The power of imagination makes us infinite. - John Muir
Our first look at Katahdin.
It was Thursday morning and we were just passing Bangor, Maine when I decided to check our reservations and paperwork for Baxter State Park. I have reserved two nights at Chimney Pond Campground for Thursday and Friday night. Our plan is explore around Thursday and climb Katahdin on Friday.
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.
Our lean-to at Abol Campground.
Abol Campground was very nice, we could drive right up to the lean-to and park. We unloaded our gear, set up our sleeping bags and headed down to the ranger station to grab some firewood and sign the hikers log for a short hike we were doing. After dropping off our firewood we headed out to see Abol Falls. It was an easy hike; the falls area was very peaceful. Something about the fresh cool mountain air and running water made this place feel very relaxing. I could have sat there for hours and soaked in its serenity.
We headed back to camp so we could eat dinner and get our fire going before it got dark. I filled the water bag from the stream while Jenn made dinner and Jordan also helped me with the fire. After eating some vacuum packed chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and some Ramen soup we were relaxing and talking about the next days activities when the skies opened up and we had to retreat to the comfort and dryness of our Lean-to.
"The core of mans' spirit comes from new experiences." - Chris McCandless
We 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.
Heading up Chimeny Pond trail.
The trail was soaked and soggy from the rain the previous night. But we trudged on and tried to make good time over the wet and slippery rocks that make up the trail. We knew we would have to hustle a little since we would also have to make our bid for the summit this day as well. It was a shame because the scenery along the way was quite scenic and we weren’t really able to enjoy it fully.
Katahdin from Chimney Pond.
Three hours and a few small breaks later we arrived at a clearing with Katahdin in its full glory displayed out before us. The trees obscured its peaks and shoulders along the way, only offering us small glimpses of its splendor here and there along the trail. This view was breathtaking, and my first thought was “I could wake up to this view everyday and not get tired of it”. After speaking to a few people, I apparently am not the only person that feels this way.
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 Muir
The 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.
Heading up Cathedral trail.
The views heading up were just as stunning as I’d imagined they’d be. We had very few clouds, and although chilly, the sun and our efforts kept us fairly comfortable. Overall it took us about two hours and forty-five minutes to reach the junction of the Cathedral and Saddle Trail which if you turn left takes you to Baxter Peak and the summit of Katahdin, or right which takes you to the Tables Lands and further on Hamlin Peak on the north shoulder of Katahdin.
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.
As with most of our summits, we couldn’t spend as much time there as we wanted and had to start heading back down. We bestowed congratulations on the through hikers and headed back down to our camp via the Saddle Trail. This trail started out fairly easy as it headed gently down a slope towards the Table Lands. Once at the turn off, the trail descends steeply down a rock slide some four to five foot boulders that require some down climbing.
“Climb high, sleep low.” - Unknown
Heading down the Saddle Trail
At this point it was five o’clock and the sun was starting to set and the Chimney Basin was enveloped in the shadow of the Katahdin Massif. We were all very tired and thirsty at this point. Luckily we were able to fill our bottles up with fresh water running off the mountain. Once off the rock slide the trail turned back in to a small rock and dirt trail that lead us back into the campground near the ranger station. We checked in again and chatted with the ranger about our trip.
We took a brief trip down to the shores of Chimney Pond to catch the last minutes of the sunset. There was a large group of gentlemen there who were planning their summit trip for the next day. We told them about our experience on the trails we took that day. I shared the data on my GPS unit with one of the gentlemen and they took a photo of us at the pond.
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.
Google Maps Route
Cathedral Trail Route Chimney Pond Trail
No comments posted yet.