The power of imagination makes us infinite. - John Muir
That’s when I notice my error. We are a whole day early! I guess that’s what happens when you make reservations four months in advance and don't look at your confirmations until you are 9 hours into an 11 hour drive.
Not wanting to spend another night in a hotel (Jenn, her 12 year old son Jordan and I left on Wednesday and drove to Portsmouth, NH and stayed there that night) I called Baxter State Park and asked if I could change my Saturday Chimney Pond reservation to Thursday. I knew the chances were slim that this would happen and I was right. However, I was able to secure a spot at Abol Campground for a small registration change fee. This change meant that we weren’t going to get to explore the Pamola Caves or venture out on any other day hikes to the numerous lakes in the Chimney Pond area.
We arrived in Millinocket just before lunch where we got our first glimpse of our destination. It rose out of the ground like a beacon summoning hikers and climbers to its slopes to discover something about themselves and to remind us of the beauty nature has to offer. It truly was a sight of natural beauty.
After a quick stop at the visitors center and lunch, we headed to the park gate and spoke with the ranger. She informed us of the park rules, the upcoming weather, and the directions to the campground where we will be staying the next two nights. The new plan was to sleep at Abol Thursday night and leave at 7 am Friday morning, drive back to the gate and over to Roaring Brook Campground where we would park the car and start the 3.3 mile trek into Chimney Pond.
"The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences." - Chris McCandlessWe awoke early the Friday morning and packed up our gear and drove the 40 minutes or so over to the Roaring Brook Campground. Even at 7:30 am on a Friday the parking lot was filling up with day hikers and the campers lot was pretty full as well. We checked in with the ranger and set off up the Chimney Pond Trail.
We promptly checked in with the ranger at Chimney Pond and discussed what routes we could take safely due to the rain making everything a little more treacherous than it normally would be. Once again, our original plan had to be altered. Initially we wanted to climb the Dudley Trail, summit Pamola Peak, traverse the one mile Knife Edge Trail, cross over South Peak, then onto the pinnacle itself; Baxter Peak.
The ranger said the Dudley Trail would be really slick and recommended we take the Cathedral Trail ascend, and the Saddle Trail descend. It would be safer and we would be able to get back before dark, not to mention give us our best chance to reach the summit. We stowed our gear at our new lean-to, packed up some snacks, filled our water and set off on the Cathedral Trail.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. - John MuirThe beginning of the Cathedral Trail was much like the trail coming into Chimney Pond. But this changed quickly as me met the first of many boulders on our way up. Jenn and Jordan were quite surprised the trail was all boulders and required climbing on the way up, despite my descriptions, photos, and videos I showed them prior to the hike. This trail was moderately strenuous and steep in some parts with some nice exposure. Although mostly class 3, I felt there some small class 4 sections.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a rare treat. There were two Appalachian Trail hikers finishing up their journey that they started back in early March. We watched them celebrate with champagne and cigars. We talked to them a bit about the AT, Port Clinton/Cabelas, and the Pinnacle which are near where we live. We then took our turn grabbing summit photos. The summit was very nice. Only a light breeze, the sun and a half a dozen or so very happy hikers enjoying the spectacular views the mountain offers those who choose put forth the effort climb it’s steep, sprawling ridges.
“Climb high, sleep low.” - Unknown
They were all really impressed with Jordan, who at 12 has a small frame and stands about 4 foot 9 inches. His pack was almost as big as he was. He was easily the youngest person on the trail and the mountain that day. After having heard he made it to the summit, all the older gentlemen were motivated to try their hand at making it to the top more than ever.
We then retired to our lean-to, ate almost all of the food we had left to cook and laid down for a well deserved rest around 8 pm. The temperature that night was probably in the high 30’s but we were all nice and snug in our sleeping bags.
We awoke the next morning to the glorious view of Katahdin before us. After packing up our gear and a quick breakfast we were off again on the Chimney Pond Trail, the car, and ultimately Boston, MA for a hot shower, a good meal, a few beers, and a good nights sleep.