Sunday, April 9, 2017

Katahdin to the Treeline

Hiking from Katahdin River Falls to the Tree Line (Part 2).

Hike Planning and Preparation 

Our hiking equipment consisted of a day backpack, hat,  two base-layer shirts, two mid-layer shirts, two mid-weight hiking pants, a light weight rain coat, a low to mid-cut pair of hiking boots, two pair of wool socks, synthetic underwear, two one-liter water bottles, a two liter inside pack water bladder, gloves,  snacks, neckerchief, suntan lotion, two trekking poles, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, mini-stove, fuel, spoon, matches, dehydrated food, and water.  We had to purchase the stove fuel and trekking poles in Bangor, Maine.  The poles would not fit in our luggage, and the fuel is not allowed on the plane.  It was easy to find the fuel, but we had a hard time finding four trekking poles.  After several hours we managed to find  three red-colored inexpensive poles, and one blue good quality pole which we left for the motel maid.  My son-in-law also carried a folding chair to sit and to relax in on top of the mountain.

The Hike

The Appalachian Trail, leading up to Baxter Peak--the top of Mount Katahdin from the Katahdin Stream Campground--is called the Hunt Trail.  The trail takes eight to ten hours round-trip depending on ability.  The trail is considered very strenuous.  The beginning mile and a half is not very steep.   Once the tree line is reached, the trail is made up of all large boulders.  As you hike up the trail let your senses take over and take the time to drink in the beauty of God's creation.  Notice that the path is no longer covered with two to three inches of sand but is mixed with larger rocks with an occasional series of granite rock steps.  There are many downed smaller trees mainly consisting of hardwoods.  The rocks are very irregular and fractured, making it easy to twist an ankle or knee.  The smaller trees form a dense fortress that is a natural barrier to keep the hiker on the trail.  There is no cell phone reception.

The rocks became more plentiful the higher we climbed up the mountain.  The rocks are covered with moss and lichen, a natural process of decay.  Notice you do not see many larger trees because this area has been logged years ago before it became a state park.

The trail crosses the Katahdin Stream by a wobbly wooden bridge with no railings.  The stream is fed by mountain springs and snow melt from the top.  It is very cold, and you can only keep your feet in the water a very few minutes without freezing them.
The trail has a diverse population of moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer.  The wooded areas of the park support bobcats, fishers, martens, weasels, chipmunks, red squirrels, snowshoe hares, coyotes, lemmings, and red foxes.  The most common birds are warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, owls, hawks, eagles, and ducks.

Larger and larger boulders replace the smaller basketball sized rocks.  The trail is marked by the familiar white blaze marking the path of the Appalachian Trail.  The higher we hiked the fewer large trees were found, and the white blazes were painted on rocks rather than the trees.  The trail continues to follow Katahdin Stream as we ascended the mountain.
There is no electricity, running water, or paved roads in Baxter Park.  The "Forever Wild" philosophy is maintained all along the trail.

Just slightly over a mile on the trail and off to the left is Katahdin Stream falls.  It is exciting to see large amounts of water cascading down the mountain side.  The Mount Katahdin was formed by granite intrusion weathered to the outside surface.  The plants and animals are typical of those found in northern New England.   Beside the igneous rock there are outcrops of sedimentary rocks.  The sedimentary rock weather to form beds of sand along the trail.

Small to medium-sized boulders cover the path along the trail as if cut from larger boulders and hand-placed.  The trees on both sides of the trail are much smaller and have changed in diversity from hardwoods to evergreen species.

The trail gets wider the higher in altitude you climb, and almost all of the larger trees are gone.  When we hiked, the air temperature rose from forty to fifty degrees in three miles.  My camera lens fogged from the air moisture of the rain the day before and the temperature change.  The lower elevations give rise to hardwood tree species of red maple, sugar maple, yellow birch, paper birch, American beech, white ash, black ash, big tooth aspen, and quaking aspen.

The closer to the top the larger the boulders and warmer the temperatures are.  The higher elevations give rise to balsam fir, tamarack, white spruce, black spruce, red pine, white pine, northern white-cedar, and eastern hemlock.

Thousands of years ago the Lauren Tide Ice sheet melted northward in New England, creating large boulder slides.  The next 1,000 years time period brought about the emergence of the existing growth forest.
Trekking poles were used to help lift me from one big boulder to the next.  I lost all cartilage in both knees about 20 years ago and cannot bend my knees more than half way.  I can still hike with the aid of trekking poles and a strong son-in-law.
Next months blog will cover part three of the hike from the tree-line to the top of Mount Katahdin.

Isaiah 55:12, - "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."