The viewpoint furthest to the northeast in Baxter Park, Horse Mountain. The valley of the East Branch of the Penobscot River is as densely forested as you can imagine.
Photo by Ryan Linn
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Baxter Backpacking, Day 6: Deeper to the North

The northeastern corner of Baxter State Park is mostly taken up by Grand Lake Matagamon, but there’s a cluster of small mountains and ponds just to the south of the lake. Most of the ponds have small campsites on the shore that are popular with anglers and folks looking to get away from crowds. We fit the latter category.

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

So far I had lived out of my backpack for four five days, and then we camped next to Tom’s car at South Branch Pond campground. We had left his car there on the first day in the park, in order to hike from the south end to the north end, but we still had another day in this less-traveled section.

In the morning, I packed one more night’s worth of supplies that had been left in the car, and set off on another little-used trail. Tom and Chris would drive to another trailhead for a shorter hike to tonight’s campsite, while I explored a few more backcountry ponds.

The northeastern corner of Baxter State Park is mostly taken up by Grand Lake Matagamon, but there’s a cluster of small mountains and ponds just to the south of the lake. Most of the ponds have small campsites on the shore that are popular with anglers and folks looking to get away from crowds. We fit the latter category.

An overcast panorama shows a rocky ledge, trees, and a distant mountain peak.
Up on the short Barrell Ridge, a cloudy morning view of Bald Mountain and the other northern outposts of the park.
Photo by Ryan Linn

But to get to that region, I first had to cross over the northern shoulder of The Traveler Range and into the basin of Middle Fowler Pond. On the way I crossed a few ledges and Barrell Ridge, a rocky mini-summit with plenty of bare bedrock and views into the east.

As I walked up the sharp rocks, I reminded myself that I need to find the proper name for this kind of low-elevation rocky outcrop, covered in reindeer lichen, short alpine plants, and occasional krummholz. Internet to the rescue! Low- and mid-elevation balds, and rocky summit heaths are some of my favorite hiking terrains.

After Barrell Ridge, I tromped through increasingly disused trail down to the Fowler Ponds, wondering how long it had been since someone had hiked this route. Lots of people might think of this as a bad thing, but I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude.

On a bedrock slab at the north end of the pond, the water was so inviting that I just had to go for a swim. As with a few days before in Howe Brook, a quick swim in mountain waters was like jumping into the fountain of youth. Afterward, I lay out on the rocks in the sun for a while, relaxed as I could be. Two day hikers showed up after a while, but they were equally impressed by the silence of the pond.

By the end of the day, I could count on one hand the number of people I’d encountered, so I still felt pretty good about the wilderness feel of the area.

The shores of an alpine lake, surrounded by green trees.
Middle Fowler Pond’s north shore, with warm water and fine swimming before lunch.
Photo by Ryan Linn

Eventually I left Fowler Pond and continued through the woods, passing along several other pond shores on my way to the next short mountain.

Horse Mountain, the northeasternmost mountain in the park, is quite short, and has no view from the summit since a fire tower was removed many years ago, but the cliffs on the eastern side of the mountain had a fine, quite view of the Penobscot River valley. While the view showed some evidence of humanity, in the occasional logging road or a float plane flying by down below, it was a fairly relaxed evidence of humanity.

I sat and enjoyed the solitude for nearly an hour before heading back down.

I ended the day by meeting up with Tom and Chris once again at Long Pond Pines campsite, which many park rangers had mentioned as a favorite. A piney grove on the eastern edge of a small (but long) pond was only a few miles from the park tote road, but it felt like a purely wild area.

We sat around a blazing campfire in the evening, listening to nothing more than the crackle of dry wood and the plaintive calls of a lone loon making his way up and down the pond. That was something I’d been missing all summer, since I hadn’t spent any time on remote mountain ponds in the northeast– a quiet pondside campsite, the lone loon calling, and the silence of the wilds make for the most relaxing kind of camping on a backpacking trip.

This would be our last night with a full day of hiking ahead of us, so I went to sleep knowing that the end of this glorious trip was near. Despite having had no contact with the outside world in almost a week, I had no desire to get back to it anytime soon. I could stay at this campsite all my life if I had to.

An interesting rock formation.
Not your “soft” granite of the White Mountains. Actually, I don’t know what kind of rock this is, but the blocky chunks tear up the shoes faster than even the sandpapery granite I’m used to.
Photo by Ryan Linn
Hikers rest in camp under trees.
An early evening campsite at Long Pond Pines.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A lake reflects a mountain, fluffy clouds, and the beginning of a sunset.
Long Pond, silent in the evening but for the cries of the loon and the whine of the mosquito.
Photo by Ryan Linn
A marshy swamp is surrounded by green trees.
A bog next to Long Pond, separated by a tiny ridge (esker), which made for fine camping.
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.