A while back David and I decided to climb Katahdin. Of all the mountains I’ve climbed, Katahdin still stands out to me as one of the most unique hikes in the northeast and is still one of my favorites.
(panos are clickable to enlarge as usual)
Anyone who’s climbed Katahdin knows it’s a bit of an ordeal. Besides the actual hike itself (which is the same elevation gain as Mt Washington), Katahdin involves a lot of red tape and planning. Baxter state park requires you to purchase a permit in advance so you’ll have a spot for your car at the trailhead. They also require you to arrive at the gates by 7am or they give away your spot! As we entered the park there was a line of maybe 10 cars waiting to take the spots of no-shows.
We stayed at the Big Moose Inn campground because it was closest to the Baxter state park entrance. The campsite itself was fine but we had some neighbors in the campground who decided to stay up ALL NIGHT talking and laughing and drinking. For some reason I hadn’t brought earplugs so I just fantasized all night about being a more assertive person and telling them to shut up. So we started our Katahdin day bleary-eyed and delirious from lack of sleep.
I think we got up around 5am, packed up the camping gear, and got to the park gates before 7am. We decided to climb up and down the Hunt trail, which is part of the AT. For the first few hours before we hit tree line I was literally falling asleep as we hiked, eyes half closed, mumbling unintelligible things, complaining about life.
Once we hit tree line though, the wind woke us up! The Hunt trail is fairly exposed with some scrambles and the wind was blowing me around like a rag doll. I was actually getting a bit of anxiety but we finally hit the plateau and I cared less about the wind since I wouldn’t be blown off a cliff. After the plateau it’s a pretty straightforward hike to the top of Baxter.
From the summit you can see the lovely knife edge and the awesome unique u-shape of Katahdin. The views are spectacular and also a bit odd since Katahdin is really the only tall mountain in the area. We decided we’d skip the knife edge because of the wind and headed back down the plateau. At the junction for the Abol trail, we decided to change course and take Abol down since it was sheltered from the wind. This was THE WORST MISTAKE EVER.
The Abol trail is decidedly shorter than any of the other trails but is WAY STEEPER because of this. It’s basically hopping down big rocks/boulders the entire way down. As someone with bad knees, this was my worst nightmare. By the time we got to the bottom I could barely walk and plopped myself down on a rock in the (wrong) parking lot. Because we went down Abol, we were 2 miles away from our car at the Hunt trail. Was I going to go get the car? Hellllll no. David, being the freak of nature he is, jogged back to the Hunt trailhead to get the car. Sometimes freaks of nature are useful. Like when they allow you to lay pathetically in a parking lot waiting for your chariot to arrive.
When exiting the park we picked up two hitchhikers that I remembered blasting past us on our way up the Hunt trail. Turns out they were through-hikers so I felt a bit better about being the slow hiking slug that I was. We dropped them off at the ice cream shop in Millinocket that gives out free ice cream to through-hikers. I’m gonna say… I’d need more motivation than free ice cream to hike the AT 🙂
We have plans to hike Katahdin again this fall, but this time we’ll go up Helon Taylor, go across the knife edge, bag Baxter and Hamlin, and return via Chimney pond. Phew! Wish me luck!