Baxter State Park Canoe Camping Trip, August 2023

Brad Achorn

2023-09-06 - last updated 2023-09-07 (changelog)

This year instead of doing a backpacking trip, Fiona and I decided to do a canoe camping trip. Actually it wasn’t entirely by choice, Fiona loves to swim and not all of the ponds you can backpack to in Baxter State Park have great swimming due to weeds and leaches, and I waited too long to book the camp site that someone recommended for swimming at (Middle Fowler North). So we decided to check out Grand Lake Matagamon (aka Lake Matagamon), and the Boody Brook camp site looked like it was far enough away to feel remote without being more paddling than we could handle. It can only be reached via boat, so we planned on driving up in the evening, spending one night at the Trout Brook Campground where we could rent a canoe the next morning, and paddle down Trout Brook out to the lake.

Map of the lake and where we paddled

Like last year we did some exploring in the canoe, swimming, and when Fiona wanted a break from outdoors stuff she’d read a book while I did some fishing. Like last year, I also did not make taking pictures a priority, which was good because my phone’s main camera lens is broken, so I can only take pictures with the wide angle lens, which means no pictures of anything not pretty close. I have also been using a GPS tracking app on my phone to create some interesting maps lately, though I forgot to use it about half the time on this trip.

We left on Wednesday August 30th after Fiona and I helped out with a school event welcoming new 6th graders to the middle school (she’s in 8th), and got to the park gate at about 8:00pm.

Paddling In

It was a little less than a mile down Trout Brook, then we followed the shore of the lake north and then west for a total of about a 3.5 mile paddle. Boy was it windy! The last forecast I saw was for a NW wind of 10 MPH with 20 MPH gusts. I knew it would be a challenging paddle if it got any worse than that, and that’s exactly what happened.

Here’s the start of the trip on Trout Brook:

Canoeing down Trout Brook, nice and calm 1

Canoeing down Trout Brook, nice and calm 3

Canoeing down Trout Brook, nice and calm 4

When we were heading east on Trout Brook, the wind was at our backs and steady but not too gusty which gave us a chance to get used to how the Old Town Discovery 169 handled in the wind with us and our gear. As we approached the lake we could see the whitecaps we’d be paddling through from a distance, which was intimidating. On the lake the wind was whipping up much faster than predicted from NNW, which meant that for half the trip we were paddling directly into it.

The last third or so of the paddle was a little easier with the wind blowing from our right to our left, but I still had to keep pointed at least 15-20 degrees to the right of where we actually wanted to go!

Here is the only picture I took out on the lake, though I waited to take any pictures until a relatively calm moment:

A little windy out on the lake

Here’s the sign marking the camp site:


Just past the sign is this tiny beach, but it was very exposed to the wind and waves so we did not land there. This picture was taken on a different day when it was very calm:


And just to the right of that here’s the cove opening:

Cove approach

Cove approach

We were able to muscle through the wind using the small islands for cover when we wanted a break. We did not take breaks any longer or more frequently than we had to, and with hard paddling it still took a little over three hours to go the 3.5 miles. Here are some views of the lake from around our camp site that show the chop, though they really do not do it justice. Note that those waves you see are kicked up by the wind and are actually going against the current of Boody Brook:

The Camp Site

Once you enter the cove it widens significantly, and the camp site is on the point with the windy/choppy lake on one side and the calm cove on the other. On the calm side we found a better place to land the canoe:

Canoe on grass with cove in background

There was a picnic table, fire ring, and plenty of choices for a tent site in the pine trees.

Tent site without tent

Fiona standing behind the tent with the cove in the background

Tent open with cove in background

Tent in trees with cove in background

The tiny point, like most of the shoreline of the lake, had lots of ledge covered in scraggly pines, which really made it look like the coast. The forest in the immediate area was also mostly pines with no branches down low, which made it pleasant to walk around in but did not provide much protection from the wind. We found our favorite place to spend time was right around where we landed the canoe because the one large rocky outcropping at the end of the point created one small spot protected from the wind.

Here’s what the point looks like viewed from our tent site with the picnic table visible:

Point from tent site

Here’s what the point looks like viewed from our picnic table, you can see the large ledge at the end of the point that created some shelter from wind:

Point boulder

Standing on that ledge, here’s what the lake looks like:

Lake right

Lake middle

Lake left

Cove from boulder

And here’s what the camp site looks like from the ledge:

Cove from boulder with canoe table and tent visible

And if you wanted to head inland, here’s what the forest looks like. This path peters out within a quarter mile or so:

Deeper into the forest

In the evening the wind died down and we got to see this beautiful sunset:

Fiona in front of the sunset


After the challening paddle it was still windy and we didn’t have much energy left for canoeing around the lake. We did take a few minutes to explore the cove, which is where water from Boody Brook flows into the lake. We could hear and almost see a beaver dam just a little further up stream, but back there the stream got too narrow for a canoe and the forest started to get dense, so we decided not to go any further. We would see the beaver when he swam out to check us out at our camp site later though!

The next day was calmer but still rather windy, and we were a little sore from paddling in. So we did not see as much of the lake as I would have liked, but did enjoy our nice quiet cove and explored one nearby island.

Fiona paddling looking back at the camera

Fiona paddling past


The cove was weedy where we landed the canoe so we decided not to swim there and risk leaches, and the less weedy parts were rather windy. So we decided to paddle out to a nearby island, figuring it looked rocky (not weedy) and we could try swimming on the downwind side. We explored the tiny island, Fiona got to swim a bit, and we had lunch before heading back to the camp site.

The swimming island from a distance

Fiona climbing down the rocks to swim

Fiona swimming away

Fiona sitting in the water

Fiona floating

Fiona swimming

When the wind finally calmed down, Fiona found a place at camp to swim too:

Fiona waving from the water

Fiona swimming at camp left to right

Fiona looking for a place to jump of the rocks from far away

Fiona looking for a place to jump of the rocks close up

Fiona climbing down the rocks to the water


After we set up camp Thursday, Fiona was content to read for a while so I decided to try out the fishing in our cove. Way in the cove there was an interesting looking pool that formed right before Boody Brook got too narrow for the canoe. In less than an hour I caught four or five small yellow perch, and two downright minuscule ones. None of them were worth keeping but it was fun.

On the way back to camp where the cove was widest I caught a two or three silvery fish I have not caught before, but using the Fishes of Maine book that I downloaded in advance I was able figure out that they are Fallfish, basically a big minnow that I’m assuming people normally don’t keep except for bait. But when I caught one almost a foot long I had see what it tasted like (I didn’t measure it but after cutting the head off I had to cut off about 2” off the tail to fit it in my 8” pan). I had brought some clarified butter and salt along with an 8” pan, and while the meat was pretty bland, the skin crisped up nicely and was quite good even though I didn’t scale it.

I can’t remember if this is the one I kept but I did take a quick picture of one of the Fallfish:

Fallfish in the boat

Late afternoon the following day after swimming, Fiona again wanted a reading break so I went out fishing in our cove again. I caught a couple more Fallfish in the wide part of the cove, then went back to where the Perch were. I caught one or two, then right where water was pouring in from the narrow part of Boody Brook, I caught a decent Brook Trout! It was getting late and I didn’t want to do so many dishes again, so I decided not to keep it.

The trout I caught


There are a lot of loons on this lake, and they are surprisingly comfortable with people considering this lake gets relatively little human activity. They usually showed up in our cove a couple times per day, and sometimes when they showed up in pairs they’d hoot at each other like owls, which I don’t think I’ve heard before. Then of course, at night they’d go crazy:

Because of the issue with my phone camera, I never got any pictures or video of the loons worth sharing (other than the above audio).

Here is the beaver mentioned earlier. Again because of my phone camera I didn’t get any good photos of it, and in this video you can’t see the beaver very well, but you can (barely) hear it snorting at us as it swam back and forth in front of our camp site checking us out:

A Moose!

Finally, on the way home, we saw a moose! Just outside the park, as we were driving home we came around a corner and there was a big bull moose running away from us on the side of the road. It didn’t look like it was trying too hard, but it must have been going 20 MPH. After just a few seconds, it turned left and ran into the woods. I tried to get a few photos, and when I looked at them on my phone I thought I had caught it in one picture, but looking at it on a bigger screen I’m not so sure, so I won’t bother posting it. It was really neat to see one so up close! The park is wild enough that they are not used to humans, and so even though there are lots in the park you don’t see them much (same with black bears, which we have never seen).


Even though I knew we’d have capacity in a canoe for more gear than when we go backpacking, I decided to stick with just our regular backpacking equipment to simplify packing the canoe. Here’s some of the more interesting stuff.

The stoves we use are Fancy Feast cat food cans with holes punched in them with a regular paper hole punch. Fill it will denatured alcohol, and it can bring one cup of water to a boil in about 7-8 minutes wihtout a special pot stand. It will just barely hold enough alcohol to bring two cups of water to a boil. It’s super cheap, light, and I can bring exactly as much fuel as I want in whatever container I want. I find that two ounces of fuel per meal allows for cooking the meals, plus a couple cups of coffee and a comfortable safety margin. I cut the wind screen pictured below out of a peice of aluminum flashing. This setup works reliably, the only trouble I have with it is that it is difficult to light with only a small amount of fuel in the bottom (like to heat but not boil half a cup of water for coffee) when it is windy. Also very wide pots are too unstable, and because the flames come out the side you can’t really use anything much narrower than the cups pictured here.

I got the idea from here.

This is what my complete cook set looks like, including a coffee cup. The fuel container is a reused 8oz water bottle though I would use a bigger bottle on a longer trip:

A single stove set mostly packed

Here it is all together:

Single stove set packed

I tie it in a handkerchief to keep it together, and the handkerchief also gets used as a pot holder and something to help clean up with. Here it is with my water bottle for size comparison:

Stove set packed in handkercheif

Here are the stoves ready to light:

Stoves with windscreens

Fiona and I each carry one set (Fiona doesn’t have the coffee cup). We could get by with one but it’s faster to cook both meals at once, and this means we have a backup if something happens to one.

Here they are lit and waiting for the water to boil for our breakfasts (the alcohol burns so cleanly you can’t see the flames in daylight):

Stoves with cups

This morning Fiona is having a ready-made dehydrated backpacking meal, but I’m having one I put together myself. I made and tested this recipe myself (not that it’s rocket science, it’s just basic oatmeal).



  1. Mix all the ingredients except the fat in a one quart Ziploc
  2. If the fat is something dry like non-dairy creamer, add that too. Otherwise pack it separately.
  3. Add a desiccant packet if it’s going to be stored a while before eating.


  1. Bring 2/3 cup water to a boil. (This will make thick but not dry oatmeal, add more water if you want it thin).
  2. While waiting add your fat to the bag if it was not added already.
  3. Pour the boiling water in the bag.
  4. Stir or agitate immediately, plus a few times while waiting for it to be cool enough to eat.


  1. The purpose of the fat is to make oatmeal more satisfying. I normally find oatmeal without it to be too insubstantial.
  2. Probably any fruit would work. The amount does not have to be exact and next time I may add more.

Here are our breakfasts cooking (rehydrating). The clarified butter has separated but it will stay mixed in when the oatmeal thickens.

Breakfast cooking

For coffee I use the cheap instant coffee. Even though instant coffee doesn’t taste great, there is something satisfying about making it this way that makes up for it. Some backpackers seem to love the Starbucks Via instant coffee because it tastes better and is more convenient. Even if it does taste a little better, it’s still bad and definitely not 12x better (the difference in cost last time I compared). The individual packets also make a lot of trash you have to deal with.

Coffee in bag

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served

The tent we use (pictured earlier) is the Featherstone UL Peridot 2P. I wish it were just a little lighter and smaller, but I don’t think I can get a better free-standing tent for less than 3x the money. This is what it looks like packed up:

Tent packed up

Here is what I bring for fishing. A few spinners (which are usually my favorite), and a few other things to experiment with. The stringer is for keeping a fish cool that I want to keep after they’ve been dispatched (I don’t keep them on it alive). The short bit of cheap paracord is to keep my Leatherman tied to my belt so I can use it to take out a hook without worrying about dropping it in the water.


I also have a collapsing rod, and the smallest reel I could find, onto which I always put as much line as possible so I don’t have to bring extra on a separate spool. Plus this inexpensive but decent Swedish knife, pictured here because I use it fishing but it obviously isn’t just for fishing:

Rod and tackle and knife

With all of the above packed up in backpack, along with my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes (all of which are nothing special), food, etc, my pack is not technically “ultralight” but it is surprisingly close for the money I paid for everything:

Packed up in backpack

This time I didn’t have to carry it far, but I have carried this 5 miles in one day. While it certainly is heavy, it’s doable and a pretty average weight for backpacking. 5 miles isn’t very far compared to more serious backpackers, but I don’t do these things to count stats.

Paddling home

The morning of Saturday Fiona got in another swim, and we cleaned and packed up at a leisurely pace, leaving the camp site at around 2pm.



On the way back we had some fun trying to figure out what mountains we could see in the distance. You can’t see Katahdin from here due to the other mountains in between. The one on the left below is Horse Mountain, and the one to the right of it is Trout Brook Mountain - ones we recognized from hiking between them to get to our campsite last year.



Fiona’s stomach was bothering her a bit, so I did most of the paddling. We had a light breeze at our backs at first, but then had to paddle directly against it for a while too. Overall it was a leisurely paddle, and we were at the Trout Brook Farm Campground by about 4:00 and on the road at 4:30.