It was a partly cloudy day to start with the temp at 79 degrees and HUMID. We made plans to explore Baxter State Park today. We left the campground at 10:00 and drove to Baxter State Park Headquarters in Millinocket for some park information. Before going there, we stopped at the Tractor Supply Store for a battery charger. Bob was concerned that our 2 slides on the trailer were not going in and out as quickly as they should be, so he did some research this morning and watched a YouTube video about the issue. He also called 2 technicians–one mobile RV repair guy in town and one back home to get some advice. He decided to try the easiest fix first–to charge the battery–and go from there. After getting a map and some directions from the headquarters, we stopped back at the campsite to hook up the battery charger, so it could charge while we were gone. We then drove the 18 miles to the park entrance, the Togue Pond Gatehouse. We paid the daily entrance fee of $15 and drove in. Just before the entrance, the road switched from 2-lane paved to 1-lane gravel, however the park ranger told us that the park grades the road regularly to smooth out the surface and it just so happened that we passed the working road grader on our drive. From the park entrance, it was 10 miles to Daicey Pond Road. From there, our ultimate destination, was to hike to the Big and Little Niagara Falls. On the drive up, we passed many ponds (moose habitat) and looked for moose. There were lots of trailheads and some campgrounds. This is wilderness camping at its best. Some campgrounds have tent sites, some have lean-tos, and there are also a few cabins, bunkhouses, and group camps. Carry it in and carry it out. Some campsites you can only get to by canoe. The main road, Tote Road, was a road originally used for horse-drawn wagons carrying lumber.
Throughout the drive, we got glimpses of Mt. Katahdin (5,268 ft.) and its 40 surrounding peaks.
Mt. Katahdin is considered a difficult 8-hour climb/hike and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Katahdin means "highest land". (The southern terminus of the AT is Springer Mountain (elev. 3,782 ft.) in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. The AT is 2,192 miles long and covers 14 states.) Governor Baxter used his personal wealth and bought 28 parcels of land that he donated as a gift to the people of Maine between the years of 1931 and 1962. With each parcel, he created a deed of trust. The trusts stated how to care for the land. "Baxter State Park shall forever be retained and used for state forest, public park, and recreational purposes and remain in the natural wild state as a sanctuary for beasts and birds." The park is independently owned and all operating costs are paid for by his trusts, timber management, and visitor fees. It is 209,644 acres and contains 215 miles of hiking trails. The Appalachian Trail passes right through it. This is truly a wilderness. We eventually took the Daicey Pond Road turnoff.
Daicey Pond Road is basically a very narrow, one lane road, Passing by a car coming from the other direction is tricky. One vehicle has to find a bulge in the road and move over for the the other car to pass by. Good thing the speed limit is only 10 mph. We drove 2 miles to the day use parking area. It was a busy place and of the 8 parking spaces, all but one was taken. We got lucky!
We parked at noon, slipped on our hiking boots, grabbed our water bottles, a walking stick, bug wipes, and were ready to begin the trail to the falls. First, we had to sign our names to the Appalachian Trail (AT) ledger to go on record there.
Second, we signed our names to the Daicey Pond Trail ledger as a safety precaution so they would know we were on the trail. (When we bought our day pass at the gatehouse, the ranger took an emergency phone number in case something happened to us. Also, she asked if we were bringing in a dog or firewood. Both are prohibited in the park.)
We began our hike at 12:15 by crossing this stream on wooden planks.
The beginning of the trail was slow going over rocks, boulders, and tree roots.
You had to pick your path carefully. Parts of the trail were wet and boggy, so we used side paths, planks, and rocks as stepping stones.
We came upon this boulder that was engulfed by this tree and its roots. It was almost eerie!
We came prepared for biting horseflies and mosquitoes and saw none to speak of. We were pleasantly surprised. The hike is considered an easy hike of 2.2 miles round trip. It was pretty flat for most of the way, but it was slow going because of the obstacles in the path. Our first stop was at the Toll Dam, a narrow part of the river.
A little farther down the trail was Little Niagara Falls.
AT hikers were resting their feet in the refreshingly cold water of the river.
We got a chance to talk to two men who were hikers on their way down the AT. They started in Virginia and had been hiking on the AT since March 18. Apparently, that is the prime starting time to start hiking the AT.
Our last stop was at the Big Niagara Falls.
It was beautiful with multiple cascades of water.
We stood in the shade and enjoyed the view and the sound of the roaring water before we headed back.
On our way back, we ran into two young women from Virginia who had been hiking for 3 months. They were doing the "flip-flop" which means that they start at the approximate middle of the AT, which is in Virginia They walk in one direction to the end. Then they get transported back to the middle where they started from. They hike in the other direction to the end of the trail and get transported back to the middle where they started from. This is all done in a continuous time frame. They were doing the Mt. Katahdin climb/hike tomorrow to end this segment of their "flip-flop". They had already completed the trek through the "100 mile wilderness" where there are no supplies or services for 100 miles. One of the ladies said she had stocked up with a lot of potatoes for the trek. They were so interesting to talk to that we chatted for quite awhile while we rested.
We got back to the campground around 3:30 and relaxed outside after putting our hiking gear away. In the campground it felt cooler without the humidity, so I sat outside working on my blog while Bob relaxed with some TV. Auggie spent some time with both of us, keeping us company. We ate a later dinner and took our walk. Tomorrow they are forecasting for the high temp to be 91, so we'll make plans for the day tomorrow with that in mind. We've had our fill of rough and bumpy roads for awhile.