Ten months after finishing my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, I made my return to the mountains, if only for a weekend.
At home in Ohio, I've missed both the trees and the scenic vistas of that left coast trail I lived on for 6 months. With just a little bit of planning and a whole helping of good luck I found what I had been missing on my way to the top of Mt. Katahdin.
Higher than all points in Maine at its peak, Mt. Katahdin provides a 360-degree view of unobstructed wilderness.
On the east coast there are dozens of 4,000 to 6,000 foot peaks that provide a cinematic view. What attracted me to Katahdin specifically, was a particular route that matches the view with a memorable challenge.
There are multiple routes to the top of Mt. Katahdin. The first of which was completed in 1804 (Abol Trail). The most difficult of the routes will incorporate the 1.1 mile Knife Edge between Pamola and Baxter peak.
Knife Edge is a sobering rock scramble that will force even an experienced tightrope walker to use their hands. Most will spend a significant portion of this section on their hands and knees or butt. Several times on this stretch a hiker will have to raise and lower themselves vertically to continue forward.
This 1.1 mile section took me every bit of two hours to cross with two in shape friends from college.
As I mentioned, there are multiple route to the top of Katahdin. There are also multiple routes that incorporate Knife Edge. What's shown above is the combination of routes we took. From the Roaring Brook Campground we took the Helon Taylor trail to Pamola Peak. From there we took Knife Edge to Baxter Peak. Then down the mountain we took the Saddle trail to the Chimney Pond trail back to the Roaring Brook Campground where we parked the car. In total the 11 trail miles took us everybit of 10 engaged hours (we were not slacking). (My buddies fitbit suggested we walked between 13-20 actual miles)
Our good luck hiking this mountain came from both man and Mother Nature.
First, the night before, Randy (and Jennifer) from the cabin next door urged us to get to the mountain early. This helped two ways:
One, it helped us grab one of the 60 or so parking spots at the Roaring Brook campground. Being Labor Day weekend there were no more than a couple parking spots left.
Two, that extra hour earlier we got to the mountain saved us an hour of hiking in the rain to end the day.
Just as we got back to the car, the rain started coming down.
Rain for most of our route would not have put us in eminent danger. But encountering rain on Knife Edge is likely fatal. Even if you don't fall to your death slipping off a wet rock, exposure to the elements while staying in place entirely exposed will do the rest. We were oh so lucky to avoid the rain.
Why did I write this article?
Mt. Katahdin via Knife Edge is an A+ hike. If you're a weekend warrior or casual hiking enthusiast that can't commit to a thru-hike, here's a chance to skip right to one of the best day hikes in this country.
To find the rest I need your help: What other unforgettable day hikes are in this country?