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.

We tried out a toaster gizmo before the stroll, it worked!

The trail was carpeted with moss, and there was a series of foot bridges as well.

All these various humps and peaks are  considered part of Katahdin, and we will climb Baxter Peak.

It’s just  there.

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.

Jeff and The  Crusher at Katahdin Falls. Crusher  took off for the top , Jeff stuck with us.

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.

Out of the woods and going straight up.

Linda is amazing.

On the tableland now after cresting and you can see people on the summit.

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.

The descent  had some  tricky spots.

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.

Towards evening another  group  arrived and Jeffrey hosted a campfire. This group would summit in the morning. Doozie and I moved off to stargaze.

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”

“It’s over”

The next  morning we got  up early and were stowed away and on the road  with a quick detour to Kidney Pond .

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….