There are many adventures hiking the trails of Maine, especially in Baxter State Park. Sometimes our small group would elect not to climb Katahdin, but spend a few days hiking in other places within the park. One of my favorite places was the hike to Russell Pond. It is 7.1 miles one-way from Roaring Brook Campground, at least a five-hour hike, and with children, we always planned to stay one night at the bunkhouse or lean-tos at Russell Pond. It is primarily a valley trail, with several ridges northbound between Katahdin and Russell Mountain. The biggest challenge on the trail is crossing Wassataquoit Stream, a large mountain stream. After a period of heavy rains, this can be a very dangerous crossing. It also has very slippery and sharp rocks, and with a heavy backpack, it is quite an experience. The water is so cold, even in midsummer, that your feet and legs are numb by the time you reach the other side. Years ago we didn’t have crocs, but survived; now it is easier. One time one of the children slipped and their pack had to be retrieved downstream. We were very careful with the youngsters and no one was ever hurt.
We often encountered deer or moose while hiking this route, which is a lovely scenic trail. You can see one of my photos at the top of this blog post. We passed Sandy Stream Pond, then Whidden Pond, both great places to spot moose or deer. The trail flanks South Turner Mountain and then ascends towards Russell Pond. Along this section is a house-sized boulder called a glacier erratic. Sometimes our group would take a snack break here under the protection of its gigantic overhang. There are a few brooks to cross and plenty of water along the trail. Each trip we would try to learn a few facts of nature, and recognize types of ferns, lichens, and trees.
Several trails merge at Russell Pond, making it a fun place to meet other hikers taking different trails. Northwest Basin leads directly from the summit of Katahdin (a long and arduous trek), Wassatquoit Lake Trail is a very long trail through a large portion of the park leading to Nessowodnehunk Field Campground (another entrance far from where we entered), and Pogy Trail is another long trail coming from South Branch Campground, also quite far from where we entered the park.
After our hike into Russell Pond, we would usually do short day hikes to Wassatquoit Lake or to the Lookout Trail, where we had a high enough elevation to get a decent view and to see Katahdin from the Little North Basin. Those who wished to fish enjoyed going far into the wilderness for a few brook trout.
One of the worst nights for want of sleep was encountered in the bunkhouse at Russell Pond. It was a rather small building, divided by a partition, and our group shared one half, while another party had the other half of the bunkhouse. There was a woodstove for heat and cooking. But the mice had inhabited the building in force. One person was on patrol, keeping the critters from running over the sleeping children, and people used whatever was handy—including hiking boots—to bat them away. The banging went on all night, as the mice tried to find the food, which had been hung in bags tied to the rafters. In the morning, everyone came out of the bunkhouse completely exhausted. We stayed in lean-tos every time after that stay.
Despite the mice that one year, Russell Pond has been a favorite place to hike and stay. It is wild nature at its best. The forest is pristine, and it is far from roads and civilization. It rests the soul and sooths the mind. She soothes my cares.
(posted September 8, 2015)