The Katahdin Massif is massive. Although most travelers would prefer bagging Maine's highest peak, Hamlin Peak offers an alternative to the often crowded Baxter summit. It is also one of Maine's 4,000-footers.
|Mt Hamlin Ridge Trail, Baxter State Park|
Well you can hardly ever expect favorable weather to last long in Maine unless you consider windy and rainy favorable. Regardless, any trip to Maine has to compensate for the likelihood of stormy weather. Today I was to hike Hamlin Peak which is part of the Mt Katahdin ridgeline but is prominent enough to be a peak in its own right. Although tall enough to have a bare summit with 360-degree views, this mountain hardly sees the kind of traffic that its big brother sees. Its a great hike though and probably better than Katahdin for those of us who prefer to wander off the beaten path. Its also another necessary peak for the obsessive-compulsive folks who climb 4,000-footers. Whatever your pleasure, Hamlin shouldn't be missed if you've made it all the way out to Baxter State Park
I just as much assumed that no amount of rain gear was going to keep me dry today. The Hamlin ridge is mostly above tree line and very expose to wind and weather.
|Classic view of Mt Katahdin with Mt Hamlin just right of center|
The Katahdin parking lots are always such a riot. Even on a Tuesday morning, one can probably find a license plate in the Roaring Brook Trailhead which is the most frequently used trailhead to climb Katahdin. I could see different groups with varying levels of preparedness for the hike ahead. There were the super-fit couples from New York who wore designer "activewear" but were clearly not dressed for the wilderness. There were families from Boston, Hartford, Washington and all up and down the eastern seaboard looking for a pleasant day-hike totally unaware of the viciousness of Katahdin. I probably could have seen myself there from a few years back- a wild west-coast climber thinking that a mere-5,000ft hill would be a walk in the park (I've since learned better). Finally, there were a few gaunt Appalachian Trail finishers who made all of us look like pedestrians.
While I would have loved to have stayed and enjoyed the scene, I had my own ridiculous mountain to hike.
The trail up Mt Hamlin begins the same way as the Katahdin hike. The first 2.2 miles climb up a well-maintained trail past the basin ponds until the first turnoff appears on the right. Hoards of hikers will continue straight onwards to Chimney Pond but the Hamlin peak trail turns right. From here, it is 0.6 miles to another turnoff- heading right will take you to the North Basin lookout while heading straight will bring you to Hamlin. It is just 0.2 miles further from the North Basin cutoff trail to the Hamlin Ridge Trail
|A stormy day but still gorgeous|
|Mt Katahdin before the storm rolled in|
|The Hamlin Ridge Trail|
Now, if you have ever hiked any trail up Mt Katahdin, you know that it is a trail in the loosest sense of the term. If you're looking for "a trail" well head to Acadia. In Baxter State Park, trails are routes. Routes are a collection of blue-blazes running over hands-and-feet climbs which are exposed and steep. Take home message- its more of a climb than a hike. Hamlin Ridge was no different. Its only 1.1 miles up the Hamlin Ridge but I'm an experienced hiker and it took me a good 1.5 hours, at least.
Mercifully, there are fantastic views to keep the mind off the steepness. Hamlin Ridge really felt like Katahdin except without the crowds and woefully unprepared hikers. I know that the weather had something to do with it, but hey, I had the trail and the summit to myself. Even with the clouds, I doubt you could have seen any further from the Katahdin summit.
I won't lie; the primary reason I hiked this mountain was to bag another 4,000 footer. However, like most of these adventures, I discovered a little known peak with lots of adventures.
|Rocky and stout vegetation|
The weather did get miserable at some point but that was just part of the experience. The whole hike actually didn't take me more than about 6 hours and I'm not a particularly fast hiker. It was just about 8 miles total too. At one point on the way up I thought about skipping over to Mt Katahdin but with the wind and rain I decided that Hamlin would suffice. Although its so often overshadowed by Katahdin's fame, its a glorious peak. Tomorrow... the Brothers loop!
Read. Plan. Get Out There!