Monthly Archives: October 2013

Website Changes Coming

Website Changes Coming

After much debate I’ve decided to split my hiking and photography into two separate websites. Over the next few weeks I will be making some changes. This site will keep the same content: personalized accounts of hiking and other outdoor activities including photos taken on my trips, but the domain name will be changing to www.hikeography.com. The current domain name (kcorson.com and keithcorson.com) will be pointed to a new website that will showcase just my best work as a photographer. All the above domains currently point to this site. I will update as progress is made.

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Lakes of the Clouds via Ammonoosuc Ravine

Lakes of the Clouds via Ammonoosuc Ravine

On October 2nd I headed to New Hampshire well before dawn to hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail to Lakes of the Clouds on Mt. Washington. I have hike around Mt. Washington, but never has it been my destination. I really have no interest in hiking to a peak that others can drive to, although I’m very interested in the surrounding peaks and terrain. Having never been to Lakes of the Clouds, I found that the shortest route is via the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail.

Getting There

The Ammonoosuc Ravine trail begins at a Forest Service parking area (3450 feet) before reaching the Cog Railway off route 302 in Bretton Woods, NH. Generally from the South head to Conway and take route 302 to Bretton Woods. Turn right at Fabyan’s Station Restaurant onto the Base Road and drive approximately 5.25 miles to the parking area. I came from Western Maine, so I drove route 2 to Gorham, NH following route 2 through Randolph to a left on route 115. Then to route 3 in Carroll and left onto 302 at Twin Mountain. Then left at Fabyan’s Station Restaurant onto the Base Road and drive approximately 5.25 miles to the parking area. Apparently you can pay a fee at the Cog Railway parking area an shave a few tenths off the hike, but I was there very early and the Cog was not open yet.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail

After the promise of a spectacular sunrise and paying my Forest Service fee at the parking area (It’s only $2 or $3) I headed out on the trail. The beginning gains elevation slowly through hardwood forests. The path is rough along the way with exposed rocks and roots, but if you pay attention to your feet, it’s no problem. After a mile or so, the trail meets up and parallels the stream that traverses the ravine. This portion of the trail is not picturesque as it follows the stream which is host to many downed trees as the result of one of the recent hurricanes. It passes by a plaque in memory of Herbert Judson Young.

 

Ammonoosuc Sunrise

Ammonoosuc Sunrise

From what I can gather Herbert was a member of the Dartmouth Outing Club. He and some other club members were hiking during a Thanksgiving vacation in 1928. They spent the night at Carter hut and were headed up to Lakes of the Clouds. They missed the hut and ended up coming down Ammonoosuc Ravine. He started getting hypothermic and they assisted him partway until about 2:00 AM when he collapsed, presumably near where the plaque is.

Two stayed with him (getting frostbite) while others went out for help but there was little to be found. They came back with a small sled and got him out, mainly carrying him on their shoulders, but he died during the carry out. Everyone else needed medical attention from their overnight ordeal.

From “Reaching that Peak” by David O. Hooke, the history of the Dartmouth Outing Club.

Herbert Young Plaque

Herbert Young Plaque

At about 2 miles the trail crosses the stream at the base of Gem Pool. This is quick a picturesque spot with a nice waterfall emptying into an emerald green pool. Immediately after the stream crossing, the trail begins the steep ascent of the Ammonoosuc Ravine headwall. It is extremely steep, but a fair portion of the trail is made up of nicely placed, stone steps. Make no mistake, it’s quite a workout! The trail crosses the stream multiple times. Keep your eyes out for short side trails to some other unnamed waterfalls. There are a couple of nice places to stop for a snack along this section. Lakes of the Clouds hut is (5012 feet) 3.1 miles from the parking area and the treeline is just below the hut.

Gem Pool

Gem Pool

Ammonoosuc Waterfall 1

Ammonoosuc Waterfall 1

Ammonoosuc Waterfall 2

Ammonoosuc Waterfall 2

 

On this day the further I hiked, the worse the weather looked. The temperature was dropping, the fog was rolling in, and the wind was picking up.

Lakes of the Clouds

I met a couple just before the Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Their destination was the top of Mt. Washington and were very disappointed when I told them that the hut was already closed for the season. When I reached the hut a short time after, the fog had really taken over. I still had hopes of doing a little summit hiking, but once I walked around a bit I realized that I could get lost very easily up here. I could barely see one cairn from the next. I was able to get a cell signal and got a weather reading. It was 30 degrees wind chill and pretty moist with all the fog. Deciding to play it safe, I took a few photos and cut the day short, heading back down the ravine. The couple that I met on the way up made the same decision.

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Lakes of the Clouds Hut

Lakes of the Clouds

Lakes of the Clouds

Verdict

This is a very steep trail that gets heavy use during the summer months as it is the most direct route to Lake of the Clouds. Fortunately I was there late in the season and very early in the morning, so I had some solitude. I would not recommend this trail in cold weather as it probably gets very slippery, but in better weather it’s a great hike with nice waterfalls and many lookouts toward the West and the Cog Railway.

 

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Mosher Hill Falls

Mosher Hill Falls

Mosher Hill Falls is a location that I’ve photographed many, many times as it is only a few miles from our camp on Porter Lake in Strong, ME and is easily accessible year round.

Getting There

The falls are located in Farmington, ME on the Mosher Hill road. From the South come in town Farmington on route 4 and turn right at the light onto Broadway. Head toward Industry on route 43 for just over 3 miles and the Mosher Hill road is on the left. Drive the Mosher Hill road for another 3 miles to a stream crossing via a metal culvert. The road turns to dirt shortly before this crossing. At the stream crossing there is a small pull out on the left that can fit a couple of cars. There is a path leading down stream on the right of the stream. From the North follow route 27 a little over 3 miles South of the town of New Vineyard to Ramsdell road on the left. Follow Ramsdell road for 1.6 miles to the stream crossing and pull out on the right.

The Gorge

The main path on the right of the stream leads to the top of the gorge and falls, but the best viewing from the top is on the left side. If the water level is low cross the brook above the falls and follow the trail on the left of the stream to a nice overlook. If the stream is high, walk to the left of the stream from the parking area. The trail is not as defined here and is very wet, but is a better route at high water. Good views can he had at the overlook, but the best views are from the bottom of the gorge, which can take some scrambling as the walls are very sheer. The best bet is to follow the gorge down stream on either side and enter from the lower end, walking back up the gorge for a view at the bottom. The falls face Southwest so best photo opportunities are in the morning. The gorge is very narrow so there is not much opportunity to see the falls from very far down stream. A wide angle lens is a must if photographing from the gorge bottom.

The Photos

I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands the last time I was at this location so I did not go into the gorge. The shots posted are from the overlook at the top of the gorge. All of these shots were intended to be black and white, but when I began post processing them I was reminded of a photo of Small Falls that Tammy and I were given as a wedding gift from my aunt and uncle. I don’t remember the artist, but he was very popular a few decades back. He would take black and white photos of a location (the only option at the time if this give you any indication of how long ago this was) and hand colored them. To approximate the same look, I desaturated all colors. I then added back in a small amount of green and yellow, while cranking up the orange.

This photo has minimal processing other than the description above:

Mosher Hill Falls - Portrait

Mosher Hill Falls – Portrait

This next photo is the combination of 2 bracketed photos one f-stop apart using Luminance HDR to achieve a higher dynamic range, then processed similar to the above photo.

Mosher Hill Falls - Landscape 1

Mosher Hill Falls – Landscape 1

The last is from 3 photos bracketed one f-stop apart that I individually processed like the original file. I then combined the results for a higher dynamic range using the Lightroom ‘Merge to 32-bit HDR’ plugin from Photomatix. This process is similar to the above photo with the exception that the files were processed individually first, then combined instead of combined first and processing the result.

Mosher Hill Falls - Landscape 2

Mosher Hill Falls – Landscape 2

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The Potholes – Greenwood – Revisited

The Potholes – Greenwood – Revisited

A had some vacation time to use on the first week of October so I went back to the Potholes in Greenwood, Maine. I had explored this area this past spring with the vow to come back and explore in more detail.

Getting There

Pasted below are the directions that I gave in my original post from June 6, 2013

“To reach the potholes you have to walk an active railroad for a couple of miles, which is illegal, so kids don’t try this at home… yadda, yadda, yadda…. You can probably reach them via a North or South entry, but a colleague showed me how to approach via the South. Drive to West Paris on route 219 and continue toward Greenwood. The Little Androscoggin River parallels the road on the right. Route 219 crosses over the Little Androscogging then veers left where Old County Road continues straight. Stay on 219 here. Shortly after the left at Old County Road, the railroad comes in high above the road on the right and there is parking on either side of the road. As a second option, you can travel 100 yards or so further and park where Route 219 crosses the river again at a little spot on the right. If you choose the second option, there is an old trail on the left side of the river heading upstream. In either case, once you reach the railroad walk North. Cross a stone trestle where if time permits there is a path leading along the river back to route 219. Nice falls here! I explored this area on my return. Shortly after the stone trestle you can hear water rushing to the right side of the railroad. There are a great bunch of boulder falls located here. I also explored here on my return.  At 1.25 to 1.5 miles cross a steel trestle. This can be creepy if you are afraid of heights. At approximately 1.75 miles there is an old, round, cement tile to the left of the railroad. Enter the woods here and walk straight on to the potholes.”

I’ve been using this Google app on my Android phone called My Tracks to track my hikes via GPS. Once a track is completed I can automatically upload it to Google Maps for later reference. Here is the resulting map from this treck:

View Potholes in a larger map

At the Potholes

During my initial exploration here this past spring I was not equipped to explore where the river had eroded the rock over eons to form deep chasms. I was back here just for that purpose. I had chest waders and rubber boots in my pack so I could get down into the chasms without getting wet. I remember the last time I was here the deep, dark, pools in the chasms gave me the creeps. You couldn’t see the bottom of some of the pools so there was no telling how deep they were or what had accumulated on the bottom…. carcasses, gnarled tree limbs, algae? I wasn’t excited about doing this even in waders…. overactive imagination I guess… you get the idea.

There is no way into the chasms on the upstream end where they begin and it didn’t look like it would be feasible to enter from downstream and walk up to the beginning. To get some photos of the chasms here I put my remote release onto my camera and mounted the camera on my tripod. I use a carbon fiber Sunpak Pro 423PX tripod with a pistol grip head when hiking. It’s light weight and does what I need. I extended one of the tripod legs and the center column to their fullest. I then found solid purchase on the edge of the chasm and holding the tripod upside down by the extended leg, I lowered my camera into the chasm. I then proceeded to use the remote trigger to take sample pictures, occasionally bringing the camera back up to review the sample shots so I could determine the correct exposure settings and decide the best focal length. After determining the best camera settings I lowered the camera back down and triggered more exposures while moving the camera left, right, up, and down to attempt a decent composition of the chasm. I know….. how could I compose if I couldn’t see through the camera? I was going by trial and error trying to keep note of the camera position while pulling the camera back up frequently to check the results. It would have been nice to have a tethered set up at this point, but I don’t like to carry that much gear when I hike. Does anyone know of a way to tether to an iPad? That would be awesome!

Upper Chasm Looking Downstream

Upper Chasm Looking Downstream

Down the Rabbit Hole

I headed downstream along the top of the chasms. There are two main chasms here. One on the edge of the river that doesn’t receive much water flow during lower water levels and one closer to the center of the river that runs pretty consistently no matter what the water level is. I concentrated on the edge chasm as I wouldn’t have to fight the current if I could get to the bottom. I reached the downstream end where the chasms emerge to feed a waterfall that dumps into a large pool of slower water. I was weighing my options and really, really didn’t want to walk upstream in the black pools at the bottom of the chasm. After some exploration I found a huge half moon shaped eroded hole on the edge of the chasm that had a hole in the rock at the bottom that looked large enough for me to squeeze through. After getting to the bottom of this hole I could see that it would give me access to a small ledge at the downstream end of one of the larger sections of the chasm. I unstrapped my camera backpack and wiggled through, dragging just my essential camera gear behind me. I imagine this entry is below water level during periods of higher water. Even at the bottom of the chasm I couldn’t see the bottom of the dark pool of water… still giving me the creeps. I had just enough room to set up my tripod and I could actually see what I was doing here, unlike the trial and error method from above. Here are the best results:

Lower Chasm Looking Downstream

Lower Chasm Looking Downstream

Lower Chasm Looking Upstream

Lower Chasm Looking Upstream

Loser Chasm Looking Upstream

Loser Chasm Looking Upstream

 

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Revisiting Dunn Notch – Andover

Revisiting Dunn Notch – Andover

 

As you have probably noticed, the bulk of my pictures that I post contain water. I find water interesting in that no matter how many times I go to a location, it is always different. The water level may be higher or lower, the tide may be high or low, the lighting or the surrounding colors may be different. Dunn Notch was no exception. I headed back to this location in late September as the foliage was beginning to change in the higher elevations. There was also a lot of water flowing as we had just come off from a couple of rainy days.

Getting There

Dunn Notch is about a mile South on the Appalachian trail where it intersects with the East B Hill Road between Andover and Upton, Maine. The trail immediately crosses a small stream just after the road crossing. There is a blue blazed trail to the left just before the stream crossing. This trail follows the stream and provides access to many waterfalls and cascades. It also meets up with the Appalachian trail at Dunn Notch so makes for a good loop whether beginning or returning on this trail. I chose to begin here and hike in a generally clockwise route.

Slowing Down

Dunn Notch Cascades 1

Dunn Notch Cascades 1

What I’ve noticed recently about myself is that once I have a destination to hike and do some photo shoots my mind starts filling up with too many options. This generally gets me rushing from spot to spot, especially when I am familiar with my destination. I’m trying to slow down more and take in what’s around me in more detail. I was conscious of this on this day and slowed down to explore places on the stream that either looked inaccessible or looked uninteresting. What I found was a beautiful gorge and waterfall that I had never seen on this stream and I’ve been coming here for the better part of 20 years! It’s the second photo below.

Dunn Notch Cascades 2

Dunn Notch Cascades 2

 The Notch

Dunn Notch Lower Falls 1

Dunn Notch Lower Falls 1

The blue blazed trail eventually intersects with the main stream coming out of the notch and heads steeply up the notch wall on an old carriage road. Before heading up this trail, follow the blazes along the left side of the stream to reach the bottom of the lower falls. This main drop is spectacular regardless of water level. This day the falls were full bore and could be heard crashing down the gorge from a long ways away.

Dunn Notch Lower Falls 2

Dunn Notch Lower Falls 2

Carriage Road Stonework

Carriage Road Stonework

To get to the upper notch, backtrack down the stream and head up the remains of the carriage road on the left side of the notch. There is a lot of old stonework still supporting the carriage road and it narrows to only a few feet wide in places with steep drop offs into the notch on the right side.

Carriage Road

Carriage Road

Dunn Notch Upper Falls

Dunn Notch Upper Falls

The upper portion of the notch is every bit as spectacular as the lower. The blue blazed trail along the carriage road intersects the Appalachian trail on the South side of the stream. Crossing over the stream the head of the lower falls is directly on your right with steep drop offs. Be careful here in high water. Once on the North side of the stream another blue blazed trail follows the stream to the middle and upper falls approximately .25 miles upstream. The middle falls are an interesting single drop into a large pool. I’ve seen hikers here many times swimming. Further upstream are the upper falls which are not to be missed!

After enjoying the notch you can head North on the Appalachian Trail, completing the loop back at the East B. Hill Road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Days In Baxter State Park

4 Days In Baxter State Park

Last week Tammy and I took a long awaited 4 day, 3 night hiking trip into Baxter State Park. We’ve been going there off and on for years and I thought I knew about most locations in the park. A few months ago I came across a blog post discussing Davis Pond, which I knew nothing of. The pictures looked beautiful and from a map it didn’t look too difficult to get to. You could either go up over Katahdin and down into the Northwest Basin or you could hike up the valley from Russell Pond parallel to Wassataquoik stream. I really wanted to see this place that I hadn’t explored, so we came up with a couple of itinerary options and submitted our application form.

BSP Reservation System

BSPs reservation process can be a little confusing depending on where you plan on staying in the park. If you stay in the easily accessible locations (Roaring Brook, Katahdin Stream, Abol, Kidney Pond, Daicey Pond, etc.) you can reserve directly online using their sliding 4 month window. Remote site reservations (the ones we were going to) can only be made by mail or phone. Our first choice itinerary was Chimney Pond for night one, Davis Pond for night two, and Russell Pond for night three. I was ecstatic that we received confirmation for this itinerary. I wasn’t concerned much about Chimney or Russell Ponds, but Davis has only one shelter and it was going to be ours!!!

Just a little history on the reservation system used in BSP. Years ago when I first started going to the park, their reservation system was pretty basic. On January 1st the reservation system was open for the entire year. It was hell to get the weekend and location that you wanted as it was a free for all from day one. It was by mail or in person only and every year there were people waiting in line in Millinocket on January 1st. In recent years they changed it to a sliding 4 month window where you can only make reservations 4 months in advance, with the exception that after some time in June, the rest of the season is open for reservation. Many locations in the Park can be reserved directly from their website. Some people hate the new system. I really like it as it’s worked out much better for me than the old system.

My History With Baxter State Park

I was born and grew up in the Western Foothills of Maine with some of the tallest mountains in Maine right in my back yard. I started hiking in my early teens and introduced my wife Tammy (yes, I only have one) after we were married in my early twenties. I had never been to BSP and looking back, I’m not sure if I was even aware that the Park existed. I had heard of Mt. Katahdin, but it just seemed so far away (about three hours travel time for me). At the time I was working at Bass Shoe in Wilton as a technician and my boss had been an avid hiker in his youth. We had a department gathering after work at my boss’ house and after everyone else had gone home, he entertained Tammy and I with photographic slides he had taken years before of Katahdin and Baxter State Park (he just loved Tammy… I don’t think he liked me anywhere near as much 😉 ). Yeah I know… ‘slides’? Some of you have probably never seen photographic slides. It was a long time ago…. I was just amazed at how different Katahdin looked compared to the other mountains I had hiked in Maine and New Hampshire. I was struck by the sheerness of the cliffs, the abrupt way the mountain rose, and how the peaks wrapped around Chimney Pond. I had to go there!

Mike McInnis (a co worker at the time) and I headed to the Park for a weekend in September or October somewhere around 1990 (if you look hard enough you can find some pretty bad pictures of us in the Park during the 90’s on Facebook —- Thanks Mike). It rained the first night at Abol campground. We used mescal to get our fire lit (what a waste of mescal). The next day we headed to Roaring Brook and hiked into Chimney Pond. From there we hiked up the Dudley trail to Pamola peak. I remember Mike pulling a can of beer out of his pack. What a welcome surprise! We hiked back to Roaring Brook via the Helon Taylor trail. I remember it being a long day and we still had to drive home and get up for work the next day….. but I WAS HOOKED!! It was absolutely fantastic. Since that time I have been going back almost on a yearly basis and some years multiple times.

Chimney Pond – Day One

Historically the plans I have in my mind are usually overly optimistic with regard to what I want to accomplish on a daily basis; distance, location, etc. Tammy will attest to that. My thought was to get to the Park by 8:00AM, to Chimney Pond via Roaring Brook by noon, drop our packs at our shelter, pull out the day pack, and head up the mountain to hit Baxter Peak and cross the knife edge. As I get older I realize that these trips aren’t all about me. If I was alone it would be, but when Tammy and I hike as a couple it’s about us both enjoying the trip (my how I’ve matured. there may be hope for me yet).

What really happened was that we didn’t make the gate until 9:00AM so that would put us at Chimney Pond later than expected and I really didn’t want to rush up there. We were here to enjoy and take it all in. We made it into Roaring Brook around 9:30AM and pulled on the packs. I left the cell phone in the car as it is my only sense of time and I didn’t want to care about time at all over the trip. If it’s light, it must be time to get out of bed. If it’s dark, it must be time to go to bed. The packs were heavy as we had our cold weather clothes and winter sleeping bags, but mine was setting comfortably. You never know what the weather will bring to the mountains in October. We were pretty slow getting into Chimney Pond, due to the heavy packs and it was the first time Tammy carried a full pack this season. We stopped at the usual spots on the way including the short side trail to Basin Ponds for views of the North Basin and Hamlin Peak.

Hamlin Peak and North Basin from Basin Ponds

We arrived at Chimney Pond sometime early afternoon, located our shelter, and dropped our gear. I really wanted to hike up the Cathedral trail to Baxter peak, then the Knife Edge, and back to Chimney Pond via the Dudley trail, but my left knee was feeling a little odd and Tammy back was tired (we later readjusted her pack for a better fit). I stopped in at the Ranger cabin to sign in and he offered to let me borrow a book about the history of Katahdin to browse. I accepted it and I think I’m going to buy a copy (link to Amazon). He also noticed that we would be spending night two at Davis Pond and assured me that is was a ‘little slice of heaven’. We then opted for a lunch of pita bread with hummus, tuna, lettuce, and tomato, then a quick nap and after hung out at Chimney Pond waiting for the sun to drop behind the ridge.

Chimney Pond Sunset

Pamola Reflection - Chimney Pond

We had an early dinner of stuffing, canned chicken, and instant gravy…. surprisingly tasty, and crawled into our sleeping bags early with the plan of starting early in the AM.

Davis Pond – Day 2

We woke up early the second day and ate our usual of instant oatmeal, pop tarts, and coffee. I can’t live without coffee in the back country and the Starbucks Via packets are the best instant coffee option I have found. Almost forgot, this was all after I worked my food bag off the bear cable provided at Chimney Pond and dropped it from 10 or 12 feet off the ground. Busted a plastic container that had a couple of tomatoes and exploded a couple of apples.

Chimney Pond Sunrise

As we were eating breakfast, we noted that one group staying at the campground was quite noisy. I realize that everyone has the right to enjoy their experience how they want, but they should also give courtesy to those around them. It was just after sunrise and some people weren’t even out of their sleeping bags yet! I go to the back country to experience solitude and peace. If people want to hoot and holler I think they should go to a campground that is vehicle accessible. Anyhow…. I digress…

We packed up after breakfast and decided to summit the mountain via the Saddle trail. Our other option was to go back a ways toward Roaring Brook and go up over Hamlin peak. We had been up Saddle before so thought that would be a better route as it was shorter and we knew what we were in for. The plan was that if we weren’t too beat up at the top of Saddle, we would stash our packs and head for Baxter peak before continuing on our path to Davis Pond.

The Saddle trail is about 1.2 miles from Chimney Pond to the top of the saddle with the first mile consisting of some boulder scrambling and the last .2 consisting of the slide, which is sand and loose rock. We were pretty slow as this was the first time either of us had climbed the mountain with full packs. There were a few people ahead and behind us, but not many were out and about yet. We wanted to very careful not to dislodge any loose rocks onto those behind us and I was hoping that those ahead of us were taking the same precaution. The really cool thing about this trail is that the last .2 mile on the actual slide section is pretty vertical and stays that way to the top, yet once you reach the top it just levels off abruptly. There’s no gradual change, it’s just vertical….. horizontal.

Katahdin - Top of Saddle Slide

We were both tired so decided not to tackle Baxter peak and headed off toward Hamlin and the Northwest Plateau. The top of Katahdin is unique in that is is almost entirely flat, not level, but flat. It looks like someone took a huge knife and just sliced the top off. We walked to the next junction a mile away where the North Peaks, Hamlin, and Northwest Plateau trails converge. There is a small spring at this intersection that was fully flowing. It’s hard for me to understand how water can be pushed so far up a mountain without finding an alternative location to flow at a lower elevation. Anyhow, we pondered dropping the packs here for the .2 mile summit of Hamlin, but once again decided to push on.

The Northwest Plateau extended from this point for another mile before dropping into the Northwest Basin. It was cool to be on this end of the plateau as I had never been on this part of the mountain. We had always headed West once summiting, usually toward the Hunt trail (Appalachian trail). We stopped for a breather and a snack, took in the view of the Northwest Basin, and headed steeply down.

Northwest Plateau and Basin

Immediately the trail runs through a boulder field that is pretty steep, so we went slow and careful. Shortly after, it enters the evergreens and becomes common with a brook. It is STEEP, WET, and SLIPPERY! Even though we had a very wet spring, I would guess that this trail is always wet and slippery. We proceeded very slowly and deliberately as this is not an area that you would want to get injured. Of course I wouldn’t want to get injured at any location, but this is very remote and help is not close at hand. I want to be very clear that this may be the most difficult trail I have ever hiked while carrying a full pack! After what seemed like hours of nearly vertical hiking we could see Davis Pond below us. I also noticed a double waterfall through the trees on the mountain side of the basin! I had never seen a picture of these falls before!

Davis Pond Waterfall

After more steep downhill and a bit of complaining, we reached the Davis Pond shelter! It is an absolutely beautiful location and the pond is picturesque, but even though it is a ‘little slice of heaven’, it was hell getting there! We had hiked only 4.5 miles this day, but it took us the better part of the day to do it.

Davis and Cowles ponds are both nestled in the Northwest Basin but the basin is not at the bottom of the adjacent valley. It sets up into the mountain similar to the way Chimney Pond nestles into the base of the South Basin. It was so peaceful and quiet as we had the place all to ourselves! I found time to soak my feet and rinse some clothes while Tammy rinsed the sweat out of her hair ;-). (The falls in the picture above can be seen in the distance to the far right of center below)

Davis Pond Sunset

Davis Pond Shelter

Dinner this evening consisted of rice, canned chicken, and a Thai sauce. It ended up being more like a soup and was it spicy! Tammy had to take her time finishing it off.

Russell Pond – Day 3

This morning we woke up as usual with the approach of dawn. I had really weird dreams about alien lights in the sky. Maybe we were abducted overnight? Maybe too much Chartreuse the evening before (my drink of choice if I feel like packing any). We headed out from the Davis shelter early and I remember telling Tammy that we were in for some more steep down hill before we leveled out in the valley along side of the Wassataquoik. We immediately headed uphill before leveling out with a nice view of Cowles pond. Immediately after we were back in the steep, wet, slippery down hill. This time was actually worse as there was still a stream in the trail, but there were no individual rocks to step on. It was all a continuous sheet of granite making it hard to get reliable traction. Toward the bottom of this section the stream headed off to the right of the trail, merging with another. It created a beautiful waterfall right beside the trail.

Davis Pond Trail Waterfall

After some distance of steepness, we reached the stream that empties from Davis and Cowles. The trail is part of the stream bed here and at times was hard to find the trail markers, but it soon took us into the woods parallel to the stream. It continued slightly down hill to a crossing at Wassataquoik stream. We took off our boots and socks and I packed our gear across with Tammy following shortly after.

Wassataqouik Stream Crossing

Wassataqouik Stream at Northwest Basin

We made it with no mishaps and headed off again into the woods. Shortly after, a stream entered the trail bed once again. This time there was no place to walk and the edges of the trail had no purchase either. We got muddy and wet. We went on like this for a good tenth of a mile before the stream finally took off away from the trail. From this point on the trail kept getting more level and wider as we went along. We met our first and only person of the day hiking toward Davis pond. We discussed with her how bad the trail was and she told us the she did the trail from the top of the mountain two years ago. She dislocated her shoulder when falling on the way down and had surgery on her rotator cuff shortly after. She’s lucky that she was still mobile. As I said before, this is no place that you want to get hurt.

We had an uneventful hike into Russell pond. The trail was a pleasure compared to what we had traveled the day before. When we arrived, we saw no one around. It didn’t look quite as I remembered, but we hadn’t been here since 2004, so things were bound to look different. Russell pond has 5 or 6 shelters and a few tent platforms. It is open to fishing and there are canoes for rent. We once again found our shelter and unpacked. We gathered some fallen wood as we could have a fire here. We had lunch of pitas again and tried to nap, but we weren’t very successful. We also ran a line to hang all of our wet clothes that we had washed out the day before.

Russell Pond Rock Art

Russell Pond - Ranger Dock

Russell Pond Shelter

We hung out until dusk and headed for the pond to take sunset photos. While on the dock we saw a guy catch a brook trout. There were trout rising all around the lake. I had contemplated packing my fly fishing gear for this part of the trip, but since I had all of my camera gear, I didn’t want to add any more weight.

Russell Pond Sunset

We ate a dinner of sweet Thai chili noodles and chicken later than usual as I planned on staying up to have a fire after dark. We started up the fire and drank the last of our Chartreuse while being mesmerized by the flames. After an hour or so by the fire, we were ready for bed.

Russell Pond Evening

 Roaring Brook – Day 4

Our last day I got up earlier than usual and prepared breakfast while Tammy was still tucked in her sleeping bag. We once again headed out right after breakfast while there was still a chill in the air. We came upon the Wassataquoik once again and had to cross. This time Tammy carried here own gear and did a great job not getting anything wet!

Wassataqouik Stream at Russell Pond Trail

The entire length of trail was a pleasure; relatively flat, wide, dry, and few obstacles. We reached a cut off trail heading to Sandy Stream pond, which I wanted to take as I had never been there and it would only add .3 mile to the hike. We have a painting on our wall at home by Stanley Keirstead that is looking toward Katahdin from Sandy Stream pond. This side of the Sandy Stream pond trail looks relatively unused and is very bouldery (word?), but still not bad. We reached the picturesque pond where I took a few photos. I also found that there is a trail to nearby South Turner mountain which looks directly into the South Basin and the Chimney Pond area. Looks like a great place to be during the time of year that the sun rises behind the mountain!

Sandy Stream Pond Toward Katahdin Panorama 1

Sandy Stream Pond Toward Katahdin Panorama 2

Moving on toward Roaring Brook, this side of the trail looks much more used with many bog bridges and wide, packed paths. We arrived back at Roaring Brook and unloaded all our gear into the car for the long drive home.

Trip Notes

We’ve been to Chimney Pond many times and I continue to love this place, although it is frequented by too many people nowadays. It’s the go to place on Katahdin for those wanting to embrace the challenge of crossing the knife edge between Pamola and Baxter peaks. You can reach the summit peaks and knife edge from other locations, but this is the best and most picturesque option.

We’ve been to Russell Pond a couple of times and I really like this spot. You don’t get the majestic peak experience, but you get superb peak views from the trails to Russell and there is some really great fishing here.

And Davis Pond…. This is an absolutely wonderful spot with majestic views and best of all… solitude, but the trails are a challenge at best. I am so glad I finally got to experience this spot, but am not sure if I will ever go back.

I would very much like to come back for a trip including the Wassataquoik Stream shelter, Grand Falls, Russell Pond, Wassataquoik Lake, and Green Falls. Something to look forward to.

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Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Allagash Wilderness Waterway

Tammy and I were fortunate enough to snag a spot on a September trip to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway with Chip and Lani Cochrane of Allagash Canoe Trips! We decided to stay in Maine for our yearly adventure vacation as there is so much to explore right here in our back yard.

Day One

Tammy and I and twelve other paddlers from around the globe met at The Cochrane’s summer headquarters in Greenville, Maine at 7:30 AM on September 15. After loading all our gear and canoes, we piled into a passenger van for the 3 plus hours to our put in location at Churchill dam. After unloading the canoes and paddling gear and eating a quick riverside lunch, Chip shuttled our personal gear a few miles down stream while we had some paddling instruction from Lani below the dam.

When Chip returned it was time to begin the trip starting with Chase Rapids; a couple mile section of class 1 and class 2 rapids. Tammy, as always when there is moving water involved, was pretty nerved up. We navigated the beginning with no problems. A couple from Israel weren’t so fortunate. They dumped their canoe in the class 2 shortly after our starting point. They made it to shore safely and one jumped in Chip’s canoe, while Lani hopped in with the other. Tammy took her glasses off as they were wet and she was afraid of losing them even though they were strapped. We proceeded to relax a bit as we were through the class 2 and just class 1’s ahead…. it should be a breeze. Right….. At the last minute, I saw a rock ahead of us, tried to go to the left of it, hit it sideways, leaned in, thought we would scrape by… and dumped the canoe! Tammy was soaked from head to toe, but we got the canoe to shore with our paddles and one water bottle. Sam, another tripper, helped me roll the canoe to empty the water and off we went.

We picked up our gear at an old washed out bridge location a bit down stream and headed for Chisolm Brook at the very upper end of Umsaskis Lake, our campsite for the night. The first night was spent getting used to the camp procedure of unloading all gear, finding a suitable tenting location, and setting up camp. Our first dinner was a treat. Chip and Lani scouted for wood and Chip cooked out entire dinner over an open fire. This evening was steak and potatoes. We also had something cooked in their reflector oven, but I don’t recall now what baked goody it was.

Day Two

Overnight it rained off and on and continued into breakfast time. Breakfast consisted of a huge frying pan of bacon, eggs, and home fries made from the leftover potatoes from dinner. Camp coffee never tasted better! By the time we packed our gear for the day and were back on the river, the rain had stopped. The day started with gentle paddling into Unsaskis Lake, but soon headwinds hit us straight on relentlessly for the entire day as we paddled Umsaskis Lake and Long Lake. We had a lunch somewhere along the lake shores and were thankful for the break from paddling. It seemed that we paddled constantly while making little headway. Paddling got better in the narrows between Long Lake and Harvey Pond and shortly after we reached our destination for night two…. Long Lake Dam. This is an old washed out wooden dam that apparently has large spikes and other nasties that lurk just underwater. We couldn’t see anything as the water was pretty high. Not wanting to run the dam, we unloaded all the gear above the dam and made camp. Sam (Lewiston, Maine) and Zack (Waterville, Maine) ran most of the empty canoes over the old dam to an eddy below the camp site. Barbara and Jake (Oklahoma) ran their canoe, while Cam (Damariscotta, Maine) ran his canoe with Zach. Cam and Zack wedged the bow into a rock, the stern swung into the rapids and dumped.

Barbara and Jake Navigate the Dam

Barbara and Jake Navigate the Dam

Dinner this evening was keilbasa, beans, and raisin bran bread. Yummy! As the sun set it cast beautiful pink and purple highlights onto the bottoms of the clouds and reflected in the river.

Sunset at Long Lake Dam

Sunset at Long Lake Dam

Day Three

Overnight we had a hard frost and it was downright cold in the morning. There was a fog on the river and I believe everyone was happy for hot coffee, tea, and cocoa to warm fingers and bellies. I believe we had pancakes and real maple syrup this morning! Once again, we packed up and headed down river. As the line of canoes drifted away from one another, they would disappear into the fog.

Morning Fog at Long Lake Dam

Morning Fog at Long Lake Dam

Into the Fog

Into the Fog

This morning was an easy paddle with some quicker water as we approached Round Pond. I think this is the day that we stopped to look at some old logging machinery by the river (at some point, the days blend together).

Diesel

Diesel

Since we were making good headway this day, we stopped for lunch at the Tower Trail camp site on Round Pond and hiked the 2 1/2 miles or so to the old lookout tower on Round Pond Mountain. It was an easy walk with only the last 100 yards or so having any significant elevation gain. A few of us climbed the old tower, which provided 360 degree views of the wilderness. We could see Musquacook Deadwater to the North, and the North side of Baxter State Park to the South.

Baxter State Park from Round Pond Mountain Tower

Baxter State Park from Round Pond Mountain Tower

After the hike, we ate a hearty lunch and got back on the river toward our next camp; Five Finger Brook – North. Dinner of chicken, rice, summer squash, zucchini, and onions, with strawberry shortcake for desert! Tammy and I jumped in the river to wash up. Two words to describe it….. ICE COLD! At least I felt clean and my head didn’t itch any more…..

Day Four

Another chilly morning, but milder than the previous. Once again, breakfast, break down camp, load the canoes and on the river. The set up and break down have become routine by now. Today we tackle Allagash Falls! By mid morning we had reached Michaud Farm; the last Ranger Station and our check out spot. We had a snack while Chip and Lani discussed current happenings with the ranger. We made the falls by lunch time and Chip had us follow the shoreline below the normal portage take out and take out at a spot closer to the head of the falls to save us some portage distance. It worked out well enough and we were able to portage all canoes and gear to the base of the falls. After a lunch spent discussing with Tammy how we would navigate the major rapid at the base of the falls (if all went according to plan), we headed out.  I don’t think she was ready….. After a quick blood pressure increase, we navigated the rapid as planned! Wouldn’t have been good to dump a canoe here with all of our gear in it.

Allagash Falls

Allagash Falls

We headed down stream once again to our camp destination of East Twin Brook. The river was wide and flowed nicely, but we were on the constant watch for slightly submerged boulders. We reached the camp site with quite a bit of time to spare before dinner so were able to relax. Chip poled his canoe a bit and Lani did a little fly fishing. I felt a little somber as it would be our last night on the river…..

Day Five

We ate breakfast and carried out our packing routine one last time. We were all on the river before Chip and Lani, but all waited for them to take the lead. Our take out above Chase Rapids was only a short distance away. Tammy and I slow poked it to the rear of the canoe line. I wasn’t ready to go home…. We reached our destination around 9:30 AM and it wasn’t long before all the gear was packed and we were on the road for the 6 hour road trip back to Greenville.

Thanks to all who were on the trip with us. It was great to meet new people from around the world, listen to their perspectives and experiences and share ours. Most of all… thanks to Chip and Lani Cochrane of Allagash Canoe Trips. You made us all feel a little more comfortable in our abilities and helped us become better paddlers.  I would definitely recommend their services to anyone thinking about paddling in one of the waterways in Northern Maine and Canada!!!!!

 

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