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.
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)