Katahdin report

Mount Katahdin has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the hardest mountains in the Northeast. M and I hiked it last week, planning about a 7-mile day. We got up at 7 to read the weather forecast on the Ranger’s cabin, and hiked the 3.3 miles to the Chimney Pond campsite in the south basin. We dropped off our tent, sleeping stuff, clothes, and one of our packs. Around 10am, we started up Pamola trail. It was 1.3 miles and 2000 vertical feet up that trail to our first peak.

Katahdin map

What we learned is that the trail up Pamola is perilous, windy, totally exposed, ridiculously steep, and covered with pointy and scratchy boulders. We rock scrambled at a 45 degree angle hundreds and thousands of feet above the foothills for nearly three hours. Yes, that’s right, it took us three hours to climb a mile and a third.

At the peak, we reconsidered our options. We were tired. No, wait, we were exhausted. We agreed that it very likely had been the hardest hike of our lives, and it was shorter than the distance from our house to Boston Common. Coming up was the most notorious stretch of trail on Katahdin: the Knife Edge. It’s a rocky trail about three feet wide at parts the follows a sharp ridge between Pamola, Chimney Peak, South Peak, and the top of the mountain: Baxter Peak. After some math, we took the optimistic route: continue the plan.

We started heading to the opposite side of the peak, and then we saw it. Not just the Knife Edge, but the first hurdle on it: the Chimney. A 200 foot precipitious drop that we needed to rockclimb down and then the same on the other side to get back up. But we weren’t ready for it. We tried a couple different ways down, struggling against tired muscles. We sat staring at it, weighing our other options. It cut a deep groove directly between Pamola and the rest of the peaks, so we couldn’t go around.

We were beaten by Katahdin. We turned around, heading back down Pamola trail, and the whole way down we had to hope we wouldn’t fall off the pointy and scratchy boulders.


Shenandoah National Park (National Park Service)

M and I just got back from a four-night trip to Shenandoah National Park in northern Virginia. I’ve been talking about it with people this week, and I’ve run out of positive adjectives. It was remarkably amazing in every way.


Most of our trip we spent hiking: 7 or 8 miles each day. Since we generally hiked from trailheads on Skyline Drive (the main 105-mile road running through the center of the park and the roughly along the ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains) to waterfalls, just about every single one of the hikes was down for several miles, then back up. Which was a strange thing to get used to. The trails were probably the best-marked ones I’ve ever hiked on. Every mile or so, there would be a granite post in the ground with a metal band around the top. The band would say what trail you were on and how far to other side-trails and destinations and whatnot.

The lodge we stayed in (Skyland) was great (and the view from the room was outstanding). And the “Early Bird” special package (for going before their busy season) was really fantastic. The weather could not have behaved any better while we were there. Move-related problems meant we didn’t have our digital camera with us, but the photos we took with film and my cellphone are definitely excellent.

I recommend this trip for anyone. The lodge meant you didn’t have to really be roughing it, but there’s more than 500 miles of hiking to a whole lot of great mountaintops and waterfalls. There’s 75 stunning overlooks along the road alone, so if you’re not even in a hiking mood, a drive through the park is also more than worth the time it takes.


Dandelions are what’s called an apomictic plant. Apomixis is essentially asexual reproduction. A single dandelion, even in quarantine, will create seeds that are identical to itself. As random mutations happen over time, a microspecies will form, since genetic changes are not contributed back into any gene pool. Some botanists have identified thousands of separate dandelion microspecies, often confined to a single meadow.

Also, dandelions are delicious, and are extremely high in Vitamin A and C.

Trip to Maine

M, Mari, Chris, Nomad, and I just got back from our trip to the family camp in Maine. It was a fun time, but it was pretty dang chilly all weekend. Here’s a few of the highlight photos.

Update 09-08: Chris has posted a few of his pictures from the trip, including their visit to Boothbay and Popham Friday morning.

Hiking Mt. Greylock

Fourteen miles of hiking, and two-thirds of a vertical mile of climbing in two days to get to the top of the tallest Mountain in Massachusetts. It was completely worth the effort.