Friday–August 13, 2021
Location–Roaring Brook Campground, Baxter State Park, then to Abol Bridge Campground
While in Millinocket the other evening, what a wonderful surprise, my dear hiking friends of many years were in town, Jojosmiley & Nomad ’98 Burley. Great seeing them both once more!
The hike ahead of us today will be short mileage-wise, but very long timewise, only ten miles from (here at) Katahdin Stream Campground, up and over Mount Katahdin, then across the notorious Knife Edge, up and down the near-vertical Chimney, the final (again near-vertical) ascent of Pamola, the spirit mountain, then the never-ending descent to Roaring Brook Campground. A light breakfast and as daylight approaches, with just enough early morning light, we shoulder our packs and are hiking before five-thirty. First stop is by the bronze memorial with the thought-provoking quote by Percival Proctor Baxter (P.P.B.). I’ll close this day’s entry with those words.
The Hunt Trail starts out easy enough for the first mile or so, but as the climb begins, come the rocks and roots. Above treeline the roots give it up but the rocks and boulders move in to totally inundate the trail. At one point in the climb, up through a near-vertical wall of solid rock, steel pegs and rungs have been strategically placed for hand- and foot-holds. Here, the climbing turns agonizingly slow. Hand-over-hand gets us further up the mountain. Don’t look down old man! I tell myself. Finally, on a wide shelf at the start of what is known as the Katahdin Tablelands I pause–and look. Once again I’ve been blessed with what could only be described as a perfect hiking (say climbing) day. Whisps of cirrus clouds, the least haze. What indescribable panorama, the vast, unspoiled forests, ponds, lakes and streams–and more and more glorious mountains to the horizon beyond. The climb has been exhausting (and hell-for-scary) but the reward for the effort–priceless!
Slider and I are here to be with and to share in the joy Nathan Switchback Wright will soon experience as he approaches the summit, there to stand atop the old sawhorse by the last white blaze, which marks the end of the Appalachian Trail here on sky-high Mount Katahdin–the end of Switchback‘s successful 19-year quest to section-hike the AT. And what a moment of excitement and jubilation–CONGRATULATIONS SWITCHBACK!
Though the white blazes end here on Baxter Peak, the mountains do not. For, as one looks to the north are there legion-upon-legion of mountains. In the far distance, the pinnacle that is Mount Chase, and in the forefront, the Chimney and Pamola.
It is true, the AT thru-hiker can experience the feeling of euphoric accomplishment right here on the summit, by the last AT white blaze. But to those of us who ever pan the horizon, who look wide-eyed off and into the hazy blue–the driving force of wanderlust down deep within remains unsated. And so, we go on.
And today Switchback, Slider, & Nimblewill venture on–across the Knife Edge, over the Chimney & Pamola, and down to Roaring Brook.
It’s been one amazing and incredible day, 15-hours, 10,000+ feet of near-vertical ascent and descent. It’s dark when we finally arrive, to be greeted by Ranger Theo at the Ranger’s Cabin, Roaring Brook.
Man is born to die.
His works are short lived.
Buildings crumble, mountains decay.
but Katahdin in all its glory will forever remain
the mountain of the people of Maine.