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Super Moderator
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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
I had five days at BSP last week. I hit some new territory and learned a few things along the way and got to see some new things.

We took the “new” Wassataquoik Lake trail (the trailhead was relocated to Nesowadnehunk campground several years ago). Its a nearly flat well graded trail with a few minor ups and downs. It goes through wet areas in its first half. There are bog bridges but they are the BSP style of one wide (10 to 12”) board instead of two boards and many have curves in them. They can be greasy. This section is probably real buggy earlier in the season. After the Center Pond shelter spur it transitions to woods with rolling low hills until the last steep 300 foot climb to Little Wassataquoik Lake. From there it is a steep drop to the Wassataquoik Lake. I did a quick walk out the spur to shelter on the west end of the lake, nice views east over the lake. The hike from the spur to the other end of the lake is quite rocky as it is at the base of talus slide and quite separated from the shore of the lake. The Wassataquoik Island shelter is on the far end of the lake separated from the shore by 100 feet of water. It is unique experience but the shelter is located facing east to the shore and in a low hollow. It is great for weather protection from westerly storms and good for swimming away from any choppiness on the lake but not big on views. I had been skunked over the years a couple of times on getting to this shelter and must say I would probably select the shelter on the west end of the lake next time.

The next day we stopped by Russell Pond campground that looked like it had not had any recent changes. We then heading up the Northwest Basin trail. This trail starts out as a wide old logging road but after the Northern Peaks junction it is growing in a bit. It is still nice going until the crossing of Annis brook (with its pile of artifacts). The trail gradually drops down into the floodplain of Wassataquoik Stream and from there it was quite juicy in spots. Definitely in need of new bog bridges in many spots and beavers are trying to make things even wetter. The trail gradually dries up and starts the climb up the headwall to Lake Cowles. Once on top of the headwall, the former trench through the brush now has a lot of bog bridges and a small pile of somewhat weathered replacements off to the side. The Davis Pond shelter is in good shape with a new metal roof. As usual the surrounding NW basin is hard to beat. The only disappointment is the old “ top ten rated for views” outhouse has been replaced with a far more conventional outhouse that has no view. On my last visit, the old Throne of the Thunder God was about ready to fall in the hole so I guess there was no choice but a quaint piece of BSP past has gone by the wayside.

The next day’s backpack was a long one. The NW Basin trail is a steep hike with lots of short switchbacks up to the top of the NW plateau. There is an extended wet section soon after the shelter where beaver activity is flooding the trail. Once at the top of the plateau we did spend some time rock hopping south to look for the reported cairn that marked the descent to the slide that drop into the ravine east of Klondike Pond. We did not find any and timing wise a trip down wasn’t in the cards. We headed to Hamlin and saw a lucky hiker heading north on the North Peaks trail from a distance. While heading down to the Saddle we met and talked with someone from the New England Wildflower Society. He has been in the park for several weeks collecting seeds from rare and endangered plants for long term banking in case the plants are wiped out by some future event. I asked him about Klondike Pond and he had been down there once. He didn’t use the slide going down, he went via the ridge that goes west from Caribou Spring. He did climb out via the slide but commented it was quite steep. We later met his wife who was out picking a variety of alpine berries. We also met a long term Hurricane Island Outward Bound employee who had worked in the state for seven years and had just gotten around to visiting Baxter. She picked a great day and after a brief chat we headed on. We then headed up to the summit and took a right on the Baxter Peak Cutoff and skipped the summit. It was a beautiful day and I expect some may question our sanity but we were rewarded with a nice lesser used trail with its own charms including some in looks to the North wall of Klondike Ravine. The slide route we were looking for looks decidedly steeper than Google Maps shows it. I would suggest that for a day hike up Katahdin rather than an out and back via Hunt trail to the summit, heading down to the Saddle to the cutoff and then looping back adds a lot of views and not a lot of work as the cutoff is near flat. One caveat is It is entirely exposed.

We soon hooked up with the Hunt Trail at Thoreau Spring. I haven’t been on Hunt for several years and the view at the edge of the plateau never ceases to thrill. The one thing that seems to have changed over the many years I have hiked Baxter is the braiding of the trail along this section. There seems to be no attempt at guiding folks to one route and the blazes are faded and confusing. The net result is a lot of dead end paths and damaged plants. Still a great hike made a bit more challenging by big backpacks but just a bit more worn. Once in the woods we started to encounter the new stretches of trailbed and great rock work and soon crossed the brook for the home stretch into KSC. KSC didn’t look to have any recent changes so we headed out across the road to the new AT relocation to Daicey Pond.
The AT previously had a dusty somewhat dangerous eight tenths road walk before it headed into the woods. That was changed recently in the past few years to a new alignment that skips the road walk. The one complaint is the mileage listed to Daicey Pond is off by a considerable amount. We were burning daylight and were looking forward to the end of the day and given our pace the time we spent didn’t line up with the mileage. I would guess the mileage listed was to an intermediate junction with the old route. Eventually we hit the Trailhead below Daicey pond and then checked into Daicey after my friend volunteered to ride my mountain bike that had been stashed there three days before to pick up the truck. It was late night and the gas lamp in the cabin and the wood stove were appreciated.

The big news at Daicey is they are building a new winter cabin right next to the storage building. It looks like it will be nice digs for winter users. I expect winter users may want to inquire when it will be open and available. There was also some lamentation in the cabin log over the park considering replacing cabin #2 and #4. I didn’t confirm with the staff but the writer was up in arms. I don’t have an issue with it but expect some folks have nostalgic memories over the old structures (that are decidedly well worn and not very efficient). I expect the replacements will be far more efficient and will become just as loved and far more valuable for late season and winter use.

The next day we did a short day hike up OJI to the Old Jay Eye outlook. There was stiff wind and the temps had dropped so we elected not to go all the way to the summit. A minor warning is that there is an interesting scramble into a crack in the cliff just prior to the outlook.

Prior to heading out of the park, we did take a swing by Kidney Pond. There is a new crew cabin facility on the way in that really looks a bit out of place. They are cedar but look like a couple of storage sheds grafted together up high on posts. There is also a new ranger station that looks more like conventional BSP structures.

Overall a hard to beat trip. The weather see-sawed from hot and humid to cold and breezy. The wood stove at Daicey was appreciated. 5 days of clear skies and no rain was also a plus. Sure beats getting evacuated due to a Hurricane during my last attempt to a visit to Wassataquoik lake ;).
Nicely done. I enjoyed the Saddle to Baxter Cut-Off descent this past July on my way back down to Hunt.

After an out and back across the Knife Edge, I only spent a few minutes at the Baxter summit due to overcrowding. Enough to drink and have a snack. Frustrating watching the summit steward constantly herding cats off the alpine plants. Then I saw nobody until rejoining Hunt trail at Thoreau Spring, a lovely ramble.
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