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A new start

May 12, 2017

I’ll be heading south in a couple of days to start hiking the A.T. again.  I have established a new blog for this adventure.  The title is essentially the same except it’s 2017:

frankrussellathike2017.wordpress.com

Hope to see you there – I always appreciate feedback that tells me someone is reading the entries.

September 30, 2016

September 30, 2016 Friday

Katahdin Stream Campground, Kidney Pond Campground, Daicey Pond Campground, Abol Stream Campground, Stump Pond, and home to Starks

I slept in this morning and then did some reading in bed before getting up.  I had a leisurly breakfast of two servings of oatmeal and an extra cup of cocoa.

My neighbors in Lean-to #4 came over and introduced themselves.  They are from Huntsville, Alabama and this is their first visit to Maine.  While we were talking, we spotted a mink meandering along the far shore of Katahdin Stream!  That’s the first I’ve ever seen!

September 30, 2016

September 30, 2016  Friday

Baxter State Park, Katahdin Stream Campground, Kidney Pond Campground, Daicey Pond Campground, Abol Stream Campground, Stump Pond, Togue Pond Gate

Today was a day of exploring by car to become acquainted with the campgrounds within Baxter State Park.  I slept in late and then read in bed for a while before getting up for breakfast.  I had an extra serving of oatmeal as well as an extra cup of cocoa.

While enjoying my first cup of cocoa, my neighbor from the next lean-to came over and introduced himself.  The couple is from Alabama and are visiting Maine for the first time.  After a brief conversation, he invited me to join them at their campfire and returned to his camp.

I did some packing and organizing and then took my second cup of cocoa over to their campfire.  The heat did feel good on a cool morning.  I met the missus and we all talked about travels and experiences.  They are kayakers and he apparently works with one of the tourist organizations in Alabama.  I understood that he oversees a region of the state and promotes water trails in particular.  img_9154-093016-fri-2

Iimg_9151-093016-frit was a little before 10:00 A.M. when I left Katahdin Stream Campground and headed to Kidney Pond to check out what is there.  On the way to Kidney Pond you pass first the road to Daicey Pond and then come to a bridge over Soudahaulk Stream where you have a beautiful view of Doubletop Mountain.

img_9146-093016-fri-2I arrived at Kidney Pond Campground at 10:30 and hung around until 11:11.  There are several cabins for hire and I walked the paths to have a look at them.

There are also canoes and kayaks for rent.img_9164-093016-fri

You can take them out on the beautiful lake.

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The ‘Library’ was the last place I checked out.  It appears it might have been the dining hall when this was a private fishing camp before the park.  There are beautiful views of the lake from the building.

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After enjoying myself for forty minutes or so,img_9210-093016-fri-2 I headed back down the road to Daicey Pond.    Again, there were cabins, canoes, and kayaks for rent on a beautiful lake.

I met a couple from Florida, making their first visit to Maine.  They were enjoying their visit and were visiting Little and Big Niagra Falls today.  I visited those falls while heading out of the park on my way to The Hundred Mile Wilderness back in June.  They were nice enough to take a picture of me on the dock at Daicey Pond.  img_9237-093016-fri

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I left Daicey Pond Campground at noon.  On the way out of the park I passed Katahdin Stream Campground, Abol Stream Campground, Stump Pond, and stopped briefly at Abol Pond, from where there is a great view of the mountain.

My last stop was at Togue Pond Gate for one last picture from the iconic view of Baxter Peak from the shore of the pond.  img_9265-093016-fri

It is so satisfying to think I have now been up there three times in the last thirteen months!  Life is great!

 

September 29, 2016

September 29, 2016 Thursday

I awoke with one of those starts that tells you something is wrong.  I looked at my watch and it said 5:30 A.M.!  Our alarms either did not go off or they just did not wake us.  I spoke to ‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ saying it was late!  ‘Southpaw’ allowed as how we could start at 8:00 and still have time to do the mountain.  He again told the story of how he had slept in Millinocket that last time he thru-hiked and had to come through the gate before he started at 8:00.  I think he said that was back in 2013.

img_8994-092916-thu-southpaw-and-downunder-as-we-start-the-ascentWhile ‘Southpaw’ got his stuff together, “Downunder’ and I wandered over and spoke with ‘Tinman’ and ‘Twix’.  “Southpaw’ finally showed, explaining the daypack he had borrowed from the Ranger had a broken zipper, so he had had to transfer everything he was taking today back to his own pack.  We were on the trail at 6:30.  That’s ‘Southpaw’ on the left and ‘Downunder’ on the right.img_9008-092916-thu-at-katahdin-stream-falls-with-geoff-ellis-downunder

 

Here we’ve stopped at Katahdin Stream Falls.  Since we’d be coming down Abol Trail, this was our only time to view the falls. img_9024-092916-thu-the-owl-from-hunt-trail

 

 

Here is The Owl where I was yesterday.

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This formation to the left is known as ‘the cave’.

 

 

It was a pretty uneventful day, just climbing hour after hour.  I was well behind the others for most of the day.  At first they would pause and wait for me to catch up, and then I didn’t see them for an hour or so.  ‘Southpaw’ finally kept going, while ‘Downunder’ slowed, apologizing for getting carried away and not taking time to enjoy the day.
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I think this is what is called ‘the Hunt Spur’ as hikers approach ‘The Gateway’.  It is a pretty intimidating view from here.

But even more intimidating on the map!

 

Here I’m looking back towards Hunt Spur where ‘Downunder’ has just been obscured by the passing cloud.

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Here ‘Downunder’ is revealed as the cloud passes and can be seen on the Hunt Spur.img_9062-092916-thu

Here we’ve reached The Tableland (4,500 – 4,750 feet) and can see Baxter Peak (5267 feet) in the distance.  Baxter Peak is the middle of the high ridge you see in the distance.  South Peak (5240  feet) is to the right.img_9068-092916-thu

Here we’ve reached Thoreau Spring

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Finally, 11:25 A.M., we reached the summit.  We found ‘Southpaw’ had arrived more than an hour earlier but had waited in the cold wind until we also arrived.

 

‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ knew several of the thru-hikers who were summiting today and they spent time visiting with them.

While it had been windy on the Tableland, it was actually pretty calm at the summit and not uncomfortable while we lunched.img_9085-092916-thu

 

Here I’m posing at the 13 foot cairn, built to make the peak exactly one mile above sea level.

The Ranger, and hikers who summitted yesterday, recommended using the newly renovated Abol Trail to descend and that’s what we decided to do.

 

img_9100-092916-thuThe thing about Abol Trail – it’s a rock slide.  A new rock slide closed the trail for a year and a half.  When  I was here in June, it was not open yet.  At that time they projected it would open July 1st.

Abol is the first trail I climbed in 1972 with Lyn during our honeymoon camping summer.  We came down the Hunt Trail, just the opposite of what I’m doing today.

 

 

This gives you an idea of what Abol looks like.

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‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ picking their way through the boulders above me.

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This is one of the newly created switchbacks so the trail is not all as directly downhill as it used to be.  Note the roots and loose dirt.  This made it difficult at times when I almost tripped on roots or slipped in the loose dirt.

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These are some of the new stairs made for the new section of Abol Trail.

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Looking back up Abol from an opening in the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We made it to Abol Campground at the base of the Abol Trail at 3:00 P.M.

Tha last hour or so was hiked with ‘Caboose’ and ‘Voodoo’, an engaged couple using the thru-hike “to get to know each other” .  They actually interrupted their own thru-hike by coming off the trail at Mount Washington to join ‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ during their summit.  They now plan to go back to the trail at Mount Washington and finish.

It is two miles from Abol CAmpground to Katahdin Stream Campground.  We were lucky enough to catch a ride with a hiker who had also just come off the trail.   He was leaving the park, but offered to give us the ride back to our campground before he headed out.  We thanked him profusely – we were all ready to be done walking for the day.

Once at Katahdin Stream Campground, ‘Downunder’, ‘Southpaw’, ‘Caboose’, and ‘Voodoo’ all climbed into their rented van and headed to Millinocket for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep after their long six month trek.

It felt good to have done the ascent once again – that is three times in a thirteen month time frame!  I feel pretty lucky to have been able to do that.

I prepared my dinner and got to bed pretty early after the long day.  Tired, but satisfied!

September 28, 2016 Wednesday

September 28, 2016  Wednesday  Trail Miles:  Trail Steps:  Total Steps:  Miles:

I awoke at 6:10 this morning and was up at 6:20.  I fixed my usual trail breakfast of oatmeal and cocoa.  I left the campground at 7:35 and headed up the Hunt Trail.  My plan is to explore the Owl Trail today, but first I went past that sidetrail and continued to the Katahdin Stream Falls, one of my favorite places in the park.

At the falls, I met a lady taking pictures with some pretty fancy equipment. img_8884-092816-wed-katahdin-stream-falls-taken-by-wife-of-a-hiker-who-was-taking-pictures I asked if she were a professional phographer and she said no she was just learning.  Her husband was hiking to Baxter peak as a celebration of his 60th birthday and she had the day to enjoy picture taking on the lower elevations.  She kindly agreed to take my picture with the falls in the background.

Back at The Owl trailhead, I started my ascent at 8:24 A.M. (4,851 steps already on my pedometer).  img_8888-092816-wed-2I have seen The Owl from the Hunt Trail for years and always told myself that some day I would find the time to climb it and see what the perspective was like from that vantage point.  Well, today is the day!

img_8895-092816-wedThe trail was relatively well-marked, but did not seem heavily used.  In places the trail was very eroded away.  img_8896-092816-wed

The skies were overcast and I didn’t see much in terms of views for most of the day.  Once I achieved some altitude, I did enjoy watching the wispy clouds flow in the air currents between the two mountains, Baxter and The Owl.  The Owl is pretty much directly west of Baxter.  I am not able to post videos on this blog, but the pictures are pretty neat as well.  I’m looking east towards Baxter here.IMG_8911 092816 Wed.JPG

There were some BIG boulders on the mountain.  One as big as a house!

Another was a sheared off face of rock.  Makes me wonder where the other half is?

This is a shear drop off, but you wouldn’t know that on a cloudy day like this.  I’ve seen this face of the mountain from the Hunt Trail.

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I finally got to what I think of as ‘The Owl’, a large boulder precariously balanced almost at the summit.  img_8924-092816-wed-the-owl

The light is provided by the sun backlighting The Owl as it fights to shine through the cloud cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are several more prespectives.

 

Oimg_8928-092816-wednce past The Owl it is not far to the end of the trail.  However, some of the climb was steep.  I’ll admit that once I had reached The Owl, I wondered about turning back, thinking there could not be much more left of the trail.

 

 

And then it got a bit eerie as the clouds swirled around me and closed in the view.  The clouds came up from the valley and flowed between the two mountains.  It was really neat to watch it unfold.

img_8934-092816-wedNext, I arrived at a cairn on a relatively open space.  It was from here that I could see that the summit was still a ways off, both up and to the right.  img_8938-092816-wed

 

 

 

Timg_8940-092816-wedhe path now led through a narrow wooded trail along the crest of that ridge.  img_8953-092816-wed

 

 

Once at the end of the trail (the nub in the picture to the right), there is a great panorama of a view from the northwest to  the southwest.  The map mentions the Northwest Plateau, the Pogy Mountains, and North Brother in that direction.

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I enjoyed the views for a few minutes and then headed back down.  I met a couple from Ohio on their way up just fifteen minutes or so from the summit.  That was the only other hikers on The Owl today.  I was down at the base of The Owl Trail at 12:45 and decided to make another stop at Katahdin Stream Falls before continuing to the campground.

Once at the campground, I checked in at the Ranger Station to see if ‘Downunder’ had registered yet.  No sign of him.  While there I spoke with one of ‘The Biscuit and Gravy Sisters’.  She said they had done 670 miles on the trail this summer and were here to celebrate the finish with friends they had met while hiking, much like I’m doing.

As I walked back to my lean-to, I heard someone say, “Is that ‘Loon Seeker’?”  Sure enough it was ‘Downunder’ at one of the picnic sites very near my lean-t0 #5.  He introduced me to ‘Southpaw’, ‘Tinman’, and Tinman’s daughter ‘Twix’.  These were the folks he had been hiking with recently.  They caught me up on their experiences in The Hundred Mile Wilderness and their expectation to do Baxter tomorrow.  I said I was there to do it with them and looking forward to it.

Throughout the remainder of the afternoon, they greeted and visited with other thru-hikers they knew and compared notes.  I sensed that they did not have firm plans for the overnight, so I invited them to join me in my lean-to.  They agreed that it would be nice not to have to set up and take down a tent, so they accepted my invitation.   We adjourned to Lean-to #5 and made our dinners.

We decided we wanted to get an early start, so ‘Southpaw’ and I both set alarms for 5:00A.M. and went to bed soon after we cleaned up our meal.

 

September 27, 2016, Tuesday

September 27, 2016, Tuesday  Trail Miles:   Trail Steps:   Total Steps:    Miles:

Today I traveled to Baxter State Park in hopes of meeting up with ‘Downunder’, a hiker from Australia I hiked with for a bit earlier in the spring down south.

I got up about 6:30, showered and then soaked in the hot tub, as is my common ritual.  I fed the dogs and ate breakfast.  It was about 9:00 when I went out to walk the dogs.  This has become a tough time emotionally because each time I go out it hits me that there may not be very many more walks with our precious Daisy, our three year old beagle.  Last Friday our vet removed five tumors from her left lower jaw, scraping right to the bone to get as much of the growths as she could.  A sample will be biopsied and we should know in about a week if it is ‘canine oral cancer’.  The vet was understanding, but not very encouraging.  The prognosis , if it is cancer, is not very good.  We’re asking for positive thoughts and prayers.

It was about 1:40 before I left for the three hour and forty-five minute drive to Baxter.  The trip seemed to go quickly as I listened again to last night’s presidential debate and the follow-up analysis.

Just before the Togue Pond Gate is this iconic painted boulder that I look for each time I visit the park.

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Then as you approach the gatehouse, this sign welcomes you to the park.

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This beautiful picture is looking across Togue Pond to Baxter Peak, which was hidden the in the clouds this afternoon.  However, tha water was calm and the reflection of the forest was beautiful.

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I pulled into my sight at Katahdin Stream Campground, Lean-to #5 at 5:25 P.M.  img_8869-092716-tues

 

img_8871-092716-tues-katahdin-stream-campground-lean-to-5After unpacking and organizing, I wandered and spoke with some thru-hikers.  At The Birches, set aside specificaly for thru-hikers, I met Quasi-Bird and Bandana.img_8866-092716-tues

‘Quasi-Bird’ is from Indiana, Larry Bird territory.  The ‘Quasi’ is from the posture he took while training at home to avoid hitting his backpack on an overhang in the stairwell that he climbed over and over.

‘Bandana’ is from Japan and, with basic English skills, said he has enjoyed his time in the U.S. and specifically his time on the A.T.

As we talked, we were joined by ‘Wanabe’, who thru-hiked in 2015.  He is back for a reunion with some friends from that experience.  He offered ‘Trail Magic’ in the form of zuchini bread baked by his mother.  An excellent treat.  I think he hiked the mountain today and invited us all to his lean-to for a celebratory campfire.

Back near my lean-to, I spoke with several other thru-hikers who will hike Baxter tomorrow.  I recall one went by the trail name ‘The Dude’.  They knew ‘Downunder’ and all agreed that he was one or two days back on the trail.  So it looks like Wednesday or Thursday that he will arrive.

Off to bed and a good night’s rest.img_8872-092716-tues