My extended family, along with a group of friends that may as well be considered family, typically hike Mount Katahdin once a year — if not twice. We plan months ahead by reserving a group camping site for the lot of us to settle in for the night before the big hike. And though it’s the same beloved mountain that we tackle each year (though we often take a second trip to hike other mountains in the park such as the Brothers, Traveler and South Turner), each hike is a new epic experience. And since we plan ahead of time, we work with whatever weather we get.
The clouds were thick on our 2009 Katahdin Day, but we climbed anyway, hoping they’d clear out by the time we reached the summit. We climbed Abol Trail, the steepest ascent with the most technical climbing, my cousin Eve’s favorite route, and waded through the grey clouds settled on the Tablelands. At Baxter Peak, the summit of Maine’s tallest mountain (5,268 feet above sea level), we saw the strangest thing materialize out of the gloom. A rugged man lumbered toward us with a great rectangle sign strapped to his back, and behind him trailed hikers carrying long wooden posts. It was time to switch the weather-beaten sign on Baxter Peak, and we just happened to be there for the rare event.
The old frame had been in place since John Neff’s crew installed it in 1977, according to an online article written by the sign’s creator and installer, MATC President Lester C. Kenway. And the sign is replaced every 10 years. Kenway constructed the new sign from four pieces of white pine that were laminated and reinforced with 2”x 6” back braces. It weighs 27 pounds. Seventeen volunteers from throughout New England helped carry up the six timbers, four cedar planks, sign and tools.
Here are some pictures of the old sign and the new sign, both of which stood on the summit of Mount Katahdin on Saturday, July 25, 2009.