Monday, August 25, 2014

Knife Edge Trail to Baxter Peak at Northern Terminus of Appalachian Trail

Six friends planned a long day of hiking, only to find a day and evening of climbing.  The plan seemed relatively simple:

1. Hike to Baxter Peak, the northern terminus of the 2,162 mile Appalachian Trail (AT).
2. Cross the fabled 1.1 mile Knife Edge Trail.
3. Hike five miles on the AT starting at its northern beginning at Baxter Peak.

Our ultimate achievement through endurance and teamwork brought more satisfaction because of the challenges and time on the mountain.  Below are comments, maps, pictures, and videos of our climb. Our Mt. Katahdin accomplishment was both physically demanding, and mentally tough.  I am extremely proud of my fellow adventurers and how we worked together for this team triumph.

Mount Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine at 5,269 feet. Named Katahdin by the Penobscot Indians, the term means "The Greatest Mountain".  It is part of the Appalachian Mountain range and is located in Baxter State Park.  Baxter State Park is a large wilderness area permanently preserved as a state park, located in Piscataquis County in north-central Maine. It covers 327 square miles.

The Knife Edge was the highpoint of our trip, but the descent from Pamola Peak was nearly as challenging as we had to use technical rock climbing skills.

Our trip started at Roaring Brook campground on the Chimney Pond Trail at 6:45 am.  We arrived at Chimney Pond Campground after a 2 hr 45 minute hike.  From the Campground we took Dudley Trail to Pamola Peak.  We had to do a 40 foot rock straight down climbing descent grabbing cracks in the granite rocks while seeking spots for footholds.  Then immediately followed up by climbing straight up 40 feet to Chimney Peak.  FYI, counterintuitively up is easy because gravity isn’t pulling you down and you and can see where to put your feet.  Admittedly this 80 feet was the most challenging section for this author.  Once atop Chimney Peak we climbed and scooted the 1.1 mile Knife Edge Trail.  This brought us to South Peak.  Our 15 hour trip was an unrelenting 11 miles. We finished the last two hours with headlamps.

Enjoy the below videos of our Mount Katahdin hike.

More Detail Videos of Knife Edge, Google Route, and Overview on Our Katahdin Trek

Below is the time and miles breakdown by trail:

Total Trip Hrs:Min



Roaring Brook Campground to
Chimney Pond Campground
Start 6:45 am

9:30 am
2 ¾ hrs

3.3 miles
Chimney Pond Trail easy hike.  4 of us used Tracking Poles.  Some nice side trail views.
Chimney Pond Campground to Pamola Peak via Dudley Trail
10 am
1 pm
3 hrs

1.4 miles
After a snack and rest at Chimney Pond Campground, we tied our tracking poles to our packs.  The Dudley Trail is a 2,000 elevation gain and a relentless massive granite boulder laden trail nearly straight up requiring our hands for pulling, grabbing rocks and hand holds, our legs for pushing, our arms for lifting our bodies, our feet for pushing and toe holds, and our butts to sliding up and holding our bodies at times.
All of us were exhausted.  Indeed it was a very trying physical test of our mettle.
Pamola Peak to Chimney Peak/Knife Edge
1:20 pm
2:12 pm
¾ hr
Our descent down the 40 foot drop from Pamola Peak was technical “rock climbing” .  We held indentations in the rocks while reaching for footholds.  Indeed for this descent we used using hands, arms, body and butt.
Knife Edge to South Peak
3:00 pm
1 hr

.8 miles
A 1.1 mile balancing act along the ridge of the Knife Edge Trail. Prior to this trip I had visions of panicking because of the elevation and 1000 foot drop offs and extremely narrow trail.  Truthfully, I had no fear as I crossed this very unique trail.
South Peak to Baxter Peak
3:50 pm
1 hr

.3 miles
This ridge trail went up and down.  Just when we got to the top of the trail, it would drop and we would start another descent.  Then an ascent followed by another descent.  We were close to 7 hours since we left Roaring Brook campground and were tired.  At each high ledge we could see Baxter Peak, but could not differentiate the rolling ridge.
Baxter Peak  via Hunt Trail through Table Land
4:00 pm
5:15 pm
1 ¼ hr

1.0 miles
Tableland was like a country hike.  It was flat and a welcome hike.  We passed the famous Henry David Thorough Spring. We had been hiking for near ten hours. 
Hunt Trail after TableLand to Katahdin Stream Campground
5:15 pm
10:00 pm
4.5 hrs

4.2 miles
We were now headed down and home, BUT still had 4.2 miles according to the trail sign. The first two miles were a steep down and over rough granite.  We did have some technical areas.  One section had steel handles in the granite to make the descent from huge ledges a bit easier.
Took us two hours just to get below the tree line.
At 8:30 pm we put on our headlamps.  We used our trekking poles to give us stability through the downward rock strewn path.

At 10 pm we reached the ranger check-in station where we signed-on the register that six of us were back. We also met the Park Ranger who had been told by two people who passed us earlier in the dark with headlamps and that we were fine and on our way
6:45 am
10:00 pm
11 miles

 15 hrs!

What a Journey!!!

Knife Edge Trail
We were into our hike for about 6 ½ hrs. of rock strewn, rugged and prolonged steepness,  on the Dudley trail, reaching Pamola Peak, followed by a technical Pamola descent, we ascended Chimney Peak, the start of the almost mile high Knife Edge Trail.  Whew!

The Knife Edge Trail is perhaps the most spectacular trail in New England – and also the most dangerous.  It would take us two hours to cross from Chimney Peak to Baxter Peak. 

We were advised to avoid the Knife Edge in stormy weather.  The exposure to high winds and lightning is extreme.  We were warned once we decide to cross the Knife Edge we MUST CONTINUE ON THE TRAIL. There is no safe way to descend off either side of the mountain ridge.

The mile long path stretches across the South Basin’s headwall between Pamola and Baxter Peak.  I believe you will get a sense of what these six outdoor enthusiasts experienced crossing this unique narrow mile-high ridge with 1,000 foot drops on both sides.  At one point for about 20 feet the width of the ridge was close to 10 inches. The views, when we dared a birds-eyed glimpse, are magnificent and certainly breathtaking.

Are You Ready for Katahdin?

A very special thanks goes to Linwood and Betty of Loons Nest ( for their immense help in preparing this trip.
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"Everyone must do something.  I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends"

Steve’s latest book, Outdoor Play "Fun 4 4 Seasons" is available as an e-Book at Kindle ($3.99) and hard copy at ($11.95)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hiking Mount Major for a Panorama View of Lake Winnipesaukee

Lake Winnipesaukee
from Summit of Mount Major

Mount Major is 1,785 feet in elevation and located in central New Hampshire.  It overlooks Alton bay on the southwest shore of Lake Winnipesaukee.

George and I took a loop trail beginning and ending at the parking lot off of route 11. From the back, left-hand corner of the Route 11 parking lot, we took the orange blazed Boulder Loop Trail. Boulder Loop Trail is about 1.6 miles from the parking lot to the summit of Mount Major.

Boulder Loop Trail climbs easily at first then gets steeper with ledges and huge boulders requiring at least one squeeze through. After a final steep climb, we began to see some views of Lake Winipeasaukee.  It took about another 15 minutes to reach the summit and the remains of a stone built hiker hut.  Our total time form parking lot to summit was about 90 easy going minutes.

The granite laden summit overlooks beautiful Lake Winnipeasaukee. The view below to our right is Alton Bay with an across the lake vjew of the town of Wolfboro.  We take in the breath-taking sights of some of the 258 islands on the lake, and its 182 mile shoreline.  The lake is 72 square miles, and about 21 miles long and 9 miles at its widest point, so we just got enough taste of the beauty of this gem of New Hampshire

Our Descent from the summit was on the blue blazed Mt Major Trail.  The Boulder loop orange-blazed trail junctions with the blue blazed trail Mt Major trail at the summit (be aware the Beaver Pond Trail also meets at the summit to check your map.)

Our total trip was about 3 hours which includes a half hour on the summit.  Certainly this is a family hike mountain for all ages.

Elevation: 1,785' (544m)
Prominence: 187' (57m)
Location = Central New Hampshire, USA
Area of water surface = 72 square miles
Number of islands = 258
Distance around lake = 182 miles
Height above sea level = 504 feet
Overlooks Lake Winnipesaukee

"Everyone must do something.  I believe I will go outdoors with family and friends"

Steve’s latest book, Outdoor Play "Fun 4 4 Seasons" is available as an e-Book at Kindle ($3.99) and hard copy at ($11.95)