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Traveler Mountain February 9, 2012

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, memoir, peakbagging.
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Traveler (in the distance) from North Brother

I have no photos from the actual hike, just a couple taken at points further south in Baxter State Park. My apologies.

Older editions of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide have some interesting descriptions. Years ago, looking for information about the northern parts of Baxter State Park—well north of Katahdin—I found a writeup for a “Loop Route over Traveler and North Traveler,” which, it said, should be attempted “only by strong parties.” This was mainly bushwhacking. Here is a sample of it:

Use binoculars to carefully study the animal yards and rock slides on the way to Traveler summit. There are three animal yards…. Near the top of the third yard, turn almost 90 degrees to the right (south) and look for an exit out onto the rock slide. Traverse horizontally and possibly drop down a little to get around the end of the heavy brush….

Need it be said that as soon as I read this, I wanted to go there?

Bob and I spent a week in Baxter in August 1995. It was mainly a peakbagging extravaganza—we were working on the New England 100 Highest. One day was spent going from Chimney Pond to Pamola Peak and then over to Katahdin along the Knife Edge. Another day was spent tackling Hamlin Peak. Another was a marathon of Coe, North and South Brother, and Fort. (Coe, which was #100 on the list, has since been bumped by some less worthy peak—I think maybe Cupsuptic Snow.)

During the whole time we were there, the weather was freakishly warm for that latitude, in the 90s at the lower elevations. We later learned that northern Maine was the warmest place on the East Coast at that time, due to some meteorological fluke.

Jenny on North Brother. Actually, I'm not positive. It might be South Brother.

We achieved all of our peakbagging goals and then headed to the less-visited northern parts of the park. We camped at South Branch Pond, a beautiful place of deep water surrounded by rocky peaks. I’ll always remember sitting on the shore of the pond that first lovely warm evening and being startled by the full moon abruptly popping up over the Traveler—a moon whose reflection in the clear dark water rivaled the original.

The next morning we started early on our quest, following the Pogy Notch trail leading south along the east shore of the two linked ponds. We were looking for the Pinnacle Ridge route to Peak of the Ridges, the gateway to the Traveler. Our wonderful guidebook said, Follow the Pogy Notch trail about 0.8 mi. to a knoll where the slide on the Pinnacle is plainly visible. Turn left through pleasant woods and across older slides, and you will reach the Pinnacle slide.

It wasn’t quite “plainly visible”—perhaps things had grown up a bit since the 7th edition of the guide—but we found it and achieved our first objective, Peak of the Ridges. Now we found ourselves on a wide open ridge of strange-looking rock surrounded by oceans of balsam forest. The whole area of the Traveler, you see, is of entirely different geological origin than Katahdin not far to the south.

The ridge beckoned to the east, leading toward the main summit of the Traveler. Just as the guide described, we passed alternately through hallways of balsam and open animal yards. We saw no moose, but there was plenty of moose sign. Up through consecutive glades and fragrant forest, we climbed and reached the top. It is 3541′,  which is why elevationally obsessed hikers tend to ignore it. I am glad it’s not heavily visited.

Now, we headed north through dense spruce-fir forest toward North Traveler. But we had a problem. Even with carrying three quarts of water apiece, the freakish heat was causing dehydration. We were on a dry ridgetop with no water anywhere nearby.

We bushwhacked as far as the Traveler-North Traveler col (around the subsidiary 2970′ peak) and decided we had best retreat to someplace with water. So we dropped westward into the headwaters of Howe Brook.

Such a beautiful stream, one deep sparkling pool after another. We went down, and down, and after a while started hearing the voices of heat-stricken vacationers frolicking in the lower portions of the brook. It was a fun succession of people as we went, who looked like human-sized seals and walruses as they plunged into the pools and slid down smooth slippery chutes.

The whole day had a dreamlike quality. I would like to go back and complete that Traveler-North Traveler circuit that “should only be attempted by strong parties.” I long to revisit the land of moose, lake, and balsam.

Traveler Mountain from South Branch Pond (Wikimedia photo)

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Comments»

1. AdamB - February 9, 2012

Wow thanks for taking us back there Jenny. I know it’s an odd question but what is that on your shirt in the picture? I am going up Old Black on Sunday on a peak measuring expedition if you want to go let me know.

Jenny - February 9, 2012

That is the symbol of the college I went to, New College in Sarasota, Florida. It was a tiny liberal arts school in the same mold as Franconia College in New Hampshire or Reed College in Oregon. A great place. I wish I could join you on the Old Black expedition, but I’m hiking Saturday and I can’t hike both days. Have fun!


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