Mullen (Baxter, ME) 300 of 300 ME "P"--done :)

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New member
May 18, 2005
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Orrington, ME
If you read my TRs, you know that i've been chasing ME "P"(prominence) peaks. I got hooked on "P" peaks looking for something to do after finishing most of the usual lists (46,67,115, NEHH, YALP, Views etc etc) and then reading PBs exploits on the 50 Finest ( first 50 "P" peaks in NE)-thanks Richard-found these fascinating, took me to places i'd never consider going to climb a mix of boring,cool and relatively obscure mountains.

After that, i switched to ME "P" peaks (Katahdin is #1 and after that, absolute height exhibits only casual correlation with "P", (prominence)--crudely speaking how much a peak sticks out from it's surroundings, think firetower peaks. I didn't think anyone had done the first 100 of them, so that was the goal--(not sure, but think one person is now in 80s and one in 90s?). Sometimes easy, sometimes a tuff hike or difficult driving approach--tons of bushwhacking. 100 done?, well maybe try 200, then why not 300?-by now my wife knows me to be crazed. Which brings me to Sat. After Barren and Poland, i am at 299/300 and now....

Mullen -3463'-Mullen lies north of Fort Mt in Baxter SP and while a few have made epic day hikes from Fort Mt or even Nesowadnehunk area, my choice was from Russell Pond, still a challenge. (thanks to Marc for the seed and jt for encouragement). This would be a rare multiday trip. Pack choice? the large, old bomb proof Dana?-never get it through the dense stuff-never, so it's my usual day pack going as light a safely possible and hanging stuff from it-no camera, big mistake, now sorry--missed many neat pics past 3 days. Was lucky and got a bunkhouse spot Sat/Sun with extended family of ME fishermen, nice guys-thought i was doing strange stuff.

Left Roaring Brook for Russell about 11 on Sat. Met the first of some nice, well meaning, but clueless people (seems to becoming common in BSP )He'd tried the "Knife Edge" trail (think CPond or Helon Taylor, wasn't yet l near Knife Edge) and turned back after an hour-"too hard". Wanted suggestions and i told him Sandy Stream Pond for moose-he sees S Turner on his crude, free map. I explain to him it's easy for some, but harder than the section he turned back on. He says "i won't quit" "will you go with me?" Shades of recent WMNF thread--yikes, i demure.

Hustle up the Russell Pond trail, been in there to 'whack N Turner. Closed in, viewless for most, PUDs and stream crossings (foreshadowing). As i neared the Wassataquoick junction, a nice couple a few years my junior are standing bemused. We talk-they were at SStream Pond, looped and think they're headed to Roaring Brook, but they're headed toward Russell-how can this be?, signs are very clear. We talk, i explain; they are gracious, but he's unsure i'm correct. I get a bit more "motherly"-they say OK and back they go. I head on, lucky to keep my boots on at all the iffy stream crossings until i hit the very wide Wassataquoick about 1/2 mile before Russell. On with the Tevas, boots around my neck; water cold, rushing a bit and hits mid-thigh in places, not dangerous, but interesting.

Meet my bunkmates, settle in, get a friendly 3rd degree from replacement ranger-he's unsure about Mullen, but satisfied with my plan, precautions. Filter 4 qts water, take a canoe on the lake (serene paddle and watch a bull feed on bottom grass for 1/2 an hour)-very pretty spot. I decide to walk up the NW Basin trail to see if i can find the old Mullen tote road-crux of my hike. Never get there, but find the Turner Deadwater so deep, i'll need to do the Teva thing. Watch the beaver up close and think about the bridges on all these crossings which haven't been replaced--wilderness indeed :).

Up at 5 on Sat, off at 6-cool, sunny day for my challenge (almost failure). Take the NWB trail, slog across the Deadwater walking on the remains of the last bridge, now on the flow's bottom. I know the old road is about 0.5 miles beyond the deadwater, but w/o the detailed description of tree configuration near and at that spot by Marc, i'd never have found it--start and early part is almost impossible to see-route is on it's way to being unfollowable in spots, but varies wildly with much of it easy to follow-areas of blowdown and growing in. A boggy area close to the start has caused some to fail very early on this route. After that, there's a long, easy stretch, dry and cake to follow. Streams are running moderately and i'm lucky (skillful?) to avoid getting wet while not taking my boots off all the time.

Later, portions of the trail become bog/brook, but still easily followable. Then (and i realize it's happening) i lose the path about a mile from Mullen Pond, my 'whack start...... retrace, search, retrace, search. Does it cross the parallel brook? I do, it didn't-now i am in hell--jailbar evergreens, steep, large slabs, running water--a mess--i flounder, lose time, get tired, get bit crazed. I’m not coming back here. I try to rationalize a Shishapangma scenario/ finish--I leave the reader to research this if not familiar (is 299 of 300 enough?) I get my nerves under control, 'whack directly west toward my original route and wala, hit the road, now path, about 0.25 north of where i lost it-have lost 45 minutes, much energy and some confidence. Follow path all the way to Mullen Pond. Great spot, isolated, high pond, super scenery, but i can't enjoy it--keyed to go "up" and on return want to "get the hell out"--sad, such a great place, surrounded by peaks and filled with lovable leeches.

I use moose paths and small 'whacks around the pond's south side to the NW ridge-now it's like many other ME 'whacks, straight for the top, zigzaging to take what Mullen gives me, alternating moderate woods with very thick jailbar evergreen. About 0.15 miles from the top, it gets really steep-thick ground growth covering large, cliffy rocks with hidden, "break your leg" holes everywhere--slow, reconnoiter, probe, pull, hoist. Finally the top,-open, rocky-views as nice as you can imagine. The "other" side of Fort, N Brother, the cliff/rock on Wassataquoick (cool name, huh?), Russell, Center, Strickland--so fine and sooo many blackflies. I search for the latest jar (jt)-gone of course--eat, drink, donate blood and rouse myself for descent. A different line, even thicker, but gravity helps me. Hit the pond, sit in the sun, stunning scene and try to be happy-hard as i'm not "down". Descent is "routine" if one can call it that-run across a large moose in the middle of the trail--well all his/her bones. I find where i lost the trail on ascent and still can't see the continuation in the "up" direction. Down, down, down, don't break your leg, don't fall in the stream --it's your 300th, no mistakes now. Cross the Deadwater, back at Russell-done, feel very little.

I lie on the canoe dock, sun streaming, watch my moose eating only 25 feet away-i munch on Jif Crunchy from the jar--life is indeed OK now. Later i chat with 2 pairs of hikers seeking advice. Again, good people, but jeeez, few clues. People just don't get it- "it's only 7.2 miles tomorrow"...yeah, but it's up the NW Basin trail, over that really steep lip up to NW Plateau and down the Hamlin and you're considering Katahdin as well..with a 52 pound pack and your friend isn't a strong hiker (carrying only 25)--are you nuts?? The second pair are doing the Hunt up Katahdin in 2 days and then across the Knife Edge-with 46 and 48 pound loads??? I do my best, explain the Pamola Chimney, the need to "downclimb" at that one point, etc--i hope good things for them all. My evening is a 2 hour conversation with long time ranger Brandon, a caring man dedicated to an increasingly difficult job. We talk all things hiking-places we've been, hikes to be done--he's happy for me--and yes, he pulls all the summit jars we leave. I love summit jars, but i do understand.

Out at 615 this morning. The Wassataquoick is really bracing--feet almost numb by far side. I can now cruise and take it all in--done, done, done--happy. Diverse tunes blare in my earbuds--The Clash (Magnificent 7, London Calling), Ligeti, early Bruce (Thunder Road makes me long for times that never were), Laura (The Bells always makes me shiver), Patti Smith, Dylan, Florence + Machine (yeah, even at my advanced age)--hiking, tunes, bliss--now it's all worth it

So it's done, the obsession fulfilled-not sure what to feel--so glad i did them, almost always solo, so far from anyone, past time to stop before something bad happens.

Not the Academy Awards, but many to thank and all will go unnamed--people have helped with advice and encouragement ; from the boards (Views/neb), from MFS, from logging industry and tons of people in "almost not even there towns"--kind all--thank you

Next? don't know-- CO for some 14s this summer, then perhaps Nepal--now 66, but far from dead i hope

and yet, the white whale is out there, always elusive, just beyond our grasp

thanks for listening

Tues addendum--lost my nano in the Roaring Brook lot?--so sad--i am stupid, just washed the last one a month ago

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Incredible accomplishment, Jim. Congratulations.
It's amazing to me that so few appreciate the prominence concept.
Nicely done, Jim. What an amazing accomplishment. Hope you are not done doing all these obscure Maine peaks. I enjoyed reading about each and every one of them, especially those in the Rangeley area and in BSP.

Congratulations to you. Good choice with the Clash, by the way :)

Ahh yes, the white whale. Nicely said.

Congrats on the accomplishment, I've enjoyed following along.
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J--wow, seems like it's been a very long time since..... how quickly i forget, sorry--hope life goes well

Wonderful, inspiring trip reports....thanks for letting us tag along. Congratulations on finishing, cheers, Stu
Congratulations Jim! A fine read of poetry for your last climb. Have enjoyed these reports for many years and will miss them.


What I think is your greatest accomplishment is not beating the thick stuff but getting up at 2 am and driving all the miles, I think I'm permanently stuck in the 80s due to my lack of interest in same

Well, assuming that you don't go for the 400 you've done the hardest of the ME 3k, and if I recall there are still a few peaks in the Adk which must be seeming easier now :)