The highest point in Maine was my goal to climb and offered a good chance to test my knees again. My call to do a mid-week hike only got one taker, James Streitman. The hill did not disappoint: 10.4 miles, 4188′ vertical in just under 10 hrs. A grueling 10 hours for me, and James was kind enough to slow his pace to stay with me, especially on the descent. We took the Hunt Trail from Katahdin Stream Campground to the broad expanse near the summit. The Hunt Trail, which is the end of the Appalachian Trail, starts out gently but steepens dramatically, culminating in a boulder traverse of 700′ called the Hunt Spur, until you do the last 900′ in 1.6 miles on a broad plateau (Tableland). This is a final 5.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and we saw a number of joyful finishers near and at the top. What a culminating trail for the magnificent 2160-mile trek! To quote the Baxter State Park Planning Guide:
5.2 miles one-way Elevation gain 4,188 ft
The Hunt trail is one of the more popular trails to the summit of Katahdin. This is because of the outstanding features along the trail such as picturesque Katahdin Stream Falls, the Boulders on Hunt Spur, the traverse of the Tableland, and extensive views in all directions, as 2.4 miles of the trail is above tree line.
Difficulty level: Very Strenuous
Trailhead Parking lot: Katahdin Stream Campground
Here is the GPS track with stats from James’ watch.
After driving from Boston to Long Pond separately, we got up early from my camp on Long Pond to drive the 3 hours to reach the Togue Pond Gate near the opening time of 6am. After driving to the Katahdin Stream Campground, we started on flat terrain at 7am. There were a couple dicey places at the foot of the boulders on Hunt Spur. Finally when he reached the Tableland, we could see the summit, which we reached just shy of noon. The wind had picked on the Hunt Spur, and I donned my coat and converto leg bottoms to have some nourishment. Coming down Hunt Spur was easier than going up but still slow. Almost~ as slow for me was the long stretch down to Katahdin Stream Falls, after which the trail flattens. I was beat after getting back to the campground, where we had dinner and slept from dark to sunrise at tent site #24. Quite pleasant as I brought two sleeping bags for the cool night, 45 degrees in the morning. We headed home early, so James could beat the traffic in Boston and got to listen to the entire interview by Sam Harris on The Nature of Consciousness, A Conversation with Thomas Metzinger. Stopping at the camp was a good way to split the driving and hiking. Camping was fine. We saw lots of good colors on the drive back, which looked better in the daylight. The hike was indeed a slog for me, but my knees did well. The hike was exhilarating and exhausting; I am sore but happy to have done it—once.
Summary: 10.4 miles and 4188′ vertical rise in 10 hrs.