Saturday, August 8, 2015

Mt. Katahdin - Hiking

baxter state park


Mt. Katahdin
Elevation: 5,268ft
Trails: Hunt Trail/Appalachian Trail
Elevation Gain:  4,188 ft
Trailhead: Katahdin Stream Campground, Baxter State Park
Distance: 10.4 miles roundtrip
Duration: 11 hours (includes stops along the trail and the summit)
Listed at the 7th highest in the Northeast
Difficulty: Easy to Very Strenuous
Danger: Low to High (steep sections, exposed rock scrambling, loose rocks along trail)


Epic hike with some rock climbing buddies! 

My climbing friend Noreen put this hike together. Originally, we were planning to hike from the Roaring Brook Campground taking the moderate Chimney Pond Trail up. But Maine residents had first dibs on parking permits and by the time us non-Maine residents went online to book, all the parking at the Roaring Brook Campground were sold out. And they do not allow "drop-offs" to any of the trailheads or at the Togue Pond Gate. They are very strict in maintaining parking capacities at each trailhead parking area. Hiking Katahdin isn't like hiking in NH. You can't just drive or walk into a trailhead and start hiking. You MUST make reservations. Please visit http://www.baxterstateparkauthority.com/ for more information.

So while Noreen made reservations at the Wilderness Edge Campground and I at the Katahdin Inn & Suites, we got parking permits  for the Katahdin Stream Campground (Hunt trailhead). That meant hiking out and back along the Hunt Trail.

When I first saw the Hunt trail elevation gain on the Baxter State Park website, I couldn’t believe it. No way it could be over 4,100 feet, but it is! The elevation gain from the trailhead to the summit is 4,188 feet. Had we been able to get parking permits at the Roaring Brook Campground and started at the gradual Chimney Pond trail, our elevation gain would be under 3,800 feet.


Here's the Mt. Katahdin trail map I used for this hike. The bright pink dots is the route we hiked along the Hunt Trail. The yellow dots are along the route we originally wanted to take in order to hike over the Knife Edge. (Chimney Pond Trail (3.3mi/1,425ft), Dudley Trail to Pamola Peak (1.4mi/1,988ft) and Knife Edge from Pamola Peak to Katahdin summit (1.1mi/365ft) for a total of 5.8mi/3,778 feet of elevation gain. Descend via Saddle Trail)


But the elevation gain didn’t deter me. I’ve done several 10 mile hikes in “The Whites”, just not at that elevation gain. This was gonna be interesting.




Everyone came up to Millinocket on Friday. I spent the afternoon getting some fruit from Hannaford’s and picked up a (National Geographic) Baxter State Park map from the North Woods Trading Post. I also checked out the Appalachian Trail CafĂ© in case I wanted to get a bite to eat there later. Since I had a microwave and fridge in my room, I brought meals from home to eat.  I woke the morning of our hike feeling well-rested and eager to hike. I met up with everyone at the Wilderness Edge Campground by 6am and we drove to the Togue Pond Gate. 




We got in line but didn’t have a long wait, they were letting folks in. At the Togue Pond Gate two park rangers checked-in cars of hikers. We had to show them our parking permits and made sure it was displayed in our front window. 

Just after the rangers station is a split in the dirt road - right to Roaring Brook Campground, left to the Abol and Katahdin Stream Campgrounds. Once at the Katahdin Stream Campground, rangers directed hikers where to park. A quick run to the Outhouse, gear up, a group photo and we were on our way.








The park ranger at the trailhead was very informative. She had us sign into the hiker sign-in sheet and said that most folks complete the hike in 8-10 hours round trip. She told us that the Hunt Trail is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. She also told us that if we needed to go poop, please do it “off trail” and preferably dig a cat hole to bury it. And that at 1 mile in, at the Katahdin Stream bridge , there is an Outhouse. And so we’re off to a great start! :)






Enjoy our photos taken along the beautiful and strenuous Hunt Trail!





From the Katahdin Stream Campground the trail ascends at a moderate grade through mixed forests and open areas. Just before the Katahdin Stream crossing the Owl Trail veers off to the left to the summit of The Owl. 








Wooden footbridge at the Katahdin Stream crossing (Outhouse is here)

Katahdin Stream

Katahdin Stream Falls

Along the Hunt Trail

Up a beautiful stone staircase for this view!

Mitsu 1, Mitsu 2 and Sharon

Taking a quick little break

Here the treeline ends near the 2.8 mile mark which also coincides
with the beginning of the boulder scramble on the Hunt Spur. 
Woot, this is where the fun starts!!!
If you're a (Trad) rock climber like I am, you'll appreciate the Hunt Spur! ;)
About 1,000 feet of elevation gain while rock scrambling, 
and all without having to place any protection whatsoever!






The views and the exposure from here on are just amazing!!
The rock scrambling along this trail is considered Class 2/2+. 
While I do agree with this, I also found several spots to be Class 3. 


Here's Sharon clearing the iron rung.

Of course we always have time to stop and pose! LOL!

Low passing clouds covered our view of the Witherle Ravine


Noreen posing below our steep climb to The Gateway


Mitsu


Yup, just two more miles to go to the summit

Noreen all badass

Looking back at that gorgeous trail!
Sharon isn't a rock climber but she sure scrambled like a boss!

Look how small Noreen and I look in the background, LOL!

Finally at "The Gateway"



More low passing clouds



Thoreau Spring 
At the junction of the Abol and the Baxter Peak cut-off trails

The Abol Trail (along the Abol Slide) is closed due to
hazard conditions on the Slide. May re-open in 2016.

Along the "Tableland" with just half a mile to go!

The first thing I did when I got to the summit was to touch the sign!
Tagged!!

Our group photo


It was a like a giant party at the summit. Groups of folks gathered in their own circles were lunching and laughing. More folks coming up the trail. More folks tagging the sign and taking photos. We got in our photos and I was able to take our group photo using my selfie stick. Then onto food. I passed around the small container of my chocolate zucchini bread. Then finished off the other half of my peanut butter sandwich. Anne let me take a bite of her peanut butter and maple bacon sandwich….OMG - such a wonderful combination! Mitsu passed out beef jerky that looked like little cigars.  


Shots from the summit



We were hoping that the clouds would clear before we left the summit.
Sadly, no views of the South Basin, Chimney Pond or the Knife Edge


We sang Happy Birthday to Simona!

On our way down the clouds did give way some
Little Abol Stream smack-dab in the middle
Rum Mountain a bit to the left

Cairn along the Tableland

Along the "Tableland"

I think that's the summit of "The Owl"



Low passing cloud

Going down

And down some more


I did a practice 10.2 mile hike to Carter Dome and Mt. Hight last weekend. It wasn't the same elevation gain as we did today. But I wanted to do the distance. I was really, really tired....woke up early to drive 3 hours to the trailhead. Then hike. Then a 4.5 hour drive home in traffic in North Conway and on I-95 south on a Sunday night....exhausting! But because I didn't have to get up early and drive 3/4 hours to the trailhead, I had a lot of energy and wasn't tired throughout this hike to Katahdin. On the other hand, towards the end of the hike I was starving because I didn't pack enough food. My bad, I thought I'd be down in time for dinner. I brought 3L of fluids on this hike and had half a liter left at then end of the hike.




Surprisingly, my knees didn't hurt! I did skin my right knee in a couple of spots. But had I been wearing my neoprene brace on it, like I wore on my left knee, I don't think it would be all cut up and bleeding, like that. But nothing serious! I also brought my trekking poles, like I always do on all my other hikes. I didn't use them ascending but thought I'd be using them on the descent. But I didn't need them on the descent as well. I felt comfortable not using them. And definitely no trekking poles on the rock scramble sections!







Overall, I loved this hike. The rock scrambling is by far, my absolutely FAVORITE part of this trail! I'd love to hike the Hunt Trail again, even as a solo! On the other hand, I'd also love to backpack to the Chimney Pond Campground for a couple of days and summit via Dudley and the Knife's Edge trails. But my all-time "gotta do" is a winter hike up to the summit. Hoping the Abol Trail opens soon. :) 

I consider myself fortunate to have hiked the Hunt Trail as 2.4 miles of this trail is above treeline with amazing 360 degree views. And not only was it my first time, it was our group's first time climbing Mt. Katahdin as well. One hiker in our group got their knee replaced couple of years ago. The descent was brutal even with trekking poles. But given the difficulty of the trail, the hike was an accomplishment - we all tagged Katahdin and made it down safely - of our own accord! A great big "Mahalo" to Noreen for inviting me to follow her into the beautiful woods and over cool rocks of the Baxter State Park in Maine!


I will never forget this hike, ever!



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