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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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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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The Potholes – Greenwood, Maine

Sunday morning I got up real early as the daytime heat over the past few days had been oppressive and I wanted to beat as much heat as possible. I decided to head to a location in Greenwood that a colleague had told me about that the locals call “the Potholes”. Some will disagree with me as to what river/stream it is on, but either way, the geographic location is the same. Some have told me that it is on Black Brook and some that is is on the Little Androscoggin River. If you look at the DeLorme gazetteer it will verify that it is part of the Little Andrsocoggin.

I have embedded a Google map at the end of the post to show the starting location and the location of some of the pictures here.

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 my 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. 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 a 100 yards or so further and park where Route 219 crosses the river again at a little spot on the right. Walk North on the railroad tracks. 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.

Little Androscogging Greenwood Maine

Little Androscogging – Greenwood

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. The potholes are really interesting and I could have spent hours here exploring, but I didn’t have too much time to linger. I spent an hour or so looking around and locating some interesting features. There is one place where the water has carved a narrow chasm in the ledges 50 or 60 feet long, 20 to 30 feet deep, and only a few feet wide. I’m planning on coming back to this feature to attempt to get down in with waders to take some photos along the length of the chasm. Once the river emerges from the Potholes, it breaks over a large set of falls into a tranquil pool. Be aware that there are no footpaths here and it is wet, muddy, buggy, and the evergreens are dense. Soooo worth the effort though!

Potholes Greenwood Maine

The Potholes 1

 

Potholes Greenwood Maine

The Potholes 2

 

Potholes Greenwood Maine

The Potholes 3

 

Lady Slipper Greenwood Maine

Lady Slipper


View Little Androscoggin Potholes, Greenwood, ME in a larger map

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Hobbit Land – Vaughn Woods, Hallowell, Maine

The Vaughn Woods in Hallowell, Maine is a 166-acre property, owned and managed by the Vaughan Homestead Foundation. It has three stone bridges (the lower bridge has a stamp indicating it was constructed in 1930), waterfalls, and man made Cascade Pond (downloadable PDF trail map). Many locals call it “Hobbit Land” due to the Lord of the Rings type of scenery found here.

It can be reached on the North side from the intersection of Middle Street and Litchfield Road in Hallowell, and from the South behind Hall Dale High School in Farmingdale.

Tammy and I visited on May 31st and while it was above 90 degrees in town, here it was bearable due to the overhanging foliage canopy and the water flowing through the gorge. The main path around Vaughn Brook can’t be more than a couple of miles total, and I expect it’s much less. This location is well worth visiting and we’ll definitely be back during the Fall season.

Lower Bridge

Lower Bridge

Upper Bridge

Upper Bridge

Dam 1

Dam 1

Dam 2

Dam 2

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Mt Adams, White Mountains via Appalachia, Randolph, New Hampshire

On Thursday, May 30th, Tammy and I headed to New Hampshire with the intent of taking the whole day on our time schedule to tackle both Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison, the two Northernmost major peaks of the White Mountain Presidentials. Family obligations changed our plans. We would have the day until about 3:30PM to get in whatever hiking we could, so we decided to head for Mt. Adams via the Appalacia parking lot off route 2 in Randolph, NH.

The Randolph Mountain Club maintains two cabins (Crag camp and Gray Knob camp), two shelters (the Log Cabin and the Perch), and 100+ miles of trails around the Northern Presidentials and Crescent Range. There are three easy access parking spots.  One off route 2 on the Pinkham B/Dolly Copp Road, one on route 2 called the Appalacia parking lot, and one at Lowe’s store in Randolph. I believe Lowe’s charges a couple of bucks for parking and if you go there make sure you pick up the Randolph Mountain Club topo map.

I had planned on hiking up via the Valley Way and Brookbank trails to check out some of the waterfalls along this path, but another guy was heading this way with his dog, and since our Jack Russell doesn’t socialize very well, we decided to come back down via this route. So we headed off on Sylvan Way toward Cold Brook and Cold Brook Falls and the junction with the Amphibrach trail. The falls were gushing and spray made it look misty in the stream bed. I’ve been here at a lower flow, but this was a LOT OF WATER! We crossed the bridge over Cold Brook and headed up hill.

Cold Brook Bridge to Amphibrach Trail

Cold Brook Bridge to Amphibrach Trail

We stayed on the Amphibrach until it reached the five way intersection called the Pentadoi. The trail is pretty gradual until it reaches the Randolph Trail at the Pentadoi and the brook crossing below Chandler Falls. From here it’s straight up all the way to Crag Camp on the Spur trail (roughly 3.9 miles from route 2). I stopped just below the camp at lower crag to give the pup (more accurately ‘me’) a rest and to wait up for Tammy. It was cloudy and windy so I could not see much of King’s Ravine from the lookout at lower crag, although I could see snow in some of the slides in the ravine. Took some pictures of our little JR, Sage at this point.

Our Little Pig (Sage)

From here Crag Camp is almost within throwing distance. It perches right on the edge of King’s Ravine! Nice spot and great cabin! It has two bunk rooms that sleep 8 each, and one extra bunk room that sleeps 4. It has a common kitchen and dining area and a privy out back.

Crag Camp to King's Ravine

Crag Camp to King’s Ravine

Crag Camp Bunk Room

Crag Camp Bunk Room

 

Crag Camp Common Area

Crag Camp Common Area

 

Crag Camp

Crag Camp

 

At this point, since we were on a schedule, we decided not to attempt the Mt. Adams summit. It’s about another 1500 feet of elevation from Crag camp. We didn’t have the time and it was still pretty overcast. We headed toward Gray Knob camp on the Gray Knob trail (.5 miles). There is little to no elevation gain on this trail, but it is parallel to the mountain and quite rough with large boulders and even some SNOW! Although short, this was probably the most tiresome part of the hike. Gray Knob camp is smaller than Crag, but very cozy. Instead of bunk rooms off the main floor, the bunks are on the second floor with an open stairway. There is not much of a view from here, but it’s a great option if Crag camp is full.

Gray Knob Camp

Gray Knob Camp

 

Gray Knob Bunk Room

Gray Knob Bunk Room

 

Gray Knob Common Area

Gray Knob Common Area

We ate a small lunch and headed down on the Hincks trail, which is just as steep as the Spur trail, but wetter. We met back with the Spur trail near Chandler falls and retraced our path back to the Pentadoi. Here we took the Randolph path 1.8 miles to Valley Way and Brookbank trail. Brookbank and Brookside follow Snyder Brook where there are many cascades and three major falls (Tama, Salroc, and Gordon falls, from highest elevation to lowest). I tend to prefer a gentler water flow for photographing water, but all of the falls were reasonable this day. Only bad part was that it was the middle of the afternoon when we reached this location and the direct sunlight was terrible. I got a few decent shots including the one below. Total distance round trip was approximately 7.2 miles.

Gordon Falls

Gordon Falls

This area has so many options for day or overnight hikes that the Randolph Mountain Club even offers a hiker log book pdf to keep track of all the options. I’m sure we’ll be back again to tackle more trails, summits, and streams.

 

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Shequaga Falls and Deckertown Falls – Montour Falls, New York

Back to my New York trip for a quick post. On the same day that I explored Watkins Glen, I also drove South to Montour Falls, New York to explore some easily accessible locations.

Shequaga Falls is right in town Montour Falls in a small park on Genesee Street. Don’t blink as you’ll miss the park. It’s about the width of a house lot and is sandwiched between two private homes. Beautiful spot thought. There were locals eating lunch here on public benches. Nice spot to take the kids for a half hour to break the daily grind.

Shequaga Falls

Shequaga Falls

Shequaga Falls Bloom

Shequaga Falls Bloom

I had intended on checking out Havana Glen, which is a park at the Montour Falls Town Office, but it doesn’t open until Memorial weekend, so I checked out the close by Deckertown Falls on Catlin Mill Creek. All around is private property and it’s well posted. As a result, I was only able to walk to two of the falls here. Well worth it if you are in the area, but not a destination in itself.

Deckertown Falls

Deckertown Falls

I think that does it for the areas I explored in the Watkins Glen vicinity. My next post about NY with be about the day I visited Buttermilk Falls State Park. Until then….

 

 

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Excelsior Glen and Hector Falls – New York Finger Lakes

Another quick post from my New York trip.

Excelsior Glen

After my morning at Watkins Glen (entry in the blog archives here) I scooted over to Excelsior Glen on the Eastern side of Seneca Lake about 2.5 miles from the lower entrance of Watkins Glen State Park. This little gem is on the right side of route 414. If you come to the split where route 79 diverges to the right, you’ve gone too far. There is room for two or three vehicles directly beside the road. The trail starts on the right side of the stream and weaves back and forth as you head up stream. I passed a tent that looked like it had been there a while, including a fishing pole and frying pan. The trail is well defined at first, but disappears and reappears as you continue up stream. The Finger Lakes Trail (longest continuous hiking trail in NY state) goes along the top of this gorge. There are a few major drops here with smaller cascades between. I saw some nice creepy crawly millipedes at the wetter areas along the sides of the stream bed.

Millipede 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millipede 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excelsior Glen

There was one huge drop at the upper end of the glen, but I didn’t get any good shots as the lighting was terrible. Rather than go back down the way I came, I decided to scale the left bank of the glen. I wouldn’t suggest this option…. The walls were made up of loose mud and clay, make looser by the local rain a day before. The side was so steep and unstable, I started to slide back down into the glen at one point…. not fun…. Once I made it to the top, I found the white blazed Finger Lakes Trail and walked that back to my car. Short walk and completely isolated. If Watkins Glen is crowded, this is one of the alternatives locations to go to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hector Falls

Hector Falls is right beside the road on route 414, two miles North of Excelsior Glen. The road bridges across Hector Falls Creek as it dumps into Seneca Lake. Gorgeous spot where I grabbed some lunch from the trunk and took a bit of a break. Well worth the time and since there was no effort….

Hector Falls

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Appalachian Trail – Monson to Caratunk – Moxie Bald Mountain and Pleasant Pond Mountain

I’m trying to keep up with the blog here, but the beginning of Spring/Summer hiking season in the North East has got me on the trail so much and running around taking pictures that I’m neglecting the site a little. So here’s to playing catch up….

Thursday, May 16th and Friday, May 17th I hiked 37 miles on the Appalachian trail from Monson, Maine, south to Caratunk, Maine. I am trying to knock off the Maine section of the AT and have a short section from Caratunk to Flagstaff Lake, and the famed ‘hundred mile wilderness’, which isn’t really all wilderness any longer. I had originally planned on a three day hike, but at the end of my second day, I only had 5 miles to go, so I dumped in the H2O and calories and finished in two.

On Thursday morning I dropped my truck off at the AT parking lot just north of Caratunk village on route 201. My wonderful Mom shuttled me to the AT crossing on route 15 between Monson and Greenville at around 7:30AM. I normally hike the AT South to North, but as the easiest portion of this section is on the North end, I decided to reverse direction.

Heading South from route 15 the trail was a little muddy and wet, but I expect that in the early season. The individual maintaining this section of the trail had already been through, clearing blow downs and digging out tranches to release some of the water. Nice to see the maintainers out early. Trail maintenance is all volunteer based and some don’t get out until later as the through hikers wont be through for a bit.

As I came upon Lake Hebron outside of Monson, I stepped over an inlet and was startled by six or eight 14-16″ fish in the stream! They were barely submerged! Upon closer inspection I identified them as spawning suckers. Really cool to see them sloshing up and down stream! You can access the AT close to this area by following Pleasant Street out of Monson. This is probably the best route for through hikers to take if looking for some real food or to grab a package pick up in Monson.

The trail deteriorated somewhat after this, but was only because the number of blow downs in the trail increased. The maintainer for this section had not been out yet. Not really a problem, but made the walking a little more difficult. The first major obstacle was reached next…. the East branch of the Piscataquis river. Water levels were average right now as we hadn’t had much spring rain and the snow melt was gone a while ago. This ford was calf deep and COLD, but it made my feet feel great!

I rested on the West side of the stream and the black flies descended! As long as I was moving I was fine, but stop and I was getting chewed! I grabbed a Cliff bar and headed out along the West branch of the Piscataquis and into Horseshoe Canyon. The AT winds above the North edge of the canyon. I think it would be a nice day hike to explore the waterfalls and cascades of the river, but not today. I had to cover some miles to make my evening destination of Moxie Bald lean to. I stopped at the Horseshoe Canyon lean to and grabbed a sandwich for lunch even though the black flies were terrible!

Leaving the lean to, I headed West continuing along the West branch of the Piscataquis to the crossing location. This spot is a much longer crossing and has a rope strung across in case of stability help in high water. Places on this crossing were almost waist deep. I have heard that this can be a difficult crossing in high water. I even remember talking to a through hiker last year that got stuck between the East and West branch for more than a day. He had crossed the East branch heading South during Spring rain and it rose so quickly that he could not get across the West branch when he got there.

At this crossing, Bald Mountain Stream enters on the West and the trail continues, following the stream closely for a mile or so. I used to maintain the trail from here to the outlet at Bald Mountain Pond and it was a tough section. The maintainer before me had not done a very good job. As a volunteer maintainer, you are required to visit your section a specified amount per year. I think it was two, but not sure what it might be now, as I haven’t been a maintainer for a few years now. Anyhow, the prior maintainer apparently was filling out work sheets detailing work performed, but was not doing the work. Evergreen brush had grown in almost closing off the trail and I spent a couple of years trying to prune everything back. The current maintainer has done a spectacular job in widening out the trail as can be seen here. It is a pleasure walking this section…

 

The trail here is very level for about 3 miles or so, but toward Bald Mountain Pond outlet it gets pretty wet in spots. The outlet crossing is at the location of an old dam and was pretty easy to walk across, once again only calf deep. A couple more uneventful miles brought me to the Moxie Bald lean to.

I spent the night here listening to a couple of owls calling back and forth. I brought my 40 degree sleeping bag and it got pretty chilly that night, but with some extra clothes I stayed warm (except for my nose sticking out of the mummy bag). The morning provided a magnificent sunrise over the lake and after breakfast of coffee and instant oatmeal I headed out.

The days hike started out immediately with a pretty good elevation gain up Moxie Bald Mountain. There is a side trail to the top with the main portion of the AT routed over a cutoff path so in bad weather the peak can be avoided. Views were OK given that the conditions were deteriorating and it was pretty nippy up there. Had to put on a fleece and my gloves. Supposedly you can see Katahdin to the North East on a good day…. I may never know.

From the top, the trail winds down into the valley between Moxie Bald and Pleasant Pond Mountain, passing the Bald Mountain Brook lean to along the way. Not long after was the crossing of Baker brook, the inlet to Moxie Pond. This I have heard is the worst of the crossings along this section (four major ones in all). At high water this can be well above the waist and it’s pretty far across. Today I was able to rock hop most of the way.

I was able to rest once again after crossing Baker brook. Here the AT follows a dirt road North for a little bit. I saw my first people here. Three guys out to kayak and fish on Moxie Pond. They were here for the same thing as me….. get a little head space away from all other people. Once in the woods again the trail gains elevation steadily for the next couple of miles on the way to the summit of Pleasant Pond Mountain. The views from the top are limited, but you can get 360 degrees if you walk around the ledges a bit.

I didn’t stay at the top long as once again it was windy and cold. Continuing on toward my destination for the night, the next mile was a brutal straight shot down to Pleasant Pond. I was apprehensive as I have had knee trouble in the past and it always rears itself on the down hill sections after I am tired and beat up. Surprisingly my knees held up and I felt pretty good when I reached the Pleasant Pond lean to.

I soaked my feet in the pond, which is accessed from a .2 mile side trail. After putting my boots back on an cleaning up a little, I went back to the shelter. It was only 2:30PM and I only had an easy downhill 5 miles to go. I decided to dump in some water and calories and hike out instead of spending the night. It was Friday and I was running the Sugarloaf 15K road race on Sunday. If I got out tonight I would have 36 hours to recuperate. This section of the trail was very nice, following Holly brook most of the way through a mixture of soft and hard wood forest. Painted trilliums were everywhere…

This section of the AT has a few access roads into it that could be used to break up the hike into multiple day hikes that would be great for family outings. I think the most enjoyable would be either a hike into Horseshoe Canyon from Pleasant Street in Monson, or a hike to the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain from the Deadwater road off route 16 outside of Bingham, and the Trestle road in to Baker brook on Moxie pond. Great section of the AT that gets minimal use in the off season. Now I can check this section off and move on to the 100 mile wilderness…..


View AT Monson to Caratunk in a larger map

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Watkins Glen State Park

I traveled to the town of Watkins Glen on the second day of my New York trip. I didn’t realize until I got back home that Watkins Glen is pretty well known for its racetrack and the Watkins Glen International. I wasn’t there for car racing…. I was interested in Watkins Glen State Park. It’s an interesting entry into the State Park and the glen (gorge). As you pull off route 414 directly in town to enter the State Park, the gorge bridge is looming over the end of the parking lot! It’s right in your face off the main driving route! I’m not going to go into many details here as I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Just a note….. this place is AWESOME!!! It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings! Definite must for any landscape photographers out there. It’s a dream….. The only thing I am disappointed with is that most of the glen trail was closed when I was there as the season is still early and they were cleaning up the winter debris.

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