Day 119: Katahdin!

September 27, 2015

I woke up at 5 and couldn’t go back to sleep. Partially from cold, but mostly from excitement. Katahdin: over 4,000 feet of climbing, most of it steep and a lot of it scrambling, the biggest climb of the entire trail.

We ate our cold breakfasts in the chilly light of morning and packed up. I could see my breath and I wore my hat and gloves the entire time. Winter is coming, and my mammal urge to hibernate is growing, but first- the mountain!

Katahdin is the only place on the trail where you start and stop at the same place. It’s also a real thumper of a climb, so the ranger station loans daypacks to anyone who wants one and helpfully stores all of your stuff for you while you’re climbing. We dropped off all of our heavy things at the bottom and trotted briskly away.

We stopped at the trailhead to sign in and listen to the ranger there warning us about hypothermia, water and how long it would likely take us to get up and back, and then we were off!

The first mile and a half is below tree-line and pretty much just like the other mountains of Maine: rocky, steep, beautiful. Occasionally a stream ran down the center of the trail, no big deal, just Maine being Maine.

Once we got above tree-line things got more exciting.


The trail climbed a narrow, rocky spur of the mountain up, up, up, past the surrounding peaks to the Tableland, a wide plateau out of which Baxter Peak rises.


We could not have hoped for a better day to summit the mountain. Everywhere was sunny, clear and brilliantly blue.

The climb was hard and the most scrambling, jumping and shimmying we’ve done yet. Fortunately, scrambling, jumping and shimmying around, over and across boulders is a really fun way to climb a mountain.


We were all a little giddy and once we reached the Tableland there wasn’t much left to it and suddenly the final climb was over and there we were. The very top.

A moment we've been waiting for all summer.


We celebrated in style with Coke and sweet treats that we’d carried from the campstore, snug in an outcropping of rocks, soaking up the sun and the view.

And then there was nothing left but to climb back down. Levi hasn’t had that much fun since the boulder pit at Mahoosuc Notch.

A rare moment when he wasn't bounding crazily down the mountain.

Down we went, realizing slowly that the largest part of our journey is over.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. It took us 7.5 hours, up and back and we got down at 3:30, in time for the shuttle to Millinocket. By 5 we were back to the car and ready for some food. A goodly amount of coffee, donuts, pizza and salad later we hit the road, finally heading south.

The moon was unbelievably bright and large and we watched it slowly eclipsing as we drove. We stopped in Augusta for the night and I watched the blood moon over the Northwoods from our hotel window before settling down for a warm night of sleep.

What an ending to a crazy, fantastic summer.

Tomorrow we wend our way back to Lancaster for a few days of recuperating. On Friday my Dad will join us for a weekend of rainy hiking in PA, and then we’re homeward bound!


Today’s Miles: 5.2 (10.4 roundtrip)
Total Miles: 1,135.8 of 2,189.2


  1. Carolyn

    Just now reading this and savoring the pictures. It made my day. I’m scrambling up and down those mountain rocks with you all in spirit and in my dreams. What a wonderful experience!

    1. Post

      It was! I thought a lot about how lucky\fortunate\blessed beyond measure we were to have this experience, and what fun it was to share it with our loved ones who couldn’t be there in person.

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