This was going to be different adventure than any I have had before. For most hikes I just have to worry about finding a parking spot at the trailhead and trying to get there early. For Katahdin, it is gated within Baxter State Park and requires a reservation.
Baxter State Park covers 200,000 acres purchased by former Maine Governor Governor Percival P. Baxter and donated to the state on condition the lands remain forever wild.
The reservation system for it allows for either parking or camping. For parking, it is skewed towards Maine residents, non Maine residents could only book a parking reservation 2 weeks beforehand. Unfortunately within 2 weeks they will be completely booked before you can even look. With camping it doesn’t require 2 week reservation but could ensure you would find parking to the trailheads since you are already inside the park. Trying my luck throughout the summer, an opening for a night came during the long July 4 weekend and I seized it.
I did not drive all the way to Baxter State Park in one swoop. Decided to split my trip staying one night and day in Bangor before camp out the night for my hike.
Now the area within Baxter State Park is primitive in that there is no food vendors, drinking water sources, electricity or cellular signal. I had to stock up just before getting there. Best option was the last real town right before the park: Millinocket
There I found Hannaford Supermarket where I could obtain basic goods on the cheap. Millinocket House of Pizza is nearby and a good spot to order pasta to go to carb-load me for the next day. Then you have 2 additional spots to obtain prepared foods like sandwiches to consume next day for the hike:
- Katahdin General Store, LLC
- North Woods Trading Post
As I traverse the road leading up to the park, I am greeted by this colorful rock. It is know as the Pockwockamus Rock. Prior to getting this pretty design, it was covered in amorphous graffiti by vandals. A teenage girl and her Youth Conservation Corps buddies decided if they painted it with a wilderness scene and included the message — keep Maine beautiful, it would be left alone and this has worked!!
Now there are 3 main campgrounds within the premises:
- Abol, if wanted to do the Abol trail to the summit
- Katahdin Stream, if wanted to do the Hunt trail to the summit. Fun fact it is the route taken by the Appalachian Trail through hikers whether just starting off from Katahdin or coming all the way north from Georgia.
- Roaring Brook, offers a multitude of looped trails
I particularly prefer looped trails so Roaring Brook was the ideal campground but was fully booked for that night so had to settle with Abol making it necessary to scramp out when I woke up to park at Roaring Brook to do the trail I desired. Its easily 30 minutes drive between the 2 campgrounds.
The weather that morning was not ideal, it was drizzle and rain thoughout. Decided to continue my sleep in my car until things got little bit better. Officially started on the trail around 9 AM.
I set out to do exactly the trail highlighted in yellow:
Pamola is the name of a storm god as assigned by indigenous Native American tribes. This trail took me 2.5 hours.
Immediately afterwards is a section called the chimney, it is essentially a narrow gap leading to Chimney Peak. This is what it looked like:
From there I traverse Knife’s Edge trail. Although only 1.1 miles in length, it is a very technical hike with steep drop-off on both sides.
After 1 hour I reach South Peak (5,240 ft) and 20 minutes later I am at the ultimate centerpiece itself, Katahdin at 5,267 ft
There you will find a giant cairn, a commemorative plaque and the famous wooden sign everyone poses with.
To think that the rockiness of the hike would ease up after summiting Katahdin, I was wrong!! There was still plenty of loose-rock terrain to traverse.
I ultimately reach Hamlin’s Peak (4,756 ft) after 1.5 hours. It is itself named after geologist Charles E. Hamlin, a professor of geology at Harvard who visited Katahdin multiple times in the late 1800s to study the mountain. It lacked the prominent signage that the other mountains had, I could barely tell I climbed it.
Subsequently I criss cross into several trails before leading back to the Roaring Brook Campground.
- Hamlin Ridge Trail
- North Basin Trail
- Chimney Pond Trail, here the hiking eases up considerably, with flatter terrain and lovely bridges.
Below is roaring brook with its beautiful stones and boulders and incredibly clear water.
And after 9 hours I finally made it!! Huge accomplishment to boast about:
- Highest point in Maine
- another Maine 4,000 footer to count against. (Hamlin Peak)
That marks #8 of state high points. I am so excited that I am already thinking about my next state high point. Where will it be??