Katahdin 1998

My participation on Gonzo hikes was limited to day hikes during the fall bike tours until the spring of '95, when around 10 of us followed Bruce Duffy down to Katahdin and put in a glorious hike up Helon Taylor to Baxter Peak. That was my first look at Chimney Pond, and my favorite views are always from on high looking down, especially where there is water concerned (ie: Lakes of the Clouds). The next spring was spent doing the Presidential section of the White Mountains (first multiple hiking day trip) and last spring, late snow aborted a return trip to Chimney Pond and sent us for 2 days into the Whites.

My favorite type of hiking involves over-nights where all your gear is carried on your back. I spend a little time before and after each trip trying to figure out what I should do or pack different for the next trip. For me a dream trip would allow for day hiking from a camped location. So if you add up the site chosen, the people involved, and the type of hiking/camping; this trip had all the makings of being a memorable one.

I have my packing down to a nice list, but still get quite a bit of enjoyment out of the planning and anticipation, so packing takes place over 2 nights and I try to upgrade or add a piece of gear for each trip. This time I decided to acquire my own day pack and chose a very simple 20 liter bag that would carry lunch and clothing for day hikes, along with my now ever-present bum-bag for light gear (knife, sun lotion, whistle, flashlight, compass) and water.

As usual, we had different groups of people leaving from various sites on different days. There were a number of Gonzo kids involved as well as connections to "Gonzos from away" I traveled on Friday with Larry, Emma, Norm and BruceD. Gordon, GregV and Phil left early Friday morning. Ross, Kirsten and Shelly left Saturday. Robert, Sue and Keith left from Montreal, on Saturday as well.


We're on the road by 11:00 as some of us had to put in a little work time and with lunch and pit stops, we hit Millinocket by supper time, get some beer and groceries, get in a pool swim and pizza dinner, and retire early. Part of the trip and evening were spent taking turns defending gear selections. Points were lost for packing technique (food in multiple places, rain gear at the bottom of the pack), for cotton and excess clothing


Breakfast is buffet-style at 5:30 and really good. Into the park, setup the pickup vehicle and we're off up Abol, aiming to Baxter Peak, then down Hunt for the day. There is some stiff hiking getting up, including some large scree and a fair bit of heat and bugs.

Larry and Emma fell a little behind, but as the next 3 days showed, Emma had picked up even more stamina than last year, and still had her speed. Larry's job is to make sure she doesn't hurt herself as she finds her limits.

It took quite a while to get to the tableland and we had our first chance to try out the group water filter at Thoreau Spring. The little engine is a marvel. Easy to setup, use and cleanup, plus it's light and quite fast. The peak was a bit anti-climactic, as the fun is always in getting there. The cloud cover kept moving so the scenery was always interesting. Chimney Pond looked like a little jewel, all surrounded by steep rock that we were intending to climb up or down in the next few days.

We stopped for lunch, while Gordon and Phil did a quick sprint over to Pamola's Peak. I had a nice snooze and enjoyed the view. Everyone got caught in a quick downpour and we had to start back down before everyone got cold. A few of us waited for Gordon and Phil, as they had minimal gear on and we needed to keep the group connected for safety reasons.

The trip down Hunt was long and at times difficult. The cloud cover kept rolling in and out, which made for some stunning views. My favorite was about way down, on a small hip, with the cloud obscuring all but the view of the hikers directly in front of me. The next was a small pit stop with clear air all the way across to Owl Mountain, except for small, puffy clouds floating about. The hike through the woods at the bottom was a real treat. We stopped at Katahdin Falls, and I was so hot and sticky that I walked into the stream, clothes, footwear and all. Nice cold water.

Back to the motel to match up with the Montreal crew and Ross's brood. Lots of chatter and catching up, then off to a big Chinese buffet. We talked the waitress into dumping some water on Robert, just to keep the streak alive. After dinner, we went through the canoe guys' packs (Ben and Bernie). Man, they pack tons of stuff. Canned goods galore, spare cotton shirts and pants, milk, you name it. Maybe we should call it camel-packing instead of backpacking. Lots of fun.


Another quick brekkie (minus the Mitchell crew) and off to Roaring Brook. Gordon, Phil, Greg, Sue, Robert and Keith headed up Helon Taylor, as they were set to do the loop to Saddle and return to camp. The rest of us headed up Saddle towards Chimney Pond to stay in the Adirondacks. It's a nice hike through the woods, and once there, we all settled in for a little break and some lunch. My ever so temperamental stove started spewing fuel again, so I had to borrow a tool and soak the generator in my fuel bottle for the afternoon. Will have to get more serious for next trip. It's a little embarrassing, especially with all those MSR guys around.

We had a pumping party at the pond, waiting for the cloud cover to lift. Ben and Bernie had never been there, so their first glimpse of the range was quite a treat. Ben was itching to climb something, so while some of the crew decided to do a light hike to the local caves, the rest of us picked the Cathedral trail. It's a fairly difficult, straight up hike and we were lucky enough to get some very clear peak and ridge views along the way. To say that Ben enjoyed himself would be an understatement. The man got a trail name as fast as you can say "mountain dancer". I don't know if any of us were ever that young and fit. We had a hard time identifying the 2 cathedrals and actually, we had to wait until we returned to base camp. We had a bit of trouble with Ben getting so far ahead of the group that we didn't connect where we should have, but it all worked out in the end.

Back at camp, we saw Robert and Sue off, as they had come down Dudley. It looks like Gordon, Greg and Keith did a very quick loop and returned home early. A bunch of us went down to the wash area to see about getting wet, and lo and behold, we introduced 4 new members to the Gonzo Swim team (Ben, Bernie, BruceD and Larry). Brought a tear to my eyes, it did. Back to camp for a little pumping party, some dinner, a tea party later in the evening, a trip to the bear line and early to bed.


I awoke at 5:00 to a beautiful, clear blue sky, Could see the entire ridge from my bunk and had to get up. Down to the beach to make some porridge and coffee. The view was absolutely stunning. Really made the entire trip worthwhile. Of course the cloud rolled in, but that's part of the charm. The excitement level was high, as this was the day for the Knife's Edge. We all set off in high spirits and the climb up Dudley was really a treat, moving through the woods, then over rocks and little streams up to the edge of the tree line. The views back across the South Basin were special. The distance was covered in a layer of cloud, but the local terrain was either clear or just clearing and it was a beautiful morning. The heat seemed to increase with the height and we were searching for shade wherever possible.

We all reached Pamola's Peak about the same time and ran into a group of Amish? people also about to go around the ridge, heavy denim pants, long dresses and all. Considering that we had some newbies, we took it pretty easy up and down the Chimney and along the Knife's Edge. The weather was perfect, and everyone seemed to get a buzz from this section of the hike. The stretch from South Peak to Baxter Peak was hot and loaded with bugs of all sizes, shapes and colors. People coming the other way suggested getting off the peak 100 meters or so to find a breeze, and that's what we did. The other canoe guy on the trip (Bernie) got himself a quick trail name as well (Imax) as he was carrying some 10 pounds of camera gear that he felt compelled to use at every opportunity.