Last weekend we finally had time to take a week of vacation together and we headed to Baxter State Park in Maine. We took our time getting there and stayed at Peaks-Kenny State Park in Dover-Foxcroft for a night so that we could arrive in Baxter first thing in the morning. We really enjoy Peaks-Kenny State Park and even had a red fox run through our camp site in the evening.
We made it to Baxter State Park late morning with the truck packed with supplies to last us at least 5 days and made our way slowly on the Park Tote Road towards Nesowadnehunk Field Campground. Along the way we saw white-tailed deer and a moose, but Lindsay wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get pictures. When we arrived at Nesowadnehunk we were disappointed and confused. We had both stayed here in the past, but something seemed different about the place and when we went to the Ranger Station to check in, we found it empty with a map and a sign-in sheet. We both remembered the lean-to’s in a completely different place and we thought that if we could find the Ranger, we might be able to switch camp spots. Some time between when we were both last here and today, they had completely rearranged the campground; and when we had reserved the campsite, we were working off an apparently old map. We were sad, but we set up our tent in the lean-to we were assigned and decided we could live with our mistake (next to the toilet and the park tote road). As it turned out, the campground was practically empty and we could’ve switched sites, but since it was so empty we were fine where we were. And as for the road, one car every 5 hours isn’t too bad.
Our site did give us a fairly good view of Doubletop Mountain – our goal for the next day’s hike.
The early morning light woke us up to the frigid morning and we moved slowly getting ready for the day. The plan was to drive the truck to the Kidney Pond Campground area and hike up and over Doubletop Mountain, walking back to our campground. Then Andrew was going to ride the bike back to Kidney Pond Campground to pick up the truck.
We started at the Slaughter Pond Trail to cut off a little bit of mileage and easily made it along an old logging road for several miles. We had the trail completely to ourselves and enjoyed the solace and nature. At one of the last water crossings we stopped to filter some water before we started the steep ascent for the last couple of miles. And these last miles were tough. Lindsay thought the trail could desperately use some trail work – some rock rearrangement for better footing or at least some clipping of the overgrown vegetation. And the trail continued to get worse as we got closer to the summit. The trail was getting more and more eroded and could use rock steps, wooden ladders, or a perfectly placed iron rung. We are both long-legged and still had to stretch to reach up boulders to grab roots to help pull us up the trail. Andrew describes this part of the trail terrifying as he scrambled up the rocks, desperate to not look back down from where we came.
Finally we came to the last push to the south summit. The wind blew strong and Lindsay was exhausted, while Andrew felt uneasy so exposed, so we quickly made our way along the ridge toward the north summit until we could find a more sheltered spot to sit, rest, and eat lunch. For only a 3,000 footer, Doubletop Mountain is certainly a difficult hike.
After our rest, we continued on toward the north summit where we glimpsed down at our campground. Only about 3 more miles until we reached our tent. We headed down the north side of the mountain where we found the one and only iron ladder (unattached and swaying). The descent on this side of the mountain wasn’t as bad as the way we had come up, although there were a few spots that again could use some trail work. Does Baxter State Park have a trail crew? Are they focused so much on Katadhin that they never have time to do work on any of the other mountains?
When we made it down the mountain we stopped again to filter some water and then hiked the last flat mile that eventually brings you down close to Nesowadnehunk Stream. We walked back to our lean-to, but the adventure wasn’t complete. Andrew still had to ride the bike along the Park Tote Road back to retrieve the truck. He headed out and was hoping to see some moose, but was only able to see white-tailed deer. Lindsay stayed back in the tent, reading magazines in her sleeping bag as the sun set and the cold air settled into the valley. At one point Lindsay heard the gentle bellow of a moose nearby.
Just after sunset, Andrew pulled in with the truck and we set out to make our dinner. What a long and adventurous day! Tomorrow we would pack up and head over to South Branch Pond Campground for another two nights in Baxter State Park.