Lily Pad Pond

Katahdin shrouded in clouds across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. Colt Point is visible to the right.

The hike to Lily Pad Pond, a short, relatively flat out-and-back from Kidney Pond Campground at Baxter State Park, is an easy walk that skirts Kidney Pond with some big-time views of Katahdin and Mt. O-J-I. I used it as a “last day at Baxter” hike, dehydrated, sore, but wanting to see more of this special place on the way out the Park Tote Road. Baxter State Park’s site has a downloadable map of the Kidney-Daicey Pond trails, but for a real full-day six-mile-plus amphibious adventure, including a canoe exploration of Lily Pad Pond, and a follow-on hike of Little and Big Niagara Falls, check out the hike description in the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

Plank bridges toward Lily Pad Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

From Kidney Pond Campground day-use parking, head towards the Sentinel Link Trail, where you will quickly find views across Kidney Pond. This portion of the trail, hugging the shore of Kidney Pond, is the only part with tricky footing, as it is full of boulders and cedar roots. Shortly after the Celia and Jackson Ponds Trail departs to the right, there are more views of Kidney Pond Campground on the opposite shore, followed by the Sentinel Mountain Trail intersection, where you continue straight towards Lily Pad Pond. The .2 mile Colt’s Point spur trail leads to a Kidney Pond peninsula, accessible when I visited via a flooded area crossed by a ramshackle log bridge. This tenuous span was ultimately unsuccessful in keeping me above water, but the views from Colt’s Point were worth the wet socks.

View from Colt’s Point of Mt. O-J-I and Barren Mountain across Kidney Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Shortly after returning from Colt’s Point, turn off to the right onto Lily Pad Pond Trail, about .4 miles long, a moss-lined pathway with a slight downhill grade. A long section of plank bridging through a bog takes you to Beaver Brook, where there are three rental canoes ($1/hr or $8/day) available to take you to Lily Pad Pond, and keys can be secured from a ranger at Kidney Pond or Daicey Pond Campgrounds, as well as the Togue Pond Gate. Across Lily Pad Pond, at the east end, you can take the Windy Pitch Pond Trail to the Falls, walking parallel to the Appalachian Trail, on the opposite side of Nesowadnehunk Stream. I will definitely be using this trail-canoe-trail option on my next visit. The Lily Pad Pond out-and-back itself (including the Colt’s Point spur) was about 2.8 miles, which took me a little over an hour.

Canoe put-in on Beaver Brook towards Lily Pad Pond, Lily Pad Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

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Dwelley Pond

Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

A rainy final day in Baxter State Park, tired legs, and a desire to see wildlife led me to a morning exploring remote Dwelley Pond. For me, this was a 7.6 mile out-and-back, taking a little under two and a half hours in full rain gear. In good weather, allow more time to relax and enjoy the solitude, and rent the canoe at Dwelley Pond for a quiet exploration. It is also possible to spot a bike or a car at either end of the trail, turning this into a 4.6 mile point-to-point hike between the northern and southern Dwelley Pond parking areas. A description and map are available in the book Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park.

McCarty Field, Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

I began from the north trailhead, which is about a mile south from the Burnt Mountain Picnic area on the Park Tote Road. The trail, skirting Morse and McCarty Mountains in a half-circle, starts from here as a flat walk in the ruts of a former woods road, with juvenile maple saplings sprouting in the middle. A disturbingly large pile of bear scat lay in the path like a warning sign. After a stream crossing, the trail median, along with the vegetation on the periphery, changed abruptly to evergreens, hemming in the trail. At a larger stream crossing I disturbed a moose or a deer, which galloped off loudly, through woods too thick to see through. The meadow at McCarty Field, reached after less than a mile and a half, was busy with black-capped chickadees, white-throated sparrows, and golden-crowned kinglets. This unexpectedly flat, cleared area is the site of a former farm and logging depot called McCarty.

Dwelley Pond Trail, Baxter State Park, ME

After McCarty Field, the slight downhill of the previous trail switched to a light but steady uphill. The trail overlooks the south branch of Trout Brook to the east down a steep embankment, with the pleasant sound of rushing water. Closer to Dwelley Pond, a series of bogs brackets the trail, and then earthen breastworks retain shallow ponds, the logs and sticks bearing the trademark conical cut of beavers.

Dwelley Pond, Baxter State Park, ME

At Dwelley Pond, there’s a canoe, a toilet, and a picnic structure. Keys to the canoe are available for rental at either BSP gate and South Branch Pond and Nesowadnehunk Field Campgrounds ($1/hr or $8/day). Views of the pond, criss-crossed with ducks on my visit, are available via the short northward spur leading to the canoe launch. The return journey didn’t yield any moose, deer, or bear sightings, but the lighter rain and easy hike made for a relatively quick and pleasurable walk back to the north parking area.

Dwelley Pond from canoe launch, Baxter State Park, ME

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Book Review: When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail, by D. Dauphinee

A whodunit where the “who” turns out to be nature and decisions could be anti-climactic. The title and an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book foretell the tragic ending in When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay on the Appalachian Trail, by D. Dauphinee (DownEast Books 2019), but the story in between remains taut and meaningful. Geraldine Largay, a sixty-six year old Appalachian Trail (AT) hiker, trail name “Inchworm,” disappeared in July 2013 on a section of the AT in western Maine, and despite a wide search, her remains were found inside a sleeping bag by surveyors in October 2015, less than eight hundred yards from the AT.

As Largay cannot bear witness anymore (besides e-mails, text messages, and notes from the hike), Dauphinee largely focuses on the searchers from the Maine Warden Service and other agencies, the friends, and the fellow hikers to tell Largay’s story. The misinformation, inaccurate tips, and rumors are seen in split-screen with the actual timeline created from digital and physical artifacts of Largay. As Dauphinee concludes at the end of a chapter, “The behavior of lost people is a challenging study.”

Woven throughout the narrative on Largay’s disappearance is a broader examination of the AT’s history, its lore, terminology, and culture, and the reasons each hiker has for tackling all or part of the trail. Dauphinee also devotes a fair amount of time to the concepts of Search And Rescue and the mindset of the lost person. The irony that Largay became disoriented and eventually died on lands used for training by the U.S. Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) school could have been played up for effect, and indeed, Dauphinee references sensational Bollard news articles which insinuated that this Navy “torture school” was responsible for Largay’s disappearance, and other theories about prescription drugs. But this conspiracy-type thinking is quickly neutralized by Dauphinee’s interviews and interactions, including with a retired SERE instructor who participated in the search, and who was emotionally affected by the failed effort. Dauphinee eventually returns with the SERE instructor for a somber visit to the site at which Largay’s remains were found. Dauphinee’s book ends with an epilogue in which he discusses the practical lessons that may be learned from Largay’s tragedy.

It is the mark of good writing that, even when the end is never in doubt, the reader still feels compelled to turn each page, to explore the broader story. In this case, human nature and years of evolution make it a story that sticks with us beyond the closing of the book, a survival lesson learned. And the care taken by Daupinee to be respectful, to make the kind, gregarious Largay more than a statistic, builds a character that the reader roots for, even knowing the outcome.

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Wadleigh Mountain

Fading light on Wadleigh Brook Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

Wadleigh Mountain (1,259 ft) is a short hike just inside the Scientific Forest Management Area (SFMA) in the north of Maine’s Baxter State Park. The hike, described in the Maine Mountain Guide, begins at the trailhead for Wadleigh Brook (parking in a small area across the Park Tote Road) just west of the SFMA kiosk. Baxter State Park’s downloadable trail map of the SFMA covers this area. This flat, fast trail moves initially through a pine forest above Wadleigh Brook. Moose and bear scat were frequently visible, but the only animals I saw were squirrels and birds.

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Howe Brook Falls

Lower South Branch Pond from Pogy Notch Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine

Howe Brook Falls is a spectacular four mile total out-and-back waterfall hike from South Branch Pond Campground in the northern half of Baxter State Park. I tacked this hike on to a South Branch Pond Loop hike, which is covered separately in another post, but the Howe Brook hike itself can be done in about three hours or less. A detailed description and map of this hike is found in the books Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park and Hiking Waterfalls Maine, and a Baxter State Park downloadable map of South Branch Pond is available on BSP’s website.

Howe Brook Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine
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Albany Mountain

Beaver pond, Albany Mountain Trail, WMNF, Maine

For the best foliage hikes, I often return to the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF), which has the perfect mix of pine and deciduous forest, displayed in sunny tiers, to boost the powerful colors of fall in New England. Albany Mountain (1,930 ft) in south Oxford county, near Bethel, on the eastern edge of WMNF, is a relatively easy climb for the quality of its views, which include a variety of fall colors spread across the forests, lakes, and hills leading to the White Mountains to the west. The hike is fully described in the Maine Mountain Guide, and downloadable maps are available from the site of the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the WMNF. A small parking area with a trail map and information kiosk is located off Crocker Pond Road in WMNF. From here, the yellow-blazed trail led through a yellow, green and orange October forest. Strategically placed rocks bridged small streams, and cut swaths on the margins let light into the surrounding forest.

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Mt. Pisgah

Kennebec Land Trust kiosk at parking area, Mt. Pisgah, Winthrop, Maine

The Mt. Pisgah Community Conservation Area in Winthrop, Maine, is part of over 1,000 acres managed by the Kennebec Land Trust (KLT) and the Town of Winthrop. A trail map is available on the KLT website. The structure of the trails, all marked with blue blazes, makes a full loop impossible without re-tracing steps, but on a mid-October day, we chose to use the Tower Trail, Ledges Trail, and an easy .3 mile up and back on the Blueberry Trail to complete a satisfying 4-mile clockwise exploration of Mt. Pisgah in a little under two hours.

Twisted sugar maple on Tower Trail, Mt. Pisgah Conservation Area, Winthrop, Maine
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South Branch Pond Loop

Lower South Branch Pond in the morning from trailhead, Baxter State Park, ME

The South Branch Pond Campground in Maine’s Baxter State Park overlooks two pristine ponds in the shadow of the surrounding mountains. The South Branch Pond Loop hike is a 6.6 mile loop that leaves from the southwest corner of the campground and includes South Branch Mountain (2630 ft) and Black Cat Mountain (2611 ft) in its counterclockwise circuit of these lower and upper ponds. A full description of the hike can be found in the Maine Mountain Guide, or as an out-and-back to Black Cat Mountain in Hiking Maine’s Baxter State Park. A map of the South Branch Pond area is available for download from BSP’s website. Leaving early from behind the ranger station, I started the hike with wet shoes, as South Branch Pond Brook, the outlet from Lower South Branch Pond, stands between the trailhead kiosk and the remaining trail, and was running high after the night’s rains. The trail was marked in intervals by fresh moose droppings. Less than a mile in, the first overlook faced the wilds to the north.

View of The Traveler from near peak of South Branch Mountain, Baxter State Park, ME
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Sawtelle Falls

Sawtelle Falls Trail, T6R7 WELS, Maine

Sawtelle Falls, on Sawtelle Brook in unnamed township T6R7 WELS, northern Penobscot County, is at the end of an out-and-back trail departing from Scraggly Lake Road, a narrow woods road off the north side of Grand Lake Road. Remember: WELS just means “West of the Easterly Line of the State,” the straight north-south line of the U.S.-Canadian border in northern Maine that extends from Hamlin to Amity, and is a reference for unorganized territory. The trailhead, east of Baxter State Park’s north gate, is a short drive from both Shin Falls and the Seboeis River Trails, and the three waterfall hikes can easily be completed in an afternoon. Following the falls, Sawtelle Brook flows south to meet with the Seboeis River, which is then joined by Shin Brook as it flows further south.

Step ledges above Sawtelle Falls, T6R7 WELS, Maine
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Seboeis River Trails

Picnic area at trailhead, Seboeis River Trails, T6R7 WELS, ME

I had first passed the sign for the Seboeis River Trails a year or so ago on the way through northern Penobscot County to Baxter State Park’s north entrance, and made a mental note to check them out. Not much exists online regarding this riverside hike from Grand Lake Road, part of the Seboeis River Gorge Preserve in T6R7 WELS, except the description of a 1.1 mile out-and-back trail along the Seboeis River, ending at the Grand Pitch. I had seen the sign, then saw that it was in the guide book Hiking Waterfalls Maine for the section of ledges at the Grand Pitch. So imagine my surprise to find that this trail now extends 6.75 miles, crossing Shin Brook and following the Seboeis downstream to Grondin Road.

Seboeis River Trails, T6R7 WELS, ME
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