08-May-2002 -- Just visited my first degree confluence, and the last one still to be visited in the US Northeast, at N46 W69. A call to Baxter State Park Headquarters before leaving home on May 7, 2002, revealed that the perimeter road was open only about halfway to the trailhead, and camping is not allowed until May 15. Completing the visit as a day hike, starting from the perimeter road was not feasible, but Park Headquarters confirmed that day hiking into the park from the permanently closed Nesowadnehunk entrance, west of the park, was permitted.
To approach the west side of the park from the South, get onto Golden Road early, as the connecting road from near the South park entrance is closed. Driving in, on the evening of the 7th, I noticed a cow moose and her calf grazing in a pond beside the road. Should have stopped and snapped a picture, as they were the only moose I saw this trip, though there was moose "sign" everywhere, in the park.
Golden Road is a high-speed paved road, but turning onto Telos Road, the surface changes to loose gravel. The speed limit is 45 mph, but few will exceed 40. The final approach is a right turn onto a dirt road, just past Harrington Lake. There are several branch roads not shown on the map, so use your GPS. A four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
There is a beautiful campsite on Williams Pond, not far from the park boundary, with a sign permitting camping, but no fire without a permit. The sound of the "peepers" (small frogs) was deafening, and interrupted a few times by the warning slap of a beaver's tail. Also plentiful, were ducks, grouse, and especially rabbits, one of which came into camp for a visit the first night, and another of which had to be shooed away on the second night, or it would have entered the tent (or maybe this was the same one).
Early in the morning, it was off for the confluence. The road is effectively blocked, precisely at the park border, by huge stones, followed by about a hundred yards of moguls dug into the road. From there, the hiking is easy until a mile or so beyond the perimeter road. That is, if you take the route shown on the maps, leaving the perimeter road a quarter mile north of the Nesowadnehunk campground, rather than the new Wassataquoik trailhead a short distance south of the camp. Knowing no better, I entered by the northern route, which turned out to be much easier, as the new trail is rough, winding, has significant vertical excursions, and crosses two streams, one of which is deep enough and fast enough to be a bit scary, as well as submerge all hiking boots. The old trail is not as pretty, though, having two gravel quarries and a dump, along the way.
Intending to cut East to the convergence, just south of Center Pond, I accidentally passed the spot to turn, and found myself on the west bank of the pond, and decided to pass around its north end, instead. This was unfortunate, as it would have been much easier to learn, from this direction, that the pond outlet stream would be dangerous to cross. It's bordered by marsh matting, floating on water deeper than the length of my hiking stick. Attempting to return south of the pond, after the confluence visit, cost a lot of time and effort, with the final resolution of bushwhacking back around the north side of the pond. Fortunately this inconvenience was partially compensated for by a pleasant visit from three curious beavers, where the trail passed near the pond.
Bushwhacking off the trail in the Northeast is often difficult, and the several hundred yards of off-trail work to reach the convergence and return was a good example of how difficult it gets. Luckily there is a tiny opening at the convergence, and the slope allowed a peek at some surrounding peaks through the growth. Center Mountain is visible in the photo facing northwest, and some peaks were visible when the picture facing southwest was snapped, but I couldn't find them in the photo.
I notice, in the photo, that the backup GPS was not adjusted for daylight savings time. It was actually very near noon, May 8, 2002. The antenna of the main GPS is not visible in the picture because it uses an amplified external antenna, elevated above the backpack.
This was a fun and challenging visit, requiring twelve hours of hard work, but would be easier if beginning from within the park. There are a couple of campsites relatively near the convergence, but park rules dictate that, to use them, one must first hike in to Russell Pond in the middle of the park, and get permission from the ranger there.