To my surprise, the park ranger at Katahdin was expecting me. Crank, Boss, and Spammy had told her to watch for Madelyn from Maine: she would be coming soon. Two weeks earlier, near Bethel, Maine, I met two day hikers who were friends of this ranger and apparently told her to look for an AT hiker, Madelyn from Maine. They had given me a bag of great snacks to keep me going that day. The word spreads quickly on the AT Trail!
There is a neat system for northbound thru-hikers when you check in at Katahdin Stream Campground. You leave your heavy pack and you pick up a light day pack to use for the difficult last day of hiking. There is a small campsite reserved for AT thru-hikers, out of sight at Katahdin Stream, and I spent the night there. That evening a young couple arrived and we all shared the last night talking about our experiences. The next morning I left alone while the others were sleeping. I went to the ranger station, signed in the log book—August 7th, 2009 for the AT Trail—and donned the borrowed light day pack. Without my heavy pack, I made good time. I headed up the Hunt Trail on that clear sunny morning, knowing that my husband would be driving most of that day to pick up my heavy pack at one end of the park, then drive to the other side to meet me and welcome me home.
The trail follows Katahdin Stream for a while, crosses over a bridge, and heads straight up to the caves and then the boulders on the Hunt Spur. I did well until I got to the boulders: I couldn’t find any white blazes, and it was very difficult to climb up this granite face of mass boulders. After finally finding a few handholds, I maneuvered my way past this place, and then it was manageable and leveled out to the Tableland. The views in all directions were spectacular that morning, as 2.4 miles are above tree line. The tableland is a true plateau; at a junction is Thoreau Springs at 4, 636 feet. It is named for Henry David Thoreau, who climbed this mountain in 1846. He loved to hike in Maine, and wrote extensively about his experiences in the Maine wilderness.
The elevation gain from Katahdin Stream Campground to Baxter Peak is 4,188’, making it a difficult 8-9 hours of hiking. I reached Baxter Peak, top of Katahdin, at 10 am. There was no one there for a while and I wanted a photo or two of this great finish of my 4 months of hiking. Several small groups arrived, and someone graciously volunteered to take my picture, which you can see at the top of this blog post. It was one of the mildest, clearest days I ever experienced at the top. Later, coming down Saddle Trail, I encountered a thunder storm, but since I was off the massive tableland and below tree line, I was not threatened from exposure.
When I got close to Roaring Brook, I met up with friends who came to congratulate me. Then my husband had brought a cooler of food! I was ready to hit the road for a long ride home, and I wondered if home would seem strange to me. For me, I am glad that climbing Katahdin came last on the AT Trail. It is such an awesome, grand mountain that it is a perfect place to complete the Appalachian Mountain Trail, and I had walked home to Maine.
(posted October 6, 2015)