Maine: Baxter backpack and hiking Cutler Bold Coast

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arm

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summer vacation 2021 ... avoiding crowds during covid season and exploring some of Maine's finest hidden gems ...

had good intentions to post a brief trip report on a six-day backpack in Baxter State Park, followed by hiking Maine's Cutler Bold Coast and visiting Acadia, but i've digressed ... sharing stories that might help you explore new corners of our round world ...

never-ending wishlists ebb and flow ... any time you explore somewhere you've wanted to visit, you meet Friends along the way who add to your lengthy wishlist by sharing stories of new places to venture ...

limited travel during covid has led many to opt for "staycations", choosing to vacation staying closer to home ...

lining up two weeks in Maine seemed ample enough to reach a few wishes on my list ... in this case, hiking new trails in Baxter State Park, spending nights at new lean-to's, and visiting Maine's scenic Bold Coast ...


~ backpacking Baxter State Park ~

securing reservations in Baxter State Park can be tricky, especially for back-country sites ... kept my eyes peeled on Baxter's reservation site, and negotiated their four-month rolling system to line up seven nights in the Park, including a Full Moon at Wassataquoik Lake and a night at remote Davis Pond ...

recent life turbulence added to this trip feeling like a "cure for what ails ya" and was reinforced when "Leave Your Troubles at the Gate" by Spirit Family Reunion surfaced among a random shuffle while driving through Millinocket, as it had on the way to a former Baxter Winter trip ...

entered BSP and chained my mtn bike to a tree near Katahdin Stream, planning to ride back to my truck after backpacking around up and over Katahdin, then drove to Nesowadnehunk where a lean-to offered a sweet spot to have dinner around a fire, play a few mando tunes for bunnies and get a good nights rest ...

a six-day backpack limits what extra "luxury items" you're willing to carry, but flying solo i decided to bring a small book titled "Now Is the Time" ... a collection of reflections matched with witty quotes which paired well with an introspective trek through nature ... a notion reinforced by the first quote i read after settling in to Center Pond lean-to: "Go out as far as you can go and start from there." ~ Albert Einstein

silence was deafeningly loud, broken by a late night solo paddle around the pond ...

forecast was rainish most of the week, though it rained only one night, after i'd settled in to the lean-to on Wassataquoik Lake Island ... one mis-step in a mucky roots rocks reggae section near the former Center Mountain Campsite wrenched my knee, leading to bailing on a short Pogy bushwhack ... Baxter has added a kayak to its quiver of watercraft along the Wass Lake shore, which provided a peaceful option to enjoy a morning paddle ...

2021-08-24_BSP_Wass-Lake-Island_canoe_crop_.jpg

Wass Lake is a special place ... Baxter has added another lean-to on its NW shore, a nice second choice if you have a tough time landing the Island lean-to when you're making reservations ...

2021-08-23_BSP_Wass-Lake-Island_lean-to_crop_.jpg

after a serene morning coffee kayak paddle, i broke camp and backpacked to Russell Pond, my next home for two nights ... i'd planned to hike up North Peaks Trail (on my wish list since they'd re-opened it in 2013) and loop down NW Basin Trail the next day, but the knee wrench wrinkled those plans ... until Ranger Greg posted a forecast of oppressive humid 85F at Russell Pond the next day, with 60F at higher elevations ... a hiking we will go ...

started up North Peaks Trail the next morning, crossing Wassataquoik Stream then scrambling over what i'd call an esker (purist geologists might disagree, but this is my story), before reaching a reasonable spot for second breakfast ...

gauging the North Basin i'd be climbing up into from that spot, i spotted a feature on Russell Mountain's western cliff face that resembled a Bear's Head ... not many have ventured this path in recent years, and most who have might've missed this natural formation through the trees, so it felt like a discovery ... keep your eyes peeled if you make it there ...

2021-08-25_BSP_NPT_Bear-Head_crop_.jpg

the crux of North Peaks Trail was the Couchsachraga style muck along Wassataquoik Stream ... might've been impassable after heavy rain ... someone claimed one reason BSP closed the NPT (in 2002?) was that it had been considered as a route for the IAT, and BSP opposed that suggestion ...

not sure what current route the IAT follows from Baxter Peak east to where it starts outside the park (haven't seen an IAT sign in BSP), and can't imagine many people have completed the IAT north from Katahdin, with lots of road walking (we saw IAT trail markers on Grand Lake Road on our way in to a South Branch Pond trip last week) ... found a 2017 update online:
https://maineiat.org/2017/04/01/the...-katahdin-woods-and-waters-national-monument/

i reached "timberline" as a trail sign termed, deciding to save the rest of the loop for another day, conceding to an urging from my aching knee ... made it back to Russell Pond to watch a moose bathe and dine ...

i'd carried a 30F sleeping bag for no apparent reason, opting for a small cotton sheet each humid august night, until i reached Davis Pond lean-to the next evening ... after reaching maximum funky body odor rating over five humid days, a cool breeze table-clothed its way over NW Plateau down across Davis Pond, refreshing my spirit and enhancing what Davis Pond had to offer, as if that remote lean-to site hadn't already highly surpassed my long-awaited expectations :)

my final day on the trail started up the steep basin headwall to Katahdin's NW Plateau, across Tableland to Baxter Peak, then down Hunt Trail to Katahdin Stream Campground, where GO was waiting at a lean-to with cold beer ... KS Rangers had found my bike chained to a tree and stored it in their shed, thinking it might be an AT thru-hiker's ride back to town?

feeling "tired but happy" as MtnPa used to say, i slept well in that lean-to ... next morning, GO drove us to retrieve my truck, then we went for breakfast at the AT Cafe in Millinocket ... after a 40+ mile backpack through Baxter's back-country, it felt like a meal fit for a king ...


~ Cutler Bold Coast ~

a few days after the Baxter backpack, a HFA Dr D met me at Cobscook Bay Campground in Dennysville Maine, where we'd reserved a tentsite as basecamp for hiking Maine's Cutler Bold Coast ...

backpacking the Cutler Bold Coast had been high on my wishlist for years ... but with covid season leading to crowded trails everywhere, we decided to day hike the loop, unsure if we'd find an open campsite among the five first-come first-serve campsites along the loop ...
https://www.maine.gov/dacf/parksearch/PropertyGuides/PDF_GUIDE/cutlercoastguide.pdf

4" of heavy rain the next day helped us decide to explore Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the USA ... we visited West Quoddy Lighthouse then decided that sampling local beers ranked higher than getting drenched hiking nearby trails ...

in the morn we drove to Cutler Coast Trailhead, hiked Coastal Trail to an outlook, then followed scenic Coastal Trail to Black Point Cove, filling our eyeballs with amazing scenes of crashing waves on coastal crags ...

2021-09-03_Bold-Coast_Cutler_Coastal-Trail_Arm_crop_.jpg

ranking campsites along the Bold Coast loop: FH-2 and FH-1 were stellar life-bucket-list sites, Long Point lacked their majesty but included its own private bay, FH-3 was decent, Black Point was small ...

2021-09-03_Bold-Coast_Cutler_Fairy-Head-2_crop_.jpg

if you're lucky you'll see whales swimming in the ocean while you're hiking this loop ... we settled for a few dolphin sightings, probably the first time i've seen dolphins while hiking, at least on porpoise ...

we completed our loop around Inland Trail, which was fine until we reached Black Point Cutoff, where trail conditions grew grim ... mucky swampy areas threatened to impose their will upon weary travelers and led us to wonder what the former route used to be like before they re-routed the extra mile of trail around a swampy drainage ... after a day of heavy rain, best bet backpacking this trail might be to hike Coastal Trail, along the coast to one of the finer campsites, then backtrack to avoid the muck ...

our loop hike covered about 10.5 miles ... 3.5 miles along the coast offered once-in-a-lifetime views ...
 
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Great report of my favorite area of the park. I think the new lean to on Wassataquoik Lake deserves some PR. IMHO except for the novelty of the paddle to the lean to on the island, the new lean to has the potential for a nicer place to hang around. The lean to on the island is set back in the woods a bit so no view. It is also on the outlet end of the lake where the lake is narrowing down to a stream. My guess is its potentially very buggy during mosquito season. The one time I stayed there, there was a front coming through overnight and it was great sheltered spot but unless you want to roam around the island the views of the main lake and the slides requires some scrappy bushwhacking or paddling up the lake. When hiking past heading to the island I took a quick stop at the new lean to. it is not right on the lake. It sits on an elevated shoulder near the headwaters of the lake with a wide open area in front of the lean to looking down the lake with great views without no need to bushwhack. My guess is it has a pretty consistent breeze that would cut down on mosquitoes and black flies. Its back wall is facing the prevailing winds. Fisherman may elect for the island as its easy paddle up the lake. I am unsure if the new lean to has direct access to the lake but there is separate canoe stash on the lake not that far away. Either site is a reasonable 6 to 7 hour backpack from Nesowadnehunk Stream trailhead following a lot of older tote roads. The first half of the hike if through low wetlands, lots of wooden planks and potential for serious black flies.

The loop from Russell Pond up the North Peaks to Hamlin and then over to the NW plateau then dropping down to Davis is probably one of the grand slam hikes of the park. Do it during the week, and you may not see anyone all day except for the far off crowd on Baxter summit.

I have not yet made it Eastern Maine to visit the coastal preserves. I tend to be a dayhiker and it looks to me that both could be thoroughly explored as a day hike but it sounds as though an overnight at the campsites is big plus?

Incidentally, I have heard that many of the rangers if asked will store bikes in their storage buildings, I dont think its park policy but I think it just keeps the campground a bit more pristine. I am tempted to bring my E-bike up there and use it to connect up South Branch Pond to Nesowadnehunk Stream so I can finally get to the area Between South Branch Pond and Russell Pond.
 
thanks ... Baxter's back-country is a beautiful area ! i'd like to stay at the new WL lean-to sometime ... there is a canoe reserved for that lean-to 100 yards herd path from the lean-to ... they have also built two new lean-to's near the LWL Campsite, though neither lean-to has views like the ones on the ponds ...

we stayed in the old WLI Cabin, our first time staying on Wass Lake Island in 2004 ... they tore it down a year later, and replaced it with the lean-to ... the old cabin offered four walls, a roof, a door and a floor ... i prefer the lean-to, but it was cool to stay in the old cabin ...

2004-10_BSP_03_Wass-Lake_cabin.jpg

september is my favourite time to visit BSP, black flies are sparser by then ... cooler nights, foliage and smaller midweek crowds after labour day line up pretty well ...

not sure if BSP would allow e-bikes in the park ... are they "motorized" ? BSP's online 2020 regulations state "operation of motorized trail bikes and ATVs is prohibited within the Park [except snowmobiles in Winter]"
https://baxterstatepark.org/rules-and-permits/

GO retrieved my bike from the Ranger with the bike lock intact, so i'm not sure if they cut the 6" tree trunk i had chained it to, i didn't wander over to check ... surprised me that they even found my bike, but they keep their eyes peeled for AT thru-hiker activity near Katahdin Stream Campground ... they might've been searching the area for AT thru-hikers who'd consider dirtbag camping if The Birches was full ?

ToeCozy posted a vftt Bold Coast trip report years ago that stirred me to explore the area someday ...hope this trip report moves someone to explore the hidden gems of Maine someday ...
 
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I have read the regulations and E bikes are not covered. It's a class 1 E assist bike, I.E. the only way the battery works is if the bike is being pedaled (No throttle) and the assist stops at 20 MPH. Generally, Class 1 bikes are treated as bikes. Acadia allows class 1 bikes on the carriage roads. https://www.nps.gov/articles/ebikes-prohibited.htm I do agree it is a gray area at BSP as the regulations obviously were written prior to e-bikes.
 
Nice write-up. I've yet to get to Baxter. The preparation and reservations have kept me at bay but maybe next year I can get up there.
 
Do not let folks scare you off. Assuming BSP returns to the normal online system this summer, online reservations are easy. Plan a trip Sunday night to Thursday night and the competition for sites goes way down. Go the week after Labor Day and the sites open up even more. The only really crowded campgrounds are the trailhead campgrounds for Katahdin and the two with cabins (Daicey and Kidney Pond).
 
Do not let folks scare you off. Assuming BSP returns to the normal online system this summer, online reservations are easy. Plan a trip Sunday night to Thursday night and the competition for sites goes way down. Go the week after Labor Day and the sites open up even more. The only really crowded campgrounds are the trailhead campgrounds for Katahdin and the two with cabins (Daicey and Kidney Pond).

Yeah I just need to do more research and get it done. Better yet, get some of my buddies to go with me. It's easier to go with what you know - which is why I'm always just returning to the Whites.
 
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