We woke up from a deep sleep in our lean-to at Chimney Pond. The sky very light and I was concerned that we’d slept late but it was only 5:30am. We didn’t waste any time given yesterday’s forecast predicting afternoon thunderstorms for today and Katahdin is a completely exposed rock ridge where people have been struck by lightening and we knew our window had to be early. We got up and dressed and drank coffee and ate some breakfast, hung our food and headed off. We signed the trail hiker register a little before 7am and Ranger Andy popped his head out of the Ranger cabin to ask us what our hiking plans were and let us know that the forecast had changed and afternoon thunderstorms were no longer expected! We welcomed this great news knowing that weather in the mountains can change on a dime and the sky still had lots of foggy clouds moving on and off the summits so we wasted no time and headed up the Hamlin Ridge which also wastes no time and before we knew it we were climbing exposed boulders and popping out above the trees with epic views and gaining elevation quickly. I put my poles away and scrambled up on all fours weaving myself in and around the boulders avoiding looking at the steep drop offs on either side.
Ranger Andy referred to the Hamlin Ridge as a mini Knife’s Edge. The actual Knife’s Edge is this jagged trail across the basin that is over a mile of hairpin rock ridge with sheer cliffs on either side connecting Baxter Peak with Pamola Peak. Its a famous trail that I use to really have my heart set on climbing across and have since become real clear that I never want to hike the knife’s edge and that climbing across steep boulder fields is edgy enough for me!
The trail leveled out and we found a spot to catch our breath, chug water and have a snack. We powered up to the summit of Hamlin Peak from there and were feeling great. The could lifted and we had views of everything expect Baxter peak kept drifting in and out of the clouds. We began our ridge walk feeling great and happy heading down into the saddle and then the accent up to the very top of Katahdin began. Its was rocky and then it became a boulder field and before we knew it, we were on top snapping a picture with the sign. The wind dies down, the clouds blew away and we found a spot to sit and enjoy the views and eat and drink. We admired Chimney Pond from this height and were happy to see that it was only 11:15.
As we made our way back down the ridge, we watched the sky hoping none of the clouds would form into thunderheads. We made it to the intersection with the Saddle Trail and began our slide down the slide. It was slow going and rocks would just slide out under food. I slid down a good chunk of this trail on my butt, constantly looking for places to take a solid step. It was exhausting. I fell at one point but it wasn’t anything too bad, more of a slide followed by a second slide and slight loss of control and it was a little painful but I mostly felt lucky that I was basically fine. My slip woke me up and gave me that last blast of adrenaline needed to stay upright. It took what felt like forever getting down this thing but we were back down at Chimney Pond by 1:30 and eating the last of the pizza we had packed in.
We headed down to this water basin where swimming was allowed since you can’t swim in Chimney Pond. The water was freezing so we basically just soaked our feet and legs which always makes a huge difference after a big hike. We chatted with this guy who had just fulfilled his dream of 25 years of Hiking Katahdin with his grown son who he’s been hiking with since the kid was 5.
We headed back to our lean-to and changed into our camp clothes delighted by how clean and dry we were compared to yesterday’s hike on North Brother. We spent the afternoon relaxing, stretching, playing yahtzee and then cooked ort freeze dried dinners, salivating over the salty processed contents and enjoying the novelty of camp food and tiny stoves.
Stud slept late but I was up early the next morning and I enjoyed a little solitude. I walked down to Chimney Pond where the basin was completely clear and I could see the summit and knife’s edge perfectly. I had the little beach to myself and I listened to the bird song while these little wisps of clouds slowly blew in and before I knew it, the ravine was socked in with clouds. I filled my water bottle and headed to the bear cables to take down our food bags so we could make coffee. Stud was just waking up when I got back and we made coffee while the snowshoe hares frolicked around our lean-to. Such big playful rabbits they were!
After breakfast, we packed up and headed out and had a lovely hike down the Chimney Pond Trail, unlike our hike in a couple days before. We stopped at the Basin Pond for a snack and a last moment with this wilderness before popping out at Roaring Brook and driving south. So grateful for this restorative respite and I can’t wait to return.