Maine 100 Mile Wilderness

Maine 100 Mile Wilderness

During the last week of May, my niece (Katrina Brace) and I began our journey to finish the Maine 100 mile wilderness. We started north bound last year at Monson and hiked the first 30 miles to Gulf Hagas. This year we finished off the remaining 80 miles to the base of Katahdin.

Background on the 100 Mile Wilderness:

The 100 Mile Wilderness is called such as there is no access to resupply from retail merchants anywhere along this section beginning at the town of Monson and ending at the small variety store at Abol Bridge just outside of Baxter State Park. There is limited road access throughout for possible resupply points, but all are remote and should not be relied upon. Most publications recommend carrying ten days of food for the average hiker. It took us nine days over the two years for us to complete this section, so I guess that puts me into the ‘average’ category.

Day One

We began Saturday, May 23 where we left off last year; the West Branch of the Pleasant River at the bottom of Gulf Hagas. Seven days of food, 50lb. pack, boots that I already knew had given me problems, but thought I had a handle on it. It was 37 degrees F; below average for this time of year even in Northern Maine. Fording the river was easy as we had very little rain after the snow melt run off this Spring. Traveling toward Gulf Hagas brook, Katrina jumped a moose, but only saw the beast’s but. It was cold enough that any precipitation that fell was small hail pellets. We both hiked most of the day with light jackets; very abnormal for me as I heat up quickly and sweat profusely if not ventilated enough. The first 5+ miles to the Carl A. Newhall lean-to were uneventful. The trail follows Gulf Hagas brook very closely and is very picturesque. We ate a quick snack at the lean-to and began the ascent of Gulf Hagas Mountain, the first of four peaks this day. During the ascent we met our first hiker; a SoBo (South Bound through hiker) that had hiked North to Tennessee and come to Maine to flip flop and head South. He told us that although Baxter State Park was open, they were not letting anyone hike Katahdin, because of the snow pack still on the mountain. Our plan was to scale the Hunt trail to Baxter Peak on our last day. Hopefully it would open before we reached there.

Katrina-Gulf-Hagas

Katrina-Gulf-Hagas

Gulf Hagas Mountain

Our first encounter with snow on the trail. I didn’t expect snow, but there was only a couple of patches. Kinda cool (no pun intended).

Gulf Hagas Mountain Snow

Gulf Hagas Mountain Snow

West Peak

After Gulf Hagas Mountain, we continued up to West Peak and the snow started getting deeper; 3 to 4 feet in places. In places it was hard packed on the trail so you could walk on top of it, then without warning you would break through and be up to your calf or knee. Then the blow downs started. Evergreens were blown across the trail everywhere. In some places there were so many blow downs that we could not locate the trail. Luckily a few other hardy hikers had been through and we could follow their melted out boot tracks. It was exhausting and in places we only averaged 1 mile an hour.

Hay Mountain

More snow, more blow downs. UGH!

White Cap Mountain

The last of the peaks today and the last of high elevation for the entire trip. White Cap is approximately 3,700 ft. elevation so is not a big mountain, but on a good day would be an awesome place to stop for lunch as the views are outstanding, but today was cold and the wind was blowing. The snow disappeared on the top as it’s completely exposed and gets good sun all day, but we didn’t stay long. A couple of pictures of Katahdin (our first sighting) and a snack and we were off to get below tree line for some protection from the wind. More snow, more blow downs! It was horrendous and completely demotivating. Luckily, where trail crews that built steps into the mountain, all the snow had melted off, but where there were no steps there was more snow. Slow going…..

White Cap Katahdin View

White Cap Katahdin View

White Cap West View

White Cap West View

We finally saw the roof to the lean-to at between 6:00 and 7:00 PM. 9-10 hours for 13 miles….. slow for us. I was exhausted; not sure about Katrina, but I’m sure she was tired. The lean-to sits in a ravine between two shoulders on the back of White Cap. Logan brook is a small stream following the ravine with little cascades. Great spot to fall asleep to the sounds of water. We cooked dinner (mashed potatoes, chicken, and gravy) and immediately got settled for bed. Sore spots on my heals, but I had taken precautions earlier and put on patches of mole skin with duct tape for extra adhesion. We had most, it not all of our clothes on, with jacket, hat, gloves, inside our sleeping bags, but were warm and slept good.

Logan Brook Lean-to

Logan Brook Lean-to

 

Day 2

Breakfast of coffee and instant oatmeal (which Katrina now likes after surviving her freshman year in college). I always use Starbucks Via instant coffee as it’s the best instant coffee I have found and is still within a ‘reasonable’ price range. Our initial thoughts were to make it a 19 mile day and reach the Antler’s tent site on the shore of Lower Jo-Mary Lake. The morning was overcast as we headed out, but we quickly saw breaks in the clouds with blue sky poking through. The first couple of miles after the lean-to parallels Logan Brook on the edge of a steep ravine overlooking the brook. The trail was in good shape considering what we experienced the first day. We passed a little used dirt road early in the morning and soon after forded the East Branch of the Pleasant River.

Ford at East Branch of the Pleasant River

Ford at East Branch of the Pleasant River

Little Boardman Mountain

After a touch up for my feet, we headed off to Mountain View pond and Little Boardman Mountain. We ran into a few blow downs on the way up Boardman, but not bad. It got really bad on the way down. Forests of beach trees that were blown down all over the trail. Beaches are very gnarly and the limbs are nothing close to straight. It was brutal getting around them and it really discouraged us both. I was beginning to think that our entire hike would be blow downs. A short distance south of the Kakadjo B-Pond road we met a trail maintenance crew clearing the blow downs. We gave them an indication of what they were up against south bound and kind of wished we were a day later as most of the blow downs on this section would have been taken care of. The lead maintainer told us that she heard Katahdin would not be open for summiting until the following Monday. Since this was Sunday, May 24th and we expected to be picked up in Baxter State Park on Friday, May 30th, it didn’t look like we would be summiting. I decided to call our pick up when we could find a signal and determine the schedule for our last days of the trip.

Copper Brook Falls

We stopped for a snack and a break at Crawford Pond. Sandy beach, nice breeze, sunny day. What more could we ask for?

Crawford Pond

Crawford Pond

Shortly after our break, we reached the pond outlet and the remains of an old dam. Fortunately we were able to walk right across and didn’t need to take our boots off.

Crawford Pond Dam

Crawford Pond Dam

The trail began a flat, slow descent through hard and softwood forests. It was perfect walking, but we were both worn down from navigating blow downs yesterday and all this morning. At around the 11.5 mile mark we came upon the Cooper Brook Falls lean-to. Our initial intention was to eat lunch here and plod on another 8 miles to Lower Jo-Mary and the Antler’s tent site. Once we took our packs off and began eating a snack, I suggested that we stop here for the night at we were wiped out, and after all this trip was supposed to be enjoyable. Katrina agreed and we unpacked. I have an old (and I mean old) Camping Gaz cook stove that has had valve problems for the past couple of years, but I didn’t want to buy another stove unnecessarily. During dinner cooking I turned the stove down to simmer and it went out. Upon relighting it, flames shot out all over and under the burner and near the valve connection. Couldn’t get it to stop no matter what I did so we retired the stove and from then to the end of our trip we cooked on the open fire. We had the lean-to to ourselves and I think we both slept great with the brook and falls right near by.

Copper Brook Falls

Copper Brook Falls

Copper Brook Falls Lean-To 1

Copper Brook Falls Lean-To 1

Copper Brook Falls Lean-To 2

Copper Brook Falls Lean-To 2

Day 3

Getting into the routine, we got up early, had coffee and oat meal, and headed out with Nahmakanta Stream Campsite as our destination. We were making good time with Katrina in the lead when a vein in my nose decided to pop. I have had nose bleed problems most of my life. Seems to be dryness, heat, over exertion, or any combination that sets one off. This day was hot and at the speed we were going, my heart rate was up. Luckily we were near a bog and I was able to get some cool water to slow the bleeding enough that it would clot. This was one of the few days that we met anyone on the trail and the guy we saw must have wondered what was up with a bloody rag tied to my backpack. He didn’t ask though….

Antlers Camp Site

We made the Antlers Campsite on Lower Jo-Mary for lunch. This was where we were aiming to stay last night, but didn’t make it. It would have made a wonderful place to stay. There were half a dozen tenting spots, a nice privy, and it was right on the edge of the lake. Unfortunately while we were there for lunch, the black flies were terrible.

Antler Camp Site - Lower Jo-Mary

Antler Camp Site – Lower Jo-Mary

Katrina and Katahdin Lower Jo-Mary

Katrina and Katahdin Lower Jo-Mary

Potaywadjo Spring Lean-to

After lunch at the Antlers campsite we skirted the Northwest end of Lower Jo-Mary Lake and along up to Potaywadjo Ridge. I discussed options with Katrina for the ending of our trip. We could get picked up on Thursday, or I would hike a portion of Katahdin with her on Friday, but she would have to summit alone. My feet were in no condition for steep terrain. She decided that she didn’t want to summit alone so we would try for a Thursday pick up. I was able to get a cell signal here and decided to call our ride (Mom) to let her know that we had decided not to summit Katahdin and ask if she could pick us up at Katahdin Stream campground on Thursday instead. I was able to leave a message.

We stopped at Potaywadjo Spring lean-to for a snack and headed out shortly after. Just past the lean-to we crossed a bog bridge next to the spring. The spring was HUGE! The water boiled up through the sandy bottom of a pool and created a good sized stream. Very cool!

Nahmakanta Stream Campsite

The going wasn’t too bad the rest of the day, but by the time we reached Nahmakanta Stream Campsite I was beat. After this 15.5 mile day my feet were really hurting with continued blisters. I soaked my feet in the cold Nahmakanta stream while we filled up our water bags and jugs. Mosquitoes were bad, but bearable after we got a smudge going to cook supper. A SoBo came in and scouted a place to hang his hammock. He was looking for a cell signal, but I couldn’t get one here so he was out of luck. He was averaging 30 miles a day at this point. Way out of my league. Our first night in the tent and we no sooner got in and settled for sleep that the rain came in. It rained all night, but we stayed dry.

Day 4

Early AM I got up to grab something to drink and a Cliff Bar in the drizzle. No hot coffee or hot breakfast today. We packed up in the rain and headed for Rainbow Stream Lean-to, 14.5 miles away. As we passed by the sleeping SoBo guy, I couldn’t help but admire his sleeping set up; hammock with a mesh cover and rain fly, smaller gear hammock below for gear that could not stay on the ground, and all other gear on the ground under both hammocks. Even though it rained all night, he and all of his gear looked dry. Great set up!

Wadleigh Stream Lean-to

As we headed out with our light rain gear on, we passed by a couple of tents just to the North with presumably SoBo hikers sleeping away the wet morning. The rain stopped shortly after, but we still kept our waterproof gear on as the trees were still dripping. It was pretty smooth going to Wadleigh Stream Lean-to. This was a nice spot beside a washed out stream among hardwoods. We had a snack and began the steep ascent of Nesuntabunt Mountain.

Nesuntabunt Mountain

This would be the last real ‘mountain’ to traverse on our trek to Katahdin and what a mountain it is. While only 1500′ +/- and a total elevation gain of less that 1000′, this steep uphill destroyed me. With still a pretty heavy pack, soaking wet woods, and increasing day temperatures, I huffed and puffed and sweated with the best/worst of them. If I wasn’t so worn out I might have been able to enjoy the alternating steep ascents and small hanging valleys. We finally reached the top overlooking Nahmakanta Lake and stopped for needed water and snack. We were able to get a cell signal here so called my mom and made sure she would be available to pick us up at Katahdin Stream Campground on Thursday afternoon . From our vantage point we could see the entire length of the lake as well as our path for most of the afternoon.

Rainbow Stream Lean-to

After resting we headed out to polish off the remaining 6 miles to Rainbow Stream lean-to. Somewhere after the mountain descent (or along it, I don’t remember now) I slipped and bent the end of my hiking pole to a 90 degree angle. Upon attempting to bend it back, I broke the bottom 3 of 4 inches off. Luckily there was still plenty of length to extend and still make it usable. We ate lunch at the side of Crescent pond in the full sunshine and enjoyed a light breeze. Shortly after we came upon the edge of Pollywog gorge and stream. The trail follows a ledge high above the gorge for at least a mile. Unfortunately there is not much of a view into the gorge from the AT. We crossed a road and bridge over Pollywog Stream and followed Rainbow Stream for 2 miles to Rainbow Stream lean-to. Along the trail were many cascades and waterfalls. It would be a wonderful place to photograph, especially during fall foliage, but at the time I had no desire to appreciate the scenery. I was dead tired. We arrived at the Rainbow Stream lean-to and what a place! Beautiful location beside the stream with a natural platform to the North of the lean-to for tents. Unfortunately the black flies were once again pretty bad here, especially at the edge of the stream.

There were five people and a dog at the lean-to when we arrived. They were a group maintaining the trail consisting of the lead maintainer, his son and daughter, the daughter’s fiance’, and a friend. They had come for a couple of days for their Spring maintenance trip. There would be seven plus a dog in a lean-to meant for six people. The fiance’ was fishing the brook and we saw him pull out a couple of trout. Shortly after, they all headed out for the afternoon to cut brush and blow downs.

Katrina and I rested for a couple hours (glad I always bring a paperback along) and fixed up dinner. The maintainer group came back in the early evening and they built a fire and cooked their dinner. The family friend had a new Pocket Rocket that he didn’t know how to use. He didn’t realize that the valve was open when he began screwing on the fuel container and it began blowing propane/butane in volumes right in front of the fire! We were all lucky it didn’t ignite before he figured out how to turn off the valve. During conversation we found that they drive to a location not far from the back side of the lean-to and haul all of their maintenance gear in that way. From there they would go North one day, return to the lean-to, and go South one day. It was good to find out that there is a short cut to the lean-to. I’d like to come back here with the grand kids some day.

A father/son SoBo duo showed up at the lean-to and decided to pitch their gear on the natural platform near the lean-to. The father was using a hammock set up and I was interested to hear about how he liked it. He said that he had been using hammock systems exclusively for a while and it was the best sleep he had ever had in the woods. He had even used it in sub zero temps and said it was perfect as long as there was enough insulation between you and the hammock. I really have to look into these systems more….. It was warm enough that I slept on top of my sleeping bag most of the night, in a lean-to made for 6, but with 7 people and a dog. It worked out fine.

Rainbow Stream Lean-to

Rainbow Stream Lean-to

Broken Pole

Broken Pole

Day 5

Routine: out of bed, make coffee, make oatmeal, eat, clean up, pack up gear, hit the trail. We quietly prepared as the trail maintenance group were still asleep after a hard day of work. Katrina and I headed toward the Rainbow Deadwaters. The fiance’ in the group had stashed a small inflatable boat at the deadwaters to use fishing. The trail skirted the West side of the entire 5.5 mile length of Rainbow Lake. The lake is crystal clear and we could see granite sand and boulders easily in 20-30 feet of water. Most of the morning we could hear and see sea planes coming into the lake to transport sports men as that is the only method of getting to the lake other than hiking. The sun came out as we ascended Rainbow Ledges and as usual, by the time we reached the ledges, I was a sopping mess. We relaxed at the top with a quick snack and pictures of us in front of Katahdin.

Rainbow Ledge - Keith

Rainbow Ledge – Keith

Rainbow Ledge - Katrina

Rainbow Ledge – Katrina

Katahdin from Rainbow Ledge - Keith

Katahdin from Rainbow Ledge – Keith

Katahdin from Rainbow Ledge - Katrina

Hurd Brook Lean-to

From Rainbow Ledges, the trail was a steady downhill slope to Hurd Brook lean-to. We rock hopped a stream (the water source for the lean-to) just before the lean-to. I fell in….. Oh well, only one wet foot. I also got a pole stuck in the mud and pulled the handle right off the top. Putting the pole back together and shaking my wet foot, we finished the couple hundred feet to the lean-to. We unloaded our lunch sacks and consumed lunch at the lean-to. A care taker showed up while we were eating and we discussed what her duties were. She was only here for a couple weeks to give the SoBo’s education. Sometimes much needed education about leaving no trace, what to do with body waste, all the out door good stuff. She kept looking a Katrina oddly and finally said, “I recognize you somehow. I’ve seen you before.” She didn’t recognize me, but she did Katrina. We finally figured out that she and a hiking friend had met us the year before between Monson and Gulf Hagas. She remembered Katrina, because she was so impressed with her sure footedness. They were sitting on the edge of Thompson brook contemplating how they were going to get across. Katrina and I came along and we never stopped to access the route across the brook. We just did it. They were so impressed that they gave us a standing ovation. Funny how small the world is.

Hurd Brook Lean-to and Care Taker

Hurd Brook Lean-to and Care Taker

Abol Bridge and Abol Pines

When we started this day, we weren’t sure if we were going to stay the night at Hurd Brook or move on, but since it was only around 2:00PM, we moved on toward Abol Bridge, the end of the 100 mile wilderness and the start of Baxter State Park. We had a couple of options once at the bridge: find an open pay site at Abol Bridge Campground (the only private campground on the A.T. in Maine) or find an available lean to at the self serve Abol Pines State sites. We finished off the 3 miles or so to Abol Bridge and decided to check availability at Abol Pines first. We found a magnificent lean-to available for $8.00 pp/night right on the bank of the Penobscot River. Looking upstream toward Katahdin, we could see black clouds rolling in from the West. After unpacking and washing in the river, we gathered up enough fuel to cook supper. Knowing that rain was inevitable, Katrina also gathered up enough branches and pine cones for morning cooking and put them in a dry location. I remember this dinner for some reason: Caribbean rice, ramen noodles, and canned chicken. It was awesome! Not long after dinner massive thunderstorms rolled in. We stayed dry in the lean-to and watched the lightning show. One bolt struck directly behind the trees on the opposite side of the river! Glad we were on the other side. All in all, the perfect spot for our last night!

Katahdin from Abol Bridge

Blisters 1

Blisters 1

Blisters 2

Blisters 2

Blisters 3

Blisters 3

Abol Pines Lean-to

Abol Pines Lean-to

Day 6

Our last day on the trail with 9 miles to go. We slept in late. For us that meant ’till 6:30 or 7:00AM. We took our time with breakfast and packing and didn’t head out until around 9:00AM. We only had 9 miles and we were meeting our ride (my Mom) at Katahdin Stream campground by 4:00PM. Packed and ready, we headed out from Abol Pines and back on the trail. A guy scoping the river for a rafting group was nice enough to take our picture.

Keith and Katrina at Abol Pines

Keith and Katrina at Abol Pines

Daicey Pond

The day began with some overcast and threatened rain. We walked over the Golden Road and the Baxter State Park winter parking lot, heading back to the AT. We no sooner got back on the trail and crossed over the border of the park when the mosquitoes descended! Worst on the entire trip! We quickly dowsed ourselves in bug dope and continued on along the banks of the Penobscot River. The trail parallels the North bank of the river for about 4 miles before turning away from the river and following Nesowadnehunk stream. At this point it began to rain, but not a torrent. Just enough to cool us off. We put on our rain gear and came to a side trail meant to cut off a portion of the AT during periods of high water. The AT crosses over Nesowednahunk stream and then crosses back further up stream. Since the water was already high, it was raining, and I was pooped, we decided to take the cut off to avoid a double crossing. The trail continues uphill and joins the stream again near Indian Pitch. Pushing on we passes Windy Pitch, Big Niagara Falls, and a side trail to Little Niagara Falls. We knew we were coming close to Daicey Pond Camps when we began seeing day hikers along the trail; Some definitely not prepared for wet weather. We kicked into high gear and made it to the Daicey Pond road for an early snack. Luckily the rain stopped while we were eating.

Katahdin Stream Campground

After our snack we packed up again and headed out for the final 2.5 miles to Katahdin Stream Campground. No rain, but my feet were wrecked and every step hurt. We passed Grassy Pond. When my kids were small we fished here with my Mom and Dad while staying at Katahdin Stream Campground. So much had changed in the 20 years since that it was unrecognizable. Things change so much over time (or is it just that memory changes bit by bit until what you remember isn’t the reality of the experience?). Not long after, we reached the tote road on the West side of the park with Katahdin Stream campground entry just across the road! We walked into the campground, dumped our gear, and I collapsed on a covered picnic table with a spectacular view of a snow covered Katahdin in the background. It was just about 2:00PM. Off with my boots and on with the bug dope. The black flies were terrible here! We had just started to relax with another snack when my Mom showed up early at about 2:30PM! Perfect! We loaded our gear, washed some of the funk off, and headed to Millinocket for meatball subs at Subway!!!

End of a Great Trip

I’ve been hiking since I was 13 and this was the longest continuous hike, with the most mileage and heaviest pack that I have ever done. Would I do it again? Probably not this section, but it’s finished and I would definitely go this distance elsewhere. With the world as large as it is and all of the wonderful places to see, why would I want to do this again? I don’t know… maybe someday, but I’m not getting any younger. It really gave me an insight as to what it must be like to hike the entire AT. You get into a daily rhythm of eat, hike, eat, hike, eat, sleep, repeat. I don’t know if I’ll ever do the entire trail, but my buddy’s son is doing it now, and Katrina talks about it. What an adventure it would be (mind game more like it).

Posted in Uncategorized

Hocking Hills Ohio

Over the last weekend I traveled to the Hocking Hills area of Ohio, about an hour away from Columbus. I was on a business trip for the week just outside Dulles, Virginia and decided to fly back by way of Ohio. I have wanted to photograph the Hocking Hills area for some time and it looked like a perfect opportunity. I had seen pictures of deep, dark gorges with beautiful waterfalls. Well…. word to the wise…. there is NO water in Hocking Hills during the summer. No where in my research had I found this little tidbit of information. Apparently, the only time there is flowing water in these parts is after the spring snow melt and shortly after good, steady rainfall. Regardless, I had a great trip and produced some wonderful shots of the rock formations in the area.

I stayed at Chandler’s Enchanted Acres in a nice, new log cabin with few amenities. There was a small fridge, microwave, and coffee pot, but no running water and the lavatory is a porta potty. I’m fine with that as it is more than I’m used to when doing this stuff, but beware if you’re used to being in a full service camping area. It was reasonably priced and I had the place to myself.

Also be aware that it is hard to find anything in this area of Ohio. There is only one gas station within 15 miles, you will be hard pressed to find a restaurant or pub, and it took me the better part of two days before I found a place that sold coffee by the cup. The area is beautiful, hilly, and somewhat remote so come prepared.

I was able to explore the major areas over a two day period, but could definitely spend more time either in the spring or during fall foliage. The major areas are Old Man’s Cave, Ash Cave, Cedar Falls, Conkles Hollow, Cantwell Cliffs, and Rock House. Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave are both recess caves, meaning that they are really cliff faces where the ground level portion has eroded under the main cliff face. Conkles Hollow is a narrow gorge enclosed by high walls of sandstone. Cantwell Cliffs is an area where steep cliffs wall a narrow gorge. You can explore some of the cliffs up close, walk the gorge, or follow a path around the cliff tops. Rock House, my favorite, is a group of caves carved in limestone on a cliff face.

On my last day I had a couple of hours to kill before making a flight out of Columbus and noticed a road sign for Soaring Cliffs zip lines. I stopped by to inquire and they were able to get me in immediately on a solo tour. The staff was awesome and the zip lines were thrilling. My first time on a zip line, but definitely not my last!

I have plans on coming back here with Tammy some spring when the water flow is full bore…….

 

Ash Cave Panorama

Ash Cave Panorama

Ash Cave

Ash Cave

Rock House 1

Rock House 1

Rock House 2

Rock House 2

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps

Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps

Over the long weekend for President’s Day, Tammy and I and our good friend Tawn headed to Millinocket and Baxter State Park to ski into Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps. I’ve been hiking in Baxter State Park for over 20 years and just discovered this gem last summer. They offer full service meals and they also offer a housekeeping option where you prepare your own meals in select cabins. All the cabins have wood stoves and gas lanterns. Some have kitchen facilities.

We arranged with Holly at the camps to meet their shuttle snowmobiles at the Abol Bridge parking area (the Winter entrance to BSP) at 10:30AM that Saturday. The lots were full, which was a huge change from last year when Tammy and I parked here and there were only two other vehicles besides ours. The camps offer to shuttle all of your personal gear into the camps with an option to ride with them to the summer BSP gate at Togue Pond two miles away, and an optional ride near the end of the trek at Avalanche Field for the last three miles to camp. The middle part of the trek is along the East tote road inside the park and as such does not allow motorized travel for visitors in the winter months.

We paid for the shuttle service to the Togue Pond gate, but declined the option at Avalanche Field. We wanted to ski the entire 9+/- miles from the gate to the camps. It was a cold and windy day, but it was a good temperature for active sports and we had plenty of warm gear, snacks, and water for the 6 mile ski along the tote road and 3 mile ski from Avalanche Field. The three snowmobiles dropped us off at the Togue Pond gate a little before noon and we headed out with our skis and day packs. The snow conditions were perfect. We were slow and steady and encountered a couple of groups with full gear sleds heading into Roaring Brook or Chimney Pond bunkhouses.

We encountered one steep, blind downhill where Tammy fell and a guy with a full sled hit her from behind in the trail. I thought for sure she would be hurt, but luckily she had planted her pole beside her where the sled struck. It didn’t hurt her, but her pole was nicely bent. I straightened it out as best I could, but it will never be the same ;).

Tammy Skiing

Tammy Skiing

The trek to Avalanche Field was uneventful after that. We didn’t make good time as it was gradually uphill most of the day and we didn’t get much glide on our skis. Once at Avalanche Field we headed off on a single track snowmobile trail that is a hiking trail in warmer months. It was steep and difficult as it was only wide enough for a snowmobile, which made it hard to plow on the steep downhills, and hard to herringbone on the steep uphills. If memory serves me, there was a 400 foot drop in the last 3 miles.

We made it to our cabin (Windy Pitch) before dusk and there was already a fire lit so it was nice and toasty inside. We gathered our transported gear and began the unpacking process. We were provided all cooking and eating utensils, potable water, and plenty of wood for heat. This night was my turn to cook so I made rice pilaf with chicken strips and gravy; quick, easy, and satisfying. We didn’t stay up too late this first night as we were all pretty tired from the day’s trek.

Windy Pitch Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps

Windy Pitch Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps

The following day we had planned to be shuttled back to Avalanche Field so that we could ski the mile or two into Roaring Brook and snowshoe/ski to Chimney Pond at the base of Katahdin, but the wind was blowing so much, and the clouds had settled in so Tawn and I decided to try snowshoeing on the Lake. We only made it about 1/2 mile toward the outlet when we took a break on shore and decided to head back. It was so windy it almost blew me over a couple of times.

 

Keith in an Almost White Out

Keith in an Almost White Out

Keith on Katahdin Lake

Keith on Katahdin Lake

A young family had been playing on the shoreline near the cabins when we left. When we returned the adults were making an igloo, while the kids were sledding down the embankment on the shoreline. Too cold and tired to stay out, we welcomed the warmth of our little cabin. Later in the day, Tammy and Tawn snowshoed back up the path toward Avalanche Field for a bit to get some more exercise.

Igloo on Katahdin Lake

Igloo on Katahdin Lake

This evening Tawn made spaghetti, meatballs, and sauce. It was all pre packaged, but it was awesome. We also had some of Tawn’s home made wine, which was the best I have ever tasted. Damn was it potent! I was hoping I didn’t drink too much, ’cause no one wants to run to the out house in the middle of the night with the temperature below freezing and the wind howling ;).  After dinner we explored the lodge where the staff feeds those that purchase the meal plan. The place is very cozy and has some amazing photos and art work on the walls of the Baxter area. We arranged to have them shuttle us to Avalanche Field early in the AM.

It was still cold and a bit windy the final morning, but the sun was shining! We finally got a glimpse of the mountain from the lodge on this last day of our trip.

Pamola Peak from the Wilderness Camps

Pamola Peak from the Wilderness Camps

The trip to Avalanche Field was uneventful, but I really noticed the elevation gain and was amazed that we skied down this two days before. Once at Avalanche Field we began the six mile trip back down the tote road where we would be picked up again for the final shuttle back to Abol Bridge. I was still cold and windy, but the wind was at our back and the sun was shining down.  I gave my truck keys to one of the drivers and he was nice enough to put all of our gear in my truck back at Abol Bridge, then drop off my keys on the way back by. The trip out was only 2 1/2 hours or so. I didn’t realize during the ski in how much elevation we had gained. If we weren’t going directly downhill on the trek out, the slope was enough to give us the opportunity for some good glide on our skis.

We timed everything perfectly. We had only been waiting at the Togue Pond gate for 15 minutes or so when our snow machine shuttle showed up. We shuttled back out to our truck and  got ready for the 3-4 hour drive home.

I’m disappointed that we were unable to get to the base of the mountain and Chimney Pond, but we’ll try again next year. The staff at Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps was awesome. They were so pleasant and helpful. We will definitely come back here to stay with them. It was a great trip that I would recommend to anyone any time of the year.

Posted in Uncategorized

Proteus Falls – Randolph, New Hampshire

Proteus Falls – Randolph, New Hampshire

On Veterans Day I ventured over to Randolph, New Hampshire to do some exploring. My main plan was to spend the day hiking Mt. Adams, but as the sun began to rise as I was driving through Gorham, NH I could see that the clouds were low and the higher elevations were covered in snow. Don’t get me wrong, I like the snow, but with the low lying clouds I didn’t expect to see much from the summit. I switched to my backup plan of hitting some waterfalls in the area. I thought it would make a great tribute to my Uncle who passed away on Veteran’s Day last year. I was hiking in the Randolph area when I received the news. Not trying to bring anyone down. Really the opposite. I wanted to rejoice (WOW! not sure if I ever expected to use that word in this lifetime 😉 ) in his memory and relive all the good times in my mind. It was all good.

I ventured to what some call Triple Falls just off from the Pinkham B (Dolly Copp) Road. The falls consist of Proteus, Erebus, and Evans Falls.  Access to the falls is via a fairly unused trail about 1.5 miles from route 2 where a bridge crosses Town Line Brook. The trail is very short (0.1 – 0.2 miles) and provides quite a payoff for the amount of effort involved to reach the falls. Proteus is the first fall in the series and I believe it’s the most picturesque of the three. There was a light dusting of snow that provided a little highlight to the colors of the moss and rocks.

For anyone interested, Randolph, NH is a superb place to hike, snowshoe, and cross country ski. The Randolph Mountain Club maintains two overnight cabins, two shelters, and over 100 miles of trails in the Randolph area, providing direct access to Mt. Adams and Mt. Madison.

Proteus Falls

Proteus Falls – Randolph – NH

Posted in Uncategorized

Website Changes

I finally took the plunge and moved my kcorson.com and keithcorson.com domains to a new web site dedicated solely to my photography. After a few weeks of learning the new platform and trying to make everything exactly as I wanted, I finally decided that I had to act and make the move, otherwise I would never finish. By making the move I am forcing myself to get things functional and not worry about perfection. Over time I will be providing additional blog content over there detailing my workflow process and will add more selections from my most popular photographs.

All photos are available for on line purchase or I can be contacted directly with any questions or assistance. I can also provide a variety of personalized formats not available on line.

This site is now hikeography.com and I will continue to update with content from hiking and photography projects.

Enjoy!!! Comments are always welcome….

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

Posted in Uncategorized

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.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

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

Posted in Uncategorized

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

 

Posted in Photo Blog, Uncategorized

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized