Monday, September 27, 2010

Past Memories - June 2005

Katahdin June 2005 Part 2

When time came to make a decision and move on Josh was set to go down Helon Taylor. He wouldn't talk much and didn't want to stand, eat or move from where he was because he was so scared. He told us we could go on to the Knife edge if we wanted to but he was going down Helon Taylor. I think Mandie and Greg where set to give it a try. I was torn, I wanted to try the Knife edge but I didn't want to leave Josh. I was set to go with him in the end. But he told me I should go with them, help them, guide them. He said he would be fine. I knew he would be fine but I didnt think I would be. I took the map from him and packed it. We headed toward the edge of the Chimney then I turned around and started crying on Joshs chest. I was afraid to do it with out him. I felt I wouldn't make it without him there. It felt wrong, and empty feel of dread, like I would be doing it without one on my feet or hands, like I was doomed to fail.

I could hear Greg behind me. "aww Loni we don't have to go." As much as it felt wrong without Josh I couldn't let Greg and Mandie down, plus I still had a draw to do Knife Edge. I wiped my eyes and began to follow Mandie and Greg down the Chimney. I kept glancing back at Josh at the top as we climbed down. When we were a little more then half way down I heard some one climbing down behind me. I looked up, it was Josh. Very nervous and tight jawed. He said his wolf instinct kicked in and he couldn't leave his pack behind. That and thought of sitting and waiting for us come down off the mountain would have killed him with worry. I was still fighting back tears but felt immensely better with Josh here with me, but at the same time felling horrible for josh because he was terrified.

We got to the bottom of the Chimney and began toward the other side. It started to look more difficult. We started to climb up Mandie, Greg, me then Josh behind me. Before me and Josh started up Greg dropped his walking stick. It missed both of us and we passed it back up. Climbing the rocks up the Chimney was the worst part of the hike so far. I felt too short to reach, wasn't confident of some of my grips and didn't feel comfortable at the angle we had to climb, strait up, not angled forward like Dudley trail. The only comfort and confidence I had at points was that Josh was with me. When we reached the top we all paused except Josh who nervously threw clenched jaw said keep moving. I took the lead with Josh behind me followed by Greg and Mandie. Josh urged me to be careful. The reminder was not needed but much appreciated. The spectacular and terrifying drops on either side of the trail was a good reminder to be careful. As I worked my way along with a white knuckle grip on every rock I grabbed, I found slight comfort in how solid the rocks were and none shifted. The climb down the Knife Edge form Chimney peak was by no means easy even with solid rock to grip. I had to carefully step, scoot, crawl, climb and even lower and drop myself along the trail with the looming drop offs on either side of me. I paused for a rest and Josh hesitated and then moved by me and proceeding on wanting only to get to the other side. I glanced back to make sure Greg and Mandie were ok. Feeling a little bad about leaving them, I continued after Josh. I couldn't keep up with his pace. He would turn around and tell me to be careful and continue on. Some times I would catch up to him when he stopped to talk with people going the other way. Once I caught up to him while he was refilling his water bladder. Any time I caught him we'd share a kiss. If I told him he was brave, his response was don't say that because he was so nervous and trying not to cry. He said he was glad he had sunglasses so people wouldn't think he was crazy because his eyes were red from crying. I kept checking back for Mandie and Greg. They were still moving along but further back.

The last real hairy part was a real narrow part of the trail. It didn't seem much wider then a foot. I saw Josh basically dance/run over it and or away from it. I tried not think about it to much and quickly crossed over it and continued after Josh. Some people that passed me going the other way just seemed to stroll on by as I clung to the rocks, moving one foot at time, testing each step and grip. Whispering hello to some of the spiders, making peace with the mountain, as I climbed past them and they scurried off.

We finally started to go up hill toward South peak. The trail became some what easier. It was mostly walking on the rocks and not climbing around and over them and a little wider, but some the rocks would rock/shift a little making your heart jump. Anytime the wind came up I griped the rocks till it died down. The wind was just strong enough to make you feel uneasy but not terrifying. We finally reached South peak and Baxter Peak was in sight. There were ravens soaring around the peaks. I was happy to see them. Usually shy intelligent bird. They are meaningful to me because many times hiking I hear them but never get to see them, always elusive just out of sight. Josh on the other hand saw them more like vultures looking for helpless hikers.

The trail from South peak started to get wider and the rocks easier to walk on, especially with the end in sight. When we reached Baxter peak we went past it and sat near the wide open secure grassy tableland and waited for Greg and Mandie.

We they arrived we broke out lunch and the beers and breathed. We spoke of 'glad we did it'' that was stupid' 'never again' 'crazy' 'amazing', 'wonderful but stupid'. We ate and drank and took pictures. I put on my knee brace. We looked down the trail that crossed the tableland and then just dropped off the side into the pink granite rock slide. That was our easy trail down. We started out on the trail across the table land. As we continued down the trail it continued to be more and more loose rock that was difficult to walk on. Rolling many an ankle as continued on looking around us. It looked crazy to go down Saddle Slide trail the way it just dropped off the edge. We glanced back at Knife edge stupid doom never again. We could see dots of people walking across Knife edge. Over by Pamola peak we could Index rock, the tree stump, sticking out of the side of the mountain.
When we arrived at Saddle slide we paused for moment looking down the easy trail and far below it could be seen threading threw the forest back toward Chimney pond. We started down, it wasnt hard but shaky and unnerving because it mostly loose rock.
We kept going down and down hoping for an end to the rocks when got to the trees, but it never came. The rocks continued through the trees. Mandie would disappear ahead and we would eventually catch up only to have her vanish ahead again. Josh rolled his ankles a couple of times but kept on with out an issue. I was surprised I hadn't rolled my ankle with my low top shoes. Then I landed odd on my right foot, but it wasn't the ankle it was the foot itself. It hurt for a few seconds then I continued on and it seemed fine. Finally the rocks receded a little and there was some ground between them. Then I landed funny again on my right foot. This time I noticed a little discomfort in my foot but not a lot, only if I flexed it a lot.

It seemed to take longer them planed to finally get back to Chimney pond. We were behind by about 30 minutes, not to bad. We crashed on the rock beach of the pond for a rest and snack. We scanned over the mountain retracing were had been hours before with our eyes. 'stupid' 'never again'. I was happy and proud I did it. But was dreading the 3.3 miles ahead of us still. I was wishing and hoping it would just blow by. Looking back to Katahdin I knew I wanted to come back here. Maybe not to do Knife edge but at least back to Chimney pond. The weather had been perfect for this hike. I had loved the climb, sights, challenges, fears and emotions. Life, real life. Something I didn't ever want to let go of, but had it feeling it would fade once back to normal life in New Hampshire.

With reluctance we packed up and began the trek down. I took the lead and tried to set a fast pace down but it didn't last long. My feet started throbbing. I gritted my teeth and continued down. We stopped on a board walk shortly and continued on. My feet felt better briefly but the throbbing soon came back and I was no longer leading. By the half way point Greg and Mandie were ahead as Josh walked with me. I finally ran out of water and stopped to fill my pack bladder when we caught up to Mandie and Greg. We continued on and Mandie slowly disappeared ahead, leaving the 3 of us with me leading. Then near the ended I looked back and Josh wasn't in sight so I stopped and waited for him while Greg continued on. My feet hurt and welcomed the rest. When Josh finale caught up and he said he had stopped to look at Roaring brook. We started back down the last part of the trail. It was the longest 3.3 miles I ever hiked.

At the end of the trail we went on the bridge to look at Roaring brook before meeting up with Mandie and Greg in the parking lot. The brook was beautiful and refreshing. Its water was crystal clear as it flowed over different shades of granite and stones. I told Josh I didnt care how cold that water was I would swim in it given the chance. It was so pure and clear that it be worth it. We returned to the trail and back to the parking lot. I stopped at the privy and took of my knee brace and zipped off my pant legs for the first time that day. We piled in the truck and began the ride back to camp thinking about how good the showers were going to feel.

Past Memories - June 2005

Katahdin June 2005 Part 1

We went up to Maine in June of 2005 with the goal of hiking up Mt. Katahdin with the hope of crossing the infamous Knife Edge. The Knife Edge is mountain spine that connects Pamola peak and Baxter Peak. The four of us, my boyfriend Josh and me, and our engaged neighbors Mandie and Greg, started the morning by waking up at 4:45am.

We arrived at Baxter State Park gate a little before 6am. We joked at the stop sign saying its a warning of the "Doom" ahead. The "Doom" being a joke between Josh and Greg about climbing up the mountain. I knew Josh didn't want to go up the mountain anymore after seeing it in real life vs. just reading about it in the books. I really wanted to first get up the mountain and then try the Knife Edge but felt dedicated to stick by Josh's side if he choose to go down via another route.

A ranger arrived and opened the gate. We proceeded to the check in booth to and pay and declare what our plans for the day, as Josh put it to them "over the top". We then continued on up to Roaring Brook campground parking area. We arrived there in about 30 to 40 minutes. We got out and began to prepare, sun lotions, lubes, adjusting packs and poles, eating breakfast of beagles, and using the privies. When as ready and settled as we could be we went to sign in on the trail log and look at the decided trail route on the 3D trail model. The route we chose gave us little choice but to do Knife Edge, an option not everyone was completely happy with.

We started out on to Chimney Pond trail. The trail was a gentle steady up hill grade, it was noticeable rockier then a typical walking trail and you could hear and or see Roaring brook to the right. Not far along we asked a couple to take a picture of us bright eyed and bushy tailed at the start of great hike. The grade became more noticeable and rocky as we walked on and this was just the start. When we came to a place were the stones were arranged as stairs we joked, stairs to doom and stairway to Hell.

We continued on up and up. I reflected to the book Chimney Pond Tales and on all the people Dudley brought up this trail. We noticed a bolder on the left side of the trail with a paint marking on it. After a bit of puzzling we realized it said 1/2 way. It seemed like longer then that. I took a breath shrugged up my pack and moved on with the others. Shortly after that we came to a view point trail. We went out to it and saw the views of Katahdin's peaks and slopes. We couldn't stop long to admire the 'doom' due to the swarms of black flies that surrounded us.

We continued trudging up the trail untill we got to the side trail to Basin ponds. Beautiful, amazing, refreshing. The water was clear, and still, reflecting the surrounding forests and Katahdin. We slowly pulled ourselves away and continued the trek to Chimney pond.

All along the way we walked on board walks over wild streams with dazzlingly clear water flowing underneath us. On one of the longer boardwalks the brook was sprawled out every where. In the stream and all around were green moss and other vegetation along with trees. The peaceful beauty of the greens and trees combined with the clear flowing water over granite rocks plus the sound of the water and birds could of held me there all day..

We continued on passing campers/hikers heading down from Chimney pond camp. Finally we arrived at Chimney Pond. We paused to look around at the camp and used the primitive privies. We then went to Chimney pond its self. It was gorgeous. A clear bluish pound nestled right at the bottom of stony sloped of Katahdin and its forest. We stopped and sat down to snack and look around at the view. Mumbles of 'doom' and 'craziness', excitement and Dudleys tales ran between us. We could see the Chimney and Knife's Edge. We all had our doubts and hopes about the hike ahead of us. We talked to some folks about the trails. One pointed out Saddle trail to us. The easy trail down "see the pink rock slide over there, thats Saddle trail". Another told how he and his friend went over Knifes Edge just fine and he was afraid of spiders and his friend was afraid of heights. This caught Mandie's and Josh's attention. Apparently there are a lot of rock spiders up there that sun themselves but run off when you approach. Josh asked, "what if you scared of both". The person just smiled and said "your looking at it".

We decided we better get moving and headed toward Dudley trail. We walked a very short distance before we came to the boulders. The trail went from flat forest to bolder climbing. We began the climbing, scrambling and jumping quickly leaving the forest behind to only scattered trees among the boulders and rocks.

Dudley was one bolder climb scramble after another with a stony rocky path on occasion. As we got higher and higher the trees shrunk and vanished. Adrenalin was kicking in especial when scrambling up a bolder while glancing at the steep sloped behind, ahead and beside us. Some of the rocks were very hard to get up, more so the further up we got. It didn't help being shorter with shorter legs. Once while trying to climb up a rock my hamstring Charlie horsed. I panicked for minute inside fearing that I might have pulled the muscle. But it eased of as soon as I got up and tried walking, and faded of as we continued on.

We stopped for a rest and snack. Looking up we could see specks of people further up near a rock that looked like a tree stump(index rock we realized back at camp). When I started moving again it was hard, the adrenalin had worn off and the muscles wanted to stay resting. Mandie was the first to warn us of the first spotting of a rock spider, she didn't do much sitting form there on out. We pasted threw some interesting alpine rock gardens, rocks surrounded by grasses and alpine plants. Adrenalin came back quickly with more challenging scary rock climbs.

When we finally got to the rock stump it was actually a huge angular rock sticking oddly out of the slope we were climbing. The size was real impressive no other rocks around were close in size and considering how small it looked when we were further down. Not long after that we saw the cairn of Pamola peak come into view.

When we reached the cairn we found odd large bees flying around it and we kept our distance. I amused myself thinking it was Pamola protecting his peak. Then our attention quickly turned to the 'Doom' Knife edge and the Chimney. Josh wasn't doing well, he was just sitting silent not eating. The rest of us ate and looked at the Knife Edge pondering if we would try it or not. My worry at the time was getting up and down the Chimney. Up didn't look bad (never assume!) but what about down. With out my pack I started down Chimney to look. I found it no worse then Dudley. The flat bottom of the Chimney looked comforting verses the constant boulders and rock climbs on the other side that still looked no worse then Dudley. Seeing off both sides of the mountain was incredible. To look to one side down the 5,000 foot plus slope to endless view of forest, lakes and other peaks and then turn and see the same thing only feet away. It was breathtaking to have the mountain just drop way on either side of you, only feet between the slopes. I went back up and said what I thought of the Chimney and sat down for some food.

Too be continued......