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.
64 Balsam Dr