The MOFGA Section of the Hills-to-Sea Trail

When we bought a house in Unity last month, I knew the Hills-to-Sea trail would be close by, but I did not realize it would be a half-mile down the street.  The house is on the other side of Crosby Brook Road from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners’ Association (MOFGA), and the edge of MOFGA is part of the official Hills-to-Sea trail route.  

When first encountering the Hills-to-Sea trail map and driving by the field considered the MOFGA trailhead, I tried to wrap my head around how it fit into the grand scheme of this trail system from Unity to Belfast. At first, I thought the trail to MOFGA would be considered a spur trail, but from looking at the map at http://www.waldotrails.org/unitytrail.html, it became clear that it is part of the official route.  The northern terminus for the Hills-to-Sea trail is in downtown Unity.  Coming from Unity or Freedom, you can indeed easily opt for an short alternate route and avoid the official route that swings through MOFGA, but why would you want to?

I have only had the time to make a loop out of the MOFGA inset of the map: Berry Road to the Alternate Route to Sandy Stream to MOFGA to the Berry Road.  Last Saturday night, my husband and I finally slept for the first time in the 15-passenger van that we purchased last fall with the intention of crashing in it while we were working on our house.  Early in our relationship, we discovered my husband becomes so involved in projects that he likes to stay up until the wee hours of the morning wiring electrical whereas I konk out around 10pm.

When I woke up Sunday morning, sunlight streaming into the van from every direction, I decided to head out on a walk while my partner slept more.  New to the property, I am interested in walking in every direction: down the railroad tracks to Thorndike, up the railroad tracks to the Amish store, but most of all, over to the section of the Hills-to-Sea trail.

I knew I could walk up Berry Road and avoid the crossing of Sandy Stream, and per usual, I had not committed to a concrete plan where I would go from there.  Being my mother’s daughter, I even found Berry Road to be of interest simply because I had never been down that way before. My mother spent thirty years of her career as a visiting nurse driving the back roads of Somerset, Kennebec, Hancock, and Penobscot counties, and she taught me the joy of making the pages of the Delorme come alive.  She lives for the scenic route, often at the expense of the underside of her car, and she would occasionally veer off down a back road when driving with my sister and me.  “I have been down this road before–well, partially been down this road–well, my friend told me about this road.”

Berry Road is classic Waldo County pastoral, agricultural fields in use with an RV or something else for sale here or there.  Well-marked as part of the Hills-to-Sea trail the whole road.  At the top of the hill, I came across a sign directing me to Freedom if I headed South and Unity to the north.  To outsiders these names may be strange, but I have known these town names my whole life and been driving through them, swimming in them, stopping at their general stores.

Then and there, I decided I would loop back to MOFGA via the Sandy Stream crossing.  I had crossed waist-high water before, with my father I had forded a river notoriously discouraged by the MATC, I could handle this stream crossing.

I briefly walked on the alternate route before it veered off to Unity, and I headed towards MOFGA.  I felt a little in awe that I could walk to downtown Unity some day.  To me, I felt even more excited about our move to Central Maine because of this newly developed trail system practically in our backyard.  The new trail system was not the fine stonework of Acadia.  For the most part, it was the understated pleasure of walking through a hardwood forest and trying to remember from dendrology which tree was releasing these fluffy fruiting bodies that would sporadically coat the forest floor like a shedding animal.

In heading towards MOFGA, I crossed a field high on a ridge and had a Sound of Music moment.  It was my only true view of the day, a bird’s eye view of field after field of the working Maine landscape.  Perhaps the tourists of Acadia would be unimpressed, but I felt so much gratitude that I had to start singing THAT song.  “The hills are alive…..”  At the same time, I felt transported back to the sections of the AT in southern Virginia, where the trail maintainers install little steps to climb over fences you cross so many fields and usually you are crossing the fences under the watchful gaze of cattle.  No cattle in this particular field on the Hills-to-Sea trail though.

From there, the trail meanders it’s way through the woods to Sandy Stream.  For all who may worry about the stream crossing, fear not.  It felt quite tame in my book, they had even placed stepping stones across the stream that were just barely under the surface of the water.  I opted to take my shoes off and enjoy the pleasure of the cool water on my toes.  Once I reached the other side, I hiked barefoot for a bit, in touch with the wild rugged quality of my childhood.

When I emerged from the woods to the field near Crosby Brook Road, I felt acutely aware that all the alpacas at the farm next door turned their long necks and stared at me.  Awwww.

I know so many who attend the Common Ground Fair and say, “I wish this happened 365 days a year.”  The Hills-to-Sea trail is the answer to that.  The Hills-to-Sea trail pulls you into that working agricultural landscape in all seasons, and that is a tremendous gift for all of us who need a reprieve.

Advertisements

Champlain

I had a commitment first thing in the morning in Bar Harbor and another at 2pm, so I figured I would hike and swim in the interim.  I had my sights set on the west side of Pemetic, on that opfork where you can either climb on ladders through the Lemon Squeezer of Acadia or scramble up steep granite faces.  When I pulled into the Bubbles parking lot on this sunny Thursday at 11am, not a parking space to be found.  Slightly disappointed, I headed to the Bubbles Pond parking.  No luck there either, or at the pull-off near the North Ridge of Cadillac.

I was not in the vast wilderness of Somerset County any more.  This was all part of the social hiking experience that is Mount Desert Island.  I decided I would be happy climbing anything with a parking space.  I eagerly pulled over at the turn-off by the North Ridge of Champlain simply because it had room for my Honda Fit.

Yesterday, I only saw a man and his dog on Bigelow.  I can handle that much solitude, and all the risks that come with that much solitude.  Especially on a main artery like the AT, if .something happened to me as a solo hiker during this time of year, assuming I stayed on the trail, someone would stumble across me within 24 hours.  I am more vocal than ever with my husband and mother about my whereabouts.  I look back on some of the things that I did not tell anyone that I was doing in my twenties, and I think I was lucky nothing ever happened to me.  More cautious in my thirties, I sign into every register, I leave my cell phone on, and I trust in God.  I love the mountains like my husband loves playing with electricity: we both venture into realms that slightly scare the other but we would never deny each other the supreme joy that accompanies potential danger.

In contrast, I encountered another hiker within two minutes of setting foot on the trail in Acadia.  He pointed out the lady slippers ahead on the trail, and I thanked him for sharing.  Who knows if my eyes would have been so intent to notice if he had not been there.

I encountered at least twenty others on Champlain, all enjoying the strong breeze on the exposed ridge line.  When people ask me where to hike on the island, I should just say, “climb a ridge line, any ridgeline” for the most comfortable conditions and most spectacular views.

No doubt, sharing the views did not ruin them for me.  It is what I have always said about this island.  I love it in all seasons, all times of day, as crowded as it may be, even when I cannot find a parking space.

Bigelow

I stopped carrying maps.  I still own a collection covering the bulk of high points along the Eastern Seaboard, but I am lending them to a hiker-friendly vacation rental on Mount Desert Island.  Pathetically, I have memorized the elevation profile of the AT and its side trails in Maine.  When I want to go anywhere else, I can consult my trusty Delorme and apps on my phone.

For full disclosure, I have not been out in the woods much in the last two years.  I fell in love with a house, and then a man, and I gave up everything to secure those two important lifelong investments.  This summer, I seek to reclaim what comprised my everything that I gave up, or as much of it that I can.

My island house–the house that had been left for dead, the house that needed to hear a radio again and the patter of little feet and have meal after meal cooked in its kitchen, the house that needed to be fussed over–is funding my hiker bum lifestyle.  It is surreal.  I clean it a couple times a week, mow the lawn, and in return, that house gives me the freedom with my time and the money to pay my bills that I have always wanted.

I still have sporadic commitments, I cannot climb something every day of course, but I slip away as often as I can.  I am still a devoted wife in the evenings and weekends, but my daytime is my own and I refuse to spend it inside.

This morning, I debated between Sugarloaf and Bigelow.  I have never taken the side trail from the AT to the summit of Sugarloaf, but out of consideration of my Honda Fit, I did not know if I wanted to traverse the hairy Caribou Pond Road.  I hopped in the car and drove in the direction of Anson without making a firm decision.  Instead of heading to Kingfield, I turned at the Long Falls Dam Road, Bigelow on my mind.

Just as I have relationships with my now two houses, I can talk about Bigelow like the mountain is an old friend.  My father loved Bigelow first, and he passed that on to me.  We may have attempted the Fire Warden’s Trail as a family when I was still in a stage where I was afraid of heights.  However, my first true memory on Avery Peak happened when I was fifteen and my dad and I were traversing from Caratunk to Stratton.  I remember having the summit to myself, napping as I waited for my father at the top.  Both of us vowed to have our ashes scattered there.

Today was a blue sky day much like that day 17 years ago.  No doubt I struggled more today than I did that day, more than any other time that I have ascended the mountain even though my load was light.  My hiker legs are a mere memory, and I stopped more frequently than I ever remember.  I gave myself permission not to summit if I ran out of water or stamina; I do not force myself to push on death march style any more.

Heading up the Safford Brook Trail and connecting on to the AT southbound, even struggling, I loved every boulder.  That section of the Bigelow range is littered with the largest erratic boulders I have seen of all of my hikes in New England.  I marvel at them every time.  A couple are slanted in such a way it creates a little shelf you could sit under in a rain storm.  I remember day-hiking there once, and a northbound thru-hiker was making a second breakfast of ramen and instant mashed potatoes under one of those erratics.

Even though I had given myself permission to turn back, I did indeed summit Avery Peak.  I wanted a selfie with the sign, but it appeared to be removed and I settled for a photo shoot with Flagstaff Lake in the background.

Damn, I felt proud of myself.  I read an article this spring that has been haunting me.  It said we are suppose to be saying to ourselves, “Nice job on your past accomplishments, but what have you done lately?”  It made me sit up to read that.  I consider myself to have made the most of my almost 32 years on this planet, but who cares what I may have done 10 years ago?  I am trying to concern myself the most with today.

Today I did not need a map.  Today I felt like an athlete on one of my favorite mountains in the universe.  Tonight I will sleep well.

A Sampling of Maine Fairs

i. Skowhegan

We had said that we just wanted to look at the animals.  After arriving at dusk, the demolition derby just starting, every ride lit up and inviting, we bought wrist bands so we could go as many as we wanted.  I could not stop smiling, my first fair dating an electrical engineer who told me everything was safer than it looked.  I believed him, believed him as our Ferris wheel tea cup rocked at the tippy top, as we were spun and jolted in every direction.  With him next to me, I had no fear.

ii.  Blue Hill

“There’s no poultry barn?!”  He wanted to leave upon arrival, not quite sure he could take the place seriously.  We headed away from the dust and the heat and the crowds, across the road and up the hillside.  I led him slightly off trail, to a spot where the blueberries had not yet been picked, and we gleaned what was left, the berries still sweet but drying up.  We listened to the pulse of the fair and spoke of businesses that we had dreamed of birthing, our ambition and imagination equally matched.

iii.  Unity

Every year, at 1pm on the Saturday of Common Ground, I return to the Folk Arts Tent to hear the Balkan Women’s Choir.  Each month has annual pilgrimages that I may or may not choose to take depending on the year, but I always try to make it to the reunion of this particular tribe.  This year, I brought him, perhaps to offer him an out more than anything else.  This is my life, this is all I have ever known, I did not choose it but it is mine.  He took my hand and danced with me, and I did not worry if my steps were in time to the music.

iv.  Fryeburg

We watched the video on logging drives, and smelled the peanut butter fudge just out of the oven, and admired the equipment of years past.  We had each chosen separately to live here, but loving the same sprawling wild state made us closer to each other somehow.

Kineo

An ex-boyfriend had promised me that we could take the ferry across Moosehead to climb Kineo.  I was looking forward to climbing a new summit, to driving up Route 15 to Greenville on a blue-sky October day, foliage only slightly past peak. He insisted on taking his beloved truck, not the most fuel-efficient but the only socially-acceptable way to arrive in Greenville.

Yet he chickened out. When we arrived at the Rockwood boat launch, my mouth dropped open at the sight of Kineo on the other side of what was not yet really Moosehead but rather the mouth of the Moose River. It seemed short and square like the Porcupine Islands, but it would better be described as the Porcupine Islands with a receding hairline, green on top and bottom with gray cliffs in-between.

He did not want to pay for the ferry. It was bird-hunting season and one of the moose-hunting weeks, and we were not wearing blaze orange. “Moose-hunting in the state park?” I thought.

I returned the next summer, alone, with enough cash for the ferry.  I was surprised to find more people in line for the ferry than the captain, a Maine Maritime student, could take in one trip. The passengers were an odd mix of golfers and hikers, and by hikers, mostly families with small children.  I felt like an oddity as a twentysomething, and I realized that I would not have Kineo to myself.

The Maine Maritime student directed the hiking passengers towards the two trails. He said that the Indian trail was the steeper and more scenic of the two, and suggested taking that one up and the more gradual Bridal Path down.

With no taste for hiking with a crowd, I dashed ahead of the families and started up the Indian trail.  I still passed a steady stream of people hiking down, and I felt in a bit of a claustrophobic panic.  To anyone else, the amount of people coming down the mountain would not seem significant.  To me, I felt like I had stumbled onto one of the top ten hottest destinations in Maine.  If I wanted to mingle with tourists, I would have stayed in Bar Harbor.

I did not find the road less traveled until I reached the view-less summit, where I could not see anything unless I climbed a fire tower.  I discovered a third trail besides the Indian Trail and the Bridal Path, a trail that veered east at the summit, descended steeply, and slowly looped back to the boat landing.  I did not have a map, but it sounded like a good idea, at the very least to escape the out-of-staters.

Once I descended from the mountain, I found myself traversing a watery path with woods on one side and Moosehead on the other.  I eventually found myself at a cluster of campsites, and I decided that it was time for a swim.  I tossed off my t-shirt, and waded in wearing my sports bra and shorts.  I splashed off the mud from her legs, and lay back in the water.  This was the Moosehead I was expecting, a place where everyone had arrived at their campsites via boat.

“207?!” The campers at the picnic table said.  Wherever I swam or hiked or sunbathed in the state, my tattoo, almost three years old at that point, still caught other Mainers’ attention.  After I explained that it was my quarter-life crisis tat, the campers invited her to stay for supper.

“Oh, no, I must be getting to the ferry,” I said, but I appreciated the warmth.  The campers said they were from somewhere outside of Augusta, and I felt some kinship with them in a way that I did not feel with the golfers on the ferry.  I had found my own version of Kineo.

As I took the ferry back, I vowed to return to this particular corner of Moosehead.  I hoped that I could convince someone to camp back at that site, and climb Kineo up the backside, and coax me up the fire tower.  I just did not know when that would be.

Rum Island on Long Pond

I had moved back to Mount Desert Island, ever darting between living on either side of the bridge. I moved to the other side of Somes Sound this time, to a neighborhood in close proximity to Long Pond.  I immediately noticed that so few cars passed down the street even in the height of August that I could hear each one whiz by. This part of the island reminded me the most of interior Maine.

My landlords told me that I could borrow the kayak and take it out on the pond whenever I wanted.  I did not ask for them to qualify how often “whenever I wanted” was, for fear that almost every night in August was too much.  I would wheel it down the street and put it in at the fish ladder, wading into a bottom of shredded bark and decomposed leaves. Yet once I had launched myself, I hardly paddled except to cut through the current on the way back.  I was content to float and let the sun relax all the nerves that had been standing on end from my harried day.

I felt most proud that I had found Rum Island on her own.  My landlord told me that I could portage across the causeway on the Northern Neck Road, and Rum Island would be at one ‘o’ clock from the head of the neck. The island was property of the park now, perhaps it always had been.  I knew I had found it when I saw tourists swimming and picnicking.

I would return another day, and more days after that, to sun myself on the rocks and swim.  I had heard that the brothers used to paddle to the island, and fish, and camp. I found what looked to be a popular tenting spot, and I pictured their younger selves there.  I felt happy that I met them, happy that they had led me to that spot.

Blue Hill

Give me the combination of dusk, and a little black sundress, and a blueberry patch on the side of a mountain, and I am a happy woman. It does not matter how much I pick or how far I climb. Most of the berries end up in my mouth, and I do not regret it when I only have a handful to bag and freeze. I like having the mountain and the berries to myself in the cool of the evening.

Traveler Loop in northern Baxter State Park

I had never entered Baxter State Park at the Matagamon Gate, the northern entrance.  I could not remember ever driving through Patten, whose darling of an old-fashion downtown includes a Shop ‘n’ Save and a hardware store and not much else.  I had never reached that crest of open land on route 159.  There, for the first time in my life, it became definitely clear that Katahdin is part of a range of mountains usually obscured from view when the mountain is approached from the south.  For my 29th birthday, I wanted to climb a trail other than the ones on Katahdin that I know so well and love.  My mother wanted to bring me to South Branch Campground, a site that she had only recently discovered and whose beauty is considered to rival Chimney Pond’s.

South Branch Campground boasts a beach on Lower South Branch Pond where hikers can jump in the refreshing water at the end of a long day under the shadow of the mountains that they just climbed.  My mother compared the landscape to something out of the West Coast.  The way the mountains dramatically slope into the body of water reminded me more of Acadia than anywhere else.  The afternoon before our 10-plus mile hike of the Traveler Loop, we rented a canoe for $1 an hour and spent much of our two-and-a-half hours on the water floating.  We did line our canoes over to Upper South Branch Pond, and we watched teenagers jump from the high cliffs into the water.  Yet we were content where we were.

I moved back in with my mother in early June as part of a cost-saving measure.  We are once again brushing our teeth together, and sharing meals upon occasion, and trying to remember to water the garden.  Yet we seldom had a chance to relate like this, without telephone interruptions or work commitments to pull us apart.  I always feel lucky to spend my birthday with the woman who gave birth to me.

On a daily basis, especially living with her, I am constantly in awe of how strong and tough that she consistently proves herself to be.  For work, she takes care of the dying.  Outside of work, she would “give anyone the shirt off her back in a snow storm”, as I like to describe her.  When we hiked the Traveler Loop, she practically carried me for 10-plus miles.  If she could have carried me, she would have, she said near the end of the day.

We had made a dangerous oversight in our harried, last-minute packing.  We knew we would have to treat our water at the campground, and we packed 4 gallons of water and Aquamira.  Yet in what was truly a frenzied departure, an “evacuation-of-Saigon” departure as my dad would say, we did not bring enough water bottles.  We did not realize this until 9pm when we were already settled in.  The park recommends at least 3 liters of water per person on a hot summer day, and we did not have anywhere close to that.

I had hoped we would cross a reliable water source on the Loop, and I stowed my Aquamira in my backpack.  Upon close examination of the map once we had already started our hike, we would have no such luck in the higher elevation of the Traveler Loop.  The park ranger advised us to hike it counter-clockwise, up the Center Ridge Trail and down North Traveler.  Once we veered away from the Pogy Notch Trail, we would be in dry country.

If we were more sensible stock, we would have turned around.  We would have talked to the park ranger or other campers and seen if they had any extra bottles.  Yet we are of stubborn stock, the sort of fools who are a couple miles in and do not want to fail even though the day will be a struggle.  My mother is unbelievably stoic in ways, and who was I to be a wimp.

She ended up giving me the majority of water we had carried, and still bounded ahead of me like a high-energy puppy dog.  I would study her path across the fields of skree and spiney ridges.  We have hiked Katahdin and Washington and some of the other challenging peaks of New England together.  Every time, she will claim it is the last time that she will cross the Knife Edge, last time in the Whites, last time on the Precipice.  “Last Time” has become her trail name, but on this particular hike in Baxter, it could have been mine.  I felt out-of-shape and without any fire under my rear end to keep me going.

We lunched on tuna and crackers at Traveler, and looked at all we had left to climb and what little water we had.  I marveled that the Traveler Loop was still relatively new, in the last decade I believe.  In my father’s guide book from 1978, it described only trails to Peaks of the Ridges and North Traveler.  At that time, hikers still had to bushwhack to the top of Traveler, always a mysterious monster of a mountain.  It was named Traveler because the mountain appears to follow paddlers down the Penobscot river.  It was once thought to be the second highest mountain in the state before the discovery of mountains in the Western part of the state.

Even without bushwhacking, I struggled to lift my legs and keep going forward.  My mother promised me her last half of water as we ascended North Traveler.  I am going to take a break, I am going to take a break, I promised myself right before I banged my right ankle against a stump.

“I hate hiking!”  I screamed at my mother, right before I started crying.  A bruise quickly formed, but unlike last year’s birthday injury, I did not significantly break the skin.  I could not see my bone.  I do not know how I would have been rescued from that spot, so it was a blessing.

My mother did indeed give me the last half of her water bottle, but encouraged me to sip it a little at a time as we summited and descended North Traveler.  The top of North Traveler looked familiar, and I could not figure out why, until I read afterwards that the upland meadows of North Traveler are reminiscent of the Southern Balds.  I have never before seen that comparison in a Maine hiking guidebook.  I am thrilled to know that I can feel the same effect of the Roans or Max Patch within a day’s drive from home.

My mother reached the junction of the North Traveler Trail and the Pogy Notch Trail before me.  “You are never going to believe this!  It says there was a spring 1.2 miles up the North Traveler Trail from here!”

I did not believe it.  The spring was not marked on my brand-new map, nor did I read about it in any of the 1978 guides.  We bee-lined to the car for water before a swim in the pond.  “10 hours, exactly as the ranger said,” I pointed out.  Yes, a 1 mph pace in a day of alternating between losing and gaining elevation.

“I want to sleep in my own bed tonight.”  We had reservations for a campsite that night, but since my mother had to work in the morning, she agreed to drive home.

We could not find any eating establishments in Patten that accepted credit cards at 8pm on a Sunday night.  We headed south on 95 to Medway, to the diner at the Big Apple gas station only a little ways from the exit.  At that late hour on a Sunday night, locals packed the diner.  I do not think visitors typically expect homemade biscuits and soups and dinner fixings at a gas station restaurant, but this is the place to eat north of Dysart’s.

I did not mean it when I declared that I hated hiking.  I despise not setting myself up to have a cushy trip.  I do not like feeling rushed out the door or unprepared.

In fact, I am still absorbing my favorite birthday present, a Map Adventures map of Baxter State Park.  I am studying the possibilities, and creating a wish list.  I adore being able to look at a map, and say, “Oooh, I have not been there or there or there”.  It is a gift that I will use years after this memorable birthday.

Thank you, mom, for map, and giving birth to me, and everything in-between.

 

The Bunk House at Chimney Pond

“Don’t put too much product in my hair, I am sleeping at Chimney Pond tonight.” The hair appointment had been scheduled for months; I had only reserved a space at the Chimney Pond bunk house shortly after 8am that June morning. I had wanted to go camping when I saw that I had two days off in a row.

However, quite frankly, I do not like sleeping alone in the woods any more. After 3000 miles of backpacking, between my southbound and northbound hikes, I like hearing others playing cards as I fall asleep. I like waking up to someone boiling water for coffee. Yes, I have friends who hike and camp, but sometimes I want to go when no one else can.

Staying at the Chimney Pond bunk house seemed to be the perfect solution to my odd need to sleep within earshot of others’ breathing and snoring. I had always wanted to stay there, but it never had space when I checked. After all, the lean-tos and the bunk house at Chimney Pond are highly sought after, due to its closely proximity to Baxter Peak. Hikers can sit at the shore of Chimney Pond and gaze up at the Knife Edge, the Knife Edge being one section of the glacial cirque.

When I saw that the bunk house had ample room that night, I assumed it was because of black fly season, an event hyped up to be far worse than it is. I hiked the entirety of the Maine AT in early June, and for the most part, the air was still too brisk for pesky insects.

I did not see the weather forecast for the next day until I pulled up to the south gate of Baxter State Park. The forecast for the next day read : “Showers and thunderstorms, 80%.” I had planned to climb the Cathedral trail
and summit the next morning, but that forecast did not look encouraging.

I would have summited that day, but I did not leave Roaring Brook until 4:30pm. The distance from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond is roughly three and a half miles, a gradual gain in elevation, in the woods alongside water for much of the way. I felt more like myself simply because I was carrying the weight of a pack.

As I was approaching Katahdin in my car, I could see that snow still lingered in its upper reaches in the middle of June. From Chimney Pond, the snow banks, as they are called, appeared even more pronounced.

“Is that unusual, to have snow remain through mid-June?” I asked the ranger when I checked in. I had crossed a snow field on Mount Washington in mid-June, but I had never summited Katahdin from the Chimney Pond side in June before.

“Oh….happens every couple of years.” He told me there would only be two others in the bunk house that night, only three in a place whose maximum capacity is ten.

The bunk house there now must be less than 5 years old, set back in the woods off the beaten path of day hikers. For the cost of eleven dollars a night (versus thirty dollars for a campsite at Roaring Brook, I had a bunk (bring your own sleeping pad) and access to a shared common area, and food prep space, and a cribbage board, and a complete deck of cards.

My bunk mates were quick to tell me that the cabins at Daicey and Kidney Pond were even more posh. “They even have mattresses.” I had never noticed before reading the Baxter State Park literature more closely that more than a half dozen of the campgrounds in the park provided the bunk house option. I had also recently learned that Mainers could stay a maximum 14 nights in the park each season. In the spirit of setting goals that do not matter, I contemplated trying to stay at every bunk house in the park.

At dusk, I tagged along with a bunkmate who was headed to Chimney Pond to take pictures of the ominous clouds rolling in over the ridge line. As part of the field naturalist program at UMO, she planned to photography lichen in the alpine zone but she and her hiking companion had checked the forecast. They would wait one more day to summit.

I would not have the luxury of waiting a day. Having tossed and turned and jammed my hips into the wooden bunk, I woke up to the pounding of a downpour. Immediately, I made some quick decisions. I needed a new sleeping pad. I would not attempt to stay at every bunk house in the course of my life. Finally, I would not be ascending the Cathedral Trail that morning.

I felt so grown-up to turn down Baxter Peak and head back to Roaring Brook. More than once, I had hiked twenty miles in the rain because I was out of food and trying to make it to town or pursuing this or that deadline. The last time it happened, I promised myself that I would never voluntarily do it again.

I was strangely happy to be a party of one at that point, and be able to make the best decision for me, and not be pressured to go farther than I wanted. I do hope to have company for the Traveler loop and the Brothers later this summer, but I did like being at Chimney Pond all by myself.