Nimblewill Nomad: IAT Thru-Hiker
Wednesday, July 12, 2000
Trail day: 50/1
Trail mile: 731/8
Location: Daicey Pond, thence to The Appalachian Trail Lodge, Don and Joan Cogswell, proprietors, Millinocket, Maine
I arise at 6:00 a.m. to a totally cloud-free day and quickly decide to go for it . . . to summit Katahdin and complete my second thru-hike of the SIA/IAT. I'm on the trail for Roaring Brook Campground before seven and make very good time, arriving around ten. I look for Simone Rossignol, ranger at Roaring Brook, for I want to cancel my reservations at the bunkhouse for the evening. But she is out about the campground, so I head on up the Healon Taylor Trail for Pamola and Mount Katahdin.
This climb is a long and strenuous climb with few breaks, as the trail winds ever upward. Above tree line the large rocks and boulders make the scamper especially difficult, requiring constant and total concentration lest I slip, instantly ending my hike. I claim the summit of Pamola around 1:30 p.m. to begin the traverse of the infamous Knife Edge. Here is a glacier honed and stropped ridge aptly named, for the trail here is narrow and treacherous, with drop-offs, ledges and slides plummeting for thousands of feet to either side. Here it is time to be patient to a fault to an all-encompassing, cover all bases kind of fault with plenty of nimbleness thrown in . . . nimbleness for the old Nimblewill! The day remains pleasant with only a moderate, steady wind. I am blessed to have this good fortune . . . this most favorable weather. I make good progress for the short distance to the chimney. Here there is a bottleneck, a jamb-up of folks that seem to be wishing they were anywhere by here right now. I must wait, as there is just no way around. One by one the dear ones must be assisted with foot placement and guidance over the blind, straight-down ledges that seem to pitch to oblivion. Once through this traffic I do fine and I am very pleased with my progress, for I am negotiating this trapeze-like tread way with my sticks and a full pack.
By two o'clock I am standing on the summit of Katahdin, here to be greeted by an overwhelming flood of emotions, as memories of my 1998 hike descend to engulf me. I go to the rocks beyond where I can be alone for awhile, to compose myself and to clear and prepare my mind for this day's experience . . . an experience that will bring other grand memories, memories anew for the remainder of my life.
Clouds are banking to the west and north as I hurry down the Hunt Trail and off the mountain, with the storm now sweeping toward the summit, enraged by the wind. On the ascent in 1998 I don't recall this being such a great distance nor such a technically difficult traverse, but the time seems to pass so slowly as I continue descending, anticipating my arrival at Katahdin Stream Campground.
At the base of Katahdin, on a bronze plaque affixed to a large boulder are the words of a former Governor of Maine, a man that worked tirelessly and diligently the remaining thirty years of his life amassing the lands he would subsequently give to the people of Maine...over 200,000 acres, and including Mount Katahdin; the lands now know as Baxter State Park:
"Man is born to die, his works are short lived. Buildings crumble, monuments decay, wealth vanishes. But Katahdin in all its glory, forever shall remain the mountain of the people of Maine." Percival Proctor Baxter 1876-1969.
The hike from Katahdin Stream Campground to Daicey Pond is a pleasant hike along the park road and around the ponds. I arrive at Daicey to be greeted with grand smiles and the kindest welcome by Rangers Marcia and Gabriel Williamson. I have been so looking forward to seeing them both again, and as luck would have it they've just returned this day to Daicey Pond. I flop right down on the same chair I flopped down on in '98 and with much excitement, we exchange happenings since our last meeting.
My plans are to go on to Millinocket this evening, and while we're catching up on past events a radio message comes in from Togue Pond Gatehouse that a hiker is being brought to Daicey Pond from Millinocket and that the driver will be returning to Millinocket. Hot Dang! Looks like I've got myself a ride, hopefully right to the steps of Don and Joan's Appalachian Trail Lodge. As I hike down the road to the thru-hiker shelters at Daicey and at the parking area I am greeted by Dave Hopkins from Farmington Falls, ME. He has brought a young hiker by the trail name"Lurch," to Daicey Pond. "Lurch" will be flipflopping, heading back to Harpers Ferry. This kind man offers me a ride as he heads home through Millinocket. Oh my, how's that for a stroke of luck!
Soon I am at The Appalachian Trail Lodge. Here I drop my pack on their front porch and head for The Appalachian Trail Cafe to make arrangements for a couple of day's stay and to get a good home-cooked meal. Here I am greeted by Joan and Don Cogswell, proprietors of both the lodge and the cafe. Looks like this is going to be a memorable stay in a neat little New England trail town. A great supper, a luxurious hot soaking for my tired, aching bones and I'm off to the Land of Nod.
What is he carrying? Check Nimblewill's gear list.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication