Lentil and I spent our long weekend for Indigenous People's Day at South Branch Pond Campground in Baxter State Park. We had hoped for good enough weather to explore the Traveler Loop, but rain and cold were making it seriously icy above tree line. Better hikers than we were avoiding the big ridge, so who were we to argue?

Gabriel, the ranger at South Branch, recommended Barrel Ridge. I'm glad we were smart enough to take his recommendation. It's just over a six-mile round trip, with not terribly much net elevation gain: Barrel Ridge is only 2067 feet.

  Part of the magic of this hike was our timing. The morning was wet, so we had a second cup of coffee and delayed our start until late morning. By the time we summited at lunch, the clouds were just breaking overhead. We got some stunning view of Grand Matagamon Lake to the north and the smaller peaks along the east branch of the Penobscot river. The clouds, however, never lifted over North Traveler, reinforcing the wisdom of staying off the ridgeline.

  On the way back to camp, we took a short detour over the ledges above South Branch Pond. The view of the mountains around the pond was spectacular, and Katahdin was visible in the distance, its peak also shrouded by clouds.