Thursday, September 20, 2012

Our Kathadin Trip

This past weekend, my brother and Amber arranged for me to finally make it up(up and up) to Baxter State Park to try my hand at Mt Katahdin. I have always wanted to hike it but have been turned off by all the logistics involved. Having to reserve a camp site the night before to ensure a parking spot at the trail head, the distance needed to travel just to get to the camp ground, no electricity or running water. I end up usually just going up to the White Mountains and do some hiking there. 
Not this weekend. My brother, Matt, took care of the logistics getting me accurate driving directions(there are no street signs or even names for a lot of the traveling), reserved the camp ground, bought all the food, and even brought my sister, Marilyn who joined us for the weekend. Marilyn started the weekend off right by earlier that day posting the following on Facebook: 
Favorite part of the blog:
"While Amber took a nap, I read the newspaper in the hot tub and had breath-holding competitions with myself in the pool. I won the majority of those as well. Oh yeah. I'm a stud too. "

Most intriguing part:
"I figured since Amber hasn't had time to write up her race report yet, I wouldn't keep people in suspense any longer about this past weekend up at Pumpkinman. "
Intriguing due to the fact that you think people were held in suspense. how cute.

It was certainly going to be a fun weekend.

Matt had warned us that if we didn't arrive at the state park gate by 8:30 on Friday night they wouldn't let us in. Since Amber and I live the closest(relatively) it was our responsibility to make it up there on time to get to our camp site. My driving directions estimated that it would take 6:10 to get there and since we were leaving Concord at 2, that gave us a solid 20 minutes of lee-way. Oh boy-hopefully no one has to go to the bathroom.
Amber and I drove up right from work and after nearly 5 1/2 hours of driving we finally arrived at the Baxter State Park gate. Wow! Really good time. Little did we know we still had ten miles of the most pot-holed dirt road to travel which brought us in close to the 6 hour mark. We had a camp site and a lean-to so we generously gave Matt, his wife, Cindy and Marilyn the camp site and we took the lean-to. Generously you say! Isn't the lean-to better? Ask Amber, who typically sleeps like a rock, who spent the night graciously pushing my off my sleeping pad so she could have two and STILL couldn't sleep well. Well the next night we decided to sleep in Matt's tent which sleeps 8 and we both did sleep like rocks. But that could have had something to do with the hike we did. More on that soon.

By the time everyone else had arrived Friday night, Amber was already asleep-apparently her "bad night" didn't start until a little later in the evening. We were all tired from the drive and were planning on an early morning start anyway so we all headed to bed.

When I awoke the next morning, it occurred to me that my idea of an early start and that of the other hikers in the park was quite different. As I tumbled out of the lean-to, I saw one beleaguered hiker scurry to the trail head but otherwise it is was deserted. Everyone else had already started out. Why so early? It's ONLY an 11 mile hike? I meandered around as Matt, Mar, Amber and Cindy all got up. We got some fire wood and cooked up some scrambled eggs. Suffice it to say we didn't have the earliest start, but it was before the 10am cut-off(apparently you can't hike after ten in Maine).
View of a rainbow on our ascent

The one aspect of this weekend that we did seem to overlook was the actual hike itself. Before looking at the trailhead we actually didn't know how long the hike was. Also we didn't know the estimated time for hiking would be, nor the terrain, the recommended trail or just about anything that would have been a good thing to have researched. The hike started out with a steady climb
in the woods to get the blood flowing. We had a steady pace that brought us to our first good views in about an hour. That was also about the time the rain started.

Email to my brother before we left: Make sure to bring water-proof jacket and cold weather gear. 

How Matt interpreted email: Bring your questionably wind-resistant, surely not water-proof wind-breaker that you've had since High School and don't forget to only bring your plaid cotton shorts. 

I am always amazed at how poorly I communicate sometimes.

Cindy, Matt and Danny taking in the views
It was also around this time that we started passing people going the other way. The first few(let's call them the SuperEarly Birds) were able to cross Knife's Edge but warned us that the weather had  gotten worse since they'd crossed. As we came across more and more people, less and less of them had made it across. Too dangerous, wet, or windy was often the refrain.
 However, it took us another hour before we stopped to discuss our game plan. It was decided that Amber and I would go ahead, and Marilyn, Matt and Cindy would head back.
Amber and Danny head out into the great unknown(only to us)

We said our goodbyes and started to make our way to Knife's Edge, the notoriously steep, rocky and narrow trail connecting Mount Pamola to the two peaks of Kathadin. We passed a French couple who had been turned back. The woman kept saying Dagger Russ over and over again to us.
Danny: Dagger Russ?
French Woman: Yes, Yes Dagger Russ!
Danny: Oh okay[no idea]
French Woman: No, No Dagger Russ! Turn back!
Danny: Okay.... Have a nice day.

Amber and I then continued to climb while the couple after giving us some further exasperated stares descended. Then it occurred to Amber. Dangerous! She was trying to warn us not to go up any higher. Rather than heeding her advice we both broke out laughing which carried us up to the peak of Mt Pamola. 
Marilyn's picture of us as we part ways. 

As we got to Knife's Edge(which we couldn't actually see due to the rain and clouds) we realized two things: 1)We had only gone 3.2 miles thus far, and 2)there was no way we were going to risk going across Knife's Edge twice(it was an out and back) with the windy, rain and cloud cover. 
So we decided to just sit down for a little while and decide whether we wanted to turn back or go down the Dudley trail that someone had recommended to us(curse him!). While sitting, the rain stopped and the clouds parted and we had excellent views of Knife's Edge. It was pretty amazing but made us glad that we hadn't tried crossing it. We stayed for a little while longer then decided to go down Dudley trail. Dudley trail, we soon found out, should have been called the Crazy Rock Garden as it was nothing more than huge rocks that we had to scamper down from. There were sections that we actually couldn't fit through without taking off our packs and throwing them ahead of us. We soon found that our arms were getting as tired as our legs having to lower ourselves down multiple times. Imagine going through the Lost River without the wooden bridges and losing nearly 3,000 feet of elevation in 1 mile! Yep. It made for very slow going.  
We finally made it to the base only to find we still had another 3 1/2 miles to hike back to our camp site. By the time we made it back Matt had already eaten dinner and looked like he would not be getting up for the rest of the night... Great veggie chili courtesy of Cindy and smores were the highlight of the evening. By 8 o'clock we were all sprawled out in Matt's camping mansion fast asleep.
Nearly 12 hours later we awoke.

After failed attempts to make camp-fire coffee, we decided it was time to head out back into society. We stopped just long enough to get real coffee and breakfast and for Marilyn to leave her jacket and purse behind. Twenty miles down the road I hear: Panic, Panic! I think I forgot my purse! Sure enough she had but the good people of Millnocket had put it aside so we turned back and got it for her. On with the drive.

We stopped in Bangor at a cute little cafe for lunch. On with the drive.

We dropped Marilyn off at her car at the Portsmouth Park N Ride after she declined going out to dinner with us. We opted for the Portsmouth Brewery where we had an early dinner then.... on with the drive.

We eventually made it home, unpacked and settled in for another early night. While it was a fun weekend spent with my siblings(missed ya Drew) and Amber, I think from now on we should stick with the White Mountains.

Up Next: IRONHEART MILE Sept 22nd; POCONOS 70.3(Amber) Sept 30th

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