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Katahdin, Baxter Peak

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  • Katahdin, Baxter Peak

    Well usually I write trip reports much sooner but I just haven't had the time. About 2 weeks ago my buddy and I climb Baxter Peak, Katahdin from Katahdin Stream Campground. It was probably my most difficult single mountain day hike and definitely a bucket list item. But admittedly my buddy and I hadn't done much hiking in the previous months and we were not in Tip-Top shape although we got the job done. More on that later.

    But before i talk about that, just wanted to say that it was only my second time in Maine. The last time was probably 25 or 30 years ago with my folks, and I wasn't hiking back then as a kid.

    This time I was on vacation as a father with my own wife and son and daughter, ages 3 and 5. We spent 11 nights in Maine and it was incredible trip. We drove all around the state and stayed in different towns, obviously a lot on the coast and eventually I linked up with my buddy and his family in Bar Harbor and then Millinocket for 2 nights, as they were in the state of Maine too on vacation.

    The trip itself had a great mix of all worlds from the forest to the ocean. We did the tourist thing, we did the Wilderness thing, we ate delicious food, tons of lobster. It was coming out my ears!

    We had a great time in Acadia National Park. And perhaps even more rewarding than climbing Katahdin was watching my own two children grow in strength, bravery, and self-sufficience doing many different hikes in Acadia with my wife and I. Watching them climb on the rocks and cliffs by the ocean many times, wanting to push away from me to explore, but I still kept a firm grasp on their wrist for safety at times, especially with my 3 year old....

    Everyone had a great time and my kids did not want to go home. It was their first big trip away from home, being that far for that many nights and they loved it. Rocky Bluffs and beaches, sandy beaches, lighthouses, driving around the state beautiful scenery, hiking, shopping, restaurants, hotels, rental houses, we experienced so much.

    Being in Millinocket and entering Baxter State Park that morning was surreal. The Tote Road winding through the park. Moose Country. Unblemished wilderness.

    Original plan was to do Knife-Edge many months earlier, but that didn't pan out for this hike.

    It was just my buddy and I climbing. Both our wives and kids spent the day kayaking and canoeing around the Millinocket area.

    We met a female Ranger as we parked our car at Katahdin Stream. We were taking the Hunt trail all the way up. I guess she's there to feel out hikers that are arriving and whether they seem like they know what they're doing. I guess you could say kind of like a parking lot Steward.

    Apparently our appearance and the things we said passed the test. She was very polite and took our picture at the junction entrance sign. I couldn't help but think I was headed towards that famous sign on the summit that I had seen on so many Appalachian Trail DVDs and books, as well as YouTube videos.

    I have to note the heat that day. It was so humid in the forest I think it was 83 degrees in Millinocket but that didn't really tell the tale. The humidity was incredible. I don't think I've ever perspired more on a hike..... maybe. I certainly haven't perspired that much while climbing that hard.

    I mean you think the top of Mount Katahdin you be freezing your butt off as we had a light pair of gloves and a knit hat packed, of course which were never used.

    I never put on a single layer that day and in retrospect I probably should have taken my shirt off. Even though it was a vapor wicking shirt I was sweating so hard and it was clinging to me, probably would have been better just take it off, as it never really dried up until I sat at the summit for a little bit.

    Katahdin stream Falls was beautiful and roaring.... the first really cool thing we saw on the trail. Besides just being in awe of where we were.

    Again it's been 2 weeks and I can't remember every little detail but I do remember climbing hard even in the forest and how hot it was. Eventually broke above Treeline and that's when the real climbing began. And we knew this would happen. That it would get harder.

    Again we only had two pretty easy hikes in the Catskills prior to this. As whatever shape we were in the winter had disappeared due to family obligations, volunteer coaching for my childrens sports on the weekends, etc.

    Once above treeline, we were in the direct sunlight all the way to the summit and back down again. It was hot as hell and we'd already sweated so much in the forest. The perspiration continued.

    At some point I told my buddy I had to sit down for a minute I had to take a break as I needed to eat something. Thankfully at the last minute due to his suggestion we packed a small Gatorade each.

    I truly think that helped me out as usually Gatorade is known as being useless, but I think that the sugar, calories, and electrolytes or whatever was in it, helped bring me back to life as I was feeling a little wonky climbing that hard in the heat, plus I ate some gummies and some wafer bar and that kind of corrected me.

    Later on I encountered a little bit of cramping in my quads just before we hit the tablelands. The tablelands helped/saved me. I continue to finish the Gatorade and need some more snacks. It was a still a while to the summit but the tablelands eased up on the climbing and the rest of the way wasn't so bad.

    Finally we were approaching the summit and I saw the sign in the distance along with the Knife-Edge ridge behind it. Incredible. Incredible Terrain, incredible views, incredible everything. What an amazing day!

    The only thing that caught me by surprise was the oppressive heat as I was north of Millinocket and was gaining in elevation and there really wasn't even that much breeze.

    We did put sunblock on at the car although after all that sweating I don't know how much stayed on us. Eventually we got to the sign. There was some people there, we looked around first and took some pictures eventually we took our turn by the sign. Maybe one day I'll do the whole AT as a thru-hike, but for now I'll probably chip away at the 115 list.

    We sat up there and ate some meat we packed. The summit was actually very buggy and we trying to find an area that had more breeze.

    Even though going down is always tedious and more dangerous, I was relieved not be climbing anymore, we took our time, but I think we made pretty good time.

    9 hours and 20 minutes total including the hour on top. Originally I asked the ranger that morning what is the average time a hiker takes to climb this route and she told me 10 to 12 hours.

    There was some younger people that were definitely faster than us, but there was some other people that were definitely slower than us. Some would not make it to the top at all that day. Not that it was a race, but I would say we were middle of the pack.

    Again not being in Tip-Top shape, my legs were definitely smoked after that, and my lower butt cheeks were chafed from all the sweating.

    We pulled it off and had an amazing day. We took tons of photos and enjoyed everything. One For The Memories.

    And the trip was still not over as I bid my friends goodbye the next morning, my family and I left Millinocket and continued the trip through Maine for a few more nights. Awesome.
    Last edited by Nivek; 07-28-2021, 06:45 AM.
    Catskills: 39/39, 35W/35W
    ADK: 46/46, 1W/46W
    NH: 2/48

  • #2
    Sounds like you had an incredible trip! Thanks for the report, and I'm glad Katahdin didn't disappoint!


    • #3
      Thanks for the report, sorry about the heat. If you're doing the 115 you'll be back in Baxter.


      • Nivek
        Nivek commented
        Editing a comment
        115.... yes.... probably slowly, but yes.

    • #4
      Thanks for the report. We did Katahdin years ago with our kids—we were lucky to get a lean-to at Katahdin stream. I could see everything you were describing—. Although we did not have the heat and humidity you mention. Glad you made it ok. A place where memories are made!
      46/46, 20/46w "I only went out for a walk, and concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in." John Muir