Sunday, 9/27

AT Miles = 5.2 / 2178.3
Other Miles = 5.2 / 68.3
Total Miles = 10.4 / 2246.6

Miles to Katahdin = 0.0

Jodi and I were up at 4:45, hit the drive-thru at McDonalds (I know, I
know) at 5:00 when it opened, and were at the gate of Baxter State
Park by about 5:40. It was much warmer outside than it had been on
Saturday, but the sky was grey and threatening and the air was full of
moisture. There was no line today, and in fact we were only the second
car headed for Katahdin Stream Campground.

It was not quite light enough to hike when we arrived, so we parked
the car and ate or McDonalds breakfast. I went off to use the privy,
then we started to get our gear together to hike. Just then I heard a
familiar voice say “Is that Monkeywrench?” Well damn, it was Slagline.
I had last seen Slagline at the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon PA. At that
time he took some time off to spend with his fiancee. While I was home
letting my knees recover from the pounding they had taken in the
Whites, Slagline had gotten ahead of me and I had been seeing his name
in shelter registers which showed him 4 or 5 days ahead of me. I
figured he had already summited, but it turns out he had been hanging
out in Millinocket waiting for his fiance and another hiking friend to
come up and met him. He and his friend Gray were climbing Katahdin
today too.

After chatting for a few minutes we set off up the Hunt Trail, which
is the route the AT uses to get to the summit of Katahdin. We signed
in at the trailhead at 6:25. Jodi and I were moving a bit faster than
Slagline and Gray, so we soon left them behind. I let Jodi set the
pace, since she did not have six months of hiking to get her into
shape. We were trying not to push too hard, but at the same time did
not want to dawdle as we wanted to get up and down at least past the
worst of the rock scrambles before the rain came in. Jodi did an
awesome job, and we made steady progress up the rocks of the Hunt Spur
and finally over The Gateway until we were on the Table Land.
Amazingly it hadn’t yet started raining. We took a short break and
pushed on the last mile and a half across the Table Land and up to
Baxter Peak. Just as we arrived at the peak the wind picked up and a
huge bank of fog poured over the ridge and enveloped us.

Jodi was very cold and we lingered only long enough to take a few
photos and then turned around and headed back down. As we got back
down to the Table Land the wind eased and before dropping over The
Gateway and starting the downclimb of all the rocks, we took another
short break for snacks and water. Climbing down the rocks is always
harder than climbing up, especially for me with my gimpy knees. For
most of the climb down Jodi was actually having to wait for me. We
managed to get down most of the tough parts before it finally started
raining lightly, around 12:30. We signed out at the trailhead register
at 2:18 in the afternoon. On the way down we met Slagline’s fiancee
hiking up the trail a bit hoping to meet him and his friend Gray
coming down. Amazingly, she had had open heart surgery just four weeks
ago! When we told her that Slagline and Gray were at least an hour and
most likely an hour and a half or more behind us, she turned around
and walked back to her car to wait for them.

On the way up Jodi kept asking me how it felt, and I kept telling her
that we weren’t there yet. Well, when we finally reached the peak it
felt amazing. I couldn’t stop grinning, in spite of the cold. Some
other hikers that were already there congratulated me, and as we were
hiking down we passed several other thru-hikers on their way up. Lots
of high fives and hand shakes ensued.

Allen F. Freeman