Our plan was to take the 'easiest' route to the summit of Baxter Peak. That trek involved following the Roaring Brook Trail a distance of 3.3 miles to the Chimney Pond Campground and Ranger Station. This was an easy climb with only a 1,400' elevation gain. The campground sits adjacent to, of all things, Chimney Pond. In several of the photos you will see later, note the pond located at the very bottom of the mountain. That is Chimney Pond. The image above is our actual track from my GPS and the image below is that same track overlaid in Google Earth. At the campground we would take the Saddle Trail to the summit of Baster Peak.
About .1 miles into our hike we reached a trail sign that made for a great picture of this eclectic group. Left to right: Phil, Sue, Leslie, Russ, David, Patrick, Ray (dat's me) and Scott. This was an amazing group ranging in age from 16 to 70. I should be so lucky as to be able to hike this mountain at 70. Phil, I remain impressed! My nephew David has hiked with Sue and I a number of times but not yet in 2011. He and Patrick, who has never hiked any substantial mountains, were real troopers as they completed the hike with nary a complaint. Russ and Phil were the most experienced hikers having long ago completed all 48 4,000 footers in NH and Russ has even hiked Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I guess my having climbed Mt. Major in Alton, NH is not all that impressive after all! Scott and Leslie are extremely capable hikers who have the capacity to leave any of the rest of our group in the dust.
This is a great photo taken by Scott as we crossed a bridge over a brook. In the background you can see our ultimate goal.
The photo above as well as the next few photos that follow are from a viewpoint we reached. It was not clear to us at the time whether we were looking at Katahdin but I am reasonably certain now we were instead looking at the North Basin (as opposed to the taller South Basin we would later see, the summit of which is Baster Peak).
A picture of David taking a picture. I couldn't help myself...
Scott or Leslie caught a great shot of the Masse family taking a break.
We pass Lower Basin Pond.
Sue (above) and Phil (below) take a break.
A photo across Dry Pond towards what I believe is the Hamlin Ridge.
Our first real views of Mount Katahdin across the South Basin.
We have now arrived at the Chimney Pond Campground. If there is a heaven on earth, this could be it. This photo and the next several are almost indescribable. I guess they speak for themselves. We are looking at Pamola (the left most peak in these photos), across Knife Edge (center).
The shear facade of Katahdin is evident in this shot. The tallest point roughly in the center of this photo is our ultimate goal, Baxter Peak at 5,267'. We are currently sitting at about 2,900 feet and have already been climbing for 2.5 hours. We've barely begun. Though distance wise we are well over halfway, the real climb will soon begin. In the next 2.2 miles we will climb another 2,367 feet with some sections being extremely steep and challenging (at least in my book).
Sitting here and looking at what is ahead of us is a bit overwhelming. Certainly it causes one to ask themselves if climbing this is even humanly possible. I'm guessing that many novice climbers (and maybe some not so novice) get to this point and decide that the rest is too challenging, maybe even impossible. Even I found myself needing to think about other things so as not to psych myself out about what lies ahead.
We are well along the Saddle Trail after leaving Chimney Pond. The trail meanders for some distance across a wooded area and then begins to climb rapidly.
|Note Chimney Pond at the base of the mountain (difficult to see so double-click to enlarge).|
We have broken out of the woods and are now on the Saddle Slide. This portion of the climb is very steep with grades approaching 40%. What makes matters worse is that there is lots of gravel and loose stone and one needs to take care for the hikers that are below.
Scott poses for a photo that brings many laughs to the group. At this point the levity was important!
The end of the Saddle Slide is in sight. It was not however the end of our climb (not at all in fact).
I believe the little blip you see just right of the Pamola summit is what is known as the Chimney. The Chimney and the ridge beyond it (to the right) form what is known as the Knife Edge. Portions of that mile long trail are said to be some of the most stunning found anywhere. Some sections along the Knife Edge are only 2-3 feet wide with 2,000' shear drops on either side. That trail is to be avoided in high winds. A hike for me? NOT!
We have reached the top of the Saddle Slide. It looks as though we are playing musical rocks looking for a place to sit and take a much needed break. Take a look behind Scott at the steepness of the drop. Yes, we just came up a section looking like that (to the immediate right)!
Looking out across the South Basin from the top of the Saddle Slide.
An even better shot of the Chimney.
Off across the ridge is Baxter Peak (not in view). Though this looks flat, it is not. We still have another mile to hike and the rise is nearly 1,000 feet. I for one found this to be the "longest mile". It seemed that it would never end. We needed to hurry as weather was beginning to move in but I lacked the energy to 'hurry'. The best I could do was a normal pace. The second half of this mile the trail steepened further to the summit.
|We've ARRIVED at the summit of Baxter Peak. YEE HA! We were just in time as within minutes of our arrival we became completely socked-in amongst the clouds.|
Note Chimney Pond at the base of the mountain. This is from whence we came and from where we experienced the stunning views of the South Basin.
The Masse family takes the obligatory summit photo. This peak marks the northern terminus of the Appalachain Trail and it is a mere 2,200 miles to the beginning of the Appalachian Trail in Springer Mountain, Georgia. We would hike it today but we didn't bring enough water. We were all amazed by the fact that we were some 330 miles from Mount Washington.
Phil at the summit. I want to climb this mountain again when I am 70 years old. This one is for you Phil!
Double-click on this photo and it will enlarge so you can read it.
Members of our group as well as others on the summit line up for their summit photos.
|Minutes later the clouds have rolled in and the views are completely obliterated.|
Here we sit at the summit of Mount Katahdin, the tallest peak in Maine and we are all amazed to find that we have a very strong cell signal. Sue is on the phone speaking to another friend of our group congratulating her on her daughter's engagement. Others are checking email and texting. A mile up we have a signal yet at our cabin we had next to no service. Go figure. That said, it is very comforting to know that cell service is available should anyone get hurt or otherwise become unable to finish the hike. Maybe that's why there is service??
As the clouds continue to roll in we take our group photo just before leaving the summit.
We are descending the summit and the winds are stiff. My glasses are wet from the moisture in the air. It is hard to imagine that we have nearly five hours left to go!
We have completed the trek across the ridge and, after a short break, we are about to drop over the edge onto the Saddle Slide.
|This elevation plot from my GPS shows the nearly 40% grade of the Saddle Slide. Okay, I'll repeat myself; double-click to enlarge so you can read the data.|
Remember the stunning photos of Katahdin and its rocky slopes when were were at Chimney Pond Campground on the way up? Well, this is what it looked like on our trip down. The mountain was completely engulfed in clouds.