8/21 Katahdin Stream Campground to Baxter Peak (Northern Terminus of AT) to Roaring Book Campground (5.2 AT miles, 9.5 total miles)
We had planned to leave by 5am this morning but none of our alarms went off due to user error, so we didn’t end up heading out until 5:30. We arrived at the park entrance at around 6 and there was a pretty big line (as the ranger had warned yesterday) to get into the park. We ended up getting to the base of the mountain at around 7am. This is later than we had planned, but there was nothing we could do about it at that point.
The hike up was mostly how I remembered it. The first mile is not to steep, but then it gets steeper and more difficult, until you hit a false summit plateau (it even has a sign to fool you). All of us (including my dad) were making pretty good time up the mountain, but the higher we got the more that we realized there would not be much of a view from the summit, since it would be clouded in. We also felt the wind picking up and temperatures dropping. I had to put a rain coat on (pretty unusual for me) about 700 feet from the summit.We enjoyed a few good views before we became completely fogged in on the southern half of the mountain (there were still some views off the northern side). But we started passing people who were descending from the top, and knew how close we were to the finish.
We finally reached the top, I went directly over to the sign and finished the trail. It was pretty cold and windy up there so we immediately went about taking our summit photos. It was pretty disappointing to not have many views from the top, but there’s no way to make the weather co-operate. It was pretty surreal standing there in the photo that I had imagined taking for the last 5 months.
Unlike most other thru hikers, we decided to descend the north side of the mountain over Knife Edge, which is a very narrow ridgeline across the summit. At the start we we got to look down on Chimney Pond, which was really pretty, but other than that we were totally fogged in, but still could tell that there were very substantial drops.
Th trail was probably the 2nd hardest mile that I have done yet. It was very rocky, hilly, and required numerous rock scrambles. The very very strong winds (sometimes you couldn’t hear yourself talk) and significant fog made the climbing even more challenging. It was once again disappointing that there weren’t any views, but the fog also made the hiking really cool.
We finally reached the end of the Knife Edge trail and the northern peak, and began our descent down. Luckily, we quickly got below the clouds and were able to get some truly spectacular views.
I still haven’t fully processed finishing the trail, but there are definitely mixed emotions. I may put up another post about finishing the trail in the next month or so.