On August 28th Doozie and I headed up to Baxter in Millinocket Maine to meet Ichabod and scale the final summit with him. Mt Katahdin had been my focus for weeks, I was steeling myself for that hike. I really had some doubts regarding my knee and everyone was going on and on about the trail. It is pretty much a straight shot off 95 to the Park. The massif begins to reveal itself in brief snatches through the trees.
As we approached that Saturday the summit was shrouded in clouds. Where’s that Advil?
Ichabod was due to arrive on Sunday. The plan was to climb Katahdin on Monday and head home Tuesday. This campsite at Katahdin Stream was right on the summit trail. I queried every group as they stumbled by on their descent. I was surprised how many were coming down in the dark, without flashlights. My knee was twinging .
The next morning we hiked a bit South along the Appalachian Trail just to get a feel for Jeff’s last few miles.
All these various humps and peaks are considered part of Katahdin, and we will climb Baxter Peak.
We headed back to our campsite after this little jaunt,and that afternoon, Jeffrey walked in . He has just signed in with the Ranger, #220 for the season.
He looked great!
He told us this sweet little story about a fox he encountered crossing the Park boundary that morning. He came around a corner on the trail that, I can testify to, allowed no sound of footfalls. Moss, pine needles– you can move most stealthily. A fox was curled up in a spot of sun smack dab in the middle of the trail and Jeff practically stepped on him.
Renard simply popped straight up , and after a bounce landed in another sun spot a few feet off the trail.There he placed his head between his paws, curled up, and fell back asleep. Nice.
Crusher, who had been hiking of late with Jeff, soon arrived. Pemmy, who had hiked with them through the Whites, had sent us a package for the fellows that we promised to deliver. She had baked her special cookies and written a lovely card. There was a plushy moose, a private joke.
In the middle, Draggin Tail and Sherpa. A Father & Son team from Missouri. They had a mission on their hike collecting pledges for clean water. The Bangor Daily News did a piece that mentioned them . I last saw them in Hanover, NH
So there was food and drink and lots of talking ( and interviewing of descending hikers) about the morning hike.
We left for the Summit before 7am . The clouds just get caught on the peak it seems. I was hoping for a clear day, the forecast was great, hot.
The trail is 5.2 miles long to the top. It took us about 9 1/2 hours to complete the round trip. Jeffrey stuck with us on the ascent but upon reaching the table land , took off for the summit. My knee did not make a peep. Good, this was not a hike to experience any trouble. I ran into some people that were terrified on top, as they were not sure about going back down.
Doozie the biker, the runner, the tri- athlete, laughed at my hike preparation regimen which involved no hiking, only Google image searching. I watched every video shot of the trail and examined hundreds of photos. I actually recognized individual boulders on my hike. (Hey, I still get creeped out on the ladder painting the house!) Ok, I took one walk with Peter Kennedy’s hiking poles to Fort Rock, which I borrowed for the Katahdin hike. The poles however stayed below at the site, this was mostly rock climbing. The Mountain was unable to throw me a curve ball, I knew it.
The trail had some huge natural staircases before breaking the tree line. The camera was stowed for much of the ascent as you need both hands. 1900′ feet of elevation in mile and half.
This is a view of the tableland from the summit for perspective. We had just crested the far right edge where it touches the sky. The scale throws you and it’s still a good hike across the table land, about a mile & half. The trail is defined by string to keep hikers off the delicate plants that can survive in this exposed environment.
If you look closely, you can see hikers moving across the “Knife Edge”, another trail to the Summit. You know Pam at our Public Library practically dances across the Knife Edge, she is so all that ! Doozie and I have decided to save that experience for another time.
This is a fellow hiker called Whippersnap, from North Carolina, a historian. His wife joined him on the summit. She is a second grade teacher. Whippersnap was carrying a gps device to do an elevation recording of the entire trail for next years guidebook . He is also a peak bagger.
That evening we had to move to another site. It was just the way the reservation worked out. These are very small campgrounds. Baxter limits how many people are in the park, day hikers too. It all goes a long way towards preserving the experience.
It is inky dark in the park, perfect for sky gazing. You could hear Carl Sagan’s voice “billions and billions”
If you put the binoculars to your eyes it seems every bit of sky is occupied . Beautiful.
We came back and slipped into the tent ,listening to the campfire chatter, wondering if our legs will move in the morning.
“Oh you saw Whippersnap?, I spent a week with that guy, what a week, so interesting, he knew all about the area we were hiking”
“Yea that guy would hike all day then do another 10 to grab a peak!”
“Did your Dad say he had vodka?”
“I am thinking about calling him /her when I get back, we’ll see”
“I kinda like it out here, I think I could keep on going”
“I know what I am going to do now”
“I have no clue”
Doozie was hoping to see a moose on the trip and I figured driving further into the park could bear fruit. I did want to see the cabins at Kidney Pond for possible future use, they are nice. Jeff our woodsman was pessimistic based on his experience. He saw one moose and walked 2100 miles.
Jeff on the dock at Kidney Pond. Putting his back to Katahdin. In a week he will be in Philly, at graduate school.
We drove out of the Park and stopped in Millinockett at the Appalachian Trail Cafe. They also own a hostel.
The owner and Jeffrey had met prior at Trail Days in Damascus VA. This is a special festival that includes trail work.
All the through hikers are invited to sign the ceiling tiles at the Cafe . The Crusher had signed the day before.
The special Katahdin Donut, on the house for through hikers.
A perfect adventure of 5 months and it was smiles all the way home. Oh, on the way up to see the cabins at Kidney Pond we crossed a wet area and out of the corner of my eye….