hiking the freezeout and frost pond trails in baxter

1 Jun

Last weekend, after constructing a raised garden bed (welcome to my yard, carrots and turnips!), we headed southwest to Baxter State Park. We camped for a night along the deceptively-pleasant shores of Grand Lake Matagamon, which quickly proved to be the breeding ground of roughly 6.66 million black flies. The following day we surprised ourselves by hiking a rather long trail in an impressively short amount of time, only in part speeding along to escape the aforementioned bloodsucking terrors.

I recently made a promise to document my Baxter hikes here, and this is the first installment of that promise.

We mixed the tequila in the above photo with some wonderful not-too-sweet Strawberry Lemonade I had made the day before. If you’re looking for another refreshing summery lemonade, try this one, which I hope to make next.

The hike was simple in theory and practice: 11.2 miles on relatively flat terrain, with only one small mountain to scale (if you can even call it a mountain). The only head scratcher came just past the finish line – the hike was not a loop. Instead, the trail emerged 5.6 miles down the park road from the starting point, and the car.

To remedy this quandary we stashed my lovely, recently-built, no longer pristine, kickass mountain bike at the trail’s end prior to starting the hike. In Baxter, mountain biking is not allowed, but bikes are permitted on main park roads. Problem solved.

A bear ate this sign. No, really, it did.

The Freezeout Trail began at the Trout Brook Farm Campground, which is near the Matagamon (North) Gate entrance to the park. From there, it was 4.3 miles to the intersection with the Frost Pond Trail. In one short stretch of the Freezeout Trail, I counted thirty three blooming lady’s slipper orchids, ranging in hue from white-cream to deep pink. Being the blunderbuss that I am, I couldn’t be bothered to take out my clunky camera with the broken lens cap to capture this beautiful sight. Rest assured, though, it was there.

At some point, the trail joined up with an old forest road. Coming across signs of long-ago human habitation may be my favorite part of adventuring in woods such as these – – who inhabited these parts before me, and what did they do? Why did they abandon their machinery, or let their telegraph wires remain long after their departure?

With long hikes, my mind meanders in wonderful ways. I spent much of this hike dreamily visualizing settlers and voyageurs from the days of yore, skillfully cloaked in the forest about me, Last of the Mohicans-style.

While still on the Freezeout Trail, we pondered the significance of a large area adjacent to the lake that had no vegetation, but merely a thick layer of ‘soil’ made up of wood shavings (above, top right). Mildly bewildered (was it a landing site for logs before they were put into the river? why has nothing grown in yet? how long ago did something happen here? why am I so interested in this?), we continued on, turning onto the Frost Pond Trail.

Shortly thereafter, we entered the Scientific Forest Management Area, an area in the park where active forestry is practiced and compared to unmanaged ‘benchmark’ reserves. Much of this stretch of trail, which traverses some wet areas, scales Wadleigh Mountain (although if the summit was marked, we didn’t see it), and touches on an a reserved area of old-growth forest, was only completed in 2004. It was a lovely hike that sped by, both temporally and geographically. It is also in an area of the park that sees relatively few visitors – we saw no one.

Despite the easiness of the hike, my feet were quite tired by the time we made it to the trail’s end. I hadn’t spent any time in my hiking boots – which I loathe – since last summer. However, like any crazy outdoors person, I pushed on happily.

As my boyfriend pedaled away on my bike back towards the car, taking with him all of our water, I raised my head to the hot summery sun beating down from above. It was around 2 pm, easily the hottest part of the day. With the scent of pines permeating the heavy air around me, I set my sights on the first bend in the road. And I began to run.

I ended up making it 3.6 additional miles before being picked up; during that stretch I was passed by four or five cars, the passengers in each gawking at me with looks of confusion. I suppose runners aren’t too common in the middle of nowhere.

Baxter State Park

64 Balsam Dr
Millinocket, Maine

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37 Responses to “hiking the freezeout and frost pond trails in baxter”

  1. Christina 2012/06/01 at 14:04 #

    Love your photos! Love chocolate, too :)

    • emma 2012/06/01 at 14:11 #

      Thanks Christina! Oooh, if you like chocolate, you’ve come to the right place! :D

  2. sarah 2012/06/01 at 18:58 #

    It’s so pretty there. So different than the the nature here. I’m now bored with my nature, I want to borrow yours. Then again, bears eating signs makes me think rattle snakes are the lesser evil.

    • emma 2012/06/02 at 10:32 #

      Oh boy, I’m so scared of snakes that it’s a crime. Whereas bears scare me not one whit. Peculiar.

      We can trade nature for a while, I’d be fine with that:)

  3. Brianne 2012/06/01 at 21:50 #

    I am going to love, LOVE this series of posts. I need to get to Baxter more often!

    11.2 miles?? I need to get out more often. Yikes! And leave it to Baxter to have a “loop” trail end 5 miles away from the starting point. Too silly.

    • emma 2012/06/02 at 10:35 #

      I’m glad these posts will be enjoyed! The hike went by really quickly – it was for the most part very flat terrain.

      You know, I’m a bit confused by the number of awkward “through” hikes that Baxter has. There are likely going to be several more of these adventures that feature me running down the road like a crazy loon in my hiking boots!

  4. Sophia 2012/06/01 at 23:58 #

    11.2 miles! Nice!! I love hiking, esp when it’s on a relatively flat terrain so you’re not hacking away.

    • emma 2012/06/02 at 10:36 #

      Hehe, I’m kind of a hacker, so I agree with you on that point:) This was the first long hike I’ve done that didn’t involve some major height gain, and it was really wonderful and relaxing!

  5. Hannah 2012/06/02 at 06:24 #

    Look at those golden, golden and green colours! Also, turnips always means the first book in the Molly books of the American Girls series. At least, I think it was “Meet Molly” where she had to eat mashed turnips?

    Anyhoo. Well done you for that whole exercise thing! I’m terrified my toe is playing up again so have forbidden myself to run. Too much to lose! No more surgery, no more!

    • emma 2012/06/02 at 10:39 #

      So pretty, those colors, they give a nice indication of how warm it was in the sun. A-ha, Meet Molly, eh?? Pretty soon you will be able to Meet MY Molly Cookbook!! A-HA! (I’ll have to check for a mashed turnips recipe in there.)

      No more surgery! Heal that toe! Wear those Uggs! Be well! xo.

  6. Silvia 2012/06/02 at 07:43 #

    Look at all that green! Beautiful pictures.
    You went running with your hiking boots?:)

    • emma 2012/06/02 at 10:41 #

      I most definitely did run in my hiking boots! It wasn’t the most joyous of running experiences, but I felt alright by the next day:)

      Are you able to get out into the mountains at all, or do you have to wait awhile to heal?

      • Silvia 2012/06/02 at 13:14 #

        I only ever run in my hiking boots when we are moving animals (sheep and calves) from range to range.

        The knee is much better, I slowly starting running again. And as long as it’s not too much downhill, I think I can go hiking. :) We already did a hike during our holidays in Ireland and that went well.

        • emma 2012/06/04 at 08:14 #

          Boy, moving sheep and calves sounds incredibly idyllic, although I’m sure it’s mostly just hard work.

          I’m so glad to hear you’re healing well – and quickly! And…. Ireland??! Wow wow wow heading over to Flickr to look for pictures!

  7. CheezyK 2012/06/03 at 20:29 #

    Eeeep look at those trees! … and the shrubbery and the moss and the river and the hills in the background. (Not being cheeky, that really was my first though looking at your photos :) ) Oh and the sunshine, I miss sunshine. What a beautiful place to be able to hike through.

    • emma 2012/06/04 at 08:16 #

      Ah, here is someone who I knew would appreciate the scenery! Plus she uses cute words like shrubbery:)

      It was miraculous to see the sun shine, actually. I feel that I’m living in a sunless place – we’ve been getting sun maybe once or twice a week for the past few months. It’s getting OLD. Actually, it’s already gotten old. It’s now gone stale!

      • CheezyK 2012/06/05 at 01:26 #

        Boooo to stale weather … I actually thought you’d be heading to the sunny side of things at the moment given that we’re not … which I suppose makes a lack of sun even harder to deal with … even though I’m staring down the barrel of a long miserable winter I do know that the sun will come back eventually … remind me of that in a few weeks time … you’ve made me think of the word shubbery too much now, try saying it ten times fast … apparently my lack of vitD is making one full thought difficult … I’m going now before I write you a novel … aside from which I really should be working …

        • emma 2012/06/05 at 07:33 #

          I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of sunlight this spring. I thought I’d be heading to the sunny side, too!

          Shrubberyshrubberyshrubberyshrubbery rubbery rubbery rubbery. Only made it to 7 times.

          You’re welcome to write me a novel – I’m curious what it would be about. Other than shrubbery, of course:)

  8. Mary at n00bcakes 2012/06/04 at 09:19 #

    I’m glad that you and I share the same required supplies list for backpacking: booze + axe.

    Sounds like a lovely hike! Odd that it was “almost” a loop, but at least you could construct and reasonable backup plan that didn’t require 2 cars (often the case in GA if you can’t find a loop trail). Looking forward to more pretty pictures and commentary on your trips!

    • emma 2012/06/04 at 09:23 #

      I thought that picture really described my life in an excellent way! If only I could have worked some flannel into it.

      Yeah, the ‘almost loops’ are pretty odd, huh? Weird planning on the park’s part, definitely… it’s either like they want their parking areas overcrowded, or they want to encourage people not to hike… I would go with the latter.

      There will be more trips this summer, stay tuned:)

  9. Mum 2012/06/04 at 16:37 #

    Oh, no, left behind without water again!! Can this be true?
    Glad to hear that you are wearing boots, tho I never thought that you would go jogging in them:D
    Sounds like a lovely walk! Nice pinecone photo.

    • emma 2012/06/05 at 07:15 #

      This is the best comment, hah! Stranded… alone! For hour and hours, slaving my way across the hot and dry road…. WITH NO WATER. :D

      Boots schmoots, toots.

  10. erin @ yummy supper 2012/06/04 at 16:43 #

    Emma, Have I told you lately just how much I love your writing. Ever time I read your posts I crack up. Between the black flies and the bear-bitten sign, I was there with you. ( From my comfy home without the blistered feet:))
    xo
    E

    • emma 2012/06/05 at 07:19 #

      Erin, you’re too sweet! Luckily, my feet didn’t get any blisters – they were just sloggingly tired (aww). If I got blisters from my boots, I’d REALLY hate them!

  11. shannon 2012/06/04 at 17:01 #

    hooray for raised gardens! can’t wait to see how your carrots and turnips do.
    what lovely photos of the hike. you do nothing to help my envy of northeasterners during the summer, but i love wishing i was there. thanks for the lemonade shoutout! :)

    • emma 2012/06/05 at 07:30 #

      And there’s much more! I’ll talk about it once things start growing:)

      Yeah, I’m probably just fueling the fire here. Oh well, Midwesterners get good stuff too! Like lots of lighting and exciting evenings spent huddling in the basement from storms. I miss that, I miss the creepy color the sky turns…

  12. thyme (Sarah) 2012/06/05 at 16:13 #

    Congratulations to you on your above ground bed for veggies! I want to do this but I am afraid I won’t be able to keep a garden alive with how hot it is down here. If we leave for a week, I have to hire someone to water or EVERYTHING will be roasted in 2 days. Black flies! Oh, I remember hiking in Michigan and discovering those zappers for the first time. We sprayed ‘deet’ all over us….but I’ll bet that is life-threatening poison nowadays!

    • emma 2012/06/05 at 16:36 #

      Thanks Sarah! I’m grateful that the homeowner is letting us dig in the dirt (almost) to our heart’s content – we’re trying to fit as much as possible into a pretty small space…. and it’s still ridiculously cold and cloudy here… but I have high hopes!

      I’m glad we don’t have your heat, though. I know how hot south Texas is in the summer; if it’s that painful for us, imagine the stress on those poor lil plants:/

      Uggggggggh, black flies! I’m a huge fan of DEET. A student researcher once told me that although DEET changes the genetic structure of mosquitos (or something like that), humans are supposedly 100% safe. I’ve since chosen to blindly follow that somewhat vague statement, and use as much DEET as I want:D

  13. kale 2012/06/05 at 17:49 #

    I see you spent some time with my little friend Jose… was he good to you?

    • emma 2012/06/05 at 18:06 #

      He always is! I could spout some country lyrics, but they wouldn’t adequately describe our relationship. He’s woefully maligned in their eyes.

  14. hungryandfrozen 2012/06/06 at 07:32 #

    What glorious photos! Good on you for hiking so hard, even with all those ugh-flies. Tequila definitely seems the only sensible response.

    • emma 2012/06/06 at 07:46 #

      I think I’m going to call them ugh-flies from now on, I like that.

      That was my thought – tequila will shield me from the ugh-flies, won’t it? Then the ugh-flies said “it only makes you more tasty.”

  15. Bryt 2012/06/06 at 10:59 #

    Love your photos! So pretty…
    And tequila? Good call :)

    • emma 2012/06/06 at 11:11 #

      Thanks Bryt! I’m glad everyone has affirmed my mixed drink liquor of choice:)

  16. stumblebum 2013/01/21 at 11:36 #

    Camped for years along that trail, swam daily in the lake, and marveled at the large black snakes who called the sawdust pile ‘home’ .–the mountain of sawdust is a reminder of a lumber ‘factory’ powered by steam that cut first growth timber around the turn of the last century. It’s over 15′ deep in places.

    As you walk the trail you’ll notice how flat it is in places. I’ve heard there is a huge copper cable buried there, a remnant of the Cold War, carrying radar signals south. Otherwise it was a narrow gauge RR

  17. Jennifer Collins 2014/07/17 at 00:27 #

    Thanks for the lovely description and the photos. We are planning to hike and backpack for a few days starting from Trout Brook in a couple of weeks (August), probably on the Freezeout, and I wanted some idea of what to expect. Your blog got me excited for the journey!

    • emma 2014/07/17 at 17:49 #

      Hey Jennifer,

      You’re going to want to check with the park, but I believe the Frost Pond trail is closed indefinitely at this point in time…? They had a tornado rip through the park last year, and I believe they haven’t cleared this trail out. So if you were looking to go that way, check their website to see if I’m making this up or not. Have you hiked in Baxter before? There are so many other great options, and if you’re looking to stay close to Trout Brook and the north entrance, I would highly recommend the Traveler loop. Great nearly-continuous views, neat geology, 10 miles of moderately difficult hiking. If you are looking for other specific recommendations, let me know. Baxter is a wonderful place to explore:)

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