Hiking Katahdin Over the Knife’s Edge
Hello! If you’re coming to this post after reading about my first experience hiking on Mount Katahdin, you’ll know that I was really looking forward to hiking Katahdin over the Knife’s Edge. After we had such a great experience on year one some of our fellower Lucerne Inn-rs decided to join us on year two! Ethan decided that this year we should do the longest route on the mountain, a traverse, and bring two other Katahdin first timers. I don’t recommend this – it was a bad idea, but it was fun! More on that later. I was feeling like a pro after getting more and more hiking in through out the year, but the mountain is never without lessons. My lessons from this trip are – Travel in numbers. Plan to camp the night before and also the night after. AND CERTAINLY BRING A HEADLIGHT WITH BATTERIES IN CASE OF 16 HOUR HIKE. Here’s the story of my first experience hiking Katahdin over the Knifes Edge…
We were planning a traverse – so we left one car at the campground (Katahdin Stream) and drove to our starting point – the trailhead of the Helon Taylor Trail. Baxter is a pretty big place, and it takes a while to get from point to point, so just keep that in mind if you’re planning to do the same. For example, it took us about an hour to get from camp to the trailhead. See map below.
We hit the trailhead around 7 am, which was later than we should have, given the skill level of our group. But – we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, so off we went! I brought my Canon 50D on this trip, so I got a little artsy with the group. Hope you enjoy my photos!
Helon Taylor is a beautiful trail – albiet long. It really seems to never end. There are views of the Mountain and the Park once you hit treeline and the beauty seems to never end. It’s 3.2 miles to Pamola Peak, which rises 4,902 feet above sea level and is said to be the home of the enormous winged monster Pamola, according to Penobscot legends. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember, you’re going up – so 3.2 miles can take you up to 3.5 hours.
The trail seems to never really end, and it’s pretty grueling. I was already feeling tired by the time we hit Pamola Peak, since I had just been on a mountain stairmaster for the past few hours. But, there was no turning back now! I recommend going across this way, because you get the chimneys out of the way first, when you’re not so terrified and exhausted. The chimneys were some of my favorite parts, even though I did say “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!” upon seeing them. Our friend Aislinn really sums it up for you in her 1-Min Hike Series. She’s a lot of fun to follow, and we love her tips and tricks! Check out her story of her experience hiking Katahdin over the Knife’s Edge in the link above.
At some points, the Knife’s Edge is only a few feet across, so it’s not for the faint of heart! I ended up doing the Knife’s Edge from the opposite direction the next year, and I must say I definitely preferred this direction – you get the palm sweating, am I going to die on this mountain- parts out of the way early coming from Pamola. You’ll notice my photos aren’t as plentiful on the Knife’s Edge, because I needed both hands to hold on, and I might have crawled across some points. NBD. but – what an experience it is hiking Katahdin over the Knife’s Edge
Not going to lie, about halfway across the Knife’s Edge, I was ready to give up. I may have sat down and told the group that they needed to call me a helicopter – I was not moving! Fortunately, Ethan recognized I was just hungry, so he made me eat an apple, drink some water, and took my camera into his pack for a bit to alleviate some of the weight I was carrying. (THANK YOU ETHAN!) I felt better almost immediately, and away we went! When you reach the end of the 1.1 mile trail, you’ll see the cairn on the top of the summit welcoming you before you see the sign. It’s glorious.
we took some time on the summit to rest, and reflect back on what we had just accomplished. I believe it was about 1 pm when we summitted, which is late in Katahdin terms. Ethan and his fast crew had been waiting on me and my turtle legs, so they wanted to take off once they knew I had safely summitted. Ethan asked me if I needed his head lamp for the way down, and I laughed, like, “of course not, why would I need your head lamp?” SPOILER ALERT – I needed his headlamp. DUMBASS ALERT – I didn’t take it. You’ll read about that here in just a bit…. we took off across the table land, and I proceeded to faceplant on the flat rock after successfully scrambling across the Knife’s Edge. It’s just who I am as a person.
After taking in the beauty of the table lands, we began our descent down the Hunt Trail. Hunt is a lonnngggg trail – it’s about 4.5 miles to the campground from Baxter Peak. It’s beautiful, unless of course you’re climbing it in the dark and can’t see anything. I speak from experience.
We watched the sunset from the trail – we took some time to take it all in, because when else would you have that experience? And then we booked it back to the campsite. At this point, I was super frustrated and exausted, so I was cursing every boulder, rock, and tree I saw, as we tried to use the light from a cell phone to guide us. When we hit a trail marker – a rock, painted, that taunted us with “2 miles to campground” – well I don’t think I’ve ever felt that frustrated. But we kept on going. We finally made it back to the campground close to 9 pm….16 hours after we began. Ethan had began walking back on the trail, and met us when we were about .5 miles away from the campground – he had gotten worried. We basically ran the last half mile, just to end the pain. Once we reunited with the group I said “I’M NEVER DOING THE KNIFE’S EDGE AGAIN….”
After the bonfire, and a glass of wine, we were planning our next trip. I even ended up doing it again the next year. I hope you enjoyed my experience hiking Katahdin over the Knife’s Edge – feel free to contact me for any further advice or questions!
“It’s not the Mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
Sending Love + Light from Maine-
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