Friday, August 22, 2014

An Attempt on Katahdin, and Sandy Stream Pond - Aug. 4, 2014

Pam and I had stayed up at Baxter after our group hike of Coe, the Brothers, and Fort 2 days before. We were going to join a group of friends taking over the group site at Bear Brook on Monday (they had the site for the whole week), and leave on Wednesday, giving us 2 days to shoot for the Knife Edge on Katahdin. With a terrible forecast for Tuesday (80% chance of showers/t-storms), we decided to roll the dice on Monday which had a 40% chance in the afternoon according to the recent forecast. Of course, being Katahdin, we needed to get over to Roaring Brook early, before the hordes came in the gate and took all the parking spots, so we got up super early, broke camp at our site at Nesowadnehunk, and did the roughly 1-hour drive on the dirt roads over to the parking lot, which was already 1/2-full before 7AM.

A quick breakfast and final packing later, we verified that the forecast was still the same (it was) and we were off, with a few dozen others, heading briefly up the Chimney Pond Trail before turning onto the Helon Taylor Trail. Thankfully the bulk of the crowds seemed to be heading up one of the trails leaving from Chimney Pond itself, so the Helon Taylor Trail was quiet. Steadily up we went, with a few scrambles here and there. As we neared treeline around 8:30, it began raining, lightly but raining nonetheless.

The end of the Knife Edge, Pamola Peak, in the distance

Looks like a poor weather day...

 About 2 miles in, we reached treeline at 3500 feet, and noticed the cloud deck was steadily lowering, and the rain wasn't letting up. We weren't really eager about doing the Knife Edge in the rain, and when we heard a few rumbles of thunder way off in the distance, we called it. We seemed to be the only ones heading down, and passed many others heading their way up, but none seemed concerned about the weather...It rained the whole way down (no more thunder though), and continued until nearly noon, by which point we had gone to the group campsite and were eating lunch in a pavilion (yeay for those!)

Hamlin Ridge mostly obscured by clouds

The Basin Ponds

Our route - as you can see, we barely made treeline and had a long way to go for the weather we had.
The sun did come out nicely for most of the afternoon, which allowed us to dry out our tents and other stuff from the prior nights, but we still weren't regretting our decision. Neither of us "needed" the summit, we just wanted to enjoy the Knife Edge, and it will be there later, and hopefully on a nicer day. We did make the decision that based on the worse forecast for the next day (mostly confined to afternoon storms, but still), that we would head home a day early.

That afternoon, after the folks that were coming into Bear Brook for the first day had all arrived and set up, we all headed back to Roaring Brook to take the short stroll into Sandy Stream Pond in search of a moose. In roughly 9 days all-time in Baxter State Park to this point, I had yet to see a moose, but we saw one as soon as we reached the pond! It was a big bull moose off on the far side of the pond, wading around and feeding in the evening sun, and we hung around for quite a while watching him as well as the geese, loons, and other critters in the area. With a great view of Katahdin as well, it is easy to see why this is a spot that many folks hit each day they are in the park.

It's Bullwinkle!

Ducks and duckings too!

South Turner Mountain from Sandy Stream Pond

Katahdin from Sandy Stream Pond
Just as we returned to camp at 6PM, it got almost as dark as night and a big thunderstorm rolled through for about 1/2-hour. As we had left Roaring Brook, we had seen some of the same folks we'd seen in the morning that were still ascending Katahdin as we headed down, and there were many more still on the mountain that got caught in the downpour. Pam and I were glad to not have been caught in this one, it was far stronger and nastier than the one we hiked the last hour down from North Brother in 2 days before.

The next morning, the group set off to hike South Turner before the forecast afternoon storms, but Pam and I, now intending to drive home, opted to hang at Sandy Stream Pond for a while before packing up. It was a nice morning, and we both wondered if we could have done the Knife Edge this day after all, especially since the morning forecast had suddenly turned the chance of showers and storms down from 80% to 40%. But we stuck to our plan, and did the long drive home, getting back just in time for dinner. Until next time Baxter!

Katahdin (Pamola Peak on L, Hamlin Peak just R of Center, Howe Peaks on R)

Pamola Peak

Katahdin from Sandy Stream Pond

Some clouds rolled over Hamlin Peak

No moose, but a deer was out feeding this morning.

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