Monday, August 3, 2020

Summertime!: Week #7 - Part 2 - Abol Bridge Camping Trip

What a great trip! No service for four days/three nights, 17+ miles of hiking, a sweet 12 mile solo run in the park, campfires, bug bites, sunsets, views of Katahdin, ice cream, new-to-us trails, river fun, mountain views and a lot of great time spent together. It was really fun to be back up in Baxter, and to show Sam this special place. 

Thursday (part 2): We headed north around 9:00 am and stopped in Millinocket for lunch. The AT Cafe, where we ate with Mindy and Pete after they picked us up at the end of the trail in 2008, still exists but is now under new ownership and serves mexican food. The burritos were delish! I highly recommend the breakfast burrito, filled with eggs, cheese, bacon and french fries. Yum!

From there, we headed the 30 minutes north out onto the Golden Road to Abol Bridge Campground. This is definitely a funky place, a little rough around the edges and almost as if it is existing in a whole other world - but the people were friendly, it was quiet, and it offered sweet views of Katahdin and great access to the park and other recreational activities along the river. 

After we set up camp, we wandered around checking out the different sites and taking in the views. It was a gorgeous afternoon, and the mountain never disappoints!


View from the bridge

It was still early so we put on our packs and decided to take a short walk up the AT. Always good to follow those white blazes!

Shortly after we crossed the park boundary, we came to a section that had recently seen a forest fire. It was crazy to see the difference between the "regular" woods and the charred section. Turns out the fire burned the first bridge along the trail too, and as we didn't feel the need for a river ford late in the afternoon, we turned around and explored a bit along the Abol Stream Trail before returning to camp. (2.6 miles walked)

Then it was time for Otto's pizza warmed up on the stove and sitting around the campfire. Oh, and the excitement of watching a front come up the river and one of the campground guys coming around saying "batten down the hatches! They're showing a tornado warning for the area!" We quickly put everything back into the car, moved ourselves, our dinner and our chairs into the tent vestibule and watched the storm blow over. A fair amount of wind and some rain but thankfully not a tornado! Still, that was more than enough excitement for the evening! 

The skies cleared quickly enough that we went down to the water's edge as the sky was darkening to check out the evening sky. No real sunset but pretty nonetheless. A good first day!

Friday: Woke up to find the sun rising and after making coffee, took a walk down to the water's edge to take in the view before I woke up Sam and Ryan. Gorgeous.

Woke everyone up around 6:15 and we were in the car by 7:00 to head to the park. With Baxter's regulations, there are only so many parking spots allotted in each lot, and reservations have to be made in advance to climb Katahdin. We weren't looking for quite that sort of adventure, but did want to get up on one of the lesser peaks with Sam. Choice #1 was South Turner, but we had looked at the maps on Thursday evening, briefly, for a second choice, should we not get a spot at Roaring Brook. And indeed, even though this was an early start for us, Roaring Brook was full, so we headed to choice #2, the West Peak of OJI. Ryan and I have hiked up in this range before, when we were peak bagging the 4000 footers, but hadn't don't this particular peak, so it was a new peak and a new trail to us. 

The first mile was much more than we would have expected. Really slick, mossy bog bridges, a lot of maneuvering across, around and through streams, big mud puddles and fairly rugged. It did yield some good sightings though - one red eft, multiple toads and a lot of mushrooms.

About a mile in, the trail rose up into the hardwood forest and mellowed out a bit, although of course, this is where Sam fell and scraped up her knee. We wiped up the blood and she was feeling well enough to stick her tongue out at me for taking a photo, so on we went! 😉 Multiple erratics, some neat rock formations, moose poop and some nice forest to wander through for a while before the final ascent to the col where the spur to West Peak turned off. 

One spring beauty found. Seems awfully late, but it was pretty!

Up high, the bunchberry berries were out!

Glorious views from the West Peak overlook, looking out towards Katahdin and back into the park and beyond with lakes and forest and not much else. Beautiful. 

After a stop to admire the scenery and have a snack, we made quick work of the descent, returning the way we came. All in all, a really great hike, every did a good job and it was a fun exploration! (6.3 miles walked)

The rest of the afternoon was spent back at camp, walking around the campground, enjoying the views, playing cornhole, getting ice cream at the store and having dinner around a roaring campfire before taking in the sunset and moonrise over the river. 

Saturday: A gorgeous day for a hike right from the campground. We found a side trail from the back of the campground that cut off a bit of the road walk we did on Thursday to access the Park and took that to meet up with the AT. Shortly thereafter, we veered off on the Abol Pond Trail and up the Blueberry Ledge Trail. It was a lovely mellow gravel road walk for about 2 miles up to some wonderfully open ledges that paralleled Katahdin Stream. So cool! 

Cotton sedge

Lager purple-fringed orchid

We spent a long time wandering around along the stream before continuing up into the woods, where the trail became much more technical, meandering in amongst the hardwoods. But as we were planning on a mellow hike, we turned around shortly thereafter. 



On the return trip, we took a few of the side trails and even found a great quiet spot to do some river sliding! What fun! Overall, this was a great hike and another new-to-us trail explored, one which we never even knew existed. (5.3 miles walked)


Sam even got into one of the deeper pools, but if you look closely you might be able to tell that water is a bit cold! 😉😂

View as we headed out of the park back to the campground

Once we got back to camp, we relaxed a bit, made nachos for lunch and got ice cream from the store before heading north on the Golden Road to see what we could find. My stomach did not enjoy the wash-board bumpy ride, but we did find a few nice views en-route!

Then it was back to camp, where Sam and I started up the campfire and relaxed while Ryan went out for a run. 

Then it was down to the river to watch the sunset and the moonlight shining brightly on the water 🌙🔥😍

The phone turned this into what almost looked like a daytime shot, but you can still see the stars ★

Sunday: I woke up early to head out for a solo run in the park to start off the day. A humid but gorgeous morning. I ran up the Blueberry Ledge Trail to its junction with the Tote Road, headed south on the AT and then turned onto the Lost Pond Trail, which turned into the Foss & Knowlton Pond Trail before hooking back up to the AT just beyond the burned out bridge. Only saw a few people, all on the 2 or so miles between the Birches Campground and the turn off to Lost Pond. Some beautiful views of Katahdin along Foss & Knowlton Ponds, some sweet runnable trail and some nice technical sections too. No moose, despite the early hour, but a great loop and a fun exploration of yet some more new trails 😍 (12.3 miles)

Morning light over Katahdin

Couldn't resist taking a short side trip down to the stream along the ledges

Great sky

Loved all the mossy woods

View of Doubletop from along the AT

Grassy Pond

Lost Pond Trail

Glorious trail

Katahdin view

Had to ford the river! A bit slick but felt good after a long, sweaty run 😃

Then it was back to help break up camp. But before we headed home, it was time for one more hike, this time to the ice caves on the Nature Conservancy's Debsconeag Lakes Wilderness land. Another new place for us to explore!

After a slow and bumpy road down yet another dirt road, we found the trailhead. It was a short hike out to the caves but a rather rugged one, through some beautiful mossy woods, scattered with fern-covered erratics. We took the short side trip to the top of the hill above the ice cave turn-off to enjoy the breeze and view over 1st Debsconeag Lake. 

Then it was down to the ice cave, where there was indeed still snow! We all went down the first set of rungs, but Ryan was the only one who went way down the final set into the cave opening. Sam and I could feel the cold air pouring up and out though. Felt so good on a hot day!

Next up was the second side trail to the edge of the lake where we enjoyed a snack before heading back to the car. A fun and different exploration and a great way to wrap up our trip! (3.1 miles walked)