Climbing Mt. Katahdin -- The Greatest Mountain

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The mystical Mount Katahdin in Maine's Baxter State Park. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

Native Americans called it "Kette-Adene" -- the Greatest Mountain -- according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

We know and love it today as Mount Katahdin -- the ultimate goal of northbound Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hikers.

As of October 20, 2013, 1,136 people have registered as thru-hikers at Amicalola State Park in Georgia -- gateway to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT.

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The Book: Where northbound thru-hikers register with Ranger Ron at Amicalola Falls State Park near Springer Mountain. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

"They say" roughly one-third of them will make it to the top of Mount Katahdin and the end of the Trail.

Just climbing Katahdin itself is a feat. As the highest point in Maine, hiking to the summit is beyond most hikers.

This real-live mountain is within a dozen feet of a mile high.

The portion of the AT that ascends Katahdin is also known as the Hunt Trail. It's a "very strenuous" hike that begins at the trailhead at the Katahdin Stream Campground.

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The iconic Appalachian Trail sign warning southbound hikers to take the 100-Mile Wilderness seriously. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

The elevation gain on the 5.2 mile jaunt is 4,188 feet. Think "billy goat." Almost half the trek is above the tree line.

You must hike up and down through 13 states to get near Katahdin. Right around the 2,070 mile point, you enter the 100-Mile Wilderness, just north of Monson, where you hike 100-miles through the wilderness of Maine before you catch a glimpse of Katahdin, by Abol Bridge.

If I were a northbound hiker seeing it for the first time, I would think Katahdin was a cruel trick.

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Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. Sometimes it's better not to be able to see where you're going on the path of life because you'd turn around and not accomplish great things. ~~ Photograph & sermon by Robert Sutherland

Somebody should interview thru-hikers at that point and ask for their thoughts.

I'll bet nobody says, "Oh, boy! Now I get to hike to the top of that giant rocky mountain!"

But it is beautiful, as seen from Abol Bridge, even when the path is cloudy.

If you hike from Georgia all the way to within sight of Mount Katahdin and then come to your senses and say, "Whoa! What the heck am I doing?" you will still be a hero to me.

If you keep heading north, you'll have another mile to ponder your path before you enter Baxter State Park and register your intention to follow through on your commitment to finish the hike that's probably taken you six months already.

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Northbound thru-hiker, Ace, within sight of Mount Katahdin and the end of the Appalachian Trail. ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

You won't give up.

And if you want to, you'll probably meet another thru-hiker, like Ace, who will go the rest of the way with you.

It's like that on the Appalachian Trail. You're alone. But you're not alone.

When you finish your hike, you'll be part of an elite group of survivors.

You can prove to yourself and anyone else anywhere that you -- at least in one endeavor -- put your mind and feet toward a goal.

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Mount Katahdin ~~ Photograph by Robert Sutherland

And you didn't give up. Month after month. Mountain after mountain. Storm after storm.

You made it all the way.

You are a thru-hiker.

To you, your memory of Katahdin will always be lovely.

Because you climbed the Greatest Mountain and there's nothing you cannot do ever again.

Probably.


Tags: Tourism, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, News, Appalachian Trail Clubs, and Maine Appalachian Trail Club

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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