I had a fabulous trip into Baxter Park. As usual, my trip report will be heavy on photos and light on words. Well, except when I talk about Day 4. That deserves a few words. Thank you Steve W for letting me snag a few of your awesome photos.
Day 1 - Shin Pond to South Branch Pond ~ 10 miles ~ 4-5 hours
We all got in late the night before to the Mt. Chase Lodge . I have stayed here three times and Rick and Sara always are gracious hosts and provide us with a comfortable stay and a hearty pre-trip breakfast. It is also pretty awesome that Rick takes care of the shuttle for us. Thanks again guys.
After divvying up group gear and food and finalizing our packing, we headed out to South Branch Pond from Shin Pond on the Baxter Park Tote Road. The tote road is the only section of the park that is open to snowmobiling. This was a pretty uneventful ski there was nice snow cover and the going was easy all the way to South Branch Pond.
John and I skiing on the park tote road
South Branch Pond Bunkhouse
Day 2 - South Branch Pond to Russell Pond ~ 10 miles ~ 4-5 hours
This was my favorite day, a nice long ski with some climbing, a gorgeous day, and great people to hang with. Towards the middle of the ski, the snow began to fall in these big fat flakes and it felt like you were inside of a giant snow globe.
South Branch Pond
South Branch Pond...I like this picture because you can see everyone skiing.
The snow on the trees was perfect, almost like it was fake snow you see in department stores.
Department store snow
Russell Pond -inside the snow globe
Scott with the beer he carried 20 miles. Now that is dedication.
Day 3 - Layover day at Russell Pond - skied ~ 6 or so miles
I love Russell Pond. It is one of my favorite winter places.
Russell Pond Bunkhouse
Sunrise on Russell Pond
We spent the day breaking out trail toward Wassataquoik Lake to help us a little for our big push the next day. It was cold and windy, and we didn't cross Wassataquoik Lake thinking it was smart to only deal with the wind tunnel once.
Katahdin - check out the wind on top
We got back to camp to find a pine marten in one of our bunks eating our cookies. He left pretty quick so we didn't get a picture, but he was super cute and looked like this
Day 4 - Russell Pond to Nesowadnehunk Campground ~ 14 miles ~ 11-12 hours
This was a burly day, I would say that it was great training for Ironman Lake Placid (only 169 days away!) because it was super tough work and you had to push beyond being tired. I really loved this day even though it was hard.
We got out to Wassataquoik Lake fairly quickly because we had broken the trail out the previous day. The wind wasn't howling quite so bad as the day before, so we were all feeling pretty smart. We bundled up and made the crossing.
I am pretty sure Wassataquoik means F-ing cold in Abenaki
Things really started to get interesting after getting across Wassataquoik Lake. We found the trail and it climbed for a mile or so. The snow was like dry white sugar, and when you planted your poles it just gave way, and suddenly you were standing on your head. Or you would plant your skis and you would put your weight on them, and the snow would just give way. Or you would fall in a brook while trying to cross it. Or you (well, not me, one of the guys) would have to saw through trees to get through. Things like that made it more challenging for sure, and the terrain was pretty challenging as it was.
One of the many climbs out of Wassataquoik Lake
We climbed out of Little Wassataquoik Lake and got to the Center Pond Lean-to around 3pm or so. The original plan was that a few of our friends would come in from Nesowadnehunk Campground and meet us here. They weren't here, and that worried us. Either something happened and they didn't make it, or conditions are even worse down below and they were having as hard of a time as we were.
We ate quickly to keep from getting cold and got moving again. We reached Center Pond around 5 or so, just as twilight began to drop in on us. When we got there, we found that our buddies had come and broken the last 4 miles of trail all the way to Center Pond for us. That was so clutch for us I can't explain it, let me just say, we were really excited.
Center Pond, happy to see the trail was broken out
It was so good, it deserves 2 pictures.
The last 4 miles took us about 2 hours or so by headlamp. By the looks of things, our friends had at least as tough a time as us, if not tougher breaking that part of the trail because it was full of fallen softwoods that wanted to grab you. We moved much more quickly with the trail broken though, but it was still a lot of skiing by headlamp with some screeching downhills.
When we arrived at the camp, we were all beat. Our friends had the camp nice and warm and were really happy to see us. They said they really thought we weren't going to make it given how awful the conditions were, thinking we would end up in bivouacking near the lean-to. We swapped stories as we made a quick dinner, it was great to see Ben and Charlie, let me tell you. They looked as tired as we did. Needless to say, we all went to bed after dinner.
Day 5 - Nesowadnehunk Campground to Abol Bridge - 16 miles - 6 hours
I think we all woke up a little tired at the Nesowadnehunk cabin. We had heard that snow was predicted for the area by noon and when we looked out the window, it had already started falling. We got our stuff packed pretty quickly and headed back out for the 16 mile ski to our cars.
I don't have a lot to say about the ski, except if anyone tells you it is all downhill from Abol Campground, they are lying.
We were all stoked to get to the cars and get some dry clothes on and start the trek home through the newly fallen snow. As always, this was a great crew, everyone stayed positive and kept their heads when things got hard, and we laughed so much my belly still hurts.