Sunday, January 2, 2011
Katahdin in Baxter State Park is a monstrous massif whose summit stretches for miles and encompasses two distinct peaks that qualify as 4000 footers. We had conquered the well-known Baxter Peak on other hikes but still had the less-traveled Hamlin Peak ahead of us.
We planned to drive to Millinockett and stay in a hotel the night before heading into Baxter State Park but the Big Bed Bug Scare of Summer 2010 caused me to fear staying in a hotel. So on to Plan B. We called the park and were able to get two bunks in the bunkhouse at the trailhead--I was certain that my sleeping bag was bed bug free and couldn't imagine any self-respecting bed bug living in the inhospitable environment of a plywood bunk in Baxter State Park. So, off we went. The change of plans meant bringing gear to cook breakfast so we brought along our little stove and some supplies.
There was another couple in the bunk house with us and we stayed up playing Scrabble with them by gas lantern--some time during the game and the getting-to-know-you, Charlie and the other man discovered that they had both been to an Eagles and Dan Fogelberg concert in 1974 in New York City. Do you ever wonder if we are all in some big Venn diagram and everyone intersects at some point?
The next morning, we were off to the trail. Katahdin is my nemesis--I love it and I hate it--mostly I love it when I'm finished climbing it or planning to climb it--when I'm on the trail, I think that it's really really hard and the Native Americans were probably right about it being a sacred mountain that shouldn't be climbed. I decide that I'm too old for such nonesense and decide never to climb it again--but where would the story be in that.
Our planned route was long and the wind above the trees was crazy. But the views were incredible. When I wasn't shaking my first at the mountain for being so difficult, I was full of the belief that at that moment I was the most fortunate person on earth.
We made it to the top with a great deal of effort. It was impossible to remain completely vertical in the strong wind and without a tie for my hair my vision was severely compromised. I was afraid of descending the rocky trail with hair flying into my eyes and we made a decision to struggle through the wind for a mile along the summit ridge in order to descend by the sheltered Saddle Trail to Chimney Pond. Chimney Pond is only 3.3 miles from the Roaring Brook campground and our car. It was a gradual grade and all downhill for us at that point but exhaustion was setting in.
About 1/2 mile from the end of the trail, Charlie remembered something wonderful! "We have instant coffee and milk and sugar left over from breakfast! I will go ahead and make it for you!" A more sincere and timely expression of love has never been spoken.
So, I limped to the car and changed into jeans and a flannel shirt--cotton is deadly while hiking but so comforting afterward. I slid down to the ground against a tree because it was the only way. Charlie handed me a cup of the most delicious coffee and we toasted our astounding day. And you know, I really do love Katahdin.