We were all a bit sore after yesterday's hike, but now we had to load up our packs with tents, sleeping bags, and three days of food and hike the 9 miles to Russell Pond, our home for the next three nights. We broke camp fairly late, packed up the cars, and hit the trail around 11:30. Brenda and I left a little early, and got some wonderful views of Katahdin from Whitten Ponds. We stopped to wait for the others at the Russell Pond Trail/Wassataquiok Stream Trail junction just as some rain began falling. That soon stopped, but we expected more rain before the day was out. We grabbed lunch on a rock in the stream and then agreed to split up for the rest of the day. Brenda and I took the Wassataquiok Stream Trail which was a few tenths longer but flatter, and the rest of the group took the direct route on the Russell Pond Trail.
From here, the Wassataquiok Stream Trail is flat and gentle, a most enjoyable hike. It wanders along the stream, passing through cedar stands and swampy areas, occasionally crossing a side stream. Most of the time the trail is in fir forest with birches and spruce mixed in. After about 2.5 miles we hit the Wassataquiok Stream lean-tos, in an absolutely beautiful setting overlooking the stream. I fell in love with the spot and want to stay there the next time I'm in Baxter. Right after the lean-tos is a stream crossing where we put on our Tevas. It felt so nice and the trail was so flat that we kept our Tevas on for the next mile, until we hit a gorgeous clearing in a place called New City, an old logging camp clearing. Here we found mass quantities of blueberries and spend half an hour picking some for later.
We put our boots back on and finished the hike to Russell Pond, fighting the urge to stop and pick the plentiful blueberries every step of the way. We crossed the stream and headed up the small hill to Russell Pond. By now the sky had cleared and we took in the views of the Turners and the wonderful rocks in the pond. We started around the pond to look for our group and the tentsites. While crossing the Ankle Knocker Bridge I noticed moose tracks, then moose. There was a cow and calf standing right next to the trail, wary of us but not afraid. Obviously they were used to human contact. After 10 minutes of watching them wander about, we headed to the ranger to find out our tent sites. The ranger station is on the other side of Russell Pond, and we wandered out on the dock to watch the canoes and fishermen. When we got back to our packs, the calf was standing right where we were about to set up our tents! Brenda went to the other tent site (back on the far side of the pond) and I managed to catch the cow at the water's edge. We set up our tents, hung the extra food and brought the dinner supplies to the other site, where dinner was being prepared. We canoed our way across, actually, with the rental canoes ($1/hour) and had a wonderful evening.
This day was planned to be a rest day, but we thought that dayhikes would be a good way to break up the time. I woke up early to find the pond looking lovely. Then one of the rocks moved! A moose, just off shore from the canoe dock, was feeding in the morning quiet. Brenda and I went over and watched her feed for about an hour. The rocks in the lake were striking in the still water. She was aware of people watching, but didn't seem to mind. Eventually, she swam across the pond, shook herself off, and headed off into the woods. So we wandered back to our tents, only to find a deer that was practically tame. You could walk within 10 feet before she really noticed. Eventually, she tired of our company and bounded off into the woods. We ate breakfast, tried to keep the squirrels away, and made plans for the day.
Since Russell Pond was full of leeches, we were looking for a better place to swim, and the ranger recommended Deep Pond, just about .5 miles away. We headed over there, picking blueberries along the way. There was a canoe there so after swimming we went out for a paddle. There were amazing pitcher plants all along the water. As we finished our paddle, the gang started acting a bit weird, but we expected that. We all took a relaxing lunch and rest on the rocks while the sun tried to come out. After comparing leg wounds we headed back to the tents. Ed, Brenda, and I decided to head out to Grand Falls, a 5 mile round trip and we hoped the weather would hold. Eventually we hit Wassataquiok Stream near Inscription Rock whose message we never did decipher. Just a mile further we hit Grand Falls, with worn rocks and huge blocks of fallen stone. After playing about for a while, Ed decided to go for a swim and Brenda and I had to follow. The water was quite brisk. It was getting late and we headed back. By the time we got to Russell Pond, the weather was threatening, and just as we made camp the sky opened up on us. We were eyeing the shelters that were open, hoping that the ranger might be able to get us into one of them for the next two nights. Just as we started dinner, Ed came back to tell us that we had gotten a shelter and could move in right away. It was dark, though, and most folks were already settled in at the far tentsite, so only Brenda and I moved in for the night.
On our last full day at Russell Pond, we were feeling lazy. Although I could hear the moose feeding in the pond during the night, there were none in sight come morning. We had a lazy breakfast, moved all the others to our shelter, then settled in for cards, reading, and naps. After lunch of leftovers, Ed, Allison, Ching, and Andrew headed out for Greene Falls. The rest of us (Brenda, Lafe, and I) slept and read. The weather was grey, with occasional showers, but it never really rained hard. The doe and fawn came back through our camp twice, that we noticed. At one point during dinner that night, someone looked up and noticed a deer standing in front of our lean-to. She could have been there for 10 minutes and we wouldn't have noticed. For the hike to Greene Falls the group picked up a canoe at Wassataquiok Pond and cut their hiking time. When they returned we went for a paddle, looking at the plants, rocks, and wildlife in Russell Pond. It rained on us a little, but nothing too bad. Our last night in the shelter was a little crowded and messy. Everyone moved their stuff into the shelter and hung the wet clothes in a futile attempt to dry them.
The next morning we woke up early for the hike out and headed back via the Wassataquiok Stream Trail. It rained a bit and was generally grey, but that's not bad for the hike out. Brenda and I took the Sandy Stream Pond Trail which added a few tenths and a lot of water. By the time we hit the cars, at 11:30, we were soaked and very glad to change clothes. Everyone else came in over the next hour and we loaded up all of our stuff and headed out for Labor Day weekend in the Second College Grant. Aside from some rainy weather, everything worked out great on this trip. We had great views, especially on the Knife Edge, lots of wildlife, delicious food, and a wonderful rest day. There are lots of things to do in Baxter besides climbing Katahdin. The next time I go I'd like to use more of the backcountry shelters and arrange a multi-day, long-distance trip. It's hard to get reservations for that type of trip, especially with a large group, but it's worth the effort.Back End
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