Memorial Day Weekend Camping Trip
We camped at Mt. Blue State Park last weekend and had a great time. Once again, I chose the place in Maine where it rained at least every day, if not all day of our trip. But, it did rain less than last year’s trip to Cobscook. I know a little bit about camping in the rain, so we don’t let that stop us any more. Plus, we had the camper, so it wasn’t that bad. We had great fun and explored several places. We left Thursday afternoon after Amelia got out of school so that we could extend our long weekend and Friday ended up being the wettest day of the trip. We drove toward Byron, ME and explored Coos Canyon and the Swift River.
Coos Canyon isn’t much more than a rest stop along the way to Rangeley, but the falls were really pretty. We walked along the water-worn rocks or in Amelia’s case, skipped, careened and jumped as close to the rock ledge as possible in order risk falling into the rushing ice-cold river. Fortunately, no one got wet (from falling in, anyway). We ate our picnic lunch under a covered picnic table, which was really helpful because it started pouring and then we ran across the street (Route 17) to the Coos Canyon Rock & Gift Shop for ice cream. Our attention was immediately drawn to the rocks and minerals in the shop as well as the great selection of geological, mining and gold panning books. Instead of ice cream, we left with books and (another) gold pan (except for Amelia who wouldn’t be deterred). Before leaving we were treated to a gold panning demonstration which I admit was pretty cool and informative. Artie has had some interest in gold panning and had done a little along the way, but I generally need a greater and faster return on my hard work. I have to admit that I almost asked for my own pan. Almost.
The rocks along the river were really interesting in the way they were worn. I don’t know enough about geology to explain how some were worn perpendicular to the direction of the water flow, but we bought a book that might help me…if I ever get around to reading it. (Artie has it now).
After Coos Canyon, we drove where the Swift River runs along the side of Route 17 and found a good spot to stop so Artie could try his new gold pan. I should also mention that we had already started collecting pretty rocks, so Amelia and I did that while he panned. Or, I should say that I acted as the final determining board for which rocks Amelia could actually keep. I’m not sure what standard she used to choose the rocks that she JUST HAD TO COLLECT, but I think it had more to do with size and heft (the bigger/heavier the better) rather than visual appeal.
While exploring the banks of the river we also spotted several wildflowers we looked up later when we got back to the camper. This one is the Purple Trillium which we read smells really bad. Too bad we didn’t know that before or we’d have given it a try. We also saw the Painted Trillium which was white with pink marks on the petals.
Canada Mayflower (or Wild Lily-of-the-Valley)
He actually found a few tiny flakes of gold which was fun.
Saturday was a little bit drier, but still showery. By now we just brought our rain coats with us and dealt with it. We started by exploring the park which has this beautiful shallow, sandy beach on Webb Lake. It also has a fun playground if you are so inclined (and one of us was). Amelia really wanted to go swimming which would have been precarious in warm sunny weather, but downright silly in our chilly, wet weather. I put her off for a little while.
Of course, no rules apply to Katie when she wants to go swimming.
Mount Blue (with a partial fire tower at the top): We had planned on hiking this mountain, but our map/guide’s description, “A strenuous, straight-up hike…”along with the weather and young company pretty much squelched that idea.
Artie and Amelia fished instead. And, I have to say, Artie has infinite patience. She looks cute holding her pole, and she’s even gotten pretty good at casting and reeling the line in. But between the incessant, random questions, which were thicker than the black flies and her special knack for snagging everything within a 10′ radius (including Artie, by the way), I just don’t know how he managed not to throw the poles into the lake (or later the stream) and run away screaming (which is what I probably would have done).
Mount Blue State Park is actually divided into two sections…the beach/picnic area/campground located on the southwestern side of Webb Lake and then a much larger parcel of land including Mount Blue to the east. After lunch we traveled to the latter area and drove up Center Hill where we hiked the half mile Overlook Trail.
It was a lovely walk through the woods which were just thick enough to shelter us from the raindrops. The trail loops along the top of the hill, which gave us great views all around.
Tumbledown is the last three humps on the left.
Mount Blue from Center Hill.
After Center Hill, we drove around the park some more until we found another spot to fish.
We tackled Tumbledown Mountain on Sunday. I had been looking forward to this hike, or any hike for that matter. We were hoping for a dry day, and we were so hopeful that we forgot to bring our rain jackets. For the most part we stayed relatively dry, until we got close to the summit and then it really rained for a bit, but we managed. We took the Brook Trail both ways and I have to admit that when we first started I was a little disappointed at the fairly wide, clean trail. But it wasn’t too long before it got more interesting. As we got closer to the mountain, the trail got rockier and steeper as we climbed several switchbacks until we again came to the brook. Then the hike became more strenuous as we had to climb over and around boulders to make our way. Amelia did really well and seemed to enjoy climbing.
Although there aren’t any other people in these pictures, the trail was fairly busy, especially as we neared the pond. I should have taken pictures of almost everyone we encountered, because Amelia befriended everyone. She chatted up anyone who looked her way, telling them what was on her mind at the moment or about her toys at home. She talked nonstop pretty much the entire way, back and forth. At first I thought she’d run out of energy with all that talking, but nope, she kept at it until we finally got back to the truck.
Here they’re discussing the best path to take. While Amelia was eager to move forward, she wasn’t great at looking ahead to plan the easier or most convenient way, or even to verify that she was still on the path.
Taking a quick rest on an interesting tree just below Tumbledown Pond.
View from the pond.
The start of the brook at Tumbledown Pond.
Katie taking a cooling swim in sprinkling rain.
A passing shower.
It was lightly raining with a chilly breeze when we reached the pond, so we used this erratic (boulder left by a glacier) as a shelter until it passed. Amelia particularly liked this spot (probably because she was really the only one who could fit in there).
Artie looking toward the summit. We weren’t sure how far we’d make it with a four year old. With the spotty weather and the tough terrain, we didn’t think that we’d be able to go any further than the pond. But once we were there, we found it hard not to make the half mile trek the rest of the way, so when Amelia said, “Sure!” when we asked her if she wanted to continue to the top (the trail goes to the summit on the left), we continued on. I’m glad we did!
Katie contemplating the trail ahead. Every time I thought she would have a tricky time, she’d scramble up like a mountain goat. Having four legs does have its advantages!
A passing shower. That’s Webb Lake to the left, where the campground was (near the top on the right shore).
Tumbledown Pond, Little Jackson and Jackson Mountains.
Hard to see the lake through the shower (and watermark) here.
Getting close to the top.
We made it! Just before we got to the top it started pouring. I couldn’t see through the water pouring off my face, so we ended up finding a ledge to protect us (Artie stood over Amelia to keep her drier) until the worst of it passed. Fortunately the sun came out immediately after which made things feel a lot better.
One more of Webb Lake with a moody sky.
We think this is the Record Hill wind farm.
Amelia’s turn to be photographer.
Heading back down.
I hadn’t realized how long it would take us to hike Tumbledown. Our map/guide estimated 3 hours round trip (to the pond), so I figured we’d be back just after lunch time. But, I hadn’t figured that the guide wasn’t based on the pace of a 4 year old (i.e. snail’s pace). Before we started out I had promised Amelia that she could go swimming after the hike. Maybe that’s what kept her going all those hours, because it took us closer to 8 hours to complete. I hadn’t even packed a lunch…just a few snacks and water to get us by. Luckily, it was just enough to keep us going (along with a good breakfast to start).
So, I hadn’t counted on standing on the chilly beach at 7 p.m. waiting for Amelia to go swimming in the 60-ish degree water. She stood there for the longest time, then walked back and forth along the shore looking for other kids to play with. Kids would stroll past with their parents and she’d say, “Maybe they’re coming to go swimming!” I’d point out that they were wearing sweatpants, boots and hats, so probably not headed for a swim and she’d look for someone new. Needless to say, the beach remained quite empty. Fortunately, after almost a half hour of waiting in the water, she noticed there were kids at the playground and gave up her quest to swim for time on the playground. To her credit, she went in up to her hips and put her face in the water. I couldn’t get past my ankles, and had no intention of going any further.
Our last night, after hiking, we ate leftovers and roasted hot dogs over the fire. Artie taught Amelia how to build the fire, which she was mighty proud of and probably even more so at being allowed to hold her own stick over the flames. We roasted marshmallows as well and had s’mores. Monday morning we packed our things and then took a last walk back to the beach where Amelia stamped her Maine State Parks Passport and then played on the playground a while. I think we might have a new tradition of camping at a state park for Memorial Day weekend.