I arrived at Millinocket, Maine early enough to stop in the Baxter State Park Visitor Center and pick up a trail map and guide book. Sunday was a “Class III” day with “Dudley, Knife Edge and Cathedral trails closed due to snow and ice”. This was not what I was hoping for. Checking out the 3D model of the mountain, it looked like the Chimney Pond and Saddle Trails comprised the easier route to the summit and since they were currently open, I figured I’d give those a shot on Monday morning. In any case, I got directions to Hidden Springs Campground and headed out of town. A nice steak and baked potatoe on the grill, a little relaxing around the camp fire, and called it a night.
I got a bit of a late start on Monday morning and didn’t arrive at the park until about 9AM. Fortunately, it was now a “Class I” day with all trails open. I decided to stay with my original plan and take Chimney Pond and Saddle Trails and arrived at the trail-head around 9:45AM (15 minutes before the cut-off).
What an incredible hike. This route comprises three very different sections. The first 3 miles on Chimney Pond Trail gain about 1000 feet of elevation and is mostly spent on rough and rocky trail until you arrive at the Chimney Pond campground. The next mile, on Saddle Trail gains about 2000 feet by climbing a narrow boulder field (or is it rock slide?) before cresting the ridge above the treeline. The final mile gets you the last 1000 feet over variousgrades of rock and rubble.
I reached the summit at 2:30PM to an awesome view! Knowing that I had a pretty challenging descent ahead of me, I spent about 30 minutes on top before beginning the trip down. A couple of moose (a young and it’s mother) decided to camp out on the trail about 1.5 miles from the trail-head. Since moose obviously have the right-of-way, I (along with a few others), simply waiting for them to move on. Other than the “moose road block”, the descent was uneventful and I arrived back at the trail-head about 45 minutes after sunset.
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