South Turner Mountain
I had long dreamed of hiking the Knife Edge Trail in Baxter State Park – 1.1 miles of three foot wide trail along the ridge between Pamola Peak and Baxter Peak. We showed up at the Baxter gatehouse around 10:30 AM on an overcast, grey Sunday. We knew it was late so our hopes for a good parking space were not very high; maybe something at Kidney Pond. There was no line and the ranger said, “I have one spot left at Roaring Brook!” This is the best parking lot for accessing the Knife Edge Trail, but it was our first day and we were not sure the legs were in good enough shape. So we elected a 4 mile round trip hike to South Turner.
On Monday we showed up at 8:00 AM, assuming there would be plenty of spaces open and there were 12 cars in line ahead of us. By the time we got to the gate only Katahdin Stream parking area was available. We took it and hiked The Owl, 7 miles, 2463’ vertical. The first part was easy but then then it turned into a class 3 boulder scramble that left us exhausted.
On Tuesday we rafted the West Branch of the Penobscot with North Eastern Outdoor Center (NEOC). I picked a half day trip, rated “wild.” There was one rapid at the beginning, a 12’ drop which got us soaked and then 3 or 4 miles of floating, then 2 quick rapids at the end. The staff, guides and food were fantastic, but I do not recommend this trip for white water enthusiasts.
The legs felt in good shape by Friday so we decided to try for Baxter summit. Arriving at 7:30 AM, there were several cars in front of us again. By the time we got to the gate house Roaring Brook lot was full but we got the last parking spot at Abol lot. We hiked Abol Trail up into the clouds to the nearly vertical rock scramble. A guy coming down said he had been at the gate at 4:30 AM to get a spot at Roaring Brook. By the time we reached the intersection of the Hunt Trail, (which is part of the Appalachian Trail) it began to mist. By the time we summit, the wind was howling and the rain was blinding us. We ate lunch with numb hands. watching the AT thorough hikers celebrate. I felt sorry for them, ending their epic journeys under such miserable conditions. Once glance at the narrow, boulder-strewn Knife Edge Trail and the sheer drop offs on both sides and I was glad we didn’t get that parking space at Roaring Brook.
Distance = 8+/- miles
Vertical – 4000’ Time – 9 hours