Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mt. Katahdin, Maine

Mount Katahdin at 5,268 feet is the highest mountain in Maine. It marks the northern end of 
The Appalachian TrailOver 2,000 miles, the AT is the longest marked footpath in the world. 
My son has summited Katahdin twice and dreams of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail one year.
Hiking with me, our aim was to climb only 2/3 up Katahdin to Chimney Pond. This was six-miles roundtrip 
from Roaring Brook campground. My son did all the planning, including rations and campsites, for our 4-night 
visit to Baxter State ParkWe split the 4 hour drive to the North Woods from our home in coastal Maine. 
The view at one third up Katahdin was in itself worth the climb. 
In mid July at this high elevation, the bugs weren't too bad and the Mountain Laurel was in bloom. 
It wasn't a difficult climb, but the rocky footing made it challenging. Hiking boots and poles were a good idea.
We were aiming for that plateau valley, another mile and a half above us: Chimney Pond. 
Chimney Pond is ringed by jagged peaks with crystal clear turquoise water. It reminded me oddly of Switzerland.
We were allowed to pump water and to picnic by the shore but not to swim. 
We needed warm fleeces more than a dip in the water anyway. Although it was in the low 70's at the base,
it was 10 degrees colder at Chimney Pond. The wind was gusting too. 
Often the summit trails are closed due to bad weather or high winds. My son says that up on the Knife's Edge
trail, it feels like you can touch the clouds. I got scared just looking up at it. The Native Americans
refused to climb Katahdin. When there was thunder, they believed the gods were rolling boulders up there.
People have died on its steep slopes, but exposure poses a greater threat.
My favorite view of Mt. Katahdin was from back down at Sandy Pond. This photo was taken
on the same day as the opening shot. The weather changes so quickly there.
We hiked with raincoats and rain pants, fleeces, food, 2 liters of water each, purification tablets,
sunscreen, first aid kit, compass, map, headlamps and most important of all: my DSLR camera. 
The next day, we climbed an "easier" mountain, South Turner. The first mile was flat through woodland marsh,
but the second mile climbed 1,700 feet. It went up and up and up. Once we got above the tree-line, high winds
nearly knocked me over. I decided to quit at 200 feet from the summit. We were passed by a girl scout troop.
The view of Katahdin was stunning, but my vertigo returns just looking at this picture.
My hands were shaking so much it was hard to hold the camera steady. 

Now you know why I didn't summit Katahdin.
My sense of equilibrium returned back down in the woods.
Being in the wilderness brings me both challenges and peace.

I'll be posting more Baxter photos in the coming weeks, focusing on moose, canoeing and wildflowers.

14 comments:

Carol said...

Sarah, What a gorgeous part of the world and your photographs capture the grander and mystery of Mount Katahdin brilliantly. I would not want to be on South Turner when movement of the earth set free any of those boulders and just viewing your image from the summit looking down gives me a queasy feeling. I am mostly touched by your son and your taking this trip together . . . an unusual and challenging sharing for mother and son. Thank you for sharing!

Les said...

This looks like a stunning place, and I can see the Swiss connection. It sounds like a great trip, and I know you are proud of your son for ably making all the arrangements.

troutbirder said...

Mom and son camping,hiking and overcoming personal challenges together. I love it. Thanks for sharing it, Sarah.... :)

Cat said...

You're an awesome Mom, Sarah. You've explained so eloquently the struggles we have with nature. At once completely overcome with its grandeur and beauty but frightened and humbled by the vast danger it presents. I feel the same when we visit Big Bend. It's thrilling and peaceful all at once.

A Cuban In London said...

Is that the shadow of a cloud in the penultimate photo, top to bottom? If it is, that's really beautiful. It's funny that I'm halfway through a book about trekking in Afghanistan. Right now the author has just hit the mountains... :-)

Grea photos as usual. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Rose said...

Absolutely beautiful! Being afraid of heights myself, I wouldn't have made it nearly as far as you, Sarah. What a wonderful experience to share with your son.

My brother and sister-in-law just returned from a two-week vacation in Maine, and I've been looking at all her photos on Facebook. I keep saying, as soon as my husband retires, we're headed northeast!

tina said...

What a dream trip for mother and son. The pond area does indeed look like Switzerland with the corresponding weather too it sounds like. It must have been most refreshing on a summer day.

elizabeth said...

Rather awe-inspiring and dramatic and altogether wonderful.
No wonder you like to hike so much.
I've only been to Maine once -- and loved it.
So glad you got to catch up with Bee.

cynthia newberry martin said...

Loved these photos and the story of your hike. You know the Appalachian Trail begins in Georgia! And, as you have shown, goes all the way to Maine!

walk2write said...

I've met several people who have attempted the AT but never completed the entire trail. It would be quite an achievement. I wish your son the best of luck in his attempt.

I'm so glad your camera was close at hand. I'll bet you were wishing paints, brushes, and canvases were more portable.

Was the water in the pond off limits for swimming because of the cold temp or possibility of dangerous microbes?

Amanda said...

what a stunning place to hike - lucky you to live near such natural beauty. how nice to see the shots of you and your son - and that foto of chimney pond does resemble switzerland.

Sarah Laurence said...

Carol and Rose, so I’m not alone in that phobia.

Troutbirder, definitely a good bonding trip.

Cat, you share my reverence for nature.

ACIL, yes that was a shadow of a cloud.

Les, Tina and Amanda, so I wasn’t imagining the Swiss connection.

Elizabeth, it was nice seeing Bee on this side of the pond for a change. She seemed in good spirits, even after a tough year.

Cynthia, I like how the AT connects us.

W2W, I actually brought my watercolors to the campsite but there wasn’t time to paint. I don’t know why the water was off limits but I’d guess it’s because the trail gets lots of traffic and is the only site for drinking water.

Petra said...

I came here being redirected from your last post on the moose and her calf and I'm so glad that I didn't miss this post. Beautiful nature and a wonderful story of you feeling the nature around and speaking openly about it. It's wonderful that your son has such initiative and that you can share moments like these.

Sarah Laurence said...

Petra, it's so nice to catch up with you. I was really impressed by son's wilderness skills. I'm hoping we'll do it again, but maybe hike an easier trail.