Baxter State Park

May 11, 2006

The journey through Maine continues. We had a rather rough ride from Greenville to Medway, ME on Monday. The winter weather which was so cyclic this year has left the roads in pretty bad shape. The state will be very busy this spring and summer trying to recover. According to a local I talked to earlier this week, the problem was that the normal winter hard freeze was not maintained. Consequently, the cycling between frozen snow covered roads and spring like thaws that took place allowed water to seep into the pavement imperfections and the follow on freezing caused a lot of frost heave and therefore rough surfaces.

We camped as close to Baxter State Park as possible given the early time in the season we have found ourselves in. We are about forty-five minute drive from the park. Of course our plan was to get up early on Tuesday and get to the park in time to do some bird watching. I don’t know if it was the rough ride or if we are still trying to recover from the move, but we slept in until well after nine. By the time we got going we did not arrive at the park until about 11:30. As anyone who birds knows, you don’t get to see many birds at that time of the day.

Before I go any further I should talk about Baxter State Park and how it came to be. I borrowed the following from the park’s web site:

“Baxter State Park can be simply described as over 200,000 acres of mountains, lakes streams and forest, all given in trust by one man, Percival Baxter, to the People of the State of Maine. The full story of the assembly and management of the Park is much more complicated. We won’t try to tell you that story here (there are many excellent books on the subject, but we will try and mention several of the most important elements.

“The Park is the result of a lifelong dream of former Maine Governor Percival Baxter. Initially, he worked as a legislator, then as a Governor to convince the Maine legislature to act to preserve Katahdin as a public Park. These efforts were not successful, so after leaving public service, Percival Baxter determined that he would accomplish this work himself. His first gift, including Katahdin and surrounding lands, was realized on March 3, 1931. The next 32 years mark an extraordinary example in philanthropic effort, determination and vision. In June of 1962, Percival Baxter completed his dream, comprising 28 separate gifts and a total of 201,018 acres, of a great Park, given In Trust, to the People of Maine. Subsequent to Governor Baxter’s death, the Baxter State Park Authority has purchased additional lands on the southern end of the Park to bring the current Park acreage to 204,733.

“Today, the Park continues to operate as the trust Percival Baxter envisioned. With each Deed of Gift, Governor Baxter attached communications to guide the Baxter State Park Authority and Park Staff, as trustees, in the management of the Park. The Trust Deeds and Communications form the basis for our management and operation of the Park:

“To maintain the Park’s natural wild state in accordance with Percival Proctor Baxter’s deeds of gifts and conveyances.To provide a continuing timber harvest from the ScientificForest Management Area by the application of exemplary and scientific forest management.To secondarily provide for recreational use and enjoyment of the Park by people in a manner consistent with the Park’s natural character.”

We made the best of the day by scouting out those portions of the southern portion of the park that are open so we could get to what should he the hot spots early on Wednesday. Trying to be organized, we timed our drive back to the campground and after dinner we laid out our clothes and packed as much of our breakfast as we could in advance and then it was off to bed early.

We were awoken not by the alarm as we had hoped, but by the sound of an absolute downpour. The weather forecast we had seen on the news the evening before had indicated that at the most we would get a light late night shower. That fellow should be looking for a new job, because it has pretty much rained since about 2:00AM on Wednesday and it is now nearly 8:00PM on Thursday.

Instead of going to the park and doing some serious birding, I cleaned house while Connie caught up on her e-mail and other on line activities. Late in the day I went for a run between rain showers. That made the day for me. I got a good long run in and was able to forget that the day had really been a rainout.

Today, we woke up early and to our surprise it was not really raining. So, we jumped out of bed and made it to the park as quickly as we could. Of course by the time we got there it was foggy and drizzling. Just inside the south gate there is a fork in the road. We opted for the west fork in hopes of getting to a campground parking lot that was about six miles up the road and catching some of the local favorites working the edge of the forest. The road dissects Abol Pond for the first few miles into the park. As we passed a break in the trees at the north end of the pond I caught a glimpse of a bird on the water. We stopped to put glass on what became a pair of Common Loons. They were brilliantly patterned and one gave us the joy of hearing his marvelous call. Connie and I just looked at each other and she said, “Well, that made the drive worthwhile.” I had to agree. Neither of had ever heard the call of the Common Loon except in recordings. The acoustics of the tree lined lake were perfect giving depth and richness to the call.

Later, we got to the campground parking lot that was our target. We were disappointed to learn that the trails out of the campground were all still closed as crews were still doing maintenance. Worse, the weather had continued to deteriorate and we were now being rained on. So, on up the road we drove. Eventually we came upon another camping area and by now the weather had improved to the point that we could at least hear birds. As we got out of the car we were greeted by a Blue-headed Vireo. As we were driving towards this location we had stopped a couple of times when we thought we heard birds close enough to investigate. One that had sort of gotten away had likely been a Blue-headed Vireo, but I had not gotten a good enough look to positively identify him. By the time we got to the next stop I had that bird burned into my brain and when I got glass on the first bird that moved I thought I was looking at the picture I had been studying.

We took a hike along a nature trail that encircled the rather large Dacey Pond in hopes that we could find a few more warbler types we have not seen in awhile. The birding continued to be pretty sketchy, but the hike was wonderful just the same. The terrain was moderate and the views were to die for. We changed habitat four or five times as we worked our way around the pond. At one point the trail cut through a forest whose floor was completely carpeted in some of the deepest and richest moss I have ever seen. The contrast between the dark barked trees and the green rolling moss carpet was spectacular. It made we sorry I had not brought anything along to record the site. No camera, no sketch pad, nothing. In other areas the forest floor was covered in long reddish brown pine needles which again provided eye pleasing contrast to the trees and other vegetation. Most of the trail was crisscrossed with black tree roots making the footing a bit tricky. The fact that everything was wet made the footing even that much more unstable. It was a beautiful walk even though we saw no more birds.

Our stay here ends in the morning when we will move on to New Brunswick, Canada and then to Nova Scotia. We have had fun trying to choose campgrounds that are both not too far apart and open. Our trek started so early in the season that many campground operators have not yet come out of hibernation. Those that have are not running at full stride yet, so some of the services have not been up to standards. However, there are also no crowds and the traffic has been light to say the least. I am sure that by the time we return to Maine in the last week of May we will not find it so lonely on highways or in the campgrounds. Therefore, we are really enjoying the solitude while it lasts.

The next post should come from somewhere in Canada.



3 thoughts on “Baxter State Park”

  1. Beautiful, Frank!! I loved the part about the Loon calling. I’ll never forget the first time I heard them in Minnesota. There is just nothing that compares. Now I know why Kate Hepburn was so excited “On Golden Pond” when the loons were back. :)

    Can’t wait to read the next installment!


  2. You write beautifully, Frank. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Kathy & George VDA

  3. I am drooling with envy, Frank. Someday I hope to get back up to Maine for some serious birding and hiking. Thanks for the background on Baxter Park. Your descriptions are excellent, but please remember the camera next time. I could almost smell the forest.

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