"A Wet but Colorful Attempt at Katahdin" (pictures)
Ever since I hiked Katahdin in 2000 I had been dying to return. This year felt like the time to visit this monstrous mountain with Scott. We had been doing some big, difficult hikes and our legs were ready for the most dangerous trail in New England along Baxter Peaks Knife Edge! I got a cabin reserved a month in advance and as soon as the non-resident 2 week window was open I reserved 1 of the remaining 6 pre-paid parking passes. Everything was ready and good to go! Now it was up to the weather!
We arrived in Millinocket on Friday around 2:30pm. The view of Katahdin as you enter the town was so exciting! We checked in at the Cabin. The owner asked what are plans were. When I said we planned on Katahdin and the knife edge if it didn't rain (rain chance when last I looked was 20-40%) he said, "oh, it's gonna rain!" Rain chance was now 90%. He advised against an attempt at the knife edge and wished us luck. Soon we were back on the road headed towards the mountain for some sight-seeing! After all, looks like this may be our only opportunity to get a clear view of the scenery.
We followed the road in, stopping at the ponds and pull-offs trying to get a view of the mountain. We picked up a shadow along the way, a photographer also looking for "the shot" of Katahdin amidst the foliage.
We found ourselves all the way down past the Baxter State Park sign and to the visitor center. A modest cabin with no electricity, only gas run lights. They had a 3-D map of the range like the one in Mt. Washington's Pinkham Notch VC only it wasn't faded and worn-out!
We spoke to the Ranger there who was very informative and of course, was very against a hike on the knife edge or any of the steep trails in the rain. We know all too well of the dangers and told him we had no intentions of putting ourselves in danger if the conditions were not good. He pointed us to Togue Pond behind the cabin where there was a gorgeous view of Katahdin. Loons were making their ghostly sound across the water as Bald Eagles skimmed the lake looking for fish. It was a beautiful spot, we were so glad we got this little bit of sight-seeing in before the rain came!
After a lousy night of sleep we awoke to a light mist outside. Not too bad, we could handle a little mist! We packed up and headed for the gate house. We arrived at 5:30am, no lines, no waiting! The gate keeper reiterated what we had already been told, rain was in the forecast (70% chance) and a big hike was strongly discouraged. We made the long drive in and arrived at the Roaring Brook parking. We geared up, turned our head lamps on and began our hike in the dark, damp woods.
We stopped at the cabin to sign the hiker log and spoke to the care taker there. She asked our route and we said we had wanted to hike the knife edge but if it was going to rain we were going to back out. She also strongly advised against it, even without the rain it is wet up there and extremely dangerous. She recommended we hike Chimney Pond trail and talk to the Ranger up there to find out what he thinks the best route is in these conditions. We agreed to her course of action and she was "very re-leaved to point more hikers away from a dangerous situation"!
And so we made the hike up, soon the sun came up and brightened the trails enough for us to put our lights away. We removed our windbreakers and the hike in wasn't too bad, just some mist and bright foliage along the trail. We stopped at the outlook along the way, with basically no view. There were many bridges and board walks along the way. The trail was wide and gradual but also rugged. Very similar to Mt. Washington's Tuckermans Ravine trail to the cabin. The foliage and ponds were pretty despite the weather and we arrived at the Chimney Pond Campground and Ranger Station in just over 2 hours (book time 2.5hrs.)!
The Ranger was quick to come out and ask "where we were headed!?" "To the pond and back down", we exclaimed! "Good choice", he said re-leaved! He asked on our way back through to sign the log book. We hiked down to the ponds edge. What little we could see it was still a beautiful sight! We were a little bummed out of course, but that is the way it goes! Better luck at a clear hiking day on our next visit!
We stopped back at the station and signed the log. We talked to the Ranger for a bit and he said he was sorry the weather wasn't cooperative. He seemed surprised that we were actually not going to make any attempts at the peaks. He said it was a good choice and as I always say, I'd rather live to hike another day! The mountain isn't going anywhere! We made the trip back down passing many hikers on their way up, all in good spirits despite the weather. The rain was now beginning to come down a bit more and the wind picked up. We ran into the care taker back at the trail head as we logged out and she was happy to see we made a smart decision to head back down.
Having finished so early we decided it was pointless to hang around in the rain the rest of the day and checked out of the cabin early and headed home. We'll be back some time next year!