Boulders and Rock Scramble Galore, Summiting Katahdin!
Katahdin at Last!
June 8th was the day our thru hike began. It started picture perfect and beautifully: blue skies, sunshine nary a breeze and full of mosquitoes. We set off at 6:15am on the Hunt Trail with our loaner day packs and headnets. The first 1.2 mile to Katahdin Falls (We didn’t refill our water since we had only sipped a little of the 2 liters we each carried) was shaded and easy. Then the terrain became maneuvering up essentially a dried snow run off stream bed: rocks, roots, small boulders and more of the same. This course became really challenging as the incline increased significantly. From the Cave to the treeline to Hunt Spur we scrambled mostly up the “ravine” trail. Once above the treeline, we saw a narrow path leading to the boulders scramble. This includes the notorious “monkey bars” (rebar set into boulders to facilitate hand holds) going up the side of boulders the size of a truck. I didn’t take pics of the huge boulders we scrambled through but I managed a few on the way down where the terrain was easier …
It was more than a solid mile of scrambling up, around, over and through boulders. It was interesting watching the differences in how the genders approached the scramble. Guys looked like kindergarteners let loose at recess: sprinting up and grabbing hand and footholds up the boulders with abandon. Women approached these behemoths cautiously, peeked around, set back, lined up the blazes and figured out a reasonable path. It is noteworthy that quite a few sections were taller than the average female requiring upper body strength to take the more obvious and direct routes. For those with fear of heights, this is not the mountain for you! I know a lot of time was spent ascending the boulders scramble but it was great fun.
… and the HEAT goes on …
By late morning, it was a blistering 80 degrees! We were prepared for more typical Maine cooler June weather, like 60s! We were also wearing waterproof hiking boots and in my case, darn tough wool socks. Our feet started to cook, literally. After the boulders, we reached Tableland and had the final 1.5miles to Baxter Peak.
Tableland looks like a rock strewn fragile wasteland that wends its way across the “table” and slowly rises about 850′. It was disheartening to see minuscule hikers making their way along the path … so near and yet so far. In the mean time, water was running low (the Thoreau Spring wasn’t – just a bit of mud) and the altitude was definitely impacting my progress. The views were truly spectacular and by now since several trails lead to the summit but the Hunt Trail is the one designated by the AT, there were quite a few hikers heading to the summit.
FINALLY … BAXTER PEAK … the SUMMIT … 5267′
Once we reached Tableland, Alexa had taken off for the summit and I was bringing up the caboose. I summited at 12:30 and we enjoyed taking snaps, snacking and fellowship with many hikers. Some of the hikers were heading for the Knife-edge: a hair raising, stomach churning 1.1 mile (one way) along the rim of Katahdin! No thank you … I’m happy with 5.3 or 5.5 (according to the sign) miles back down to Katahdin Stream Campground and our lean to shelter. Katahdin is listed as 4th most difficult terrain on the AT. As SOBO hikers, entering the AT at Katahdin at this level of difficulty was humbling while at the same time an exhilarating accomplishment. While the descent took less time, the heat, nascent blisters, banged up knee from coming down through the boulders and the lack of water were taking a toll and by the time we were able to refill our bottles at the falls, we were pretty pooped.
BODY INVENTORY post KATAHDIN SUMMIT
After getting back to the shelter, we took inventory of our body parts and assessed what we might suggest to future hikers:
Unless there is confirmed snow leave the waterproof boots HOME! I did not tighten my laces sufficiently and largely due to feet sweating profusely in the boots and feet moving around especially when I was navigating the boulders, blisters formed and tore underneath the calluses under both balls of feet. The pinky toe suffered a blister and my left knee had jammed into a granite boulder leaving a blood trickle and bump. Hands were definitely scraped up from boulder climbing and my ring had bits of gold scraped off; my parting gift to Katahdin.
Alexa had a chance, a solid half hour, to air out and cool down her feet while waiting for me at Baxter Peak so her feet were fine and she didn’t have any bumps or scrapes …
Leave your hiking poles with your gear at the ranger station. They were virtually unhelpful and hugely in the way particularly since the loaner packs are simple school packs with no ability to stash them unless you can stick them in your daypack … not so easily done with my pack.
Shout Out to Katahdin Stream Campground (KSC)
We booked lean to shelter #8 at KSC … It is located on the stream, near the privy and close to the bridge to the ranger station where one registers, borrows a day pack and leaves one’s backpack on the day Katahdin is summited. For anyone contemplating staring or hiking Katahdin, this is such a wonderful choice of accommodation!!!
TO OUR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT – WE LOVE YOU!!!
SHOUT OUT to our Trek SPONSORS:
Annapolis Subaru pledging to Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Belair Produce pledging to Heroes of Tomorrow and Maryland Federation of Art
Please check out Alexa’s Instagram: @HikingForNonprofits
My Instagram: @Just_Skedaddle
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