Climbing Mount Katahdin

Mount Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park, about 100 miles north of Bangor, Maine. The Park covers more than 200,000 acres. Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine, at 5,268 feet. Katahdin is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT)See Mt Katahdin map here (see AbolTrailhead .pdf to view Katahdin Stream Campground and the Hunt Trail to Baxter Peak -aka Katahdin peak).

My wife and I had some nice travel plans for the summer of 2014. I’d planned to solo-hike a section of the AT in New Hampshire and then meet my wife Judy, for a week in Acadia National Park, up in Maine. After Acadia, she would fly home and I’d go up north a hundred miles or so (from Bangor) and climb Mount Katahdin.

My plan was to hike the AT from Franconia Notch north to Crawford Notch, through the Presidential Range to Pinkham Notch, all in the White Mountains of New Hampshire -approximately 55 miles.

Liberty Spring Trail

Franconia Notch and Liberty Spring Trail

 

The trail to Franconia Ridge

The trail up to Franconia Ridge

 

Wooden platforms serve as tent pads

Wooden platforms serve as tent pads

 

I was carrying about 60 # in my backpack including four liters of water. It was hot and humid, and the hike was steep and tough -lots of bouders and rocks along the trail. Alas, I injured my knee, and after a few days I decided to abort the AT portion of the trip. I thought it best to get out while I could under my own power since I was hiking solo. [This is a good example of why people always tell you not to hike solo. I usually hike in a group,  but if they can’t make it, I’ll often go it alone.] Anyway, I hiked down to catch a shuttle back to my vehicle, about a four or five hour ordeal. I’d never experienced any problems with my knees in the past, so this was very frustrating and disappointing to say the least.

Judy’s airline reservation, and our lodging reservation in Bar Harbor were still a few weeks out yet, as was my camping reservation in Baxter State Park, near the Katahdin trailhead.  I called my daughter in Washington, D.C. to see if I could drive down and visit over Labor Day weekend. She said they would be in town, and they had room for me, so I decided to head south and visit our nation’s capitol. I could visit my daughter, rest the knee a bit, and also hike around and see the sights in Washington. Thus, while I missed out on my AT adventure,  the rest of the trip was salvaged!

 

Father and daughter seeing the sights

Father and daughter seeing the sights in Washington, D.C.

 

After spending five days in Washington, I determined my knee was ‘healed,’ and it was time to get back on the road. I headed back north toward Maine.

I made a camping reservation for three nights in Baxter State Park that would cover me until my reservation at Katahdin Stream Campground opened up. I ended up camping on the north side of Mount Katahdin, at South Branch Pond Campground, which was about an hours drive from the Katahdin Stream Campground. I took the Hunt Trail to the peak. The Abol Trail is steeper and entails crossing a lot of scree fields.

 

Mount Katahdin in the distance

Mount Katahdin in the distance, viewed from the south

 

I drove north from Bangor, through Milllinocket to enter Baxter State Park. I’d recommend a couple of maps: 1) Main Mountains Trail Map w/ ‘Baxter State Park -Katahdin’ on one side and the ‘100-Mile Wilderness on reverse side, available from Appalachian Mountain Cub – ISBN 978-1-934028-57-5.  2) Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin and Katahdin Iron Works, Trail/Topo Map by National Geographic.

Arriving at South Branch Pond Campground, I set up camp immediately since it was overcast with light showers. It had been a lot of driving and I planned to hit the sack early.

 

South Branch Pond Campground

South Branch Pond Campground, Baxter State Park, Maine

 

Tent set up, time for a quick meal

Spacious tent set up, time for a quick meal and a walk around the campground.

 

Practice hikes to check the knee

Practice hikes to check the knee

 

Beautiful country to enjoy

Beautiful country to enjoy

 

Boulders and scree always make it interesting

Boulders and scree always make it interesting, just follow the blue blaze.

 

The knee feels good on the trail

The knee feels good on the trail.

 

Lower South Branch Pond (1)

Lower South Branch Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine. (1)

 

Lower South Branch Pond

Lower South Branch Pond, Baxter State Pond, Maine. (2)

 

Great hiking

Great hiking. I’m ready for Katahdin!

 

My knee feels good. Time to pack up and move to Katahdin Stream Campground on the south side of the mountain.  I just hope the weather is good; there’s a lot of rock to climb!

 

Campsite at Katahdin Stream Campground

Campsite at Katahdin Stream Campground, Baxter State Park, Maine

 

Katahdin from the Campground

Mount Katahdin, seen from the Campground.

 

I planned an early start in the morning, just after sunrise.  I’d hike the Hunt Trail up to the peak. Carrying a light daypack with raingear, warm jacket, hat and gloves, first aid kit, water filter, headlamp w/ extra batteries, energy bars, three liters of water, bear spray, pocket knife, map and compass, and my hiking poles. Lets do this!

 

Katahdin Stream crossing

Katahdin Stream crossing.

 

Looks like a good day and no rain!

Looks like a good day and no rain!

 

Leaving the forest

Leaving the forest, starting to climb

 

Getting scenic

Getting scenic

 

Still hiking in the shade!

Still hiking in the shade!

 

Follow the white blaze

Follow the white blaze

 

A father and son climbing

A father and son climbing

 

Watch your step

Watch your step

 

The blazes aren't always visible

The blazes aren’t always visible. Sometimes you must search for them.

 

No handrails here.

No handrails here.

 

Almost there!

Almost there!

 

Feels good getting to the top!

Feels good getting to the top!

 

Just a little further!

Just a little further!

 

It's getting flatter, just a few rocks!

It’s getting flatter, just a few rocks!

 

Where's the top?

Where’s the top?

 

Henry David Thoreau was here!

Henry David Thoreau was here!

 

Just over the horizon!

Just over the horizon!

 

Alright, we did this!

Alright, we did this!

 

Top of Katahdin, 2014

Top of Katahdin, 2014

 

A weathered sign!

A weathered sign!

 

More boulders and scree

More boulders and scree, on top yet!

 

Watch your step, again!

Watch your step, again! This is known as the ‘Knife Edge.’

 

 Me and my shadow, we go everywhere together!

Me and my shadow, we go everywhere together!

 

Nice trail.

 

Looks different going down than it did coming up!

Looks different going down than it did coming up!

 

Glad I'm not wearing my trail runners!

Glad I’m not wearing my trail runners!

 

This must be 'the stairway from heaven.'

This must be ‘the stairway from heaven.’

 

For sure!

For sure!

 

Ahh, some shade! I can top off my water!

Ahh, some shade! I can top off my water!

 

My main concern when I began the hike, was getting back down before dark. It was not a problem at all. I was slower climbing up, and I seemed to almost fly over some sections on the way down. I was back a few hours before dark, and had plenty of time to cook a nice dehydrated meal. I even had a small fire, sipped some brandy and enjoyed a small Cohiba, as I thought about the hike, the climb and the stairway down. What a day! One of those days I’ll never forget!

And for you amateur radio operators, I’ll bet you could make some very good hf contacts from the top of Katahdin. If I ever return, I’ll be sure to have my 817ND and a couple long wires. I’m sure it would be amazing!

73  de Mike, KEØGZT

~~~~~~~

About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Life Member, National Rifle Association
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4 Responses to Climbing Mount Katahdin

  1. Great write-up. Did you end up coming down Knife’s Edge? I’ve heard that is steep!

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      I went out about as far as you can see in those pictures, Jonathan, then I turned back and returned to my campsite the same way I’d climbed up. You are right though, both sides of the Knife Edge ridgeline trail are very steep with lots of rock and scree forming the ridgeline/trail itself. When the ridgeline turns north following the cirque, the slope of the trail drops and it widens as it approaches the mouth of ‘South Basin.’ There are a couple other ridgeline trails that head west and north around the cirque as well. There may be as many as half a dozen routes to the peak that approach from the ‘inside’ of a few connected basins to the north and west of South Basin, and then a trail in from the east. In addition, there are several approaches from what I’ll call the ‘exterior walls’ of the cirques, where you climb up to the ridgeline trails – these would include the Hunt Trail I used, the nearby Abol Trail, and another that comes from the northeast. The entire area is very interesting and I’m sure there are many opportunities for climbers of varied skill levels. You might talk to Rangers about climbing opportunities, and I’d guess there are some climbing blogs out there with additional information. Check the maps as well.

  2. ray says:

    well, you may have stood on the end of the trail, but did you contemplate that you were only a fraction of the way along the geological ridge that crops up again in both nova scotia and labrador i think i remember, then again on the northwest coast of scotland and maybe a pop up on the west coast of ireland, according to the geologists and palentologist: all harking back to the split up of gondwana some zillions actually 250 million) of years ago. awesome

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