My Baxter State Park trip report is long overdue! As usual, my report will be heavy on photos.
We all were excited to get out of work on Tuesday and get on the road north to Mt Chase Lodge. We always stay there the night before our trips, it is a really perfect staging area for ski trips into Baxter’s north end. Rick and Sara are amazingly gracious hosts who send us off into the park with warm smiles and full stomaches.
We basically take over their lodge for the night as we get ready for our trip the next day.
I tried to pack light, but decided I needed wine on this trip.
After breakfast, we got on the trail for the 12 mile ski into South Branch Pond. We stopped after 2-3 miles to get a group shot at the Mattagammon Gate house (unmanned in the winter).
It was a gorgeous day for a ski, the snow got a little sticky toward the end (that means it sticks like glue to the bottom of your skis and they stop sliding). I pulled a rookie move and totally spaced a scraper and F4 (the tools used to battle sticky snow) and so I just kept chugging along swearing at myself for spacing two key pieces of backcountry gear.
At least I remembered the wine.
After about 4 hours, we reached South Branch Pond. It is a really gorgeous place, one of my favorite places to be.
The best part of getting to camp? One of the guys carried a 6 pack of PorkSlap Ale.
We packed up our things and got ready to head across Big and Little South Branch Ponds and to Russell Pond. It is about a 10 mile ski. It felt kind of cold in the morning compared to the previous day, so we bundled up and got ready to head for our next camp.
I don’t have a lot to say about the ski to Russell, except that it was a really nice ski with the usual climb up Pogy Notch that left us all struggling to herringbone up and over. We were staying at Russell for 3 nights, a first for us.
The plan was to try to make it to Davis Pond – a 5.2 mile one way trip – the following day. This is a very remote area, I think the most remote in the park. We were hoping that someone ahead of us had tried to break trail part way to give us a better chance at reaching Davis (we were doubtful that someone else had, but we were hopeful nonetheless).
So, we found out pretty quickly that we were breaking trail the whole way to Davis. When I say we, I mean the guys in front of me.
It was a completely gorgeous ski. What started out as 7 ended up as 5 when 2 of our group decided to turn around.
The “skiing” got steep and narrow, in that we were side stepping up a lot of really steep stuff that wasn’t wide enough for our skis to side step up. I had done this trail in the summer, and I looked up at John (who was above my head, it was pretty steep) and told him that I remember it getting really steep AFTER the Wassataquoik Stream crossing (which we hadn’t reached yet).
John mutters something along the lines of “$%%$%$%#. How are we going to ski down this??” and then shouts up the trail to Jim (who is above HIS head):
“Hey Jim, Mandy says it gets steep in a bit.”
“%&#. I was wondering when it was going to pick up. She’s kidding right?”
“You’re kidding right?”
It was pretty tough going. The snow was deep and fluffy, there was nothing for our skis to hold onto, and in this case, we were pretty sure skins wouldn’t have helped too much because the snow was kind of bottomless. You would plant your pole for support and sink in to your armpit.
We eventually reached Wassataquoik Stream, and knowing that we had to cross it on the trail, we thought we would try skiing up it instead of the trail. It turned out to be the best part of the day, and it was SO much easier going, there was a little less snow. You just had to really pay attention to where you were going.
We got to the crossing, and then kept climbing up toward Davis. Again, the snow was deep and tough going, and we got together as a group and talked about “maybe using our brain today” (I mean, we carry the thing around, we might as well use it. It is so heavy…blah blah) Then we kept skiing up the trail.
So much for brains.
Finally we got to this super steep part. The part I had remembered. About a half mile from Davis Pond the trail shoots up pretty steeply. Not a big deal in the summer, but in the winter in these conditions, it is a little different story.
We had been going for about 4-5 hours and it was approaching 2pm. We had to call it. Back down Wassataquoik Steam. We stayed on the stream to avoid the steep narrow gully (that drops into a big rock) that we were all a little nervous about skiing down, and stayed on the stream for a long way. It was gorgeous!
We continued on back to camp and had an awesome dinner.
It was crazy windy, rainy, wet and just plain yucky out. I skied about a half mile or so but mostly we all hung around camp, talked about going out for a ski ”later”, and ate stuff we didn’t want to carry out the next day.
So sad. It was time to leave. 4 of our group was going to ski to Roaring Brook, the rest of us schmos had to work the next day so we had to ski the 22 miles out. We were worried about the lakes being slushy after the rain the previous day, but it turned out to be just fine.
It was a gorgeous day.
We made it to South Branch Pond by 11:00am, grabbed a quick lunch, and then kept going out to the truck. On the way we saw a partridge that was all puffed up and kind of running at us. It was pretty funny.
As always, it was a fabulous trip!! We said our goodbyes and headed home with smiles on our faces.
I can’t wait until next year!