Thursday, August 29, 2013

Katahdin with Mom!

We were hoping to accomplish a couple things in Maine while still living in the Northeast, and Mom agreed to join us for the journey, so we took a long weekend to make the long drive over to the big state of green forests, beautiful lakes, and remote mountains.

First stop - Auburn/Lewiston to run a race.  I've done a couple events in Maine but John has always run support for me (and Mom), so it was time for John to do a race in Maine too.

We picked a 5K to make it easy.  Except both of us had nagging little foot/ankle things going on.  How is it possible we could mess up a 5K?  Happily everything felt fine that morning and we had a lot of fun with a short run over bridges and through the park and town streets.  It was great seeing all the different types of people out there for the race, both ends of the age and fitness spectrums, and it was a beautiful morning to get outside.

Goal #1 = done!  That makes "State #24" for our racing career:

Mom was having issues of her own that morning, with back spasms making it hard to walk.  Luckily she was OK for sitting, so the driving was fine and we started north for the hinterlands.

On the way we found Paul Bunyan....

Driving through Millinocket and toward Baxter State Park we started catching views of the large Katahdin massif through the trees, although it was difficult to capture on camera.

Keep Maine Beautiful (by painting on the rocks, I guess):

Ah, now that is a view.  Baxter Peak (our goal) is the highest point in the middle:

John Bunyan:

We drove past many beautiful lakes that made me consider wanting to paddle a little:

Katahdin Stream Campground was peaceful and pretty, with a lovely stream making gurgling sounds to lull us to sleep:

We had a nice view of the mountain from the campground, but when we tried to take a selfie with it, the lighting didn't work (our faces must be too pale).  I think everyone will appreciate what we did to compensate:

We got up super early to get a nice head start on the big climb.  The first mile is so nice and easy, up until crossing the creek.  Then the rocks kicked in.

We climbed up through the trees, up some excellent stairs (someone has done a marvelous job with the trail maintenance through here), and further up among the rocks.  Occasionally we had a view of the surrounding countryside, a reminder of the beauty of Maine.

Mom wasn't sure how her back would hold up, but she started out and it seemed OK.

In the Ranger Station there was a map with various animal sightings listed (moose, e.g.).  Here is our version - all of these spotted on the Hunt Trail:

One squirrel chattering at us while trying to eat a morsel of food
One toad hurrying off the trail
Two ants (separate sightings) crawling on rocks
Two slugs (one squished, one almost flattened by Mom's hand)
One grasshopper that seemed really lost amid a rock field
One Boreal Chickadee that Mom ID'd on the hike down
And our highlight - one raven flying around us and calling through the mist

The higher we got, the more rocks we were climbing over:

Then we broke out above treeline and things got real.  Real views, a real good look at the low clouds over the mountain, and some real scrambling over rocks.  Including some rungs to help people up and around the trickier spots.

John was real excited about this part:

One of our last views for the day:

It was chilly and windy - time for more clothes:

We made it over the short section with the rungs with me and Mom wondering what we might have gotten ourselves into.  The good thing is that was perhaps the most technical part of the climb, except we didn't know that at the time.

The challenge was that the low clouds quickly got lower and we were soon engulfed in blowing mist and fog.  So we couldn't see how far we had to go.  Maybe that was a good thing, actually.

We could focus on each boulder puzzle as we came upon it.  John helped us figure out how to climb up, and Mom did great pulling herself up the larger rocks.

A section in the middle even flattened out somewhat, for more hiking vs. scrambling.

The last portion of steepness returned to more interesting hands-on travel, then suddenly we were at the Tablelands.  Sweet!

Now we could just walk through the cloud, following a mostly-flat trail for another mile and a half or so.  The wind was really whipping through here, throwing rain-type moisture at us as it went by.  It was wet and pretty cold and I don't know how some people were hiking in shorts.

A cairn/Karen pose:

Mom started questioning how far we might still have to go, worrying about hypothermia possibilities.  I asked her if she was suffering?  Really I was just concerned with how she was feeling, but both Mom and John took this question to mean, "if it's only moderately bad, keep going."  I may not live this one down.

She asked us to go on ahead to see how far it was to the top, as we could see only a short way in front of us in the mist.  There was a bit of a climb at the end that warmed us up nicely, then we found the sign at the top!

Here we are!

We went back to report to Mom, and she had been moving well herself.  There were only 6 cairns in between her and the top, so that was enough motivation to make it all the way there.

Mom did her version of "oh thank goodness, I made it" with the summit sign (comparison photo further down):

My camera was starting to get fogged up with moisture but at least I managed a half-decent summit selfie:

Then the sun popped out for 5 seconds!  Then it was gone.

Time to get back down and out of this cloud.  We made our way back across the Tablelands and to the drop-off into the boulders again.  John was again a huge help, and Mom surprised us by needing less assistance on the descent.  John found the route and Mom found a way to hang on and slide down, not pausing at all for the trickier sections.

Cairns (and a brief glimpse of John) in the fog:

The metal rungs were a bit of a challenge but we were motivated to get back to treeline just below.  No problem, with some great help from John:

Back in the trees!  Now just a long, steep, rocky trail down the side of the mountain.

A funny little mushroom (and a note that my camera had a moisture spot that wouldn't dry out until later):

The beautiful Katahdin Stream Falls - we really liked this spot:

You're almost there, Mom!  Doing great!

At the junction with The Owl Trail:

Mom decided she wanted to finish in less than 10 hours, so we hustled back the final mile and made it in 9:59.  Well done!

One final selfie with the cloud-over-the-mountain.  Yeah, we could have gotten our pale faces out of the way again, but this time that wouldn't make the mountain any more visible.  It was socked in for the day.

Woo hoo, we made it!

We headed to the Appalachian Trail Cafe in Millinocket to celebrate.  It's a great little place with good food, nice photos, and a bunch of AT-related stuff.

We thought this was apt for our day on Katahdin:

The photo that Mom was emulating, in fog and everything:

A successful weekend and highpoint #15 for us:

One last "big statue" to bookend our drive to/from Maine - a sculpture in honor of the last hand crank magneto telephone system in the US.  Probably big enough for Paul Bunyan:

We delivered Mom back to Waterbury and started back to Albany.

One detour for me - a tour of Magic Hat brewery and a little taste of Mardi Gras:

John suggested his detour should be a ferry crossing from Vermont to New York state.  We had not done this before, so it sounded like a great idea.  We had perfect timing to get on the ferry, nice call.

A view of Lake Champlain toward the Adirondacks:

Ferry boat arrival:

On the water with our car on a clear and sunny afternoon.  An excellent way to end an excellent weekend.

An article honoring Dad in the Long Trail News magazine - really nice, thank you Pete!

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