Again, the most intense and up and down hiking I have had the pleasure to experience, now for the fifteenth time.
Since I was in Baxter State Park last night, I decided to take the time to hit Baxter Peak from the west side.
I had no problem waking up early and driving the short distance over the Perimeter road from Abol Narrows. What would be the problem with getting up by 5 AM when you are in the sack at 6:30 PM ?
I was taking my first steps out of the day parking lot at Katahdin Stream Campground by 6 AM. The air was cool, the skies were clearing, and the massive panorama of Katahdin up ahead of me was clear as it is on the postcards. This was going to be good. I had on my pack, with minimal gear; just one quart of water, laced with powdered Gatoraide , my homemade jerky, a couple of bagels and salami and a mocha Whoopie Pie. All the good fuel.
Most mountains hikes are the same, but not this one. There are trail experiences here that come at you like nowhere else.
I knew what was coming. I had the morning all sectioned off in my head. First, I followed the gently elevated trail along Katahdin Stream, until the one mile mark where I jumped the gap between two boulders and crossed over the wooden foot bridge over Katahdin Stream. There was plenty of water in the deep pool below the bridge, which assured me that I’d be able to replentish my Tiki-Man canteen from a place just below the boulder field above. Then I hung a left and started the real work, initially moving up along a long exposed piece of granite, and then walking alongside the crashing, cascading Katahdin Stream Falls. From here up to the big rocks was a close to two thousand vertical foot slog on a rocky, wet, but completley unpopulated path. It’s the standard Maine uphill path that leads up a mountain, albeit steep as they get. Midway up the climb, I found the stream, and took on another quart after cameling up.
It always is a surprise to me how long it takes to get up to the big boulders at the bottom of the Hunt Spur, but after close to a mile, there I was. Little white blazes and arrows point the way along the serpentine labyrinth, and this time, I had no problem whatsoever hauling myself up the three metal rungs that assist the hiker. My trekking poles are strapped to my pack, and the full finger gloves are on. Upper body strength makes life easier in this section of the hike.The wind was already picking up, as the updraft for the morning sun heats up this southern side of the mountain.
I am always in awe of the exposure on this one mile spur, which is much easier for me to ascend than to descend. Looking back is sobering.
Steady movement puts one at the Gateway, the edge of the summit plateau, invisible to those who view the mountain from the campgrounds around Katahdin itself.
I decided to shoot a 360 degree movie to share with people who have never appreciated the expanse of the Tableland.
Still one mile to go. I thought I was the first one up to the summit today, but as I approached, I saw the outline of someone else along the skyline. I met the sole hiker on his way down, and he had no interest in descending the way he had come up on the Abol Slide Trail. I directed him to the Hunt Trail. There was not much water at Thoreau Spring, and I didn’t need to refill.
I was all alone here today, a rare occasion. It was time for me to take an early lunch. I sat alone at the edge of the mountain and looked out into the endless fractured mirrors on the green carpet below. Images and memories filled my head about previous hikes up to this very spot. I see MEGaTex, Birdlegs and her hiking pals last year, V8 and me, Kevin Weir, Steve Horton, my wife Marcia and sons Lincoln and Arlo, a winter hike with Paul and Ed Zanca, a hike with Ken Pride and RHEEP, and others as we walk away from the top changed people.
You never know the meaning of each day until it is viewed through the frame of time. I trust I can visit here again, no matter how difficult the walking becomes.