There are a few “must see” spots in Maine and Baxter State Park is definitely at the top of the list. Our weekend family trip was to overnight Friday at Roaring Brook, try to see some moose at nearby Sandy Stream Pond, then hike up to Chimney Pond and stay in the bunkhouse Saturday then hike out to Roaring Brook Sunday. Just a quick trip and a first for our kids.
The Park’s reservation system is now on a rolling 4 month system with online services now available (AMAZING, as it used to be snail mail only. Really). I made these reservations in February, and Chimney Pond just opened for summer overnight hikers the day we were there, June 1.
I reserved the bunkhouse at Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond as I thought it may be cold and/or lots of black flies. Amazingly, it turned out steamy hot with a very healthy black fly population.
Sandy Stream Pond did not disappoint. Many moose and our friends had a nice up close encounter with a cow and yearling. The kids swam in the pond with a grand view of the mountain behind them.
Saturday we hiked up to Chimney Pond, which is only 3.3 miles but feels about double that short mileage. Very rocky and steep in places. Katahdin miles are not normal hiking miles, they are LONG. We took our time and took a few water/food breaks. It took us 3 hours to hike from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond.
The view up from Chimney Pond is amazing. With binoculars we could see hikers on the Knife Edge Trail between Chimney Peak and South Peak hunched over and getting on all fours at times. The wind was very strong at Chimney Pond, it must have been whipping furiously at the top of the mountain. Wanting to check out the wind gusts myself, I thought I’d run/hike up the Saddle Trail.
I put on my New Balance 1010 trail shoes and my Nathan running pack with food/water/jacket and trotted out of Chimney Pond and quickly it got way too steep to run. So power hiked it and ran where I could. I just couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t running into hikers coming down off the mountain making their loop back to Roaring Brook. Then I hit snow in a slide area. Snow carved out underneath by melt and rain flow. And no footprints. SO, maybe this trail is closed. It was a short section that I could skirt in some bushes, which I did, then the trail just went straight up. Like I hope to see-my-kids-again steep. I could see the top, maybe two tenths of a mile away so I just kept going knowing it was going to be scary descending. (And folks, the Saddle Trail is the “easy” way up from Chimney Pond to the top of the mountain. I remember it being much easier when I was 24 also.)
I got to the top and it was windy but not horrible. I did have a bit of tableland ahead of me so probably not full force, still I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the exposed Knife Edge or other peaks that day. I looked around a bit then headed straight back down the Saddle Trail.
Steep, scary, and requiring getting very low and using my hands, I slowly went down the steep part, which included a huge swarm of black flies. Pretty funny actually as I couldn’t swat at them it was so steep. I got back to the snow slide area and I just bushwhacked it again then hit the trail. Eventually I got down far enough to trot back into Chimney Pond campground. About 50 minutes and only 1.9 miles. My NB 1010 shoes were super grippy and performed well with a light pack on. I ran into the campground ranger later and heard him telling campers that all trails up the mountain from Chimney Pond are closed. Oopsy.