Saturday, August 24, 2013

Katahdin Redux - Hamlin Peak

It had been an amazing week in Baxter already, but there was one goal still remaining.  When we did Katahdin last year we just got Baxter peak (and of course the Knife Edge).  At the top of the Saddle Trail we briefly considered continuing on to Hamlin, but it had already been a long day and we wanted a good ending.  We never regretted skipping Hamlin as we knew it would be waiting for us this year.  After the rather hot weather in the beginning of the week there was a cold front coming with cool, dry air - perfect hiking weather!  Friday and Saturday were both supposed to be really nice, but on Thursday night we made the call to wait for Saturday, hoping that nothing changed.  It turned out to be a great decision as Friday wound up being cloudy the first half of the day.  Saturday was spectacular!!

On Friday and Saturday the Baxter Bash crew was down to just four people - Lori, Bernie Nat and me.  Bernie and Lori both decided to join us for the hike.  Bernie had met Julie and Lori on Pamola on Monday and hiked down with them and then became our adopted Baxter Bash member for the rest of the week (and hopefully in future years).  We were glad that he was going to get another shot at the mountain after getting turned back by the winds on Monday.  We got an early start again and were on the trail by 7am.  Our plan was to head up to Chimney Pond and then up the Saddle Trail, over to Hamlin and down Hamlin Ridge.

Heading for Hamlin

 About half way up to Chimney Pond we took the short spur out to the viewpoint and got our first look at what was ahead for the day.  The moon was setting over the mountain and it couldn't possibly have been a more perfect morning.

Moon setting over Katahdin

North Basin

Moon over Hamlin

Nat looking at where we're heading

I think she's looking forward to this

Me too!

Boulder field along Chimney Pond trail

Almost to Chimney Pond

 We stopped at Chimney Pond and took a break along the shore.  We surprisingly hadn't seen too many people on the trail.  The must have all headed up Helon Taylor and gone across the Knife Edge.  The "line of ants" that we saw on the Knife Edge and congregated on Baxter Peak later proved the point.

Chimney Pond

The Great Basin

Cave below Hamlin Peak

Bernie at Chimney Pond

Aerosmith is playing in my head.  "I'm back in the..."

Heading up the Saddle

Time to top up the water

Top of the Saddle ahead

 Coming down the Saddle Slide after Baxter Peak last year hadn't been my favorite part of the hike.  There were a few steep, ledgy spots that I disliked as much as going down the Chimney.  Going up the slide didn't present any of those problems.  If was a fun hike up and we were soon in the Saddle.

Beginning of the slide

Pamola and the Chimney

Nat on Saddle Slide


This was harder going down last time.  Pretty easy in this direction

Bernie and Lori

Nat saying "what's taking you so long?"

The Knife Edge appearing

Nat at the top of the Saddle

From the top of the Saddle we got our first look at the beautiful path to Hamlin ahead.  It's hard to imagine a nicer above treeline trail.

Hamlin ahead

Baxter Peak and the Knife Edge beyond

Bernie and Lori hit the top of the Saddle

I'm enjoying the day - and the best is still to come!

Heading for Hamlin.  What a beautiful walk!!

Nat looking out to the  Brothers

Nat pointing to where we were a couple of days ago - Coe and the Brothers

Nat and Lori

Labrador Tea

Beautiful path

The final approach up Hamlin is a typical New England rock pile.  It felt like being in the northern Presis.  At the top of the rockpile is the broad, flat summit that is a place you just never want to leave.

Final way up the rockpile

Nat and Bernie near the top

Volunteer SAR team

Three-Toothed Cinquefoil

Nat waiting for me just before the summit

I'm coming, I'm coming...

Nat on Hamlin (NE67 #63)

Me on Hamlin (NE67 #62)

Howe Peaks in the background.  We'll visit there another day

Bernie on Hamlin

Lori setting up the group shot

Nat and I on Hamlin

Looks like ants crawling on Baxter Peak.  Glad we're over here


Pamola and the Chimney

The Knife Edge

The gang hanging out on Hamlin

Three-Toothed Cinquefoil

Mountain Cranberry

 We spent a long time on the summit - nobody was in any hurry to go.  We knew that some of the best was still ahead though - Hamlin Ridge.  We'd heard so many people tell us how beautiful it was, but we really weren't prepared for what we found when we finally got there.

Time to go...

North Basin from the top of Hamlin Ridge.  Wow!

South Turner and Katahdin Lake over North Basin

On top of the world!

Nat's lovin' the day!

Getting ready to take flight


Lori takes her turn

Bernie on Hamlin Ridge

A crow?  I thought there'd be ravens up here

Heading over the edge


The Mountain

Hamlin Ridge appears - amazing!

The walk down the ridge is undeniably hard - particularly for someone with bad knees.  Bernie and I both took our time while Nat and Lori scampered over the rocks well ahead of us most of the time.  I didn't mind the slow pace though - it just gave more time for taking in the incredible views.  Basically every step of the way down the ridge those views are right in your face.  Definitely not something you get tired of.

Basin Ponds below Hamlin Ridge

Chimney Pond and the Great Basin

Scrambling down

Rare flat stretch

Dry Pond in North Basin

Nat playing mountain goat

Lori taking a break

Meadow?  Bog?  ???  At the end of the boulder field we saw on the way in

Still not getting tired of this view

Looking back up to Hamlin

South Turner, Basing Ponds, Sandy Stream Pond and Katahdin Lake

We were finally back down and took the Basin Cutoff to avoid repeating any more of the Chimney Pond trail than necessary.  I had remembered the bottom section of Chimney Pond as dragging on forever last year, but this time it zipped by.  Nat and I found our end-of-hike legs and were back at Roaring Brook much more quickly than I had expected.  Our Baxter 4K peaks were now in the books and we've just got four more Maine peaks (plus Old Speck for me) to finish our 67.  We're so glad that we decided to venture beyond NH after we finished the 48 last year.  Maine and Vermont have some really great mountains.

It had been a simply incredible day - one of the best above treeline days that I can remember.  Sadly our Baxter Bash week was at it's end and we'd be heading home in the morning, but what a wonderful week it was.  We're already looking forward to next year!

Back on level ground (sort of)

The interactive GPS track is here: