Baxter / Katahdin in Autumn, with an NE 100 finish: Intro + Basecamp

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Feb 28, 2012
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New Boston, NH
Day 0 - Intro + Basecamp
- Drive to Millinocket, Maine and into Baxter State Park
- Check into Sentinel Cabin, on the shore of Kidney Pond

Day 1 - Sentinel Mountain + kayaking on the pond
- Hike from Kidney Pond campground to Sentinel Mountain
- canoe/kayak rentals on Kidney Pond, $1/hr

Day 2 - Katahdin
- Drive to Roaring Brook campground
- Hike up to Pamola via Helon Taylor Trail
- Knife Edge to Baxter Peak
- Saddle + Northwest Basin trails to Hamlin Peak
- Descend via Hamlin Ridge + Chimney Pond trails

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 0 - Intro + Kidney Pond Basecamp

Photo Gallery: on Facebook (no account required)

My journey the past several years has brought me through the NH 48 mountains above 4000 feet; another round of them in Winter, and completing the 19 additional 4000+ foot peaks in Vermont and Maine. In-between these lists I've been chipping away at the remaining 33 peaks beyond the 67, which round out the New England 100 Highest list. With several trips last summer and this year, concentrated on hitting groups of peaks close to each other, I was within reach to complete the list this year.

I'd not really planned far ahead of time to end on any one peak in particular. But, as it turned out, I would have the opportunity to finish the last peak within Baxter State Park near Millinocket, Maine -- a place I'd been to three times before, once in September several years ago, and twice in Winter more recently. I scheduled things up in such a way that I'd finish with 99+100 being Mts. Coe and South Brother, which lie to the east of Katahdin.

Baxter has become a real special place for me; all my previous trips challenged and filled me in ways I've not quite seen elsewhere in New England. It's unique qualities as a real getaway with a myriad of ponds, lakes, and rivers, and solid hiking opportunities make this area pretty magical, and pretty much unparalleled across New England.


In an effort to make this a real excursion, I vowed to arrange a stay at Kidney Pond, same place I was at in March to (in the end) hike North Brother and Fort, the other two peaks in the same range as South Brother and Coe. I was pretty confident I could get five others to join me, so I reserved Sentinel, a six-person cabin on the northern shore of Kidney Pond.

I eventually got commitments from my twin brother Shawn, and friends Matt, Brett, Sam, and Andrew. Of them, only Brett had been to Baxter, several years back with me on a similar late-September trip. We stayed at the AT Lodge in Millinocket that year, and hiked only Baxter Peak via the Knife Edge. So I was super excited to share my love of this place with them.

Various details in place, we all made our way to Baxter. Shawn, Matt, and myself arrived on a Sunday around dinner time and settled into the cabin. The others would arrive later the next day. Driving from Millinocket into the park was a pretty surreal experience for me, with memories of the past two Winter trips over the past year or so still fresh in my mind. I'd been used to switching over to the Golden Road, the only close-enough access to the park in Winter; but this time we drove right to the Togue Pond gatehouse, and to the cabin at Kidney Pond; in winter you have to park at Abol Bridge and walk all your gear in about 11-12 miles.

Driving by the various milestones along the Park Tote Road (which travels from the main gatehouse along the western and northern side of the park) gave me such a warm feeling, and nearly brought on a tear or two: the junction of the Abol Beach trail and Tote Road; the hill that comes down to that point, where Jason and I rode our pulk sleds at high speed; stops along the Tote Road to check in with each other; Stump Pond, a beautiful yet eerie sight in winter; and Appalachian Trail crossing at Katahdin Stream Campground; and the Abol and Daicey campground signs. All brought back intense, wide-ranging memories of joy, solace, and challenge that few places in New England can provide.


I joined my friends Liz and Jason on that most recent trip to Baxter, the previous March. We stayed at Kidney Pond in cabin #7 (Sentinel) and made that our basecamp, with the goal of hiking four nearby peaks, all on the New England 100 list (Fort, North Brother, South Brother, Coe). Due to snow depth, we only got North Brother and Fort (hence the return trip to get the other two). At that time there were just a couple other people; the place was a ghost town, no rangers present, library building closed up; the only open structures were the outhouses and the wood shed, to feed the wood stove in the cabin.


But this time, plenty of activity abound with nearly all the cabins occupied, canoe and kayak rentals in full gear, folks fishing and hiking from multiple trailheads that lead directly from the campground. The cabin's doors were all open now (the ones that faced away from the pond were locked shut due to blowing snow cover), and the pond wasn't completely frozen this time around! In fact, it was unseasonably hot and humid with temps near 85 during the day. But the beauty and solace of the pond and surrounding area made it all so worth it, and the evenings and nights were perfectly cool. This far from civilization, you could look up into the clear sky and marvel at so many more stars than "back home" -- so clear, you could make out the milky way swath, almost like a huge paint brush swept across the sky.

continue to Day 1, Sentinel Mountain ...


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