DAY 1, Travel to Baxter State Park.
Left Timberlea at 7:45am. First stop to pick up Chris, then on to Bedford for Greg Vail.
Greg was standing in his driveway with a train of gear lined up the driveway. This reassured Chris & I that if we happen to forget something, Greg was sure to have it.
First stop at Tim's in Elmsdale for some hot liquid, then on to Fredericton for lunch.
After a stand off position with a Ford Tempo we finally got in the Hilltop Tavern & Grill parking lot, only 4 ˝ hrs. after leaving Halifax.
Chris took over the driving from Fredericton. Thus he was in the question and answer seat when we arrived at the border. So the US Customs officer begin to ask us all the familiar questions, what nationally were we, where were we from, where were we going,and how we knew one another. Chris filled him in, and told him we were going to Katahdin, after he corrected Chris on the pronunciation of Katahdin, he asked what was going on down there. Well it was on the tip of Chris's tongue to tell him we were going to a car rally, what else do you do, but hike when you go to Katahdin. Well once he heard we were going hiking, that started the list of food chain that we had with us, everything from beef, fruit, raw chicken & eggs.
We assured him we didn't have any of the above only bananas, and he said bananas were okay to take across. He never asked if we had any guns or weapons of any kind, but more concern that we didn't have any raw chicken & eggs with us.
We arrived in Millinocket mid afternoon in an 84 F. degree heat wave. Stopped at the grocery store for a dozen cold beer, since Greg was wise to bring a cooler along.
Then on to Abol campground to find our camp sites. Chris & Greg took up shop at Lean To 9 & I unpacked at 10.
Greg proceeded to get a fire going, we made a comment on the size of the fire, and his reply was, "that's why they call me FireBall"
After finishing off a couple of beers, Greg tossed them into the fire. I asked him, don't we have to recycle those, he says aluminum cans will burn up to nothing, and the toxic gas they give off goes directly into the ground. No sooner had the cans hit the fire, when in comes the Ranger. Range Stewart was his name, and he check us in, he talked about last winter, and the low spring run off they had this year, and went over the rules of the park.
Just before he left he said "you boys are going to take those cans out of there, and back with you , right? We answered back of yes for sure, once they cool off.
After supper, 3 quick hands of cards, by then it was 9pm. And close to dark so off to bed we went.
DAY 2 --- ABOL TRAIL CLIMB.
Up at 6am, quick breakfast, pack our lunch, and off @ 7:30am up the Abol Trail to Baxter Peak.
The Abol trail takes you through the lower wooded area, to the foot of the mountain. Then it's a quite long difficult, vertical climb, up the rock slide, and Greg was doing this with a 30lb. pack. We found the footing very unstable on all these loose rocks, and were not looking forward to the descent. However the views on the way up were fantastic. You must have been able to see for at least 10 miles to the south & west. The landscape is dotted with numerous long narrow lakes. We finally reached the top of the Abol trail at 11am. Sat down had a drink an a snack, and contemplated on returning via the Hunt trail, even though it would take us 2 miles out of our way. At the top of Abol, is the tablelands, a flat area. We hiked on to Thoreau Springs, and from there up to Baxter Peak. It was a gorgeous day at the summit. Since we decided on returning via the Hunt Trail, Chris and I decided not to do the Knife Edge. There were only about a dozen hikers at the top, and we could only see 2 hikers coming across the Knife Edge. We probably only spent 20 minutes at the summit taking in the expanding view, before heading on down the Saddle Trail to the Baxter Peak Cut-Off Trail, which takes you over to meet up with the Hunt Trail, where we plan to have lunch.
While on the Baxter Peak Cut-Off Trail, we were treated by two fighter jets doing a fly by right overhead, and one did a barrel roll down the other side of the mountain, impressive. At Thoreau Springs we sat down and had lunch. Another couple, from our campground came by, and said that they were not returning via Abol, because it was too steep with the bad footing. After lunch Greg pumped some more water for another hiker from Bangor, who told us he hikes up here 3 times a week. With the sun out full blast now, the temperature was now climbing up to the 80's F.
Proceeding down the Hunt Trail there is an amazing amount of boulders, you have to climb up, around & down, slow going. Finally we made it down to the first level where we stopped for a drink. A guy and his girlfriend climbing up, stopped an asked what it was like at the summit. He proceeded to tell us that they were going to the summit, across the knife edge, and then down the Helon Trail to Roaring Brook, then hitchhiking 14 miles back to Katahdin Springs Campground. His girlfriend was not very impressed, suggesting they should never even started this late in the day.
Once the black flies started to take over our bodies, we promptly got up, and started moving down. More boulders to fight our way over, and I thought to myself "is this easier than Abol, although in one section they planted hand rails for us to use in getting down easier.
Finally we reached tree line, then the long journey down to Katahdin stream, where we pumped some more cool refreshing water, as the temperature was now back over 80 degrees F at this level. Entering the campground we were asked numerous questions on what hike we did, how long did it take us, and what it was like up there, by campers who had just arrived Friday afternoon.
The two mile walk back to Abol was not met with enthusiasm, since no one would pick us up hitchhiking.
We finally arrived back at Abol at 5:20pm. Ending our day which took 9 hrs. & 50 minutes covering 11 miles in total.
Rushed to the cooler for a couple of beers, then cooked supper, made another bonfire, played cards to dark, then off to bed.
DAY 3: The Owl Trail.
We were awaken in the early morning hours to the sound of rain pounding on the lean-to.
However it stopped in time for us to have breakfast, pack up , and head for Katahdin Stream campground. We read the weather forecast posted at the start of the Hunt trail.
80% chance of showers, and the knife edge was closed. We no sooner started on the Hunt trail, and that 80% chance of rain was true to form. We switched over to the Owl trail, a mile into the hike. It was at this point that Greg decided he had enough of this miserable day, and headed back to the campground.
Chris & I continued on in the rain. The Owl trail takes you up some steep climbs, than it l levels off to give you a breather for awhile. It wasn't long before the rain slowed to a drizzle, and we caught up to a hiker with a 40 lb pack on his back, We stopped an asked him whom he might be, and if he was staying overnight at the summit. He answered, well my trail name is Don Quixote. We never did learn his real name. He told us he only had 22 kms of the Appalachian Trail left to do this year, so he was out doing a training hike with a full pack. Chris asked him if he was warm enough in that short sleeve T-shirt. He said yes, and that he always hiked in polyester, he continued by saying "you know Cotton will kill you up here". It was a good think he couldn't see Chris's cotton cabot trail relay shirt under his rain jacket. He also commented, he wasn't wearing any underwear, Chris & I were both enlighten that he shared that information with us.
We finally left him behind, and said to ourselves that we would only go to the tree line, and if we had to climb over wet slippery boulders, we would turn around. So much for that promise.
Soon we were right up into the clouds, with absolutely no views to marvel at.
The Owl trail at this point was directly straight up, and it took you right out to the edge of the head wall for the rest of the climb to the summit. When we were right out along the edge of the mountain, Chris confessed that he was becoming a little un-nerved. He said it was a good thing he couldn't see where he was, because of the cloud cover, or I'd would be going on alone. After a couple of more pitches we finally claimed the summit of one of the ears of the Owl. We were only there for about 10 minutes, when it began to rain again, so we decided that one ear was enough for this year.
On the way down we caught up to Don Quixote, who had turned around when he got to the head wall of the Owl. He commented how glad he was to meet up with us to have company on the descent. About one quarter the way down he took a painful cramp in his right leg. It took him over 5 minutes to work that out, to continue on. We were no more than half way down when he took one in his left leg. In the meantime were getting soaked waiting for him. It was at this point he confessed that he tried to do too much on his first day out hiking this year At last the campground, I looked at my watch and commented to Chris, "that's the first time it took us longer to hike down then to climb up, a mountain. Greg got the car going & heater on for us. Back to our Lean-To to change in dry clothes, and have a hot drink & lunch.
In the afternoon we drove into Millinocket and had dessert at the Apalachian Trail Café.
Back to campground for some beer, dried our clothes over the fire, an skipped supper. Another game of cards, until dark, then off to bed.
DAY 4, RETURN HOME
Awoke Sunday morning with a cold wind blowing, an a 5 deg. Celsius temperature in the Lean-To. Proceeded to pack up the car, and headed for Millinocket to the all you can eat breakfast at the local motel.
Back through the Border, this time we not only had to go through Canadian Customs, but also the US Border Partol was out in full force. It was our first experience with these boys. They were only interested in nationally, and any guns on board, no food this time.
Stopped, at the Big Stop, in Aulac for lunch, and back in Halifax at 5pm.
Game over for another year.