Photo Credit: Billy Fay

A Trip Report in Time - Katahdin 1912

[April 2, 2018]

Once in a while, the record of an astonishing climb of Katahdin is discovered, requiring one to stretch the usual rational possibilities to the limit. In June of 1912, three Colby College professors decided to climb Katahdin, took the train in Millinocket, and began their odyssey by walking all the way to the base of the Abol Slide in two days. They were guided only by a “diagram that Thoreau had made” after his 1846 partial ascent of the mountain and which they borrowed from the college library. The next day they climbed the steep trail up the avalanche and finally stood on the summit in the late morning. It was clear, but clouds were beginning to gather. Whether by design or otherwise (the account does not reveal) the group descended “the other side” of the mountain, and over several days they passed a “body of water” (Katahdin Lake?), reached the Wassataquoik Valley tote road, slept near a lumberman’s “bunkhouse”, and encountered a number of loggers.

On their final day they arrived at the west bank of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, calmly hailed the Lunksoos ferryman, and were carried across the river. The final day they hiked up to the railroad station at Stacyville in time to catch the late afternoon train back home to Waterville. To my knowledge, there is no record of such a lengthy traverse in all the Katahdin literature, with the possible exception of Donn Fendler’s clearly unintentional traverse in 1939. To follow such an itinerary of thirty or so miles - many more by primitive foot trails - would test the very limits of endurance and fortitude. To have done it more than a century ago with primitive equipment is indeed impressive.

. {Many thanks to Friends member Bill Geller who discovered this story in a 1970 Lewiston Journal Magazine Section during his research}

Photo: A hiker scales the west side of Katahdin in the summer of 1939. – Photo © Norman Spear, courtesy of Gail & Stephen Stone