Baxter / Katahdin in Autumn, with an NE 100 finish: Day 3, NE 100 Finish

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Feb 28, 2012
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New Boston, NH
... continued from Day 2: Katahdin

Day 0 - Intro + Basecamp

Day 1 - Sentinel Mountain + kayaking on the pond

Day 2 - Katahdin

Day 3 - Coe / South Brother
- Drive to Marston trailhead
- Hike up to Mt. Coe via Marston + Mt. Coe trails
- Mt. Coe Trail to South Brother summit, for NE 100/100
- Descend via Mt. Coe and Marston trails

Day 4 - depart for home

DAY 3 - Coe / South Brother, for an all-season NE 100 Finish

GPS Track:

Photo Gallery: on Facebook (no account required)

The big day for me started with a more leisurely waking, and some eggs, and bacon. The hike this day would be the final one for me on my journey to hike the 100 tallest peaks in New England. Two in the group wouldn't be joining us; Brett needed to head home, and Matt would stay put at the cabin to give knees a much-needed break.

So Shawn, Sam, Andrew, and I headed along the Park Tote Road a few miles to the Marston trailhead, which sits in the shadow of Doubletop Mountain, another that has a trailhead at Kidney Pond. I wouldn't get a chance to hike this mountain again this time, but vowed I would some day. A thick fog cover lifted as we made our way to the trailhead, unveiling a beautiful, mostly sunny day.

We started up about 10:15am. Four cars were parked in the lot already, and a group headed up just 15-20 minutes earlier. We climbed the somewhat moderate pitch of the Marston Trail, 1.3 miles to its junction with the Mt. Coe Trail. We took the latter, mostly gradual until it soon reached the bottom of the Coe Slide, a largely smooth and wide yet steep ledge about 0.3 miles in length. As we started up the ledge we noticed a group of five were making their way up, nearly reaching the top of the slide area. We caught up to them shortly after we exited the slide back into the trees. They were doing the same two peaks but had been planning to hike back down the slide; we advised them to continue along the ridge and hike down the entire Marston trail, for a more gradual, safe experience (really not that much longer anyway).

Soon we reached the Coe summit, which pops you up above the trees onto a small, knobby summit to unveil stunning 360-degree views, most notably ahead to South and North Brother, as well as west toward the back side of Katahdin, where we were the previous day.

A few photos taken, we headed north along the ridge, down into the col between Coe and South Brother. As I progressed along the ridge toward the final peak, I was reminded of a hike I took a year ago coming back from Abraham toward Spaulding, in the Sugarloaf area near Rangeley, Maine. So many of these hikes tend to remind you of others in various ways. Mountain hikes flood all the senses: feeling in the trees and rocks you often use to keep your balance, and the myriad leaves and evergreens you brush along the way; smell in the clean, crisp mountain air, often rich with the scent of healthy evergreens; a heightened sense of taste of the food that may not make a big impression off the mountain, but high up it's the best you've ever had; so many rewarding sights, not just above treeline, but along the way in the magic of nature, small and large; and hearing that is equally compelling, whether it's the quiet of a winter's day, the rush of a mountain stream, the howling wind up high, or anything in-between.

Shawn, Sam, and Andrew were gracious in their support and encouragement, as we arrived at the junction with the spur trail that leads to the summit of South Brother, the final NE 100 peak for me. On our way up toward the summit, we crossed paths with two older women coming down off the peak -- they must have been in the upper 60s, maybe over 70. They were an inspiration to me, and I couldn't help but comment after we passed them, that I look forward to still be hiking when I'm that old.


The South Brother summit is a little more broad, and features some large boulders atop a relatively flat, broad summit. The bright sun shining down, soft wind enveloping me, I couldn't help but smile and feel such pride and humility at achieving a goal that seemed so far away, even just a couple years ago. I jumped right up onto the tallest rock and let out a triumphant yelp, hands held high in the air. Back down off the large boulder, I fashioned a set of Buddhist healing flags to my poles and held them high, along with a "100" sign I'd hastily put together earlier that day with Matt's pen. Following a series of photos, we sat and enjoyed the fine weather on the summit for 20-30 minutes.


More celebration (and a warm meal!) awaited us back at basecamp, so we got on our way. We took the same spur path back to the Mt. Coe Trail / ridge, and down into the broad col between South and North Brother peaks. As we approached the upper junction with the Marston Trail, the scene again became familiar, from my trip back in March. Even though there was at least 4-5 feet of snow on the ground, I could make out the area we were in, where we headed from the Marston junction, left toward North Brother. We wouldn't be going to North Brother or Fort today -- it just sounded too awesome to instead leave time to relax at the cabin on the water for this last evening of our trip.

As we progressed along the gently sloping, upper section of the Marston Trail, I couldn't help but look up at the canopy of branches above us; it's these same branches I and several others had to swim through back in March. Snow levels around this whole col area between the two Brother peaks are known to see unnaturally deep snow pack, per a sign at the trailhead. We saw it first-hand in March, when we were hiking atop several feet of snow, one foot of which had fallen just a day or so earlier.

We made good time on the descent and ended up passing the same group we'd seen earlier above the Coe slide, a short distance before we reached the trailhead at 4pm. Back at the cabin, we finished off a bottle of bourbon whiskey along with some burgers. As the sun set, some took to the kayaks again, others read on the cabin porch or by the water. I finally cracked open Not Without Peril, a book I've been wanting to read for some time, and spent a bit of time playing a Native American flute I've had for some time. I know little about it so far, just focusing on getting used to the fingering position and playing up and down the scale.


Once dark fully set in, I retired from the shore. Still quite awake from the excitement of the day, I felt the urge to walk around the campground. Headlamp shining the way, I wandered a bit, dropping by the trailhead to Doubletop. I wouldn't reach that cool double summit this time.

I continued on. There was a cool breeze in the air, announcing a front that would bring more seasonably cooler temps in the coming days. Walking along the access road with only my headlamp showing the way brought me peace and happiness. I had walked this same road several months ago during our winter trip to this same cabin. There's something about a simple dirt road out in the woods that evokes a true sense of getaway; a call to explore, and wander.

As I continued, winds were picking up and I began to hear rumbling. I'd been listening to music, really zoned out and not as aware of my surroundings, when I kinda woke up and realized I should probably turn around. Just as I did so, I felt raindrops. They pretty quickly increased, and within just 20 or so seconds I was running through a downpour. I'd been probably a half mile away from the cabin. Drenched but smiling from the fun of it all, I dried off and settled in for the night.

The next morning, we arose and packed up our stuff. I suggested we forgo breakfast at the cabin and instead stop by the Appalachian Trail Cafe, a place known for its delicious donuts and as a popular stop for AT thru hikers after their finish -- their John Hancock blanket the ceiling tiles. It was great to be back here, as we couldn't stop in the past two winter trips (the place closes for the winter season, along with the hostel of the same name just up the street).


Another great trip to Baxter. It's high summits, lower peaks, waterways, and water bodies offer challenge, awe, tranquility, and reflection, in any season. I have every reason to believe I'll be back for more real soon. Maybe another winter trip for a "take two" to try for South Brother and Coe? The winter New England 100 beckons next...


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Great report and super photos! Looks like a really fun group.

From one newly minted NEHH completer to another ... CONGRATS!

I started reading “Desperate Steps” right on the heels of finishing the Kate Matrosova book a couple of weeks ago. “Not Without Peril” might have to be next. Started it many years ago but wasn’t feeling it at the time. Stumbled across it recently in a box down in my basement.