Saturday, September 3, 2011

Highpoint: Maine. Katahdin (5268 ft). August 31, 2011

About 11 miles roundtrip, 3800 feet elevation gain.

A couple of days before we left for Maine, Hurricane-turned-Tropical Storm Irene roared through the Northeast and devastated Vermont and parts of New York and New Hampshire. The girls and I were lucky; we live in an area that sustained little damage. My heart goes out to those who suffered losses. August 28 was a horrible day.

Miraculously, Maine's Baxter State Park was spared Irene's fury. The park was closed for a couple of days while the rangers assessed the trails and ponds, but all was deemed safe and the gates were reopened on August 30th. The girls and I were therefore able to travel north as planned.

We arrived late in the afternoon on Tuesday, thankfully in time to legally begin our 3.3 mile hike to Chimney Pond Campground (this park is highly regulated -- there are a lot of rules!).



The girls and I headed out...









Within half an hour, Sage tripped and scraped her knee, thereby making this a "real hike" (it's not a real hike unless there's mud or blood). Alex and I congratulated her on her toughness, then we all continued on our way.





Mud and standing water could be found here and there, which wasn't surprising given the recent storm...



Our first view of Katahdin from the trail...



Up...



Basin Pond...







More water on the trail...





...and we're there!







The rangers are building a covered picnic area within the campground...



Our home for the next two evenings!



Chimney Pond...



After cooking and eating a scrumptious dinner of instant mashed potatoes, we hung our food on the convenient bear line.



The next morning, we chose our route and headed up.



Our path of choice was Cathedral Trail. It begins in the woods...



...but soon pops out above treeline.



Alex points the way over the massive boulders.





Cathedral Trail is a class 2+, 2.7 mile rock scramble. The entire trail is as steep as what's pictured below...



There are drop-offs on either side of me as I'm taking this picture...



Finally, we topped out and began the walk over loose rock toward the summit.



Taking a brief break...



Almost there!



Summit cone!



The famous sign!





View of the Knife Edge from the summit. The Knife Edge is a 1.1 mile, extremely narrow ridge walk with sheer drop offs on both sides. I didn't feel safe taking two kids over this on my own.



Close-up of hikers on the Knife Edge...



View toward Howe and Hamlin Peaks...



Looking over the lakes...



Chimney Pond from the summit...



We spent an hour hanging around and enjoying the day. Four Appalachian Trail thru-hikers reached the summit while we were there; we gave each of them a chocolate bar. They were very happy people and it was fun to watch them celebrate. Made me want to start a southbound thru-hike right then and there.

We decided to descend via the Saddle Trail...







Sage and Alex built a few small cairns along the way...





We continued our descent...







This was the most unpleasant part of the day, at least for me. I don't care for descending steep, very loose rock slides. There are a couple sketchy tenths of a mile on the Saddle Trail...yes, we had to go straight down the following...







View from the almost-bottom...





Back into the woods...



Back at Chimney Pond...



We spent another night in the lean-to before hiking out the next morning. Back at the parking area (Roaring Brook Campground)...



Alex says this is her favorite highpoint thus far. She and Sage both loved the rock scrambling on Cathedral Trail; neither one of them had any problems and both scampered up each section like little mountain goats. I, on the other hand, got stuck on one of the first giant boulders and needed an assisting hand from a passing hiker (other than that one spot, I was fine).

Something's happening to Sage -- she's becoming very fast. We made it to Chimney Pond on our first day in less than book time (she led). The only thing that stopped the girls from making it up Cathedral Trail in less than book time was me. I slowed them down. More often than not, both now go at a normal adult pace or better -- Sage especially. I need to get in much better shape or hiking with mama is going to become frustrating for them both. I'm now the weak link; time to lose fifteen pounds and work out on a daily basis.

Next stop: Texas.

9 comments:

fretless said...

Going to say it again: so. freaking. awesome! Glad I am not the first one who got totally stuck at one of the first boulders on Cathedral. Them's some big rocks...
Congrats on the cool trip, thanks for posting yet more fabulous pics. Happy trails!

Anonymous said...

Patricia,

I've enjoyed reading your vfft posts and blogs for years. Please don't berate yourself about your conditioning! Your daughters will naturally adjust their pace to mama's. My own daughter finished the NH 4000s as a teen, and it wasn't until she was 14 that I found myself in your position. She has since surpassed me in hiking experience, including 388 miles on the AT, much of it solo, 41 of them I was privileged to share. At her wedding last year, I related the child-outdoes-the-parent moment and it was warmly received by all. Keep doing what you're doing, and let them grow with you, not in spite of you. (Besides, they'll be carrying more gear soon enough!)
-Rich

Patricia Ellis Herr said...

Fretless, I'm also glad I'm not the only one who's gotten stuck on one of those boulders! :) Glad you got down safely, glad I'm not still stranded there right now, lol.

Rich, thank you for your kind and supportive message. Congratulations on your daughter's wedding, what a wonderful (and bittersweet) day that must have been. Congrats also on the AT. I'm hoping both the girls want to do that some day, I'd love to share at least part of that journey with them. As for carrying their own gear...that's a lovely thought, very much looking forward to that day! :)

Anonymous said...

This is my all time favorite hike, and I very much enjoyed reading about yours and seeing your pics. I bet I can even guess what part of Catherdeal trail you struggled with...you're in good company.
GS

Anonymous said...

I have recently become enamored with the AT. I have read several journals about thru-hikers experience. I LOVED your pictures though. They are breathtaking! They also bring to life what I've been reading about. I'm also a mom with 4 little boys (ages 5-10)

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Anonymous,

Thank you! I'm a big fan of the AT too; once the girls have left for college, I'm heading to Springer Mountain! Wish the girls showed an interest in thru-hiking, but they don't want to be away from their home/friends/pets for 5-7 straight months.

Four boys between the ages of 5 and 10, eh? You're a busy woman indeed! :)

Thanks for your kind comments,
Trish

sue said...

Loved this post!! I wouldn't have dreamt of doing Cathedral with kids as I did get stuck trying to get up some crazy boulders many years ago. But now, I'm thinking my kids would love the scramble as well. I'm so excited to see if we can find a way there next year!

PS We're thinking of going hiking in NH next week! (but we'll be keeping an eye on the weather before travelling from Canada).

Beth in Cumberland said...

I remember hiking with my husband and two boys in 1982, I think, up to Baxter Peak, via the Saddle Trail. The scree was my very least part of the hike! it was almost the beginning of my incredible experience publishing Chimney Pond Tales, though, and well worth the trip. Check out Chimney Pond Tales on Facebook!

sumac said...

we're going to katahdin this weekend with the kids and staying at chimney pond. so excited!!