Running 26M on the AT to Mount Katahdin - Baxter State Park, Maine
Elevation Range 1480' - 5270'
June 29, 2015 - I will never walk the Appalachian Trail end to end - it's just not in 
me to take on that kind of task.  I have hiked about a third of it over the years,
and this year I would fulfill a longstanding dream to hike to the top of both its southern
terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia and its conclusion in the north on Mount
Katahdin in Maine.  I was elated to be able to climb Katahdin on two perfect days
to begin my summer 2015 adventure odyssey, first running to the top from the south 
over the final miles of the Appalachian Trail, and then climbing it from the north up 
the Keep Ridge, then over the Knife Edge from Pamola the following day.

The legacy of the difficulty thru hikers face in the final miles to reach the conclusion 
of their long travail has long intrigued me.  Having climbed many a peak, I wanted
to experience first hand what every thru hiker must face before claiming he or she
has hiked the entire way, only I didn't want to do it carrying a hefty pack on weary
legs.  The challenge would prove considerable enough without the weight.

A run on the AT was not even on my itinerary when I headed for New England.  Only
because of blowing off a race at Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid in New York
did I have an additional day to explore Maine's backcountry.  An all-day cold rain with
strong wind gusts had me opting to drive through the bad weather rather than run
it in.  Made sense to me - drive on bad days, run on good ones.  Only a bad story
would have come out of the Whiteface event.  I just traded it for a good story out
of Maine.

The sun peaks over the horizon about twenty minutes before five this far north, so
I was up and around early with a plan to run the AT perhaps 15 miles.  I waited
to see whether the rain would continue and finally set off at about eight from Abol
Bridge, outside Baxter State Park.  I wanted to get some miles in and thought it a
good opportunity to see the Maine woods from the AT.  I didn't decide to run up the
mountain until later in the run.  I was feeling great, the weather appeared like it 
would be better than forecasted, and I was really enjoying the beauty of these woods.


The trail is mostly level as it follows along the west branch of the Penobscot River
for the first four miles or so.  I recalled Henry David Thoreau's time on the Penobscot
and wondered if he had enjoyed the very same scenery and loon calls.  I must go back
through his Journals to check.  Upon reaching a tributary called Nesowadnehunk, the
trail turned north and began its climb toward the mountain along rushing waters with
waterfalls and slides too numerous to count or photograph all of them.  I really enjoyed
this part as the trail wound its way toward the first of two points of tourist egress at
Daicey Pond campground.  It leveled off thereafter past Grassy Pond before reaching the 
second campground at Katahdin Stream.  There were a fair number of hikers and even 
one girl running.  Close to the campgrounds there were a considerable number of log
bridges to protect marshy terrain from the increased foot traffic.



From Katahdin Stream CG the trail took on an immediate vertical profile to climb the
final five miles to the summit of Katahdin.  Up to this point I was able to run at a
comfortable tempo averaging 4 mph.  The climb reduced me to 1 mph as it increasingly
turned to three- and four-point climbing up and over boulders.  I charged up the slope
with a hunger for climbing, passing eveyone in my path.  This part of the AT must be
an absolute nightmare for thru hikers.  The streams of water running down the trail
must be made in large part of the sweat and tears of thru hikers, methinks!  Actually,
I didn't encounter a single northbound thru hiker.  It is still a little early for anyone to
have reached the northern terminus.  Scott Jurek won't be much longer before he makes
his appearance on these slopes in his historic FKT bid.  There is so much history and
emotion associated with the AT that you cannot help but feel its special vibe any time
you hike on it.


I climbed to the ridge, two miles shy of the actual summit, but beyond the boulder
field.  Turning at 13 miles would give me more than enough distance for this day.  The
mountain was fogged in anyway, and I would be on top the following day after making
my way across the Knife Edge.  Going another four miles was more than I cared to do
on this day.  The temps on top had moderated considerably and even the wind gusts felt
comfortable with a windbreaker.  The rocks on top were dry from the wind, making for
good traction above treeline.  Down below rocks were slippery and challenging from the
rain of the day before and the mist from the low hanging clouds.  Climbing and 
descending required special care so as not to fall or lose precious skin unnecessarily.


Descending, I took even greater care not to fall.  The extra effort for safety was worth it.
The roundtrip took a little over 8 hours, averaging about 3 mph.  It was an absolutely
fantastic way to begin my summer adventures.  I felt great at the conclusion, having
maintained good control throughout the day.  Stripping down, I took a dip in the refreshing
waters of Thoreau's Penobscot River.  Such a good feeling to have been here and done 
this!  A good trade off with the rainy weather of the race.  Can't wait to go up again
tomorrow after a good night of sleep.