I think we can all agree that one of the best feelings is knowing you have the whole summer ahead of you.
That's how I felt about a month ago, and I was itching to ring in the new summer season the right way - with a tent and a good hike.
So I called up a couple buddies, Nick and Sam, and the three of us packed up the car and started the short road trip to Baxter State Park in Maine.
This was my third time hiking Mount Katahdin, but it was Nick and Sam's first, and I was looking forward to spending the next couple of days sharing this cool spot with them.
The nice thing about this mountain is that there are so many options when it comes to conquering it. You can choose your trail depending on length, difficulty level and scenery.
Because the climb usually takes the majority of the day (unless you're the guy who ran by us, drenched in sweat, who the locals claim runs up and down the mountain every day in under two hours - not normal), I've found that the best way to really make the most of the trip is to get to Baxter State Park the night before, enjoy a night of camping, and get up with the sun to start your hike.
So that's exactly what we did.
Our plan was to climb the trail named "Abol", the shortest, most direct pathway to the summit, but also the steepest and one of the more difficult ones. For this reason, we booked our campsite right at the trail head in the hopes of keeping things simple in the early morning.
Tip #1: If you decide to camp, be sure to get through the gates of the park before 8:30PM. After that, they lock up for the night.
Baxter State Park offers a few options for campers - regular tenting campsites, small cabins, or, in our case, a lean-to.
Tip #2: if you rent a campsite with a lean-to, don't bring a giant 5-person tent and expect to be able to put it on the ground.
The rules are that campers on a lean-to site are not allowed to have their tents on the ground. So we had two choices - sleep in the open air of the lean-to, or cram our tent inside it. To ward off the bugs, we opted for the cramming. It was a a tight squeeze, to say the least. If you end up renting the last available campsite and it involves a lean-to like ours did, you may want to bring a smaller tent.
Despite the interesting sleeping arrangement, we loved our campsite. It had everything we needed: a picnic table, a steel fire pit that even had a steel grill for the fire pit, and an outhouse not far away.
After setting up, we grabbed some firewood at the nearby ranger station and enjoyed the best part of camping - sitting under the stars, around a crackling bonfire, eating and talking before calling it a night.
The next morning we woke up to the glow of the sunrise beginning to filter through the trees. We unzipped our tent to start making breakfast and could hear the hum of our fellow campers getting up and beginning their day along with us. The cool morning air mingled with the sizzling of bacon and eggs on our grill and slowly the campsite came more alive, creating an atmosphere of community and excitement for the day ahead.
Tip #3: Why live on trail mix when you can have a solid breakfast? We packed a cooler with bacon and eggs and felt energized and ready to take on our hike after all the protein. Don't forget to bring a frying pan to put on the grill and you'll be all set.
After breakfast we packed up and drove to the small parking lot just outside the campsite.
Tip #4: If you need to park your car, be sure to arrive at the parking lot before 7:00AM to guarantee your spot. After that, they will allow non-campers access to the spots and you may end up needing to park farther away.
After we parked and geared up we quickly signed in at the ranger station and started the hike.
I first climbed the Abol trail in 2013 and at the time the route was up a giant scar in the mountain but it was since closed and then relocated due to some sliding rocks. The new, slightly relocated Abol is a great climb and since it's so direct, it offers great views after just a couple of miles.
The trail is quite strenous and steep at times, especially the boulder section close to the tableland. Be prepared to manouver some large boulders and very challenging sections. Nevertheless, if you're up for the challenge, Abol is a lot of fun and feels very satisfying to accomplish.
After the bouldering section we joined up with a neighbouring trail named "Hunt" to finish out the last miles to the summit.
We finally reached the top and spent about an hour soaking in the vast views of trees, rivers and lakes. On this day it was super clear and we could see everything around us, but I've also been at the top before on a foggy day. This is also pretty cool because you feel like you're amongst the clouds.
When it was time to head back, we climbed down the Hunt trail. It has a large bouldering section at the top that's a little tricky, but the rest of the trail is wooded and fairly straight forward. Visually it's a beautiful trail and there's even a waterfall close to the end.
Once we reached the bottom of the trail we started walking along the road back to the Abol site where we were parked. This in itself was a pretty long walk after having just climbed a mountain all day.
Tip #5: Consider where you'll be finishing your route and think about the best place to leave your vehicle accordingly. Or, do what we did, and hitch a ride.
The total round trip was 8.2 miles (13.2km) and took us roughly 10 hours to complete. If you're looking for a great weekend of hiking, I would highly recommend checking out Mount Katahdin! Follow these tips, bring your adventure buddy and make a road trip of it.
Oh, and don't forget your passport if you happen to live in Canada! Consider this the bonus tip.
Click here for more details about Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin.
Thanks to Nick Moeller for letting us use some of his photos on this blog. Check him out here to see more.
Check out the video recap below: