Katahdin and the Knife Edge Trail

Day 2
Chimney Pond up Cathedral Trail to Baxter Peak–>Knife Edge to Pamola Peak–>Dudley Trail to Chimney Pond
4.0 miles

It’s still a stirring call on that first morning in Baxter when I’ve signed in at the Chimney Pond register and write 7:10 AM on the going-up-to-the-top of Katahin column. If I make it, it will be the 17th time I have summited the 5,267′ mountain.
After Guthook and I checked into the Hiking Register, we headed up the most direct route to the top, the 1.7 mile Cathedral Trail. It’s initially a walk over increasingly large rocks, then a boulder scramble up the middle section. I highly recommend gloves, and leaving your hiking poles at the bottom.
It’s a tough walk that has parts that are definitely rock climbing. There are several times that foresight, picking a good line, and using your arms in pulling yourself up will be required. It’s a trail unlike many others, one that requires real focus and concentration.
” I’m calling this a primal trail,” I shouted out to Guthook as we took turns trading off leading the ascent. Primal in the sense that conscious thinking is not necessary, nor encouraged. Moving up here is best when instinctual- deciding foot placement, silently moving fingertips along the edges of rocks hanging above until a handhold is good enough.

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By 9:15 we reached the highest point in Maine at 5,267′ Baxter Peak, where we found just one other person, an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who was just completing his 2,200 mile journey. Pics were snapped and then several other thru-hikers started coming up. All their heads snapped around to look at Guthook after he told one of them his trail name. One hiker said that he had found Guthook’s AT Hiker App very useful and accurate, and a couple of his pals chimed in with the affirmative.
But Guthook and I had other tasks to compete up above tree line. First off, Guthook wants to complete his first ever walk over the notorious Knife Edge Trail, a one mile traverse over a region of maximum exposure, where the trail may narrow to just a little point with the inside edges of both feet hugging the granite spine, as you experience a two thousand foot drop on either side of you.

IMG_3406.JPG It is a route that is not recommended for anyone with a fear of heights. I assured Guthook that it was a perfect day for the experience, with dry rock, full sun, and no wind.
It took us about an hour and a half to walk, and sometimes crawl along the blue-blazed path. There was a bit of a pile up at the Chimney, the one place on the Knife Edge that I still fret about. I have long legs, and have learned to keep facing the rock, and trust that by lowering myself with both arms on a thin rock handhold and then stretching my lower right leg I can gain the last foothold before the bottom.
We reached the end at Pamola Peak, a superb place to soak up the day’s warming rays, air the socks out, and savor the view of what we’d just experienced.

IMG_3757.JPG It was funny, partly incredible, and astounding to me that not only does Katahdin host that knockout view of the massive cirque from the Chimney side, but it also has this very unique Knife Edge trail radiating east from Baxter Peak.

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Not done yet. I head down the ridiculously steep and bolder strewn Leroy Dudley trail back to Chimney Pond. It is so much easier to get down with gloves on.
It’s also useful to be ready, willing, and able to jump. Jump ? Yes, jump. I ended up jumping off drops six times on the way down. It was something that I have been training for in the last few weeks. Proper jumping with both feet coming down underneath you, and cushioning the impact by using your knees as shock absorbers is a much more efficient, and in some cases safer, alternative to skittering down on your butt, or clutching vegetable handholds ( trees and shrubs) and wrenching an arm or an elbow. Brief, light jumping sessions a couple of times a week have been associated with reduced risk for osteoporosis, especially for women.
Guthook was headed down to Roaring Brook and back to assist with his garnering more GPS tracks in the Park.
Back at the campsite, our neighbor had been telling us about the difficult he’s been having with his boots. He just bought a $180 pair of Asolos at LLBean. He finally discovered the source of the irritation that was troubling his Achilles’ tendon. It was a manufacturing defect involving an extra piece of inner fabric that raised a protrusion of exposed stitching. The stitches were rubbing skin to the point that he was hobbling.
He asked me what I though of him cutting that area away. I told him that it the only practical solution that would result in him being able to do what he came here to do- hike to the top and do the Knife Edge. I gave him my sharp Moro knife and he went at it.
IMG_3766.JPG I looked at his work and suggested he remove even more material so that none of the irritated/ inflamed area would hit the inside of the boot. He handed me the boot and the knife and said , “Do it”, so I did. When he put the boot back on his smile got wider and wider.
“We’re up at daybreak and heading to he top in the morning now!”
Four miles felt like 14 on this route today. It was enough for me.

Guthook’s account of the day is here.

Thru-hiking Baxter State Park – Day 1 of 7

3.3 miles

IMG_3417.JPGI welcomed myself back to Baxter State Park today. It’s been two years since I’ve been to this most unique setting. Katahdin’s fantastic granite glacial cirque is set within in a 200,000 acre public state park that is run with a management style that has been strictly preservationist. Decades old man-made structures are generally razed rather than replaced. Here is one place on earth that graces wilderness, showcasing it quietly.

Despite my friend Chris and I rendezvoused at Guthook’s house at 6 AM, we weren’t able to reach the Roaring Brook Campground until 2 PM. This trip involved a lot of driving. Guthook and I drove both our cars all the way up to Exit 264 on Maine’s I-95 and then wound our way through the backwoods hardscrabble of Patten, a tiny berg that is slowly being populated by Mennonites.

We eventually passed through the northern Matagannon gate of Baxter and spotted my Caravan in the parking lot at South Branch Pond Campground, where we each have stashed three breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, as well as any snacks that we’d need for our last several days in the infrequently visited northeast corner of the Park. Then Guthhook and I got into his Jetta and he proceeded to drive us some 47 miles, and mostly obeying the 20 MPH speed limit on the Park Tote Road to the southern gate and then twelve more miles northeast to Roaring Brook Campground.
The trail from the parking lot to Chimney Pond Campground is not flat. I remembered it as very gradually going up for the whole 3.3 miles. It’s REALLY not flat, ascending 1,500 feet in that distance, most of the rise coming in the middle mile. It’s a pretty tough right out of the parking lot, especially with a sack full of gear and food in your back.
I am still stunned at the granite studded footpath, one interspersed with roots of all textures, depths, and angles that are criss-crossing the trail.
Our reservations tonight are in the Bunkhouse, which holds twelve. It’s functional, with an enclosed outer hallway with one common room that has a picnic table off to one side, a stainless steel clad cooking surface along one wall, and a big honking airtight wood stove in the center of the room. When I arrived at 2 PM, the place was loaded up with about 10 people, some playing cards at the table in 2 groups, and others laying around on the bunks chatting and sleeping. In a little while another group of 3 newcomers came in, along with even more people. It got really noisy. I wanted to claim a bottom bunk and just lay out for a while. That’s when I learned that most of this crowd had slept there the night before and had remained through the next afternoon. They were in no mood for giving us the spaces we had reserved four months ago. I had to ask a vacant teenage girl to please move her self and her gear so that I could set up my slotted space. It took a couple of hours for them to clear out, and then things became much more enjoyable.
A young bilingual couple from Quebec, a three generation set of males from Benton, Maine, and a father and his son rounded out the evening’s other occupants. The place was quite dark, but had a couple of propane lights that illuminated and also heated the room a bit.
It was an early night.
Tomorrow we hike Katahdin. I am always nervous about how I will do. Could also be a Knife Edge day.

Guthook’s own blog entry for this day is here

New, No…Restored !…More Acadia Trails

Based on this article, I plan to get up to Acadia and hike these newly cleared historic trails.  Big news for hiking fans. Microadventure coming up!

Here’s just a teaser from the article.  “Fifteen years into the rehabilitation campaign, 12 miles of those trails are reclaimed. The most recent were the 1915 Homan’s Path, featuring 400 spiraling granite stairs; the Penobscot South Ridge Trail, with sweeping views of the Atlantic and the Cranberry Islands; and the 1890s Quarry Path, where granite for the Congressional Library, Brooklyn Bridge and Philadelphia Mint was once mined.”

Restoring Acadia’s Trails.<<–Full article here

How Exercise Helps us Tolerate Pain

The NYTIMES ran a health article about this admittedly small sample research project today.

How Exercise Helps Tolerate Pain

I don’t need this study to include more than a meager sample of 12 to know it’s the truth.

At this point in my life I regularly engage in a level of exercise that pushes me right to the pain zone: mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, snowshoeing, or snow biking.

My wife tells other people, “Everything Tom does for sports has to have suffering in it”.
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It’s pretty simple. If I am going on a challenging hike, I want to experience it as easier that other activities that I have suffered through. For example, I’m headed up to Katahdin for a week of backpacking. I have prepared by carrying a mass of iron chain that pushes to weight in my back pack to 23 pounds. I train on steep trails, where I m pushing to 3.5 mph.

Hurting helps.

My Packing List – 1 Week/ Baxter State Park

Still working on streamlining my current backpacking gear.  My “kit” is now down to 15 pounds without food or water.  Since all but one night will be under shelter ( 3 sided lean-tos ), I will probably ditch my 2 pound tent and be down to 13 pounds.  Comments, suggestions , and questions welcome.

“The more you know, the less you carry”- Mors Kochanski

Uncle Tom’s Final Packing list  (rev. 8.14)

1. Pack Group:
1 Backpack – Granite Gear Leopard AC 58…………………   49 .0 oz =3.06  lbs.

2. Shelter Group:
rain wrap                                                                                          2.4 oz
rain jacket                                                                                        8.0 oz
1 Tarptent -Moment —–                                                            32.0 oz.
Total…………………………………………….                                      42.4  oz  = 2.65 lbs

3. Sleeping Group:
1 down bag, Western Mountaineering/stuff sack, 40°F        26.0 oz.
1 Ibex wool long sleeve zip T                                                       5.8 oz.
1 Ibex long tights                                                                            5.4 oz
1 socks wool                                                                                    2.6 oz.
1 headlamp w/ batteries  ( Princeton Byte)                              2.1 oz.
1 stuff sack sil-nylon………………………                                        1.3 oz.
1  Neo Air  inflatable mattress                                                   13.0
Total……………………………………………                                        56. ounces  = 3.5 lbs.

4.  Spare Clothing :
1 pr. wool socks                                                                              2.9 oz.
1 pr. Manzilla Windstopper gloves                                            2.2 0z.
1 Ibex wool hat                                                                               2.1 oz.
1 pr.  Patagonia mid weight stretch tights                                8.6 oz.
1  wool Patagonia midweight long sleeve hoodie                    9.4 oz.
1 Patagonia Puffball  jacket                                                         11 oz.
1 pr. New Balance Minimus shoes                                               9.0
Total……………………………………………                                       45.0  ounces=  2.8 lbs.

5. Kitchen Group:
1 Steripen  Utra                                                                               4.8 oz.
1  “Four Dog”  Bushcooker LT1 multifuel stove,  titanium
windscreen, titanium cook pot 700 ml w/ lid                         10.0 oz.
2 lighters…………………………………………….                                 1.2 oz.
1 water bottle – used Gatorade bottle…                                       1.7 oz.
1 qt. water bottle ( “Triple Crown Tiki Mon”)                           5.4 oz.
1 Ursak Minor – food bag………….                                                2.7 oz.
abrasive scrub pad, Bronner’s soap                                            1.0 oz.
1 titanium spork……………………………………                               0.3 oz.
1 cup, bowl=Orikaso                                                                      4.2 oz.
1 MSR coffee filter                                                                          0.6 oz.
2 bandannas………………………………………..                               2.0 oz.
1 length cord – 50’……………………………..                                   2.5 oz.
Total………………………………………….                                          36.  ounces     =  2.25  lbs.

6. Hygiene Group:
1 small pack towel……………………………..                                   1.0 oz.
1 bottle hand cleaner                     …………                                   1.3 oz.
1 small zip lock………………………………….                                   1.3 oz
w/ floss, vitamins, ointment, emery boards
1    toilet paper……………………..                                                   1.0 oz.
1 Baby wipes                                                                                    2.0 oz.
1 chap stick                                                                                       0.2 oz.
1 disposable razor                                                                           0.1 oz.
1 small child toothbrush……………………..                                  0.5 oz
1 small tube tooth paste…………………….                                    0.7 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                       9.4  ounces  =  0.6 lbs

7. Electronics:
1    iPhone with headphones                                                            5.1 oz.
1    Olympus Stylus Tg-830 waterproof digital camera/video  7.1 oz.
1      Anker portable charger for camera, iPhone, Steripen       4.2 oz.
Total……………………………………………..                                          16.4 ounces =   1.0 lb

8. Navigation:
Map, compass                                                                                            3.9 oz.   =    0.2  lb

9. Wearing:
1 cap                        1 pr. On The Beach/ boots
1 pr. sunglasses                1 pr. gaiters
1 pr. Leki poles                1 pr.  socks
1 Ibex wool zip-t        1 pr. synthetic underpants     1 pr. Patagonia shorts

Total packed weight  without food, or water                                   15    pounds

Thru-Hiking Baxter State Park (2014 version)

Me on the Summit of Baxter (2009)

Me on the Summit of Baxter (2009)

My long-awaited week at Maine’s Baxter State is almost here.  Here is the itinerary that I just sent the three folks on this adventure. At the time I reserved my route, three months ago, Chimney Pond Campground was already sold out for Monday with space for just 2.  Chimney is the pick of the litter as far as BSP campgrounds go, even though it is a 3.3 mile hike from your vehicle.

Day 1 Roaring Brook parking lot to Chimney Pond Campground (CPC)     3.3 miles
( Guthook and Uncle Tom have the last Bunkhouse slots )

Day 2 Summit Day for Katahdin   (staying in Lean-to #02)       route undetermined
( Chris could hike in 3.3 miles to Chimney Pond Lean-to for his 1st day)

Day 3  CPC—>Roaring Brook—>Russell Pond CG  (lean-to #05)         10 miles
(Chris could also meet up at RB parking lot for his first day and have 6.5 miles for this day)

Day 4  RPCG—> Upper South Branch Lean To- via Pogy Notch Trail                9.5 miles

Day 5 USBP Lean-to to South Branch Campground Lean to # 02         12 miles (via Traveler Mountain Loop) – (lower mileage and much less demanding options are 2.1 on east side of SB Pond or 4.7 miles on the west side of the Pond)

Day 6 SBCG to Long Pond Pines tent site                    7.5 Miles

Day 7 Hike out from tent site back to a car ( back the 7.5 miles ) at South Branch Campground and then drive to Nesowadnehunk Field Campground (NFCG) for Lean-to #7  – We planned to summit Doubletop ( 6.8 miles round trip) either this day, or sleep at NFCG this day OR

Day 8   Double Top Mtn. in the morning with no gear in a day pack (6.8 miles round trip) and drive home this day  .

Chris,

all the maps for this itinerary are downloadable on the Baxter State Park Web site- if you have the ability to print them out, you should do it and have your own map(s)- alternatively you can purchase a nice Delorme waterproof map of BSP for about $9,  or a MUCH better deal is to purchase a copy of the revised (2012)  AMC  Maine Mountain Guide for $24, which will give you great reading about all these trails . You’ll also have the 100 Mile Wilderness map for our upcoming September fly-in trip on The Hundred.

Here is an excellent description of the rigorous, but rewarding Traveler Loop Trail that I hope to do on Day 5.

All nights except for one will be in a 4 person lean-to.

As of yesterday, there are still mosquitoes in BSP. I am undecided as to how I will deal with them.  If I had a bivvy sack, it would be my first choice.  I may go minimal just bring some Deet and a head net.  Only 1 night will be at a tent site, so I may cowboy that night, or if the weather is iffy, I will have my tent stashed in the car at South Branch Pond campground.  I’ll get that and pack it in to Long Pond Pines tent site.

I will update my packing list and get it to you, Chris.

WHOOOOOO!

Hiking with Transient

I hiked with Transient, another Triple Crowner,  in the Camden Hills State Park today .  Here’s our 10 mile loop:

10 miles in Camden Hills

10 miles in Camden Hills

I had a 23 pound pack on, just for the weight. The weight was 90% rusted towing chain.  I’m putting the finishing touches on preparing for a week of backpacking in Baxter State Park here in Maine in two weeks.

On the way up, I saw something I had never seen before, a woman pushing a regular carriage containing  her baby up the Multipurpose trail.  She let me take their picture: IMG_3347 2

Transient came by for a brief overnight stay on his way to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  I had maybe 6 encounters with Transient in 2010 in California, Oregon, and Washington while we were both thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  We camped together a couple of times and reached the California/Oregon border at the exact same day and time. The two of us had never hiked together until today. Transient talked non-stop the whole three hours of the walk. I loved it. He talked about people and events that happened on the PCT that I didn’t experience or that I had already erased from my memory.  For example, I did not know that Stick had spent 9 years in prison in California.

I followed Transient’s southbound 2012 Continental Divide Trail Journal.   Transient had a rough time with the June snowpack in Glacier National Park.  His journal persuaded me to hike northbound.

Transient is just one week from returning from a month long solo hike on one of the Caminos, starting in France, and ending at the Atlantic in Spain.  He is right now in total hiker shape, and I had to push myself to keep up with him. He still harbors thru hiker habits. Transient was leaned out enough that his shorts bunched around his waist.  He needed a belt.  I graciously declined Transient’s offer of a half an unrefrigerated egg salad sandwich that he dug out of his pack.

Transient came up with an great idea that I adopted on my own CDT thru-hike.

Transient's gift

Transient’s gift

He had made up a number of “Trail Angel” patches that carried with him and gave to individuals that assisted with rides when he hitchhiked, with rooms offered, and with instances of unexpected grace that came his way when he needed it.  He sent me a few dozen that I also handed out on my own 2013 hike.

Here’s the only photo of Transient and me that I have.

Transient and Me

Transient and Me

It was taken today by a hiker up near the top of Mt. Megunticook at 1400 feet.  It’s the best I could get, given the mottled sunlight and shade.  Transient was irritated that I was taller than he was so I slunk down a bit.  I think it conveys the reality of our lives, that we have blended in with the open trail.