Published Oct 22, 2014
Winter is coming to Mt. Katahdin in Maine's Baxter State Park, but it's not there yet.
In a phone conversation on Tuesday, October 21, 2014, Baxter State Park's Chief Ranger Ben Woodard kindly answered that elusive question: "When does Mt. Katahdin close to northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hikers?"
Ben has been chief ranger since January 5, 2009 at the northern terminus for the Appalachian Trail: atop Mt. Katahdin.
Baxter State Park consists of more than 200,000 acres of wild land, wildlife and wild hikers. For lovers of the AT, Baxter is all about the iconic Katahdin and its status as the beginning or end of the journey of a lifetime.
Oddly, the six-part mission statement for the park doesn't even refer to the AT:
(That's OK. Not all of us have our priorities straight, right?)
Baxter State Park's Facebook page doesn't seem to mention the closing of Katahdin's Hunt Trail -- the path of the Appalachian Trail to the summit -- for the 2014 season.
Trail lore tells us the Trail always closes sometime around the end of October. Therefore, northbound (NoBo) thru-hikers hustle to get to Baxter before it shuts down for the winter.
There is some truth to that ... but not enough. According to Ben Woodard, Hunt Trail doesn't close until the weather is so bad that the trail isn't safe for hikers or rangers.
It's only a guess, but Ben suspects such bad weather won't strike until some time in November. Until then "the trail is open for day-hiking" but not for camping on Katahdin.
The average round-trip time is somewhere around 10-hours. Ben says at this time of year, "that means you have to start while it's dark and you return after dark." Combine that with the winds, cold temperatures and harsh trail conditions, it's "more challenging" for NoBos.
There are other signs at Baxter of the impending winter. Trail shuttles no longer run to/from the park to the Appalachian Trail Community of Millinocket. You can always try Bull Moose Taxi. Mark will happily pick you up at Katahdin Stream and scoot you into Millinocket for around $60. Call him at 207-447-8079 (and tell him Robert says hello).
The Visitor Center closed for the season on Saturday, October 18th. The regular camping season came to a close then as well. The first-time trial period for extended camping has been a success, according the Chief Ranger Woodard. A few camping sites at Abol and Katahdin Stream will remain open until October 25th. Campsites and a few cabins at Daicey Pond and Kidney Pond are part of the experiment for camping at Baxter later in the season, but they'll also shut down on Saturday the 25th..
Ben let a secret out during our conversation. Campsites can only be reserved four-months in advance. So, if you know what spot you want and what day you want it, call four-months ahead. You snooze, you lose.
When Hunt Trail closes for the 2014, we will post it on AppalachianTrail.com. If you follow Baxter on Facebook, you'll see it there too.
To all those who aspire to climb Mt. Katahdin: Blessings to you!
My thanks to Bull Moose Taxi and Chief Ranger Ben Woodard for their help with this story.
Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Appalachian Trail Community, News, Closings, Appalachian Trail Clubs, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, Weather, Closures, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
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