Monday, November 5, 2012

Hiking Baxter SP: Chimney Pond

During our trip out east in October, we spent several days exploring Baxter State Park in Maine. It's a stunning park and has an incredible story behind its founding: organized and bought by a private citizen for Maine residents to enjoy a truly wild place. ("Legacy of a Lifetime" is a great read about the founding of the park.)

We spent our first full day in the park hiking up to Chimney pond, a tarn set in a cirque with stunning Mt. Katahdin in the background (off to the right, summit not shown here).

First, let me say the grueling hike was well worth it. Second, let me say that the hike was grueling not because it was 3.3 miles "straight up" as the park officials kept touting. Nor that it's an elevation gain of more than 4,000 feet. It's because there was basically no trail. Or, Mainers have a different idea of the word "trail" than we've experienced in hiking Arizona, Colorada and our home state of Minnesota. I don't expect, or even want, a paved or groomed path, but some semblance of a path would be nice.

This is a standard section of Chimney Pond trail:

It's not a trail. It's hiking in a rock-strewn steambed. The worst part? If you're under 5'5" like I am, you're continually clambering over rocks that are taller than your knees. This does not make for a pleasant seven mile hike, nor for a fun descent.

The scenery was spectacular though and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Well, maybe two heartbeats...

It was an overcast day when we set out and about two-thirds of the way up the trail it began to snow. Our first snow of the season!

You think the above photo is of a stream? Ha. Guess again. That'd be the TRAIL. I can't imagine the trail is open in the spring, it must just gush water.

We did, however, cross over many beautiful streams and waterfalls en route:

There's a campground at Chimney Pond, right before you come to the lake. It's where I saw my first-ever wild Pine Marten. I did quite the happy dance once I got over my shock of coming face to face with one of these amazing creatures. And no, I didn't take the time to get my camera out of the backpack - some moments are just meant to be enjoyed with all your senses.

While having a snack in one of the Appalachian-style lean-tos that was vacant, we chatted with a couple from Ohio who had hit Baxter on a spur-of-the-moment road trip. When they asked if we would take a photo, Dean suggested walking over to the lake for it. They stared at us. "There's a lake up here?" Seriously. We all got a good laugh out of that.

Here's Dean at the lake:

On the way up, Lower Basin lake had been engulfed in a cloud so we kept going. On the way back down, the clouds had lifted a bit and we snapped this photo right before heavy snow began falling:

Before crossing the final footbridge into Chimney Pond campground, we left behind the first snowman of the year:

By the time we passed it on the way down, someone had added black eyes and a red piece of yarn for a smiling mouth. Gotta love your fellow hikers!


  1. I like the landscapes, they are well exposed, I like the contrast of the snow on the peaks and the compositions.

  2. A gorgeous place to hike and visit! Sounds like quite a trek to get to your destination. Your wonderful photographs really show off the beauty of the area. Love your snowman!

    1. Thanks, Julie! (we can't resist leaving small snowmen wherever we go) :-)

  3. Oh to be young again & willing to do seven miles straight up in 2 heartbeats.. Thanks for taking us along!

    1. Glad you came along for the trip, Cindy! :-)

  4. On the way up, Lower Basin lake had been engulfed in a cloud so we kept going. On the way back down, the clouds had lifted a bit and we snapped this photo right before heavy snow began falling. Thank you