The Greatest Mountain: Part II
After our epic ascent of Mount Katahdin via the Hunt Trail, we decided to descend Abol Trail for a change of scenery.
Originally opened by Mother Nature in 1816, the trail utilizes the prominent Abol Slide. Taking cliffs and boulders with it, the slide created the most direct route to Baxter Peak, dropping 4000 feet in only 2.8 miles.
Trail Report: Descending Abol Trail
Not only is Abol the most direct route to the summit, it’s often considered the most difficult, with loose stones and scree making the footing precarious to climb and downright treacherous to descend.
Embracing My Inner Super Hero, Sort Of
From the junction on Tableland, the trail drops immediately. Looking down the mountain, you clearly see the slide’s path of destruction, seemingly endless and fully exposed. Known as the Needle’s Eye, the top section of the trail is littered with huge talus boulders. As we scrambled down, I was often forced to a spider-like crouch to navigate the rocks.
Just call me Spiderwoman. Without the super powers. And infinitely less flexible.
Keeping low to the rocks, my hands in constant contact as I found my next foothold, I slowly descended. Thankfully the swirling clouds and mist that kept the summit hidden from view were far above us. Adding moisture to the rocks would spell disaster.
Slip-n-Slide, Mountain Style
After the boulder field, we reached a somewhat level terrace known as Green Island. After a very brief return to upright walking, we reached the heart of the slide. Pummeled and pulverized by the weight of tumbling boulders, the rocks in this section are smaller, looser, and slippery.
I lost count of how many times my butt hit the ground. I was glad my derriere was adequately covered by my KÜHL women’s travel shorts. I still managed to rack up an impressive number of scratches and bruises on my shins, but at least my toosh escaped the beating!
It took forever and a day to get down this section. You can’t really take the most direct route, unless you possess Bear Gryll skills and don’t mind risking life and limb. Since no one was paying me to go full-out woman vs. wild, I slowly criss-crossed back and forth, trying to find the most stable footing.
After gingering picking our way down the scree, the rocks began to change, increasing in size as we reached the bottom of the slide. Still not easy going, anything was better than the slip-n-slide we’d endured for the last hour.
As we scrambled our way through the end of the slide, more scrub and bushes began to pop up. Finally, we reached the cool, shaded protection of thick spruce forest.
We made quick work of the final stretch, our legs eating up the trail as we bottomed out and followed a feeder branch of Abol Stream. Our footfalls were hushed by the deep forest, and I soaked in the glorious serenity.
An Unexpected Encounter
And then it happened. The moment that made the punishing and painstakingly slow descent worth every knee-crunching second.
Not even 20 feet off the trail, minding his own business, was Maine’s unofficial mascot. We stopped in our tracks, slowly walked backwards on the trail, and watched as the moose nonchalantly looked at us and then went back to eating.
We couldn’t get a great shot of his head, but we did get plenty of moose butt pics.
Talk about the perfect way to end our hike.
A few minutes later we emerged from the forest. Unfortunately our car was parked three miles away at the Katahdin Stream campground.
We started down the fire road, walking the hills and jogging the rest. After the first mile, I stuck my thumb out, and we hitched a ride the rest of the way.
Back at camp, we sat on the dock and dipped our sore and tired feet in the lake. For a moment, the peak was visible, so we gazed at the ridge where we’d been a few hours earlier.
Then, like the curtain falling on the stage, we watched as the clouds rolled in and once again hid The Greatest Mountain from view.