Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hamlin Peak - 7/20/14

A couple of weeks ago, things aligned to allow me to join my friend Mike on his 67th and final 4,000 footer to complete the New England 4,000 Footers list.  I had the pleasure of joining Mike for almost half of his journey, including his 48th on Whiteface, so it was fitting to be along for the ride on the final peak.  Baxter is amazing, and it was great to be headed back up again since my amazing winter experience.  Since Mike has a place not to far away, on Saturday it was nice to enjoy a good meal in Freeport, and later a lake-side campfire along with some nice beer.  We arose Sunday morning to the nice fresh Maine air.  A nice day for a 67 finish.

As we took the exit for Millinocket, a bald eagle stood his ground on some road kill as I tried to take the exit.  I thought it was a crow until I got closer!  An exciting start to our day!  We picked up some snacks, and were on our way into Baxter.  Before we pulled to the gate, a ranger in a mini cooper walked up to the car.  I was expecting serious, and in a serious tone, he asks, "Hey there, where ya headed, you got your dooper?" Trying not to laugh my ass off, I hand it over.  He said, "you guys sure have some impeccable timing arriving here at 6:59." Baxter requires a Day-use parking reservation, at which you need to arrive before 7am.  He wrote down some info on our placard and sent us up to the gate, and we proceeded to Roaring Brook.
Chimney Pond Trail from Roaring Brook
Baxter State Park, safety notice sign
Looking up towards Hamlin Ridge from Basin Pond
Mike and I climbed the Knife Edge back in 2012 so we've been up here in the summer.  We did well on the rocky Chimney Pond Trail.  Mike is just weeks off of back surgery and getting back into it.  He definitely killed it considering those circumstances.  We were doing so good, we didn't really pay attention to our next trail junction.  Not that it mattered at all, we just realized after the fact that we were on the North Basin Cut-off, rather than the shorter .4 North Basin Trail we were planning on taking over to Hamlin Ridge Trail.  It was just funny because we only realized it when I noticed we were doing additional elevation gain, and I was thinking to myself, I could have sworn Hamlin Ridge Trail was right there.
North Basin Cut-off 

After unexpectedly covering a new trail in Baxter, we took a break before beginning our climb up the Hamlin Ridge Trail.  This was my 3rd time heading up to Hamlin Peak, and all 3 times I've used the Hamlin Ridge Trail.  This is one you can hike a thousand times, and it should always be awesome, it has for me.  It had been two years since I seen the uncovered terrain here, and I only descended it then, so it was fun as the Hamlin Ridge Trail started to challenge us.  On the way up the ridge we came across a toad and a spider, while birds sang just below treeline. 

A toad 
A spider
Very shortly thereafter, which is a big plus of the HRT, we lifted above the trees, and that was it.  Never mind the tough boulder climbing, the views certainly delay fast progress up the mountain.  As with any goals, this was also the mountain not letting it come easy for Mike.  Frequent breaks were had on the way up to rest and enjoy the views.  The weather was extremely comfortable, and it was a perfect day, even with the varying cloud cover.  For the first time in a while, this was a leisure hike for me.  I was taking it in, happy to be a part of the finish in an overwhelmingly spectacular place.

Hamlin Ridge Trail 
The Knife Edge, Mt. Katahdin 
Hamlin Ridge Trail 
Looking left off the Hamlin Ridge Trail, just above treeline
North Basin tarn 
Chimney Pond
We continued the ascent, climbing up a couple of steep sections before reaching the plateau of Hamlin Peak.  It was an amazing sight as clouds moved over Katahdin, but also a perfectly level ring of clouds seemed to surround the Katahdin area.  It wasn't that bright, but the clouds were nice clouds, winds were calm, it was beautiful.  Mike led the way for summit push, and completed his 67th New England 4000-Footer by reaching the summit sign.  We celebrated the accomplishment with a couple of beers that I had no problem carrying up for the occasion.  We enjoyed the summit for quite some time, pretty amazed and how lucky we were to have such a good day on our hands.  
Mike takes a high step near the top of Hamlin. Back is good and Mike is back!
Hamlin Peak summit. 4,757' 
Mike completes the AMC New England 4000-Footers, Congratulations! 
Summit cairn and signs on  Hamlin Peak 
Mike's Hamlin summit photo 
This was my 3rd time to Hamlin

The hike back down the Hamlin Ridge is just as good as when you're arriving.  The constant sensory overload (views and exposure) is something very tough to describe.  We enjoyed our descent, and the perfect day continued.  We passed a mother and young teen son, who were exhausted and laying out on a rock.  The mother quietly told us he wanted to give it a shot (he was sleeping).  That seemed to imply they were just now taking in the views before turning around.  We enjoyed another celebratory beer at the car as we took our time getting ready for the long haul home.  Surprised to see about 5 other groups busting out post-hike beers from the trunks.  

Just when we thought the adventure was over, we were pulling into Millinocket and this bear darted out from the tall grass on the left as I traveled about 45-50mph.  It was definitely a shock as it happened, but exciting as I slowed a little bit, and he safely made it across.  This and the eagle picture are snap-shots from my dashcam video. He was a quick little fella, and wildlife is always fun to see.  The long rides to Maine only get shorter the more you do them, so it wasn't a bad ride home.  We sure had lots to talk about from this adventure, and the couple of other dozens adventures across New England that we've gone on over the last three years or so.  Here's to many more, Mike! 

A bear darts across the road

Hike Stats
Trails: Chimney Pond Trail, North Basin Trail, North Basin Cut-off, Hamlin Ridge Trail
Distance: 8.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,40 ft.
Actual Book Time: 8:30
GPS Track: Garmin Adventures

No comments:

Post a Comment