Hiking North Brother in Maine
It was a wet hike up to North Brother Mountain in Baxter State Park for our 65th peak of the New England 67.
Hike Date: July 26, 2021
|0 mi||0 mi||Start at Marston Trailhead|
|4.6 mi||4. 6 mi||Marston Trail to summit of North Brother (Passes junctures with Mt. Coe Trail at 1.3 mi and 3.7 mi)|
|4.6 mi||9.2 mi||Marston Trail back to parking lot|
Note: Map mileage does not match stats because Gaia GPS tends to undercount it. Mileage stats were calculated using the North Brother route description from 4000footers.com.
For our 65th peak of the New England 67 4,000 footers list, we hiked North Brother in Baxter State Park in northern Maine. Initially, we planned to do a large loop that included Mt. Coe, South Brother, North Brother, and Mt. Fort (all part of the New England 100 highest list), but with thunderstorms predicted for both the early morning and for the early afternoon, our window was too short to fit in such a large hike.
So, we made a smart and safe decision to just hike North Brother. We drove about an hour and fifteen minutes (the dirt roads and 20mph speed limit make for a longer drive than you might expect) from our campsite at Roaring Brook Campground to get to the Marston Trailhead at 6:15am. The sun had just risen and it was pretty cloudy and ominous. The Marston Trailhead is equipped with a sizable parking lot, a picnic table, and an outhouse.
The first mile and a quarter of Marston Trail was as expected: rocky, rooty, and fairly steep. There were many rock stairs built into the trail. About a mile in, we started to hear thunder rumbling and it started to rain. We put rain jackets and pack covers on and kept moving until the rain got heavier, the thunder and lightning intensified, and the storm seemed like it was passing directly above us. At this point, we paused and ducked into the woods, put down our metal poles, and waited out this part of the storm. Once we could tell that the worst part was past us (based on the location of the thunder and lightning as well as the weather report we read earlier), we emerged from the trees to continue up the trail. We passed a pond on our right then after that, the trail flattened out and provided a really nice respite after a relatively steady climb.
When we started climbing again, the sun started to break through the clouds, the rain stopped, and we paused at one of the cutouts to catch our first view of the day: Mountains shrouded in clouds across the valley and Mt. Coe to the left with the ridge that we would have hiked if it weren’t for the dicey weather!
After the rain stopped, the trail literally turned into a giant stream. There was at least one to two inches of water filling the trail and we could hear the noise of water rushing over rocks. We took careful steps to avoid the super slippery rocks, roots, and massive puddles. During this section, the sun really started to shine and light streamed through the trees, casting an incredible glow over the trail. We both described it as an enchanted forest and could not believe how discernable the light rays were in the misty air.
Then, we got to a juncture to turn left to stay on Marston Trail for less than a mile up to North Brother. This last stretch was rather steep and followed an eroded ravine section with big rock steps and gnarled roots. Before the peak, we emerged from underneath the treeline and saw the bouldery summit of North Brother. Turning around, we saw sweeping views of Baxter State Park and were so grateful that the rain stopped for a few hours for us to enjoy the peak. At the top of North Brother, we found the summit sign nestled between some rocks, as its post must have broken. Kevin pretended to be the post and held the North Brother sign up, we ate lunch, took in the views, and started to descend in order to avoid the impending afternoon thunderstorms.
While we were nervous to descend the super rocky and steep wet trail sections, they were actually a lot better than we expected. The trail was still a stream, but there was already less water than there was during our ascent. The rain held out and it stayed nice and sunny for the rest of our hike. When we got back to the trailhead, we immediately changed out of our muddy clothes and celebrated our second to last hike for the New England 67! All we had left was Katahdin now!
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