A Walk in the Park
Whether you want to take a leisurely walk along the pristine shores of an iconic lake in search of moose, explore a variety of challenging trails with breathtaking views, or go for broke and climb to the summit of mighty Mount Katahdin (at 5268 feet in elevation, the highest peak in Maine), Baxter State Park is the number one place to hike in Maine. Created as a result of the generosity of Percival P. Baxter, a former governor of Maine and graduate of my alma mater, Bowdoin College, who donated the land for this 200,000 acre wilderness in north-central Maine, Baxter State Park is just incredible. A simple plaque on a boulder at Katahdin Stream Falls, gateway to Mount Katahdin via the Hunt trail (and the last leg of the famed Appalachian Trail for those thru-hikers traveling the entire 2,180 miles of the trail from south to north in one trek), captures the essence of the man who made it possible for all lovers of the wild to enjoy this majestic place forever:
Man is born to die. His works are short-lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, and wealth vanishes, but Katahdin in all its glory forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine.
My first visit to this venerable park was an eye opener. In the spring of 2013, as a budding hiker with a love of Maine and a growing fascination with the Appalachian Trail, I set out on the Maine Turnpike to drive the 300 miles from Wells, Maine to explore the park in anticipation of many visits to come. It was a perfectly clear, 70-degree day in May when I arrived at the main gate. After paying my fee and getting directions to Katahdin Stream Campground, I set out on the well-maintained, but unpaved Park Tote Road. I had only gone a few miles when I noticed a small pond to my right and stopped to look around. The intoxicating scent of pine trees, like nothing I had ever experienced (even in my youth in Maine), was the first thing that struck me as I emerged from the car. The second was Katahdin itself, rising impressively above the hills surrounding the pond.
After a magical few hours spent exploring the park, I jubilantly began my trip home, knowing in my heart that I had found my way into the woods.
I was to destined to be a hiker.
I returned to Baxter several times in the summer of 2013 to hike sections of the Appalachian Trail that I could manage as a new hiker (such as the beautiful section of the AT from Daicey Pond Campground to Little and Big Niagara Falls), look for moose at Sandy Stream Pond (which, unfortunately, I did not see on that visit), and generally immerse myself in the spirit and beauty of this quintessential hiker’s paradise. I was in the middle of a measured process of becoming a hiker, and these walks in THE Park, in the shadow of the great Mount Katahdin, inspired me to keep going.
Click Maine Hiker’s Journal to read about other adventures I have had on the trail.