This trip to Maine came together for a number of reasons - one, because many in the group we'd assembled had not done Katahdin before; and two, because Jenn, Brian and I wanted to ratchet up the pre-Europe trip hike training;
We watched the forecast closely up until the last minute. It was looking reasonably good - sunny for the Saturday morning we wanted to climb Katahdin on, and partly cloudy otherwise. The only fly in the oitment - heat. And humidity. Lots of it. Still, the will was strong, and so we planned to make a full weekend of it. Leave on Friday, arrive Friday night, camp, get up unnaturally early and wait at the pearly gates of "tightly run" Baxter State Park. Then, if we were up to it, another 4000+ 111er peak on Sunday morning. Ambitious.
Adding spice to our trip were two colorful characters - Roland and Francois. You may remember Francois as the cameraman from my trip up into the Torngats last fall (click here to go to that presentation
). Roland is of course my colorful German friend - wild sailorman and singer of gutteral german diddies.
Although Francois lives in Montreal, the route to Katahdin goes through there, so it was no big deal to pick him up on the way and drop him off afterwards. Caroline rode with Roland and Francois and got the maximum Francois dosage right away. She was pleading to be transferred to our car after less than one hour! He's potent stuff, that's for sure!!!
We arrived in Millinocket at around 9:40pm and made a beeline for a small little campground I've stayed at before, called Hidden Springs Campground. Its a convenient place to stop before heading into Baxter State park, has hot showers, and will often let you leave your stuff set up in the campground until you've come back from your climb the next day, even if you aren't staying the next night. Very nice of them!
We were at the gate at 4:20am the next morning, and this time (unlike last time), we were first in line. hmm... had I overshot and come too early? Thing is, you never know with this place, and with their quota system, you run the risk of not getting to climb the mountain at all if you are there too late. So, here we were. We set up breakfast right there and whittled away the time. The third car in the line behind us turned out to be this cool couple from Australia and England, who were touring North America in an old Ford SUV they'd bought in California. They too were here to climb Katahdin, having been turned away the day before by the park staff. As it turned out, they were fantastic people and joined our little group for the day.
Unfortunately for us, the gate ranger was late today and we only got to move through the gate at 6:20am. The park had "closed" all trails leading from Roaring Brook (which we wanted to start from), so we had to choose something else as a way up. (why the trails were closed is beyond me, because the conditions were perfectly ok. This policy of closing trails for so-called saftey reasons is completely out of hand in this park - you could start off on the trail to the top of a Cascade Volcano easier than climbing a little bit of open rock on Katahdin, I swear).
Anyway, enough complaining. We chose the Abol trail, which seemed interesting because (a) I'd never done it, and (b) it looked really steep, which is itself a cool thing that probably means an interesting climb.