After an early start from near Lincoln, New Hampshire, on Friday the 13th, we drove a combination of scenic roads and interstate highways to our tenth state on this trip, Maine. Our first destination in Maine was Millinocket, a small town near Baxter State Park where we planned to hike. We arrived at our motel in the early evening—suffice to say that motel ads don’t alway paint the most accurate description!
Saturday, we awoke to a questionable weather day with thunderstorms and scattered showers forecast to occur off and on most of the day.. Our plans were to drive to Baxter State Park to view Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and to hike a trail that would give us the best chance to see and photograph a moose. However, before we traveled too far, a big sign pointed us in the direction of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. It is a US National Monument spanning 87,563 acres of mountains and forestland in northern Penobscot County, Maine, including a section of the East Branch Penobscot River. The monument is located on the eastern border of Baxter State Park. We had intended to drive the Katahdin Loop Road circumnavigating the monument, but there was really nothing to see except woods and water, and a number of anti-monument signs.
After the attempt to tour the national monument, we drove to Baxter State Park. Baxter State Park is different in that it is devoid of significant infrastructure. The roads are generally unpaved, and the buildings are old, and g built of logs. It is a carry in/carry out park, meaning that anything that is carried into the park must be carried out, including ALL trash.
At the tiny visitors center, Kay was advised that the best trail option was to hike to Sandy Stream Pond, but that only 5 permits were issued at a time for that trail. She was given some alternate choices for hikes in the likelihood that no permits for Sandy Stream Pond were available. We were not optimistic while waiting in a long line at the ranger station, but when we asked if permits were available, he affirmed that they were. Our was for 3 hours, but considering the drive was almost 30 minutes, the remaining 2 1/2 hours was consistent with what we had been told. The gravel road to the trailhead was a bit muddy, but when we arrived, it was virtually cloudless with bright sunshine. We lightly filled a day pack with water, required flashlight, camera, etc. and began the o.6 mile walk through the Maine woods along Sandy Stream Pond.
About halfway, we came to an observation area which offered great views of Katahdin while a couple of Cedar Waxwings were chased insects nearby.
After another 0.3 miles we came to the “big rock”, where moose sightings were frequent. There were dragonflies (which never lit) and damselflies, but no moose.
We waited for about 30 minutes until it began to rain (we packed light—NO raincoats), and visited with a couple of other hikers.
The hike out was brief, and the road out was muddy. However, on the way back to Millinocket to find a car wash, it rained hard, and washed away most of the mud. We ate great dinners at the motel restaurant before calling it a night.