Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Katahdin, in all it's glory,"

"Katahdin, in all it's glory, Forever shall remain, The Mountain Of The People of Maine."
~Percival P. Baxter

A few words I love to read from the former Governor of Maine. We as Mainers, are very privileged to have this as our own. What a generous offering. I am r
ecently back from an all too quick trip into Baxter State Park, with a successful mission on a classic Katahdin day. As always, I am further humbled by the powerful force of nature that surrounds Baxter.

The stars were aligned last week when my friend Erik and I were chatting on the phone and he told me he been laid off from his job, again. Fortunately, in this case, as he was able to join me on the trip. I hope you get back to work soon though Erik. I had made a reservation pretty easily over the phone the week before last, the plan was to camp out at Roaring Brook the night before and hike Katahdin from that side. Our route had yet been determined until we were discussing it during the journey north on Interstate 95. Erik had never climbed either the Cathedral trail or Helon Taylor. So considering the spectacular climbing up Cathedral, we decided our route would be to link that trail with the Knife Edge and then down Helon Taylor back to Roaring Brook Campground. Looking at the numbers in terms of mileage, it looks fairly easy, it's only 9.7 miles. You start on the Chimney Pond trail for 3.3 miles before you turn onto the Cathedral Trail at the Ranger Cabin. The weather was great, actually relatively cool like this whole summer has been, and considering the amount of rain, few black flies or mosquitoes. Speaking of rain, Erik and I were taking a break at the North Basin Trail junction and a Ranger was headed down to Roaring Brook from Chimney Pond, anyway, he said they had 20 inches of Rain in the Month of June at the Pond...That is just crazy.

A thin cloud obscures the Knife Edge from view, Erik and I enjoying the day.

Looking up at the first Cathedral.

Erik bouldering up one of the many fine moves one can find on the "hike" up.

We made good time on the Chimney Pond trail, knocking the 3.3 out in under two hours. Pausing very briefly at the cabin, we start the Cathedral trail. This is a fun one, lots of boulder hopping and hand over hand climbing including some fun little rock scrambles off the main hiking trail. We were behind a large group of scouts from Nova Scotia. They actually motored right along, we only passed them very high up on the trail just below the summit. The 1.7 miles from Chimney Pond to the Summit took us three hours, we took our time, enjoyed the view, and had fun scrambling on the trail. It did spit a little mist for a few minutes at one point below the summit, the wind picked up also, so we put on light wind shells. Erik said a little prayer to a mountain spirit, (he shared this with me later) to ask that the weather clear as we were to make our traverse of this Grand Peak. Be it fate, or wish granted, it was quite beautiful all day long, improving as we wandered.

Erik topping out on the Cathedral Trail

My main mission on this climb was actually to unearth that sliver of my friend Pete's compass, which was broken during his plunge down Odell Gully on January 18th 2008. I had left it buried under some rocks inside of cairn number four from the summit as you descend the Hunt Trail. Sitting pointed at True North for 13 months, I would often think about the location of this little piece of plastic, and the significance of the location I stashed it in, as well as the symbolism of my intent, has given me some sense of calm at times in the last year. Maybe, the moral of all this is....We are broken when friends or family pass on....time does heal wounds, physically or mentally...then, slowly, we are one again...more able to focus on happy times and great memories.

A piece of Peter Roux sits in cairn number four on Mount Katahdin. It was placed there June 12th 2008 and removed July 15th 2009.

Broken and Battered, we all are 'finding our way back home.'

Erik has had possession of Pete's compass, I told him when I gave it to him where to find the missing piece. It was right where I had left it! I am amazed it sat in the very same position I left it in, not influenced by weather or someone else finding it. I actually thought it was gone, you see when Erik and I arrived on the summit, the lines for the Coca Cola machine and Pay phone were long so, I looked at him and said- "Number Four" as I headed down toward the cairn....He followed with curiosity. I actually walked right by it to number five. I hesitantly started to disassemble the top half of that rock cairn and nothing looked familiar....Mentally starting to panic, Erik said, "Is that a cairn right by that guy with the red jacket?" As he was pointing back in the direction of the summit. Indeed it was, and we were at Cairn number five! We gently assembled number five to it's original state and sprinted to number four. I was a little less careful this time and started rummaging through, pulling rocks off the top of the Cairn, and Erik said "There it IS!" We smiled and took a few pictures. The created anxiety of leaving this piece of "memorabilia" there on the Mountain, including the anticipation of when I would return to retrieve it was very necessary for my own continued healing....Furthering the moral of the story I suppose. We are one on Earth, fortunate to have family and friends with us. When they die, it really sucks, but we know we will be one again someday, where ever it is our spirit goes when we die. Though wounded from the trauma, the compass is one again and can help guide Erik in some way...

The obligatory summit sign picture.

We decided to hang out at Cairn Number Four and eat a bit of lunch. We had some killer chunks of Garlic and Herb Cheddar Cheese with some chunks of Pepperoni. I also pushed down a couple of Powerbar Gel packs that I generally use when Cycling. We also had a few pieces of Chocolate for a little mountain dessert. Good times with a great old friend. After lunch, we added to the massive crowd on the summit and snapped a couple of photos of the sign. It sure is battered and in need of replacement.

Katahdin's South Peak

I hadn't been on the Knife Edge since 2001 when Steph and I did the same route Erik and I were on. It is an amazing trail across a killer spine of rock only a yard wide in some sections, with steep cliffs on either side, a slip and fall here could be deadly. A game I like to play to pass time on a long hike is "rock hopping". Erik and I wondered, in one of our senseless conversations...I wonder how many rocks our feet touched today. We estimated a million at least..with out much thought, but seriously there has to hundreds of millions of rocks, pebbles and fragments of stone amongst the Katahdin Massif. Quite a compelling thought I think! One other game I try to play the times I have been across the Edge is exactly that, walking across in the trickiest section trying maintain that "Edge."

Looking at the second half of the Kinfe Edge from South Peak.
The amazing Chimney Peak and Pamola peak at the far end of the trail

Looking down from the South Peak with Katahdin Lake in the background.

The South Summit Raven
I was just a bit ahead of Erik coming down the South Peak, so I decided to stop and sip some water. As Erik was hiking down, a huge Raven flew into our vision and just hovered about 10 feet above him, then flew a few circles around us. I managed a few really good shots of him.

Another pass.

After he flew low and close to us, he landed on a rock to just enjoy the view.

Erik crossing one of the narrower sections of the Knife Edge.

We really took our time on this part of the hike, what would be the reason to rush anyway? We stopped a few times and just sat and admired the view. Katahdin just amazes me...a couple more photos below to end this blog. Thanks for reading.
Erik still on "edge".

The view of the Brothers, L-R South and North, from under the cloud deck.

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