September 29, 2016 Thursday
I awoke with one of those starts that tells you something is wrong. I looked at my watch and it said 5:30 A.M.! Our alarms either did not go off or they just did not wake us. I spoke to ‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ saying it was late! ‘Southpaw’ allowed as how we could start at 8:00 and still have time to do the mountain. He again told the story of how he had slept in Millinocket that last time he thru-hiked and had to come through the gate before he started at 8:00. I think he said that was back in 2013.
While ‘Southpaw’ got his stuff together, “Downunder’ and I wandered over and spoke with ‘Tinman’ and ‘Twix’. “Southpaw’ finally showed, explaining the daypack he had borrowed from the Ranger had a broken zipper, so he had had to transfer everything he was taking today back to his own pack. We were on the trail at 6:30. That’s ‘Southpaw’ on the left and ‘Downunder’ on the right.
Here we’ve stopped at Katahdin Stream Falls. Since we’d be coming down Abol Trail, this was our only time to view the falls.
Here is The Owl where I was yesterday.
This formation to the left is known as ‘the cave’.
It was a pretty uneventful day, just climbing hour after hour. I was well behind the others for most of the day. At first they would pause and wait for me to catch up, and then I didn’t see them for an hour or so. ‘Southpaw’ finally kept going, while ‘Downunder’ slowed, apologizing for getting carried away and not taking time to enjoy the day.
I think this is what is called ‘the Hunt Spur’ as hikers approach ‘The Gateway’. It is a pretty intimidating view from here.
But even more intimidating on the map!
Here I’m looking back towards Hunt Spur where ‘Downunder’ has just been obscured by the passing cloud.
Here ‘Downunder’ is revealed as the cloud passes and can be seen on the Hunt Spur.
Here we’ve reached The Tableland (4,500 – 4,750 feet) and can see Baxter Peak (5267 feet) in the distance. Baxter Peak is the middle of the high ridge you see in the distance. South Peak (5240 feet) is to the right.
Here we’ve reached Thoreau Spring
Finally, 11:25 A.M., we reached the summit. We found ‘Southpaw’ had arrived more than an hour earlier but had waited in the cold wind until we also arrived.
‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ knew several of the thru-hikers who were summiting today and they spent time visiting with them.
While it had been windy on the Tableland, it was actually pretty calm at the summit and not uncomfortable while we lunched.
Here I’m posing at the 13 foot cairn, built to make the peak exactly one mile above sea level.
The Ranger, and hikers who summitted yesterday, recommended using the newly renovated Abol Trail to descend and that’s what we decided to do.
The thing about Abol Trail – it’s a rock slide. A new rock slide closed the trail for a year and a half. When I was here in June, it was not open yet. At that time they projected it would open July 1st.
Abol is the first trail I climbed in 1972 with Lyn during our honeymoon camping summer. We came down the Hunt Trail, just the opposite of what I’m doing today.
This gives you an idea of what Abol looks like.
‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ picking their way through the boulders above me.
This is one of the newly created switchbacks so the trail is not all as directly downhill as it used to be. Note the roots and loose dirt. This made it difficult at times when I almost tripped on roots or slipped in the loose dirt.
These are some of the new stairs made for the new section of Abol Trail.
Looking back up Abol from an opening in the trail.
We made it to Abol Campground at the base of the Abol Trail at 3:00 P.M.
Tha last hour or so was hiked with ‘Caboose’ and ‘Voodoo’, an engaged couple using the thru-hike “to get to know each other” . They actually interrupted their own thru-hike by coming off the trail at Mount Washington to join ‘Downunder’ and ‘Southpaw’ during their summit. They now plan to go back to the trail at Mount Washington and finish.
It is two miles from Abol CAmpground to Katahdin Stream Campground. We were lucky enough to catch a ride with a hiker who had also just come off the trail. He was leaving the park, but offered to give us the ride back to our campground before he headed out. We thanked him profusely – we were all ready to be done walking for the day.
Once at Katahdin Stream Campground, ‘Downunder’, ‘Southpaw’, ‘Caboose’, and ‘Voodoo’ all climbed into their rented van and headed to Millinocket for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep after their long six month trek.
It felt good to have done the ascent once again – that is three times in a thirteen month time frame! I feel pretty lucky to have been able to do that.
I prepared my dinner and got to bed pretty early after the long day. Tired, but satisfied!