How to hike the Saddle Trail up Katahdin in style
Camping at Roaring Brook Campground
Hey! It’s DD. in 2016, I was recovering from a knee injury, so I wasn’t event sure that I could hike Katahdin. We continued on planning our annual trip, regardless of the facts that the odds were against us – my knee was a mess, and the forecast called for 100% thunderstorms for the weekend. Willow and I stress ate our way through the week, watching the forecast, wondering whether we should continue on with our tradition, come hell or high water, or whether we wanted to play it safe and cancel the trip and have a party at my house (the trip typically takes place on the weekend closest to my birthday, because it stems from my original birthday “Do one thing that scares you” mantra – more on that here ) We obviously opted to continue on with the trip, because that’s just what we do. I had committed to attempting the Saddle Trail -Katahdin and if I struggled to make it to Chimney Pond, then I would turn back. So we started off our trip on Thursday, with a trip to Little and Big Niagara Falls and Daicey Pond (click both of those links to hear those stories!) before setting up camp at Roaring Brook Campground! I had brought the prayer flags this year, because I had been watching Everest No Filter. And I believe that they helped us achieve good fortune during our trip! We started off with a forecast of 100% thunderstorms…..
It was the Persaids Metoer shower so we tried to catch a view at Sandy Stream Pond, but the clouds surrounded us like a dome. We’re hoping for better luck in 2017!
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A day at Sandy Stream Pond
The next day we had been hoping to drive up to Doubletop Mountain and get a hike in. Mother Nature however had much different plans. We woke up to rain outside our lean to – we all briefly muttered to each other at 6 am to see who was going to get up first. Fortunately, we were all on the same page that morning – we slept in, and then made breakfast at camp. Willow is a legit breakfast chef – Jess and I made the bloodies while Willow cooked up the sandwiches. After lunch Willow and I decided to go for a walk around Sandy Stream Pond and look for Moose. (click the link to read that story!)
We did not see any wildlife that day, and only a few other hikers. It was peaceful and serene – a true relaxing moment. Willow and I were thankful for that day and that rainstorm, which allowed us to just be. It makes me feel relaxed just thinking of it! Jess enjoyed her time reading a book in the lean to. The crew all took a nap when we got back and waited for our crew to arrive. Well, after we took a trip into town to pick up more ice. We’ve already made preparations for the crew that comes later to bring more ice for us. There’s no signal in the park – so it’s impossible to communicate via cell phone!
Surprise guest in Baxter State Park
This allowed for an EPIC surprise. But some strange twist of fate, we had decided to take separate cars to Baxter on Thursday, leaving Willow alone for a bit. I had posted a status that I was going off the grid, and one of my very best friends Sarah – who now lives in Washington State – saw it and called to connect with Willow – at that moment, she had decided she was booking a ticket and was going to surprise me! It worked out perfectly and she rode up with our crew coming up on Friday and I had NO idea. Best Surprise Ever!!!
Happy Birthday to DD
This trip was initially something I started for my birthday, so of course I brought birthday hats and made the group wear them and act like they were celebrating. Hey – I don’t ask much! The best thing about camp is that it gets dark and you want to go to bed, for the most part. So, we conked out early to get ready for a big day on the mountain on Saturday. The forecast wasn’t looking so amazing the next day either, but we’d decided to give it a shot and turn back if it got sketchy. We left camp around 6 am and all went at our own pace, breaking off into groups.
Hiking the Saddle Trail
Getting to Chimney Pond
We hit Chimney Pond in some pretty decent time, and I was feeling pretty good with my knee and decided to take the trek up to the summit. As you can see, I didn’t take many photos from when we left camp up until after we hit treeline on Katahdin – Saddle Trail, because I was so focused on taking care of my knee. But – once you hit above treeline – it’s pretty much impossible to not take photos. It’s gorgeous!
Power of the Tibetan Prayer Flags
Now, I want to take you back to the beginning, when I mentioned 100% chance of thunderstorms on Sat? DO YOU SEE ANY THUNDERSTORMS!?!? Those prayer flags have done it again!
Hiking to the summit of Katahdin
On your way up Katahdin – Saddle Trail – after hitting the break off (you can either head up to Baxter Peak, or head over to Hamlin Peak) , you head up the longest .5 mile in your LIFE to get to the summit of Katahdin. It takes about an hour to get up to Baxter Peak. It feels like your’re climbing in quicksand because of all of the little skree you’re trudging through. We were lucky enough to run into our group on their way down, so we got a great photo of all of us on this section – thanks to a fellow hiker who didn’t mind snapping this super meaningful photo! (Side note – some of the photos that you take on Katahdin can be the most meaningful. Always offer to take others photos and don’t hesitate to ask others to take yours. Sometimes you are so wrapped up in the moment, you forget.)
Bluebird skies on Katahdin
We made it to the summit around noon, and it was a perfect day. (THANKS PAMOLA!) We even got a little sunkissed because it was so warm at the top! Pretty good, for a day with a forecast of 100% rain. (Disclaimer – we’d still hike with a chance of rain. We would NOT hike with a risk of thunderstorms. We might be crazy, but we’re not THAT crazy!) We had our lunch at the top, took some photos of the views, and then decided to head back down – after all, hanging out at camp is one of the best parts of the weekend!
Descending the Saddle Trail
We flew back down the trail, it was a little intimidating to the crew because it appears to be steep, but it’s not really. There was a bit of butt sliding, but not much. There were kids on there about my size and smaller that were breezing past. Just take your time on the decent and enjoy the views! We took a brief stop at Chimney Pond to take some photos, then headed back to camp to celebrate with the crew!
Photos at Chimney Pond
We played some Cards Against Humanity back at camp, and had a chill night. We were really looking forward to our breakfast the next morning at the AT Cafe – bonus if you sit next to someone who has just finished the AT – it’s a pretty amazing experience to encounter thru hikers!
The Saddle Trail – Katahdin is probably the “easiest” trail up. You start with the Chimney Pond Trail in – the first few miles on this trail into Chimney Pond are brutal, if you hate the slow ascent like I do. This section is about 3.2 miles, and you gain about 1,545 feet of elevation. One of these days, we will backpack into Chimney Pond and camp, but we really enjoy car camping at Baxter – it’s such a luxury! Saddle is also a nice trail in rainy weather, because it’s covered for a lot of the time, and it blocks the wind. From Chimney Pond, the Saddle Trail is about 1.1 to Baxter Peak, but it’s a pretty big elevation gain, so don’t expect to be Speedy Gonzales. This trail takes about 10 hours to finish at a Moderate Pace, and gives you 3,864 feet of elevation gain overall. Take your time, bring lots of snacks and water, and enjoy the views!
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