Tag Archives: Maine

View from North Brother mountain in Maine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

Maine’s North Brother: 4,143 Feet

What a feeling of being in a remote wilderness when you go to Baxter State Park—because you really are in a truly vast wilderness! The drive to get there takes time, and planning is needed to stay there. Baxter has just one dirt perimeter road. The intent of the park bylaws is to keep the park wild and free in nature, and in my opinion, they are doing a good job of it.

Each time I go to Baxter State Park, my goals are to see moose, to climb one or more peaks, and to enjoy rustic camping. On my trip earlier this month, I planned to summit North Brother. This mountain is one of fourteen 4,000 Footers in Maine, and for me, it is my last one. A year ago, my young friend Kevin agreed to join me on this adventure.

We arrived the night before the climb and set up our tents at Katahdin Stream Campground, where we enjoyed a campfire. There was a great view of Mt Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine: I have climbed this great mountain many times on different trails, but I had never before considered climbing the other mountains within the park. However, this time I was climbing North Brother.

There was a heavy rain the first night we camped, and at dawn I drove towards Marston Trail Head. Along the way, I looked for moose in the ponds along the dirt road, but no luck.

At 6:50 am we were on the trail in light rain. We followed a stream a short distance, and then crossed other streams several times, including Roaring Brook. From almost the beginning, it was steep climbing. It was a strenuous hike until we reached the floor of a ravine, near a small pocket pond. From there began the more difficult scramble over and around rocks and large boulders, up the south slope of the Cross Range at 3.8 miles, to a trail junction between North and South Brother. Taking the left trail to North Brother was a steep, difficult climb.

We were in the clouds, the rocks were slippery, and the trail was a stream of water from heavy rain the previous night. I felt like a monkey, using my hands to cling to branches and pull myself up, and I used every limb to go over the rocks and roots between the trees.

Madelyn Given at the top of North Brother mountain in Maine: 4,143 feet!

Madelyn Given at the top of North Brother mountain in Maine: 4,143 feet!
(click on the photo to enlarge it)

The last few tenths of a mile had exposed rocks, it was very windy, and we were totally in the clouds with no visibility. But I was happy to reach the sign: 4,143’!

I knew what I faced when I turned around and slowly headed down the trail. I put my trekking poles aside the pack and instead grabbed branches and rocks to work my way down the roughest parts. It was 4:10 pm when we reached Slide Dam Picnic area, the base of the trail.

I had originally planned to do South Brother (which is 3,942’) on the same day, but the conditions made for slower hiking, and it was necessary to get down before dark on that one, so I decided not to tackle it. Other mountains still await me for another day.

Sometimes there is a quest for the unknown, with challenges unforeseen. It was only quite recently that I decided to finish the last 4,000 Footer in Maine. It had never been a goal, as I just enjoyed hiking different mountains when I had time. Then someone asked me if I had hiked the 4,000 Footers of Maine. I checked the AMC list for New England with 65 peaks (plus 4 or 5 more not on their list but over 4,000’). I noticed I had already climbed ¾ of them, and with only a couple left to go, I made it happen.

Now I will decide what’s next. It is a great experience to hike in such a beautiful environment as Maine. It is nature at its best, and I am grateful to be able to enjoy this special place.

(posted August 30, 2016)

My dog Truffles is an ideal hiking companion. Photo by Madelyn Given.

My Hiking Sidekick

How can a four-legged furry creature make such a difference to a day hiker?! My dog Truffles has a way of motivating me towards a day hike, better than some of my hiking friends.

The moment I head to the outside door, her manner changes, as she eagerly anticipates an adventure ahead. By the time I am lacing up my hiking boots, she is rolling on the floor under my feet and on top of my boots, slowing down my progress. But by now she has brought a smile to my face.

When we are hiking, she is fun to watch as she crosses streams and finds her way over and around rocks. She is upbeat and wears a smile across her face. She is beaming with happiness. She loves to be in the lead but will never go out of sight. She stops to check to make sure I am O.K. before going on again.

When Truffles was young and learning obedience and behaviors, I prepared to put her on a leash to go in our yard. She plainly explained, “If you don’t put a leash on me in our yard I promise not to run off.” I said, “O.K. we will try it.” I have never had to put a leash on and she has never needed to be reminded. Only in public places—and she knows the rules.

She is a good hiking dog because she doesn’t bark or yip and goes quietly along without bothering nature. She enjoys seeing birds, squirrels, and even cats, and she wags her tail with excitement, but does not chase them. She promised she didn’t want a leash and this is foremost on her mind, good behavior. She has never been scolded or reprimanded and is proud of her behavior.

Truffles likes to go on familiar trails and has a great memory. It is fun to watch her find and point out places special to her. She is willing to try new trails and travels at a good steady pace. She is curious and friendly to people, pets, and nature. She doesn’t dig holes to disturb animal homes.

She asks for help if something unusual comes up, such as going across plank boardwalks for the first time. Then she gets it very quickly and won’t ask for help with the same obstacle again. It’s all part of each new adventure.

Warm days are nice, but Truffles isn’t daunted by rain or snow. We haven’t encountered a bear or moose yet, but I believe she would run to me for help.

After a good hike, she is still smiling and her tail is wagging, too. It’s her way of saying thanks for taking me—and when do we go again? What a joy to hike with such a dog: she brightens each day.

(posted June 7, 2016)

My dog aside, there is lots of wildlife around this bridge in the forest in Maine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

The Little Bridge in the Woods

Back at home in Maine, there is a small bridge in the woods, where I walk nearly every day. The bridge used to be part of a railroad track, but the rails and ties are long gone; only a sturdy bridge and a path now remain. Years ago, the trains traveled across this little bridge, carrying passengers and their luggage trunks to a country depot not far from here, along the spur through these woods. At the depot, there were carriages waiting to bring the guests to the grand hotel, along with wagons to carry the trunks and baggage, and the guests would spend the summer here. Over the little bridge came Queen Victoria, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts.

Now only woodland animals cross over the bridge, and a pair of bald eagles circles it almost every day, looking for fish where the stream leads into the pond. There is much activity about this little bridge that goes unnoticed by most humans. The stream is concealed by an island, with a marsh and wooded shoreline perfect for birds and small wild animals.

Here I sit quietly and watch nature unfurl in front of me. Ducks, sometimes four or five, fly down one behind the other in a perfect row, then hit the water—splash! They’re home safely. A blue heron calls this its territory, too. Ever so deftly, the heron lifts one long leg up and out of the water and ever so slowly places it down ahead, and then lifts the other up and out of the water and places it slowly back down, never making so much as a ripple or sound.

The muskrat is a flighty little animal. It is a fast swimmer and it is all business as it goes along its route and makes a beeline across the water. The muskrat is weary of the falcon that sits high on a branch of the big pine tree on the island. A pair of bald eagles that have a nest on another nearby island on this pond. Each day they can be seen circling overhead, watching for a fish. Down, down one will come straight to the water and snatch the fish with the deadly talons and try to rise up out of the water. It is an effort for this heavy bird and it struggles and slowly gains momentum, until it is high enough to land on a big bare branch near the water. There it will pause and eat the fish.

A pair of Canadian geese decided this area near the bridge would be a good place for a nest, and every year they return and take charge of the area. They march up and down the shore and swim about near the shoreline, telling the ducks and woodland animals that this is their home. Frogs, squirrels, and song birds have their home around the little bridge. A pileated woodpecker can be heard with the loud rat-a-tat-tat, and a woodpile under each tree tells that it has been there.

A pair of red-winged blackbirds lives in the marsh near the little bridge, and their song is very distinct, saying, “We are here.” Deer cross the bridge during the day, and raccoons scurry across it at night. Turtles live in the stream and pond below the bridge. Sometimes on a warm day, they sit on a rock, or line up on a fallen log which is jutting out into the water.

It is the simplest of things that make life so enjoyable. A few brief moments in nature can bring such peace and calm to our daily lives. Life around a little bridge has much to offer us.

(posted May 31, 2016)