Starting up the Hamlin Ridge, yet another stairmaster of a trail on Katahdin.
Photo by Ryan Linn
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Baxter Backpacking, Day 3: Over the Top

In the morning, I bid Tom and Chris farewell (for a few hours, at least), and began my ascent of the north peaks of Katahdin. As with all trails up the mountain, the Hamlin Ridge turned out to be much like bouldering rather than walking. Extra bonus: I saw nobody on the trail. Double extra bonus: Hamlin Peak was my 66th of 67 New England 4000 Footers.

Ryan Linn       Trip Report       09/01/2014
Ryan Linn
Trip Report
09/01/2014

Sleeping in the lean-to at Chimney Pond went much better than the bunkhouse, with colder temperatures and less snoring to keep me awake.

In the morning, I bid Tom and Chris farewell (for a few hours, at least), and began my ascent of the north peaks of Katahdin. As with all trails up the mountain, the Hamlin Ridge turned out to be much like bouldering rather than walking.

Extra bonus: I saw nobody on the trail. Double extra bonus: Hamlin Peak was my 66th of 67 New England 4000 Footers. I now only have one to go (North Brother, also in Baxter State Park).

A rocky mountain range stretches into the distance.
Near the top of Hamlin Peak, a fine view to the North Peaks and North Basin.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Though Hamlin Peak, and then the North/Howe Peaks afterward are several hundred feet lower than Baxter Peak, there was something special and wonderful about all of them.

I saw exactly zero people during the several hours I spent in the rocky barrens above tree line there. In contrast, I could see crowds of people milling about on Baxter Peak in the distance beneath a darkening cloud. All the while, I had acres of open land to myself in the sun. How much better than that can you get?

Trail signs sit atop a flat area next to a rocky trail.
An alpine delight on Hamlin Peak, my 66th of 67 New England 4000 Footers.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A rocky trail travels into the distance on an exposed ridgeline.
Looking across the alpine tundra from Hamlin Peak to Baxter Peak.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Between Hamlin and the North Peaks, the trail (which was recently reopened after years of being closed) seemed like barely a handful of people walked it each year.

If you’ve hiked in the alpine zones of the White Mountains, you’ve seen that the rocks of the trails are formed into troughs where people walk, and the lichens and vegetation are worn off of the granite. This makes for a well-worn path and a relatively easy trail to follow.

Not so on the north end of Katahdin. So few boots have scoured the rocks there that the normally fragile alpine plants, like diapensia, mountain sandwort, and alpine sedge, almost seem overgrown. Instead of a trough formed in the rocks along the path, there was no clear path to link the blue blazes, so I had to hop from rock to rock to avoid crushing much of the alpine vegetation.

(Here’s an interesting resource I found about natural areas in Maine)

A flat area covered in rocks and groundcover plants overlooks a distant valley.
Hamlin and the North Peaks Trail were overgrown with Diapensia Lapponica, which is one of the rare plant species in the alpine zones of Northern New England.
Photo by Ryan Linn

The North Peaks Trail continued through miles of the open, rocky terrain, eventually giving way to blueberry bushes and krummholz, and finally to a lush canopy of evergreens over beds of thick moss.

I finally saw a group of three hikers coming up the trail, making the opposite trip from me for the day. A few minutes later I also ran into a Baxter State Park ranger making the same trek out over Hamlin for his days off. That did break my run of total solitude, but I didn’t mind. The silence continued after the short interruption.

A rocky viewpoint shows distant valleys and mountains.
Mind-boggling views from Katahdin’s North Peaks, looking north to The Traveler and Turner Mountain.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A rocky whitewater stream flows through a green forest.
An unexpected, and slightly nerve-wracking, ford of Wassataquoik Stream.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Toward the bottom of the North Peaks Trail, I got into the characteristic lowlands of northern Maine, starting with an unexpected and pretty hairy river ford. Wassataquoik Stream (add that to my list of great Maine Native American names) follows a tradition in northern Maine of naming rivers and lakes as streams and ponds.

What I had to cross was about fifty feet wide, with huge boulders and turbulent water that could have easily sucked down a careless hiker. So much for dry feet, but it was well worth the effort. After that, I had more water features to enjoy, like the Turner Deadwater (technically a swamp, I think, but when I talk about gorgeous swamps, this is the kind I mean), and Russell Pond.

I arrived at Russell Pond, one of the most remote major campgrounds in Baxter Park, late in the afternoon to meet Tom and Chris as they made their way up from Roaring Brook. It had been a long day for everyone, but a joyful one.

We were finally away from the crowds of Katahdin, and ready to take on the denser wilds of the north end of the park. An evening campfire at our lean-to on the south shore of the pond put a peaceful end to the day.

Here is Uncle Tom’s account of the day.

A blue pond surrounded by rocks and trees reflects clouds and blue sky.
Turner Deadwaters, near Russell Pond. This is why I think swamps are beautiful.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Evening shadows fall over a small pond in a grassy meadow.
Russell Pond in the evening, looking up the north peaks of Katahdin, which I came down earlier in the day.
Photo by Ryan Linn

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Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park is home to Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin, as well as lakes and campgrounds. Bottom line, Baxter is worth the trip!

Learn more
170+ miles of trail (275 km)       $9.99 full guide
Turner Deadwaters, Baxter State Park, Maine
Photo by Ryan Linn
Turner Deadwaters, Baxter State Park, Maine
Photo by Ryan Linn

Baxter State Park

Baxter State Park is home to Maine’s highest peak, Mt. Katahdin, as well as lakes and campgrounds. Bottom line, Baxter is worth the trip!

170+ miles of trail (275 km)
$9.99 full guide
Learn more
Get our trail guide for this area!
About the Author
A man wears a blue shirt, blue backpack, and a tan baseball cap.

Ryan Linn

Ryan is also known as “Guthook”, which is where our apps get their name. Already an avid hiker, he hiked the Appalachian Trail, New England Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail before joining forces with Paul to create the Guthook Guides apps. Ryan handles iOS development for our apps from his office in Maine, and usually runs away to the forests and mountains throughout New England. He also volunteers with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Baxter State Park in Maine is his happy place.