Katahdin / Chimney Pond & Saddle / June 05, 2004


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  1. #1

    Katahdin / Chimney Pond & Saddle / June 05, 2004

    June 05, 2004
    Chimney Pond & Saddle Trail
    9 (or) 10 miles
    Moderate (for most)...Difficult for some
    Good conditions / Damp/Wet in spots in CP
    No Special Equipment

    My trail journal for today starts at the hour of 4:00am.

    But a bit of prologue first.

    Yesterday I was still undecided about what my destination for today would be. Eventually I decided on Mt. Katahdin. My best friend, Dave, who was considering accompanying me today, eventually backed out for today with foot problems. I left work a little early today, knowing that it was going to be late before I got up here, even if I tried to get going early. Such is the way it always is. By the time I got all my errands done before I left, and got home to eat dinner, it was 6:30pm. No, 7:00pm.

    I ate my dinner (2 large chili's from Wendy's...cheap...fast...healthy (reasonably), and hot, and packed my gear. By the time I left the house, it was 8:30. I went tot op off the gas tank, then remembered I didn't have my driver’s license. I went back home. Then I headed out again. I got about five miles before I realized I didn't have my iodine tablets, OR the neutralizer to tread the mountain water with. Back home I go. I got that, and filled up an empty 2-liter water bottle for the road, so I wouldn't have to drink from my pack water overnight. Then I hit the road. Again. For the record, the Medway exit is Exit 244, at 65 miles from Bangor. The Togue Pond gate is 95 miles from Bangor. Math tells me that that makes it 30 miles from Exit 244 to the Togue Pond gate.

    I finally arrived in Millinocket at about 10:15pm. I topped at an Irving convenience store for a small package of mini-glazed donuts (260 calories, 12 grams of fat, 0 fiber) and a can of Armor BBQ Vienna Sausages (150 calories, 13 grams of fat, 0 fiber per serving, 2.5 servings per can). Good, compact, high-energy, low-weight food. Then I hit the road in search of a place to make camp for the night. About 12 miles or so from the Togue Gate, there is a small lake. Ah, just the spot. I stopped and made camp for the night. What took me a bit by surprise, as I tried to sleep overnight, was how uncomfortably chilly it got overnight. I didn't check the temperature, but I would say it was in the high 40's. Not that bad, really. But I was staying warm with a regular old household comforter, and it wasn't to warm. But I got my shut-eye, sleeping from about 11:20 until about 03:57. My alarm was set for 04:00. Go figure. I do remember waking up shivering at 02:48am. It was strangely damp. Condensation from my respirations. Of course I was only wearing some light cotton shorts and a tee-shirt.

    I got up in the pre-dawn, and drove the 10-12 miles to the park gate. On my way, a rabbit crossed the road in front of me. I had just gotten through saying to myself that he was lucky had four of those rabbits feet, when another one crossed my path in the other direction. At two points on the way to the gate, I stopped to take some pictures. At the second spot, a beautiful setting moon, a tree, a lake, and an glass-like surface created a visual so perfect that I was brought to a halt. Until a duck flew in and hit the water, disturbing my reflecting pool. :)

    At this point, I am going to break for my hike, and continue this log later.

    The day is now done, and it's time to record the day's events.

    When I got into the park, it was 6:00am exactly. The sun had been rising for two hours, and I was a little disappointed that I lost two hours of daylight waiting to get in, but, I was the very first person to get into the park, so I can't complain about that! When I got to the gate house, I discovered that the temperature had been in the mid-30's overnight. No wonder I was chilly.

    Since I was the first person into the park today, I was treated to my day’s first treat, a cow moose. The cow was standing right in the middle of the road, as I made my way the 9 miles from the gatehouse to the Roaring Brook campground. I had to stop and wait about 2 minutes for the cow to stop staring at this intruder and wander off through the forest. Then I continued on to Roaring Brook. When I got to Roaring Brook, all I could think of was how glad I was going to be to hit the trail. I signed in at the ranger station, and after assuring the ranger that I was fully prepared to spend the night on the mountain if I got lost, I headed out. I think the ranger thought I was going to go bushwhacking, which I assured him I was not.

    The Knife Edge was closed due to ice on the ridge when I left Roaring Brook, but status updates were going to be available at Chimney Pond later. I wasn't going across Knife Edge anyway! My goal for the day was the Saddle Trail, or as far up it as I could get before the halfway point in the day.

    Off I go. I moved quickly (for me) through the woods, passing past some beautiful scenery. As much as I wanted to stop for picture-taking, I mostly resist the urge, knowing I've "been there, done that" before. What awaits is what I haven't already seen!

    About 45 minutes in, I stop for a break. I applied some 100% Deet, to deal with the pesky black fly and mosquito problem. I decide it's a good time to apply some sunscreen as well, since there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Or what I could see of the sky, anyway, since I was almost entirely covered by treetops. After that, and a handful of gorp, I'm on my way again.

    I was keenly aware during this part of my journey that at some point I was passing the spot where the legendary wildlife photographer Bill Silliker took his last steps, and his last breaths. It was only a few months before that one of my photographic heroes had died, on this same, exact, trail. I stopped at my now "regular" spot to reflect on that, admire the view, and then pushed on.

    I reached Basin Pond in very good time. I realized how different Basin Pond looks in the early morning light, compared to the evening light, with the shadow of Baxter Peak over it. I snap a couple of shots to record the observation, and push on again.

    Occasionally, I am being passed by a few folks headed up. Though I'm making excellent time, for me, I am being outpaced by a few small groups, many nearly teens. Shortly after passing Dry Pond, I was passed by a Ranger. During this time I was questioning my wisdom about being out here "at my age" and "in my condition." I know what that is, my attitude is getting a little tired. I recognize this as the first sign of fatigue. I grab a handful of gorp, a few sips of water, and give my knees a 2-minute break. With the attitude re-adjusted, and feeling less fatigued, I stand up and head up again.

    One of the great ironies of this pastime is that up is easier than down, at least on the body, if not the mind. Stepping up and over rocks and boulders for hours on end may be fatiguing, and hard, but down is harder on the joints.

    I recognize the area around me, and just as I realize I must be close, I break through a section of the trail to spy the log bridge that marks the 3-mile mark, with Pamola Peak and Baxter Peak proudly displayed above the forest on the left. If someone had never hiked here before, this is the spot where you get your first good view, and the view is breathtaking. The sheer mass of it, the vertical walls drop drastically from the two peaks, separated only by the 2-foot wide Knife Edge. I eagerly decide to wait here, to see if anyone else comes by me who hasn't seen it before. The reactions of those who do are always entertaining. No one does. There are probably only two or three dozen hikers in the entire 220,000+ acre park. I pose for one photo here, and then I'm off again. It's about half a mile to Chimney Pond, and I arrive there quickly. Time from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond, 3 hours. Not to bad, if I do say so myself. Sure, some make it in two, I know, but they aren't lugging 280 pounds of self, and a 25-pound pack. I wonder if I ever could have made it even here when I was 400+ pounds. I sincerely believe if I had even tried it, it might well have been the last thing I ever tried. A brief break at Chimney Pond of about 20-30 minutes for water and a couple more handfuls of gorp, and I sign out at the ranger station, headed up the Saddle Trail.

    I am mentally reminding myself now "There -IS- now easy way up Katahdin." I know this because of my own experience, and because it says so on the Baxter State Park brochures. Katahdin is a place for people who WANT to be challenged. And you get it here, in spades. Up the Saddle Trail I go.

    It's not to long before I realize just how much more difficult the Saddle Trail is. Okay, I grant you it's not the Abol Trail, but it's probably twice as hard as the Chimney Pond Trail from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond. About as vertical as the worst spots on the Chimney Pond trail (consistently), about twice as rocky, with rocks about 4-20x the size. Much slower going. I pass a rock with "1/4" painted on it in blue paint. Not an encouraging sign! I had wanted to make the top of Saddle today, but it is closing in on noon, and my turn-around time is 1:00pm. I try to pick up the pace, but am unable. My body is betting beaten up like it's never been beaten up before. I've started getting calf-muscle cramps and ankle problems. Still, I push on. When I reach a small brook, I decide it's time to stop, take stock, refuel, and consider. I take my boots off, and my wool socks. I turn the socks inside out, and lay them across a sunny rock face to dry. I find a nice boulder I can sit on and dangle my feet in the water, and pull out my wide-brim hat, to keep the sun off my head.

    Voraciously, I down a couple of small Slim-Jims I had in my pack, and a few handfuls of gorp. I eye the can of BBQ Vienna sausages in my pack. I ponder the odds of eating them quickly enough to keep the bears from getting a good whiff and making an appearance. I quickly slaughter the sausages, and just as quickly wash my hands in the brook. I quickly pack the now-empty can in an airtight Ziploc baggie and pack it away. No point in needlessly attracting the bears. Being bare of foot, and lame of leg, I would never get away. A 280-lb hiker would be a nice snack for one of the parks Black Bears.

    It was at this point where I decided I was basically done with "up" for the day. I did drop my pack, and went far enough up the trail so that I could look up at the rockslide. Being that that is my next goal, I thought it would be a good idea to go get a look at it. Then I scurried back to my pack, and headed back to Chimney Pond. The odd thing is it only took me about an hour to get back to Chimney Pond from the brook. I guess I allowed too much time to get back to Chimney Pond because I got back there in about an hour. Sometimes, too, just having been over a trail once, though, makes it seem to go much faster the next time, you seem to move faster. I guess I had enough time to get part-way up the slide (all the way???) after all. Who knew? Next time!

    When I get back to Chimney Pond, I decide to just relax for a few hours, and hang out. I had some gorp, drank some water, and took a little nap. At 3:15, I signed out for Roaring Brook, and headed back down the Chimney Pond trail to my truck.

    I headed down the Chimney Pond trail with thoughts of stopping for awhile at Basin Pond, and dangling my toes in the water for awhile. Swimming -is- allowed in Basin Pond, and while the idea is appealing, I've done it once, last October. The water temperature of Basin Pond in October? 43*. Watching my friend Dave's reaction when he hit that water? Priceless. This is a guy who doesn't swim, doesn't like the water, and by gum if he does, it better be close to body temperature. The ONLY reason -I- got in that day was because he said he would if I would. Rarely one to pass on a dare (*GRIN*), I eased myself in, and dove under. When I came back to the surface, he just started at me and said "You BASTARD!". Ha-ha. He did it, he jumped in, but he was ONE UNHAPPY HIKER! We both agreed to get out quickly, since neither of us was interested in a good case of hypothermia.

    Anyway, on this day, I just wanted to rest my feet. The water was predictably cold, which was wonderful. After 15 or 20 minutes, I headed back down. I quickly reached Halfway Rock. Again, it was surprising how quickly I got there. I never even saw it on my way up. Went right by it and never noticed it.

    By the time I got to the last mile, the days activities were taking their toll on me, mentally. I was tired, and moving mechanically. A great way to make great time...unless it leads to injuries. I noted early on that I nearly tripped several times, and consider myself fortunate enough to quickly realize that the reason wasn't because the rangers had put rocks in my way, ("Those Bastard!") but because I wasn't picking my feet up. I was ---tired---. I slowed my pace down, and made a game of stepping around or over various obstacles. It was still difficult, just because I was getting so tired. But I did, in fact, return safely to Roaring Brook at 6:00pm. Total time from Chimney Pond to Roaring Brook, about 2:45. Distance, 3.5 miles. That includes 15-30 minutes spent at Basin Pond, which was my only stop on the way down. I was passed only once by two men shortly after Basin Pond. They told me that they had gone up Hamlin Ridge, across the Ridge, and down the Saddle. They didn't mention if they went to Baxter Peak or not. I suspect not.

    I have never, and I mean NEVER, been so physically exhausted in my life. I got my pack off, and my boots, and got some sandals on. Ahhhh. I laid down on my back, in the back of my truck, with my legs dangling out of the tailgate. It's a wonder I didn't fall asleep right there. :-)

    When I got back to Millinocket, I stopped at Subway for a sandwich. I wasn't really hungry, which is insane. But I knew I should eat, and I should eat soon. I knew I should eat something, and something reasonably close to healthy. So Subway it was. I have never had a sandwich taste so good, and told them that. I suspect they get their fair share of hungry hikers in there.

    One minor note. When I was leaving Medway, I stopped at the Irving Mainway convenience store to use the restroom. As I was pulling in to the station, I saw something you would only see in a place like Maine. Two moose, a bull and a cow, standing in the middle of the parking lot, between the two islands of gas pumps. Just standing there, watching the traffic go by. I got out of my truck after I parked, and they headed out around the store, and disappeared up over the hill and into the forest behind the store. Shaking my head, I grinned the single biggest grin of the day.

    Some thoughts on the day:

    They opened the gate at 6:00am.
    I hit the trail at 6:30am.
    Sunup was about 04:30am.
    If I had been at Roaring Brook then, I would have had a 2-hour head start.
    If I had started at Chimney Pond, by sleeping in a lean-to the night before, I would have had a 5-hour head start.
    I packed the right amount of water (4 liters)...2.2 pounds per liter = 8.8 pounds of water.
    I drank 2 liters from a separate bottle before leaving Roaring Brook (4.4 pounds).
    Total water intake for the day: 13.2 pounds, 6 liters.
    Food on the trail: 1 sandwich bag of gorp, 6 SMALL Slim-Jims, 1 can BBQ Vienna Sausages, 1 single-serving bag of gummy-bears.
    Food after the trail (Subway). 1 12" tuna salad sandwich, 1 single-serving bag baked Doritos, 1 medium soda with 2 refills.
    Total weight change for the day: +2.4 pounds (INCLUDING all water/food/etc).

    Just goes to show that even though I drank 13.2 pounds of water, plus that food, since I only gained 2.5 pounds over the course of the day, how much water I must have evacuated either through evaporation, perspiration, and excretion (which wasn't much, let me tell you).

    I went through some real highs, and some real lows, on this hike. I had some cramps, some pains, and a lot of fatigue. But on the whole, I had a great day, and felt content that I had been pushing myself hard enough, but not to hard. I was reasonably satisfied with my performance for the day. And it was a beautiful Class 1 day on the mountain.

    What more could you ask for?

    BootJockey / Dave
    “Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells 'CAN'T", but you don't listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper 'can'. And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.”

  2. #2
    An amazing report and adventure.


  3. #3
    Invisible Soul
    Great story man once I started I couldnt stop reading. Sounds like you have a nice hike though.

    I can't wait to test myself on Katahdin this summer hopefully.

  4. #4
    great report, my friend. i really look forward to doing katahdin again. your report brings back fond memories. this time, however, i'd like to do the knife's edge, which at the time of our last hike was closed due to snow and ice.


  5. #5
    That was an awesome trip report. Keep up the good work. Sounds like lots of fun.


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