Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012:
This was Katahdin summit day. It was a tough day ... tougher than I had expected. The weather was providing clear evidence of the change of seasons. But it was a great day. Here's my personal journal description:
I headed back to Katahdin Stream Campground, finished preparing and was on this final day hike (Day 229) of the northern leg of my adventure at 7:20AM. Only the lowest couple of miles of trail up to Katahdin are fairly easy – gentle slopes then some well-constructed rock step work after you pass the beautiful Katahdin Stream Falls.
Then the rock scrambling begins. I have to describe today’s activity as a ‘climb’, not a hike. It was very physically demanding. First there were scrambles through boulders in the woods, some of which rivaled Mahoosuc Notch, then the exposed climb through ‘The Boulders’ with the aid of 4 or 5 strategically located metal hand/foot holds.
Above The Boulders, Hunt Spur levels out for a bit but you can see the steep ridge of exposed rock awaiting you as you climb. It just keeps getting steeper and more exposed. By the time I got to The Gateway (the beginning of the Katahdin ‘Tableland’), I felt as though I had been through a super-tough weight-lifting workout. Muscles I don’t use had been pushed to their limits. Not having expected such an extended workout, I probably plunged into it too intensely, rather than pacing myself.
The weather was marginal, with clouds on the mountain almost all day. But as I climbed, the cloud base seemed to rise with me. There were even a few brief appearances of the sun, so although when I got to the Tableland there was a lot of fog, I also managed to see nearly all the views that Katahdin has to offer. Here's a look toward the SE at the lakes around Millinocket with some of the tundra's fall color in evidence:
That traverse across the Tableland is all easy hiking and would have been a perfect delight on a sunny warm summer day, but today was pretty chilly. Yet I still really enjoyed the tundra, as I always do. Thoreau Spring is such an unexpected sight! And for some reason they seem to make the trail walk *through* it rather than past it.
As I said, cloud base kept rising, so I got views of the summit as I approached it, and views from the summit too. There were a handful of people at the summit including thru-hikers ‘Secrets’ and ‘Shenanigans’, who had passed me on the way up. I had met ‘Secrets’ yesterday at Daicey Pond as well. They had seen my entries in shelter log books, and wanted to take my photo. Needless to say, I got my obligatory mug shot with the summit sign.
Some people were having lunch at the summit, but it was a little too blustery and chilly (probably around 40F) for me, so I headed back down pretty quickly. I took my time on the descent. By then the wind had really picked up, so I felt buffeted around on the tough, steep, very exposed rock scrambles on the upper part of Hunt Spur—just adding to the difficulty. But descending was not such a grueling workout, just a serious rock scrambling challenge.
I think I was at the summit during the best weather today had to offer, because it was getting more cloudy as I came down, and then we got some showers – enough to wet the rocks. But I had reached the woods and the less difficult parts of the trail by that time—thank goodness! I was back at the campground registration box at 3:55.
Today was a milestone day, of course. It marks the day I completed hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, though not all of it this year. My 2012 quest still goes on. I want to hike the entire trail both north and south in this calendar year. So in this respect Katahdin is just a waypoint along the journey. I still need to hike 354.2 miles of trail (both ways) between Daleville, VA and Caledonia State Park, PA. I want to start that ASAP. I'll be taking a few travel days and a few days off to visit family, but then it's back to the trail.
This central part of the AT, including Shenandoah NP and Harper's Ferry, should be great fun. I hiked a lot of it in the fall in previous years. I'm looking forward to all the ripe apples on trees along the trail! I'm looking forward to fall color (it's already beginning here in northern Maine). And I'm looking forward to hiking closer to home. The adventure continues ...
Here's the map of today's climb and a link to all the photos worth printing:
AT Day 229 - Katahdin at EveryTrail
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