I started the Appalachian Trail as a south-bound hiker so Maine, or Mt. Katahdin specifically, was my first experience on the trail. I don’t know how I made it through those first days but I’m so glad I stuck with it. Feel free to browse through some of my first posts and the beginning of my hike. Enjoy the finale for Dropbear and Dirty Rice. They pulled off a terrific feat by completing the trail in under five months.
August 24, 2013
I had arranged to meet Dropbear and Dirty Rice at Katahdin Ironworks Road in the “100 Mile Wilderness”. I arrived at the trailhead around noon after bouncing along the twenty mile gravel road into the Maine woods.
The weather was perfect so I set out southbound on the Appalachian Trail with my sights set on Chairback Mountain. The boulder scramble up to Chairback was one of the few landmarks I remember while passing through here last June. After waiting at the summit for awhile I pushed on to Chairback Gap Lean-to to wait on the northbounders. They didn’t show so at 5:00 pm I worked my way toward the road. I looked back to the summit a few times to see if any hikers were crossing. Finally, two silhouettes were weaving through the trees and boulders. I waited on the ridge for them and the three of us headed toward the West Branch of the Pleasant River. We made camp at a stealth site near a brook. Susquehanna Slim joined us for the evening as well. The evening air cooled quickly and it felt good to be nestled in the hammock once again.
August 25, 2013
The North-bounders moved on today and I explored the Gulf Hagas trail. The 9 mile loop connects with the Appalachian Trail for a few miles and takes hikers through an area known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. I arrived back at the truck around noon and drove to Millinocket for the evening.
August 26, 2013
I left the truck at Abol Bridge this morning. The bridge spans the Penobscot River and separates the “100 Mile Wilderness” from Baxter State Park. I hiked south on the AT about fifteen miles to Rainbow Stream Lean-to. It was amazing to see this end of the wilderness in dry conditions. The walking was pleasant though the trail was still covered with rocks and roots. Last June, the trail was flooded in many places and made for very slow progress.
Several section hikers arrived as I set up camp. We visited over supper and some of women from Maine were tough enough to swim in the cold water. I told them I would rather stink than turn blue while taking a bath.
August 27, 2013
I had another night of deep sleep in the hammock. I think motels should charge by how many hours of sleep patrons get. The hammock has been a much better value.
The trail passed by Rainbow Lake and climbed up to the summit of Nesuntabunt Mountain. There were a couple of clearings which afforded views of Mt. Katahdin in the distance. I met the North-bounders just below the summit and then turned to retrace my steps back toward Abol.
We made camp along the shores of Rainbow Lake while listening to loons call in the fading summer light.
August 28, 2013
We broke camp by 7:00 am and arrived at Abol Store before noon. After lunch at the Restaurant we entered Baxter State Park and walked the final ten miles to “The Birches” camp area. A thunderstorm greeted us with heavy rain and hail about five miles into the park.
We arrived at Birches after checking in at the Ranger Cabin. A family of section hikers were staying in the lean-to next to ours. We talked until more rain drove us under cover.
August 29, 2013
The rain lasted through the night but finally ceased at daybreak. Rain still dripped from the trees as we packed up and walked back to the Ranger cabin.
We left our extra gear at the cabin and took only snacks and raingear for the strenuous climb up Mt. Katahdin. The Appalachian Trail follows the Hunt Trail to the summit at Baxter Peak. The elevation at Birches is 1,096 feet with Baxter Peak at 5,268 feet. The total distance to the summit is 5.2 miles with the steepest terrain in the middle three miles making this one seriously steep climb.
I didn’t take any pictures on my thru-hike last June. It was pouring rain and my iPhone was ticked safely in the pocket of my rain jacket. The waterproof phone case would prove useful on this summit attempt, however.
The rain softened to a light drizzle as we made our way passed Katahdin Stream Falls. The trail turns sharply upward passed the falls and soon you are climbing with your hands to moved through the boulders that line the path up the mountainside.
After an hour of climbing we reached the alpine zone and a treacherous boulder field that forces you to play twister as you calculate each foot placement and handhold. Rebar protrudes from several boulders to help you climb through some especially difficult sections. It is best not to look up at how far you have left to climb at this point. Looking down is not good either so it is best to concentrate on where to place your hands and feet.
Another hour and a half of climbing brought us to an area called “The Tablelands”. The trail levels out slightly so that you are walking up the mountain again and not climbing with both hands and feet. Soon, the summit was visible and the famous sign that all Appalachian Trail hikers want to see was within range.
The summit was quite busy as hikers from other trails on Katahdin gathered for pictures and to bask in the beauty of the highest point in Maine. We snapped several photos at the sign and several of the surrounding mountains before beginning the treacherous climb down. Dropbear the Australian and Dirty Rice the Minnesotan were now thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail.
As the park brochure states “Climbing is optional, going down is not”. We were now facing the 5.2 mile descent as the sun peaked through the clouds. The pace was slow and deliberate as we made our way down the mountain. We joined with several other hikers for comfort as the clouds that swirled below the peak precipitated moisture on the granite slabs that lead to the tree line below.
We arrived safely at the base with a few scrapes and a broken trekking pole tip. Not bad considering the terrain.
We hiked back to Abol with a little help from the Americorp Trail crew giving us a ride along the park road. We had supper at the Abol Store and watched a bobcat cross the road as we left the mountains behind and drove toward Millinocket.