Katahdin

It’s been a big week. You only turn 40 once. I honored the last day of my 30’s with a special solo adventure to “my Mecca.”

 

Mount Katahdin has been a beacon for me ever since I was a kid. My mother, Lynn, is from Upper Frenchville, Maine on the Canadian border. Most of our vacations were to “Vacationland” which meant making the 500+ mile drive from Connecticut to Aroostook County via I-95, Rt. 11, and Rt. 1. Every time we saw Katahdin, heading north or south, we were thrilled. The mountain stands out. There are other hills and a few lesser mountains in this part of Maine, but unlike the White Mountains, the lack of a range highlights Katahdin’s prominence.

 

 

Our family visited Baxter State Park several times, but we never made it on to the mountain. My parents made a trip to the top in the mid-70’s and often spoke about that adventure. It wasn’t until I was in the Boy Scouts and Troop 11 made a trip to the Maine High Adventure Camp on Grand Lake Matagamon in 1989, that I got on to the mountain. Prior to a seven-day canoe trip in northern Maine, we hiked Katahdin, but we didn’t make it to the 5,267 foot summit. We were turned back at Thoreau Spring on the Hunt Trail, only one mile from the top. It was painful to return to the bottom without the prize.

The mountain called me back in September 1994. I was a senior at Boston College, had a few extra days off, and made an important mid-week solo trip to Baxter. I made it to the top, was shattered from the hike, but held on to the joy for a long time.

 

 

In October 2000, I proposed to Debbie from the Katahdin scenic overlook on I-95, but we didn’t make it to Baxter. We were headed for Frenchville.

 

Debbie and I returned in July 2002, along with 15 other cousins, aunts, and uncles. We had a tough day with nasty weather. Still, we guided the group to the summit before making a hasty retreat back down the mountain. We had no views. Debbie and I also bagged Hamlin Peak (a sub-peak) on the way down as part of our quest to hike all of the 4,000 foot mountains of New England. The next day, we ran the other official 4,000 footer in Baxter, North Brother. We have run and hiked a lot of other mountains since then.

 

I’ve been trying to get back there for 10 years, but work, family, and so many other aspects of life have kept me from the mountain. A beautiful picture of the mountain hangs prominently above our fireplace mantle, so the hill is always there, but I hadn’t touched it in a long time.

So, this past Tuesday, after work, I made the drive north. I stayed with my Aunt Terry in Portland, just as I did in 1994. I departed her house (base camp) at 4:30 A.M. on Wednesday, made it to Millinocket by 8:15 A.M., got to the Togue Pond Gatehouse, and then to the Roaring Brook Campground. I sorted my gear, signed the trail register at 9:05 A.M., and hit the trail.

My route, as captured by my GPS, took me in a counterclockwise 10.3 mile loop with 4,540 feet of elevation gain and loss. The route was: Chimney Pond Trail to North Basin Cut-Off to North Basin Trail to Hamlin Ridge Trail to Northwest Basin Trail to Saddle Trail to The Knife Edge Trail to Helon Taylor Trail and back to Roaring Brook. It was a thrilling trip. I had the North Basin to myself. There was no one on Hamlin Peak. I finally saw another person when I got to the Saddle.

I saw another 20 or so folks between the summit and The Knife Edge. The Baxter rangers had warned against Knife Edge, but I had a gorgeous day, the snow/ice wasn’t bad, and I was inspired. So, I took it and loved it. I also did it in 1994, but this time, I really appreciated the extreme exposure and beauty of the trail. I finally got my fix! I was able to run much of the Helon Taylor Trail on the way down and I was back at Roaring Brook before 3:00 P.M. I hopped back in the car and was in Portland by 7:00 P.M. My Aunt Terry and I had a celebration dinner at a great vegetarian restaurant called the Green Elephant.

Life Adventures!!!

 

Other Katahdin links:

http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2006/features/katahdin-final.cfm

http://www.outdoors.org/recreation/tripplanner/ideas/katahdin-baxter.cfm

http://www.outdoors.org/publications/outdoors/2010/flashback/conquest-of-katahdin-map.cfm

http://home.earthlink.net/~ellozy/baxter97.html

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