Roaring Brook surely lives up to its name, even from my lean-to just 25 feet from its bank. I finish supper, step away from the picnic table and slowly move closer, enjoying the increasing volume. I squat down and dip my hands into what is easily some of clearest, coldest water in Maine, splash my sweaty face, and mouth a quiet thanks to Gov. Baxter.

A couple relaxing hours of do-nothingness later, I leave the last of the embers in the fire pit, retire to the shelter, and crawl into my bag. I think of my father, who first took me to Roaring Brook many decades ago. I slept in Dad’s musty old army canvas bag then, and thanks to the glorious white noise of the brook, slept like a baby. It will be no different this night.

Roaring Brook is some of the clearest, coldest water in Maine. Carey Kish photo

Come morning, I clear out the temporary dwelling, move the car to the backpacker lot, strap on my pack, saunter to the ranger station to sign out, and I’m on my way along the Chimney Pond Trail. There is no hurry, so I don’t. Roaring Brook is company until I veer away to reach Pamola Brook, where a sign says that I’m entering Maine’s largest wilderness area. Sweet.

My mind wanders with my footsteps on this trail I’ve trod countless times. I come to Halfway Rock, a squarish boulder that used to have “1/2 WAY” painted on it in blue, but that’s long gone. Minutes later, I step right a few yards for my first view of the Katahdin massif. And stealthily swat dead the only horsefly around for miles. Hiker 1, nasty pest 0.

I’m the only person at Basin Pond for my entire 15-minute respite. The Great Basin, Hamlin Ridge and North Basin loom large beneath the perfect blue sky. I can even spy Index Rock high on Pamola. A white-throated sparrow whistles; it’s “Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody-Peabody” sends shivers up my spine as it does every time, and signals that I am indeed home again.

Dry Pond is anything but after all the recent rains. I crest the moderate slope and emerge into the meadow at Chimney Pond Campground. After lunch at the day hiker pavilion, I sidle over to Lean-to 1 – my castle for the next three nights – and unpack. I take my food bag to the bear line, and in one try, get it on the high hook. This never happens. My lucky day.


The ranger is working hard building rock steps when I stop to check in. After filling my water bag at Chimney Pond, I find a comfy rock and sit. It’s early afternoon and there’s no one else around. The walls of Katahdin soar 2,350 feet above me to Baxter Peak. Sweeping from Knife Edge to the Saddle, there’s no finer panorama in our state.

My dad and I hiked up here way back when, and we camped at the same Lean-to 1 site. We arrived too late to climb the mountain, but Dad suggested we at least check out Pamola Caves a scant half-mile up. I wanted to do nothing but sit on the shore of Chimney Pond and stare at the towering face of Katahdin, so that’s what we did.

Pamola Caves is a funhouse of huge rocks, narrow passageways and slab caves at about 3,100 feet on the side of Pamola Peak. Carey Kish photo

Today, however, in honor of my dad, I grab a water bottle, roll it up in my windbreaker, and start up Dudley Trail to finally explore Pamola Caves. Across the talus slope and on through the steep woods, I then slither and scrape through the crazy fun house of huge rocks, narrow passageways and slab caves. It is all good fun with great views. Dad would’ve loved it.

A simple backpacker’s dinner tastes mighty fine when it’s enjoyed in a lean-to at Chimney Pond. Carey Kish photo

Dinner is a simple affair of soup and freeze-dried beef stroganoff, not quite the canned beans and Vienna sausages lovingly prepared by Dad and washed down with Tang. I take a nip of something out to Chimney Pond and settle in once more for another look-see. When my broad scan reaches the now familiar site of Pamola Caves, I tip my camp cup and smile big time.

Over the next several days, I’ll climb the great mountain twice and explore the extraordinary alpine terrain of the high peaks. But far below on this beautiful evening, I know I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do on this trip, and with that, shuffle back to my shelter to enjoy the deep night quiet of this special place.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of “Beer Hiking New England,” “AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast” and the “AMC Maine Mountain Guide.” Follow more of Carey’s adventures on Facebook and on Instagram @careykish

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