Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pond-ering Baxter

After two days of great mountain hiking, capped off by Katahdin, it was time for something of a down day.  The weather forecast was calling for showers anyway, so it seemed like the perfect day to explore some of the ponds near Foster Field.  As it turned out, we had such a good time with our first day of pond wandering that we wound up doing it for all of our remaining hikes.  The hikes up mountains in Baxter are certainly spectacular, as are the views from the top.  We found though that the trails around the ponds and the views of the mountains over them are equally great.

Kidney Pond and Daicey Pond

Our first pond day included Kidney and Daicey ponds which are located directly across from Foster Field.  We started out with the road walk down to Kidney Pond and then took the Kidney Pond Trail and the Sentinel Mountain Trail around the southwest shore.

Doubletop over Nesowadnehunk Stream from Kidney Pond Rd

Mt Katahdin over Kidney Pond

Kidney Pond Trail

At the intersection with the Kidney Pond Outlet Trail the trail sort of disappears into the brush.  It's still there and there are streamers tied to the bushes to mark it (how un-Baxter-like).  It's not much short of a bushwhack.  The reason is found at the end where you have to cross the outlet from Daicey Pond.  There used to be a bridge here, but now you have to wade the stream.  The ranger let us know about this and it was no big deal.

Remains of bridge at stream crossing to Daicey Pond

The option when the bridge is gone

That was easy - and this is a nice lunch spot

After stopping for lunch we headed around the north shore of Daicey Pond on the AT.  Really beautiful forest here.  By the time we got to the east end of the pond it had started to lightly rain.  The camera got put away at that point but we still enjoyed the walk around the rest of the pond.  When we got back to the Daicey campground we decided to make the 2 mile road walk back to Foster Field instead of returning on the trails.  It was actually a nice walk in the rain and we'd get back here to get the pond views another day.

Heading around the north shore of Daicey Pond on the AT

Bet the through hikers wish the whole AT was like this!

Daicey Pond

So green

Nat walkin' the AT

Doubletop and Squaws Bosom over Daicey Pond

Foreboding skies - here comes the rain

Sandy Stream Pond and Katahdin Lake

After a day off to wait out the torrential rain on Thursday we headed out Friday for our second day around and on the water.  Sandy Stream Pond is located next to the Roaring Brook campground, and is known for being one of the best places in the park for wildlife viewing.  Having seen nothing more than chipmunks and squirrels (and hearing some owls) so far we really wanted something a bit larger.  Moose anyone?  We got another very early start, knowing that the Roaring Brook lot would fill early with Katahdin hikers (and because the wildlife are early risers too).  We were on the road at 5:00am and headed straight out to the pond when we parked.  Apparently 6am is still too late for moose.  <sigh>  We got plenty of great mountain views over the pond though.

Mt Katahdin over Sandy Stream Pond

Pamola Peak

North Basin

North Basin

That must be where all the wildlife is

There are several viewpoints along the southeast shore of the pond which include Big Rock Perhaps the best one is at the pond outlet on the east end.

South Turner

From Big Rock

Nat on Big Rock

Sandy Stream Pond outlet

Another angle on North Basin

Saddle Slide (center).  Did we really go down that?

We gave up on wildlife spotting for now and headed back to the car.  On the way we stopped at the ranger station and got the key for one of the canoes at Katahdin Lake.  The canoe and kayak rentals in Baxter are a wonderful option and a great deal at $1/hr or $8/day.  I was surprised when I got the key that the ranger didn't even take our name.  Nice to be trusted.  We drove back the couple of miles to Avalanche Field and the Katahdin Lake trailhead and had a leisurely breakfast on the picnic table there.   We then packed up and took the 3 mile walk out to the lake.  The trail is nothing special - like a wide access road at the beginning and rather muddy and wet in the middle.  What it leads to makes it most worthwhile though.

Confluence of Sandy Stream and Roaring Brook on Katahdin Lake Trail

We knew they were here - just didn't see them

Lots of bog bridge walking

And a bit of muddy stream walking (that's the trail)

Bear bags hanging near S. Katahdin Lake Lean-to

After realizing that the canoes at the lean-to are not the ones we reserved we walked the last couple of tenths to the rental canoes.  From here we paddled the whole perimeter of Katahdin Lake.  We had the lake to ourselves, seeing only one other canoe the whole day.  The views of the mountains over the lake were spectacular and we stopped at a couple of the small, sandy beaches to enjoy them.  Most of the lake shore is boulders and we had to wait until we were 3/4 of the way around before we came to a stopping spot where we had our lunch on the shore.

Canoe pick-up

Nat preparing to paddle

First views on the lake.  Clouds boiling off Pamola

Cloud-rays eminate from North Turner with the Travelers in the distance

South and North Turner

Pamola looks angry today

Nice sandy beach for a stop

Glassy cove

More glass

Clouds gathering

Pamola, Chimney and the Knife Edge

After returning the canoe we went back to the shore by the lean-to.  I discovered that the water here is very shallow for a long way and there are some great views to be had by wading as well as by paddling.  After grabbing a few more shots of the beautiful afternoon reflections we headed back out.  Our second day of Baxter Pond-ering had been even better than the first.

Clouds in the mirror

Island in Katahdin Lake

S. Katahdin Lake Lean-to

The places we go to get a good shot...

Turners reflections

Spreading ripples

Sandy Stream on the way out

Tracy Pond, Elbow Pond, Daicey Pond, Big and Little Niagara Falls, Grassy Pond

On Saturday we took our final pond journey.  Grassy Pond is another spot said to be popular with wildlife watchers so we figured that was another good shot.  It also has canoes and looked like an interesting spot to explore from the water.  We weren't in a rush and had a big breakfast at camp that ended with Lori's Eggs Benedict.  Wow, this is bringing camping to a whole new level!  We decided to park in the small lot near Tracy Pond since it was a Saturday and we figured the Katahdin Stream lot would likely be full with Katahdin hikers.  There were lots of loop options for this hike and this was as good a starting point as any.  Tracy and Elbow ponds are both very pretty and are along a lovely section of trail.  We were again treated to some beautiful mountain views over the water.

So many ponds!

Tracy Pond with Doubletop beuond

Tracy Pond


Checking the location

Doubletop over Tracy Pond outlet from the bridge

Doubletop over Tracy Pond outlet from the bridge

Elbow Pond

They grow them big out here!

Mt O-J-I over Elbow Pond

Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life. — John Muir

Squaw's Bosom and Doubletop over Elbow Pond

Mt O-J-I over Elbow Pond
At the end of Elbow Pond we headed back down to Daicey Pond and around part of the AT section that we had walked a few days earlier.  We stopped at the Daicey Pond ranger station and inquired about the key for the Grassy Pond canoes.  The ranger had to verify, but there was one canoe not reserved and we got the key.  He reminded us that we needed to take life jackets.  No problem - we always do when we paddle.  Key in hand we now continued down the AT to check out Big and Little Niagara Falls.

Elbow Pond Trail to Daicey Pond

Kayaker on Daicey Pond

Hanging on for dear life

Mt O-J-I over Nesowadnehunk Stream from Toll Dam

Toll Dam

Big Niagra Falls

Below the falls

Carved rock

Pretty cascades

Little Niagra Falls

Little Niagra Falls

Above Little Niagra

We had our lunch by the falls and managed to avoid most of the crowds.  This was one of the busiest spots we saw the whole week.  We headed back up and did the loop around the south shore of Daicey Pond that we had done previously in the rain and then from there headed across the trail to Grassy Pond.

Daicey Pond

Squaw's Bosom and Doubletop

Grassy Pond

We arrived at the canoe launch and found both canoes there.  What we didn't find were paddles and life jackets.  What the ranger had told us was not that we needed to bring life jackets out in the canoe when we paddled, but that we needed to bring life jackets and paddles with us from Daicey Pond.  Hmmm.  Never would have figured this after having them with the canoes the day before.  Not sure we would have wanted to hike with them for over 5 miles either.  We were sorry to miss the paddle, but the pond walk was still nice.

Many piles of scrap metal on the shore of Grassy Pond.  ???

Grassy Pond

Mt Katahdin and The Owl reflected in Grassy Pond

Grassy Pond

Katahdin close-up

Mt Katahdin and The Owl


Leaving Grassy Pond we decided to cut back over to Elbow and Tracy ponds rather than continuing out to Katahdin Stream and walking the road back.  It was a bit longer, but it was all on very pretty trails.  A great choice.  We almost didn't make it though, when we met "the Guardian of the Bridge"!

Headin' home

Did I hear something ahead?

You - shall - not - PASS!!

Combat pose

Did you hear me???!!!

The evil eye

Eventually we convinced the Guardian that we had nothing with us to pay the toll and he finally relented and allowed us to cross.  We got the car and headed back over to Daicey Pond to return the unused canoe key. The ranger apologized for the misunderstanding, but it was fine.  We'd had a great day and I really wasn't unhappy to get back to camp a bit earlier and take our chairs down to the stream.  Going back to Daicey Pond also gave me the chance to grab a couple of final views...

From the dock at Daicey Pond

"The Greatest Mountain"

Marshes on Daicey Pond Road

And so our Pond-ering of Baxter was done (and Baxter Bash was nearly at an end).  We never regretted for a minute that we had passed up more mountain hikes for the pond wandering.  The mountains will be there next year.  Oh, and so will the ponds.

We noticed this sign as we were leaving the park.  One final thing to ponder...

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