Return to Maine Day Six

We have set up our tent inside the Lean-To at Katahdin Stream Campground. I worried that I would not be able to sleep, anticipating tomorrow's hike up and back down the highest peak in Maine, the formidable Mount Katahdin, northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
 
Enjoying a nice campfire and the company of good friends, Laura and Tim, was relaxing and good weather forecast for the next day helped to ease anxiety. A round of Bailey's didn't hurt either!
 
 
We have to start our hike in the early dawn, just before 6am, to allow enough time to climb the mountain and then get back down. On a moderate hike of 10.4 miles, we might easily finish in around 5 hours. The trail to the top is only 5.2 miles, but the elevation gain is 5000 feet. Seriously, that's climbing straight up, hand over hand for most of the way. And of course, 5.2 miles dropping straight down. Strenuous, is an understatement. Why are we smiling here?
 
 
The guys seem pretty pumped too.
 
 
The first mile is fairly moderate to this beautiful waterfall.
 
 
Then the going gets tough. This hike is rated a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for difficulty. “Short people will be at a serious disadvantage” the Guidebook states. I am a “short person” and many times I have to have Gary let me step in his clasped hands to get up the rocks, or have him haul me up, scrabbling on all fours. I just say to myself, I'm not the shortest person to ever climb this mountain.
 
 
Finely we get above tree line. I'm already tired and I see the Katahdin Spur ahead, the real work of the day. Gary asks, “What have we gotten into?” Two of the young guys hiking along with us choose to go back down now. I've decided that turning back is not an option unless we get injured, Gary really wants to quit or the weather turns bad.
 
 
 
It is amazingly difficult and exhausting and on my mind is– rebar. I know from the Trail Guide that there is a very tough, exposed section up ahead where iron bars are cemented into the rock to aid in climbing. I'm an experienced hiker and I know this is never good. I keep trying not think about it. Just focus on the next foot and hand hold.
 
 
Yeah, that would be the rebar. How on earth will I get up this? It's just sheer rock with nothing to hold on to. I have to wedge myself and brace my shaking legs into the cleft in the rocks until I can get one foot up on the first piece of iron and grab the bar above. Then Gary, already up there, tells me to heave myself up on the rock ledge on my belly. Kind of like powering up out of a swimming pool with arm strength. Holy crap.
 
 
I just keep repeating… Quitting is not an option. I don't have photos of the other section of rebar. It was just too scary to do anything but…do it.
 
 
Up the Katahdin Spur and still on our feet, we arrive at “The Tablelands.” I have been fantasizing about this part for hours! I want to kiss the ground but make my way slowly to the last push to the top. Follow the cairns now.
 
 
We meet Laura and Tim coming down here, the only time we have seen them all day. Laura is terrified of coming down.
 
 
YES!
 
 
YES! For both of us
 
I'm on top of the world and the views are spectacular.
 
 
Wow. They say on a clear day as we have, you can see all the way to the ocean.
 
 
A group of Thru Hikers have walked 2175 miles to end their journey on top of Mount Katahdin and we celebrate with them.
 
 
Gary and I do not spend a lot of time at the top. There is still getting down to accomplish. It takes a long time to carefully lower myself down the huge rocks, sliding on my side, my butt– anyway I can. It is not as strenuous because gravity helps us descend but it is scary and I have to have Gary “spot” me so I don't simply vault off the edges as I let go of my death grip on the granit hand holds. We are both exhausted and have to dig our headlamps out of backpacks as darkness catches us. We arrive in the parking lot at 8 pm so very glad to see Laura and Tim waiting. Incredibly, there are still people that are behind us. Laura and I immediately agree we can't talk about it now. We just want to drive into Milliknocket to our hotel, take a shower and crash into bed.
 
AT Miles 5.2 Back down 5.2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 


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Comments

  1. That is an absolutely amazing report. The pix make it almost possible to imagine. I found my self holding my breath as I read. You should be so proud of yourself. I am also glad it was a beautiful day for this major accomplishment.

  2. I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E!!!! I simply love the picture of you up top with your arms raised! Well done!!