Nearing the end of the winter hiking season we headed to Maine, with plans to climb four
mountains located on the eastern side of Baxter State Park, a remote wilderness park in northern Maine. We were accompanied by two other experienced winter climbers, Dick Widhu and Mike LaRoss.
On Sunday, 3/10, we traveled to the dying mill town of Millinocket, ME. We stayed Sunday night at the AT Lodge, Pelletier Loggers’ Restaurant was a good place to have dinner with a tasty pint of beer. The following day we ate a wonderful breakfast at the AT Cafe and then headed off
on the Golden Road and the Telos Rd. to the start of our hike into Camp Cozy at Nesowadnehunk Camps, six miles from the trail head. We pulled our gear and food on sleds to make travel easier. However, it was a warm day with temps in the 40’s, so we had to peel off clothing. Perspiration is the greatest invisible enemy of the winter hiker. Fortunately the temperatures stayed in the 40’s and we arrived at the cabin in the early afternoon.
The following day we planned to hike
Mt’s Coe and S. Brother, with the hope of doing Fort and N. Brother the same day, if conditions were optimal. We left the cabin at 5:00 am and when the sun began to rise we could see Double Top enshrouded in dark clouds. It was obvious that rain was moving in and we would need to move quickly if we were going to bag any summits. Rain began falling around 10:00 a.m. and continued throughout the day. At we approached S. Brother we began to feel the effects of the continuing rain and the fear of hypothermia crossed became evident. We climbed the summit trail to S. Brother, .3 miles in howling wind and rain. Above tree line the trail disappeared in clouds
and rain and we had all we could handle to stay together. All of us reached the summit and headed back down, off the summit cone as quickly as possible.
We then had to make a decision: to continue over to Coe or turn back. We were wet from the day-long rain and there were questions regarding the trail conditions to Coe. We decided to go for it, knowing that we may need to bail out. Fortunately the trail was easy to follow and the snow levels were manageable, We made it to the summit of Coe’s exposed peak in fierce wind and rain, fortunate that we weren’t blown into the slide to the west side of the mountain.
We hustled our butts off the mountain and began the final leg of our trek, very wet and cold. We changed into dry clothes and within the next couple hours we were back to the pond, catching a bite to eat before heading back to the cabin. It was a 17 mile round trip journey.
Wednesday was another day of rain. We took a zero to dry our clothes, hanging them from ropes above the woodstove. Thank God for the woodstove. This was a day of R and R; a day we needed to recoup our strength. It was spent reading, eating, sleeping, and preparing for the next day when we would climb N. Brother and Fort.
We again woke at 4:00 A.M on Thursday and began our road walk on the Tote Road back
to the Marston Trailhead. The day dawned with mixed clouds and sun, but we knew the rain was over thanks to the NOAA weather report picked up on our hand cracked radio. Yesterday’s rain was miserable, but a blessing today, as the snow pack froze over night and we hiked the whole day in micro spikes. The trail was well packed out and we made N. Brother by noon. We continued onto Fort under gradually clearing skies. The summit was in and out of the clouds and
the views over to Katahdin and Hamlin were spectacular. We had a relatively easy hike out, back to the trail head and
then walked the Tote Road back to Cozy Camp, another 17 miles, to celebrate our accomplishments. The beer, whiskey, scotch, and wine tasted great! The following day we reversed direction from Monday and headed back to the parking lot on the Telos Rd. under a brilliant sun, with a strong feeling of accomplishment, but very tired. 16 more summits to climb to reach the goal of NE winter highest 100.