Finding Yourself on Mount Katahdin
Hey! it’s DD. I am writing this retrospectively, as my initial post from this event only included photos – back when I was a writing + photog newbie!! Many of you don’t know this, but my first Katahdin Summit came from a place of fear.It was a big catalyst in changing my life direction – my experience was not unlike many others who have had an experience of Finding Yourself on Mount Katahdin. I was new to Maine, a little lost in my life, had been knocked down, beat up (mentally), my pride hurt and my future uncertain. I needed a good challenge. I needed to find a purpose. I needed to remind myself that I was a warrior – and that I could do anything I put my mind to. I needed to do something that not everyone could do – I needed something that terrified me. Being from Florida, I had no real hiking experience, nor did I have any business being on a mountain. But – I had some encouraging friends, who didn’t mind a funny little blonde girl trailing along with them. Looking back, I was feeling pretty ambitious. I am not so sure that I would have managed that hike so well today!
I was working at the Lucerne Inn at the time as a wedding coordinator (one of my most favorite jobs EVER! – even though I was making a fraction of the money I was making when I lived in Key West) and through this experience, I became friends with a lot of the others who were working there at the time. (Still friends with them now!) My friend Ethan mentioned that he and some of his friends did an annual Katahdin trip, where his friends came from all over the place and reunited to hike and camp in Baxter State Park one weekend a year. I somehow fanageld myself a place on this trip, and thank goodness I did. Who knows where I would be now, quite honestly. This trip changed my life.
Ethan is a super positive person and I really don’t think he had an idea of how inexperienced I actually was in hiking. Fortunately, I love shopping, so I spent weeks and weeks building up to this trip and buying lots of random supplies (some I still have to this day and have never used….) so I was equipped. With steel toed boots. (BIG FREAKING MISTAKE BTW). yikes!
Ok Ok – enough about the lack of preparation – we’re making sure that YOU are in great shape to tackle Katahdin for your first trip with our posts. It’s now time for me to tell you about MINE!
**Disclaimer – all of these photos were taken in 2011, before camera phones were standard on the mountain. These photos are all taken with a Nikon Cool Pix (2011) and edited in Adobe Lightroom (2017).
We started off the morning by meeting in Orono at 4:00 am and driving up to Baxter State Park. The adrenaline was something else – I don’t think I slept a wink! It takes about 1.5 hours from Bangor – and if you’re not camping the night before, you need to be up there at about 6 am to get your spot in line at the gate so you can get an early start + hit the trailhead around 7 am. Katahdin any which way is a full day hike, so an early start for a summit is imperative.
We were camping at the Katahdin Stream Campgound that night, so we parked in the Katahdin Stream Day lot and off we went.
You’ll notice that the majority of my photos here are above tree line. That, my friends, is where the REAL magic happens. I remember the feeling I got when I saw a bird flying BELOW us. It was so super surreal! Now, this is when the trail got scary for me. I was TERRIFIED of heights at this time, so I was not looking behind me (thank goodness I am not scared anymore, the view behind you is the best part!!) The trail had a lot of loose rock, (skree) so much so that the park closed the trail from 2014 – 2017 to rebuild it. (We’re hiking it this year!) This loose rock scared the CRAP out of me this year – all I was thinking of was how I was going to die by sliding backwards off the mountain. Or how someone was going to fall on me. Or, you know, any other worst case scenario. BUT – I didn’t! Nor did anyone else. But my brain had a field day of worst case scenarios.
Fortunately my crew took a lot of breaks. We ate lots of homemade GORP. (GORP is an acronym that stands for “good old raisins and peanuts” which was, according to some, the very first trail mix.) And we drank a lot of water. Katahdin is a beastly mountain. You should ALWAYS bring more than you think you’ll need.
Hitting the table lands was like sweet, sweet music to my ears. The grueling climb up was quite exhausting, even more so because I was so terrified. I was totally blissful to know that I could walk on this amazing flat land for a while. Check out the amazing views and the glacial erratics. Pretty freaking spectacular. Ethan and crew gave me a bit of an education regarding the mountain’s formation and colors. The Ice Age really did happen!
Now, the last half mile before reaching Baxter Peak is the worst. You can see it – it’s so close – but it’s still so far. The tableland break is so nice and lets you get a little rest before the final push. Once you get to the top, it is the BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD. You are on top of Maine. You are at the highest point. There are not many others that have seen this beauty. And have experienced the peaceful ascent of the mountain. YOU ARE FEELING NIRVANA. You may not have achieved it in the Buddhism perspective, but by golly – you are feeling it. Here’s a piece of that feeling….
The Knife’s Edge was quite a sight to see in person. I remember thinking when I first saw it – oh yeah, I can do that! Once you get on it , it can be way terrifying. You can reference my experience there here. HAHA. We began our decent down the Hunt Trail after enjoying our summit experience. Back through the table land, to the long, long, Hunt Trail to Katahdin Stream Campground – the Stream close to the end of the trail was a stellar surprise. It really was the icing on the cake. The Hunt Trail was a bit of a nail biter as well. As you can see in the photos below, it’s not for the faint of heart. But – what an experience. All adding to the amazing experience of finding yourself on Mount Katahdin.
We descended during the golden hour, after a long day on the mountain. Days are long in August – even after getting an early start, it took us all day to get up and down the mountain. Heed this warning – especially as a beginner. Plan to take all day. One of the most memorable points of the hike was the spring on the way back to the campground – my aching feet welcomed the respite. (To camp directly on a stream of water – we recommend Roaring Brook Campground. See more here).
We made it back to our campsite around dusk, after what felt like the longest trail back. It will be interesting to see how I feel after completing the new trail this year! I learned so much on this trip, including how to use a pringles cup as a wine cup. because when you hike a mountain and forget a glass to drink wine out of, all bets are off 🙂
Thank you for reading about my experience – and I hope that my story helps you when you decide to make the trek on the mountain of your choice. Don’t forget to check out some of our other tips – What’s in Your Pack, the Ten Essentials, and A Beginner’s Guide to Mount Katahdin – all coming soon!
Need to know more? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be glad to help.
Sending Love + Light from Maine,
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