Mountain Goat: My Mt. Katadin Experience - My Family Travels

“I’ve had enough! Can’t we stop now?”
                “We’re not stopping now, honey. We’ve climbed this far and either way, we’ll have to climb back. Let’s move out!”
                These words were my father’s, addressing my mother, sister, and I, slumped on boulders, exhausted after the treacherous climb and frustrated because we still hadn’t reached the summit of
Mt. Katadin, the highest mountain in Maine.  What were we doing there, you ask, besides possibly granting our death wishes? Well…

                 We had arrived at Baxter State Park only a day before and were leaving in two days. People staying near us were full of tales about climbing Mt. Katadin. My dad, of course, immediately wanted to try, while we females had some reservations. But through persuasion, we agreed and decided to attempt it.

                The very next day, the alarm rang loudly at 4 am. We threw on hiking clothes, grabbed water, and stumbled from our cabin. At the start of the trail, we fell in line and began our march.

                The hours passed, full of clambering over stones and splashing through muddy creeks, swollen from rain. We were greeted at the halfway point by an even narrower trail, including HUGE boulders to scramble over and the prospect of an “avalanche” a few miles up. We were not excited by this news, but after a quick break, we strode on.

                The following hours seemed endless with grueling repetition of pulling ourselves over those enormous boulders. The moods were never constant during this part of our journey, sometimes lighthearted, other times snappish. I myself kept my frustration under wraps, knowing that if it got loose, I might refuse to keep going.

                What felt like decades later, we emerged from the tree line and were faced with an endless expanse of rock, with smaller stones looking ready to break loose at any moment. This “avalanche” was now the only thing between us and the top, so despite our weariness, we began the steep ascent, cautious and careful.

                After an agonized half hour, we scrambled over the last boulders, only to be greeted with…nothing. A plateau shrouded in mist stretched around on all sides. Where was the summit?

                The answer was found by Dad, who, reading a small sign, turned to face us and said carefully, “There’s still a mile to go.”

                My sister protested vehemently, saying she was done. But in our hearts, we knew that if we turned back now, we would be failures. So despite our fatigue, we commenced the longest mile of our lives.

                At this point, we were all on autopilot. We only tried to put one foot in front of the other. The chilling wind whipped through our thin shirts, soaked with sweat. The cloud around us prevented seeing over the edge. No one voiced their thoughts, but  we all were beginning to feel utterly hopeless.

                Soon, a sight caught our lugubrious attention. People were trickling up from a trail adjacent to ours, gathering in a group not far. Towering above them was a large wooden sign.

                Knowing what that sign meant, a hidden reserve of energy within each of us gushed up and we began to hurry forward. All together we clambered over the last huge boulder to be greeted by the sign: BAXTER SUMMIT ELEVATION: 5200 FEET.

                The joy we felt was not such that we danced around, but it was such that we all found the energy to smile brilliantly, proud of ourselves for not giving up. After breathing in the cold, refreshing air of the Mt. Katadin summit, we sat down to enjoy our rest, triumph, and sandwiches.


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