Summiting Katahdin via the new Abol Trail
Compared to most adventurers, I started planning for this trip a little late in the year. Baxter State Park opens online reservations 4 months in advance and sites fill up quickly. However, I didn't book anything until May.
Of course by then, the popular Katahdin Stream and Roaring Brook campgrounds were full for the busiest month of the year, July.
Yet sometimes the chips fall your way and since most people thought the Abol trail was still closed (it closed over two years ago due to a rock slide), we got lucky and the park opened it up on July 1st.
Now the Abol trail was the first ever used to summit Katahdin and is the quickest, steepest trail to Baxter Peak.
You weren't able to descend the old trail but with a new trail blazed and an additional 0.6 miles added, you can descend back to the campground.
So after the stars aligned and we got a campsite at a trailhead and didn't have to deal with the headache of finding parking for day use, we were super excited for this journey.
We booked a two night stay at Lean to #6 and I couldn't have been more pleased. It was hands down, the best site on the campground. An ice cold brook ran down directly in front of the tucked away site and created a fantastic sense of privacy. Only the sound of babbling brooks and the vast wilderness of Maine.
Once we had everything set up, we hiked to the nearby Abol Falls (0.8 miles), where we enjoyed a few brews and hyped up conversation about our summit the next day.
The Abol Trail/Hunt Trail/Baxter Peak
The new Abol trail was fantastic in my opinion. The terrain changes constantly, never becoming boring and the difficulty was manageable yet challenging.
The first hour you're surrounded by the dense forest that holds humidity and blocks almost all sound. Then as the trail hits a few switchbacks, it starts to ascend towards the top of the tree line. That's when the views start to kick in and you can see the previously used Abol Slide.
Unfortunately, we didn't wake up to clear blue skies and the peak of Katahdin had accumulated quite a large cloud. So as we approached the final half of the hike, the cloud drew closer.
Once the tree line disappeared below, the terrain changed once again and revealed a wet and rocky path. This was the fun part. Visibility dropped to about 30 feet and the wind increased up towards 50mph. I've truly never experienced any environment like that. You felt like you were on another planet.
The last mile of the Abol Trail consisted of large boulders that force you onto all fours and on several occasions, required the use of upper body strength to pull yourself up.
After the scrambling and insane incline, you are rewarded with a quick stop at Thoreau springs where the trail meets the Hunt Trail (part of the Appalachian Trail).
The difficulty significantly reduces and becomes a slow and steady ascent to the peak, although you can't see anything up ahead if you're in a cloud.
For me, this was a milestone adventure in my life. It was always a goal of mine to summit Katahdin especially having been born and raised in the state. The fact that I was able to accomplish this with my wife and one of our best friends, was even more amazing.
You leave not feeling like you've conquered it but merely temporarily tamed the wild beast that is Katahdin.