for #96 of 100. Since the wind was blowing pretty hard, we dropped just below the summit for a final snack before descending Hamlin Ridge. This is the final leg of 6+ miles of above treeline hiking and from here, you get excellent views into both basins. The trail reminds me of the Osgood. In fact, the warm-up hike I did a few weeks earlier (via Great Gulf, Six Husbands, Jefferson-Adams-Madison, Osgood) reminds me of this day's loop, which although shorter, has more elevation and an even more spectacular gulf. Back at the cabins, we mowed down about 1/5 of Roberta's 200 pound lasagna along with more beer and some wine.

Day 4 - Thursday- Coe, South Brother, Fort and North Brother


Sunrise while loading the vehicles for Brothers, Fort and Coe; Picking our way around the wet spots on Coe Slide

Another early wake up found us packing the vehicles for the final four - Coe, South Brother, Fort and North Brother. We took three vehicles today so we had options in case not all seven of us were motivated enough to do the entire trip. While it provided some reassurance, nobody opted for the easy way out, and for that I am glad. We arrived at the Marston trailhead around 7, and Marvin (1SlowHiker) showed up shortly after. We introduced ourselves, having expected we might meet, and by 7:15 we were on our way.


Marvin (1SlowHiker) below us on the slide; Up-close view of Doubletop's Seahorse and Witch

The rain from Monday all day and the T-storm from Tuesday left a lot of water on the Coe Slide, but we were able to avoid the wet spots (or maybe we were able to find enough dry spots) to ascend without incident. Above the slide, we found a steep, rooty, and slightly eroded path to the summit of Coe. The morning clouds were burning off and we were treated to the first of four magnificent views of the back side of Katahdin. Coe made #97 of 100. I particularly enjoyed the Seahorse and Witch slides on Doubletop.


Me on Coe; Baxter from Coe

We had ourselves a second breakfast, or maybe an early lunch, and struck out for South Brother. This bit of trail was softer than most trails in the Whites. There are sections which are full of roots and rocks, but it was pretty easy going. The ascent of South Brother is via a spur trail and this trail is steep and goes over boulders the size of small cars. Caution is warranted as there are many holes and gaps into which one could slip and hurt a leg or ankle. On the top we ate while enjoying the warmth of the sun in the lee of the big rocks, all while staring at Katahdin, about 4.75 miles distant (summit of South Brother to Summit Baxter Peak is 4.75 per my GPS).


Me on South Brother; Me on Fort

Next up was North Brother... with a twist. I wanted to finish both the NE67 and NE100 together, so when we got close, I walked on the talus some 20' below and 50' away from the summit. I did not even look at the summit sign. Backing up for a second, the trail to the jct. with the Marston Trail was in great shape, but once it headed up to North Brother, it was wet, with pooled and running water up to several inches deep. The trail base is firm - rock, root or sand, and so sinking was minimal and it was not overly difficult to keep our boots dry.

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Fort Mountain, West summit view to East summit and Katahdin; The Traveler

The trip to Fort was pretty straight forward. Descending from North Brother to the north and west, there are several cairns which led us to the former trail, which is grown in, but still very easily followed. The few spots that are snarled have surveyor tape indicating the direction of travel. Several spots are still wide open. Despite being officially unmaintained, there are signs that someone has been through with loppers and a saw - plenty of cut up blowdowns and snipped (brushed) trees. Even a few freshly cut (not yellowed) spruce boughs were on the ground in spots. Fort offered us the third awesome view of Katahdin today, plus the closest and best view of The Traveler. This looks really interesting and many people have recommended it - I'm sold on trying it on a future trip. We tagged the west summit, and then the middle summit (both have cairns), before retracing our steps to North Brother.


Me on North Brother (67/67 and 100/100); Katahdin from North Brother

When we got out of the trees, we stopped to shake out the pine needles and I lingered for a bit to allow the rest of the group to go up. As I approached, Mike came back down and I knew what he wanted. I surrendered my poles so they could make "The Gauntlet". As happy and excited as I was, it really didn't hit me until right then and I couldn't stop smiling as I walked up to and on top of North Brother for #100 of 100. We stayed for a few minutes, celebrated with some dark chocolate, and left due to the cold wind and time constraints.


Do hikers drink more beer than the average person? 35 gallon can of empties for 4 days and 7 people.

Thanks to all my fine hiking companions for their friendship and camaraderie, their food, cooking, cleaning, and especially to Roberta for driving.

All 88 photos

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Congratulations on the NEHH and NE67 Tim! Looks like it was a great trip and you got your weather window! Glad you all had a good time up there.
Great report and congrats on finishing two big lists! Awesome pics.

I'm going to be up that way in 10 days or so to hike N. Brother and Fort and yours was the second report I've seen that suggests the going is pretty easy between the two peaks. Probably could have grabbed Fort last year after tagging Coe and S. Brother but I was expecting a battle and wasn't looking for a late afternoon fight with spruce that day.
Great trip report, Tim, and excellent photos. And congratulations, on both lists! I believe the lasagna was only 20 pounds, haha. And I'm pretty sure the contents of that garbage can was minor carnage, lol. My stomach still hurts from laughing--a fun and energetic group that made for a great trip!
Great TR and photos. Sounds like you had a fantastic trip! I'm headed there this Thursday hoping to do all the same peaks you just did. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good weather.

BTW - Did you see any moose?
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No, not that we really went looking, but no moose either driving by the ponds or while hiking.

Tim; Marvin here. I almost hit a huge female trotting down the middle of Tote rd while driving too fast from N'sowdehunk to Roaring River Tuesday afternoon - luckily she was going the same way. I saw another younger female munching on frosted leaves just as I was leaving "Sowdehunk" bunkhouse friday morning to drive home. (I'll attempt to attach the picture) here.
PS: Congrats again! great running into you guys 3 times. I didnt get down from N. Brother until ~11pm.

I hope you were able to enjoy the present we left in your truck. Congratulations on grabbing #67.
Yes I Did! Thanks. How did you know Long Trail Ale was my new favorite beer :) I had never heard of it before until doing Mendon a few weeks ago and finding a bottle cap in the capsul. When I finished Pico, Killington & Mendon that day I stopped at the Long trail Inn, had a Long Trail Ale & Long Trail Burger.
After finishing the Brothers loop that day (11pm 4 hrs behind you) I toasted you (#67 + #100) with the LTA and myself (#67) with a Corona that I had carried up to drink on N. Brother, but it just to windy & cold.