It was like sitting in a chimney and waiting for the smoke to blow away. It was, in fact, a cloud-factory,– these were the cloud-works, and the wind turned them off done from the cool, bare rocks. [Thoreau]
is the highest mountain in Maine at 5,267 feet above sea level. The Native American name means “great mountain” or “large mountain.”
The centerpiece of Baxter State Park in Mount Katahdin Township, Baxter Peak is its highest followed by South Peak at 5,240 feet and Pamola Peak at 4,902 feet. Among its various peaks is North Peak, the official name of which is Howe Peaks, after Burton Howe, who organized a trip for Percival Baxter in 1920.
Trails above the tree line are often marked by cairns, piles of rocks placed to signify locations or boundaries.
In 1764, Joseph Chadwick, a surveyor, recorded first non-native sighting of Mount Katahdin in a report of his explorations. Charles Turner, Jr. and a party of eleven made the first recorded climb of Mount Katahdin in 1804.
The second and third (1819, 1820) were surveyors for the Maine Boundary Commission seeking to clarify the border with Canada. During a geological survey of Maine, State Geologist Charles T. Jackson made his ascent in 1837.
Henry David Thoreau, and his party climbed the mountain in September of 1846. Young Theodore Roosevelt did the same in 1878, with his guide Bill Sewall. The Appalachian Mountain Club established its first camp there in 1877, its second at Chimney Pond in 1916, and its third at Kidney Pond in 1925.
Turner, Jackson, Thoreau, among others, found the West Branch of the Penobscot River the best approach, leading to Abol Stream and the treeless Abol Slide which now hosts the Abol Trail. That trail, while steep, is a relatively short direct route to the Tableland, a plain in the shadow of Baxter Peak. Thoreau Spring is nearby at the end of the trail.
Much of the Mountain, below the treeline, as well as the surrounding land now in Baxter Park, was heavily logged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
[“A ‘Lake’ of Fog under Katahdin” photo by Rebecca A. Williams, from Scudder Road, Sherman]
An Annotated bibliography of Katahdin. Compiled by Edward S. C. Smith and Myron H. Avery. Washington, D.C. Appalachian Trail Conference. 1936.
Appalachian Mountain Club. How to Climb Katahdin. 2013.
Avery, Myron H. Mount Katahdin in Maine. Augusta, Me. Development Commission. 1935.
Clark, Stephen. Katahdin: A Guide to Baxter Park and Katahdin. Shapleigh, Me. Clark Books. 2009.
Hamlin, Charles Edward. “Routes to Ktaadn.” [Boston] Appalachia. 1881? URSUS NOTE: “Reprinted from the Appalachia, vol. II., no. 4.”
Neff, John W. Katahdin, an Historic Journey: Legends, Explorations, and Preservation of Maine’s Highest Peak. Boston, Mass. Appalachian Mountain Club Books. c2006.
Sewall, George T., 1844-1909. To Katahdin: the 1876 adventures of four young men and a boat. Gardiner, Me. Tilbury House. Augusta, Me. Friends of the Maine State Museum. c2000.
Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862. The Maine Woods. [Many editions, editors, and publishers]