My 1983 Appalachian Trail Hike in Photos

 

I wrote a ton in words in my journal as I hiked the Appalachian Trail. I also shot a ton of Kodachrome slides in that pre-digital age. I've scanned all my old AT slides and posted them with short text blurbs connecting them to their parts of the story. I'd never tried to connect all these slides with all these words before. It helped me remember details of that long-ago hike in new ways. These pages are a chronological visual journal of the hike. Probably one of the oldest thru-hikes on the Internet to get one.

 

More pics from my 1983 Appalachian Trail hike. Table of Contents is here.

 

Three Rainbow Deadwaters, ME - Mount Katahdin, ME, Trail's End

Still October 1, 1983. Still Chapter 24.

 

When we left off, I was following Rainbow Stream past the three Rainbow Deadwaters, small pond-like stretches, along which the stream widened, and the current became very still.

October and my far northern latitude had finally brought me to true autumn forests, although the long, hot summer of 1983 was bleeding into October even up here. October 1, 1983 was a balmy day in the 70s, with a humidity that was slow to burn off.

Still October 1, 1983. Still Chapter 24.

After the deadwaters, the stream narrowed again before emptying into a large body of water as the Appalachian Trail came out on the southwest shore of Rainbow Lake.

The haze of the morning had cleared, and there was an absolutely fantastic view of Katahdin across the lake in the distance.

 

Still October 1, 1983. Still Chapter 24.

The trail followed on or near the shore of the enormous lake, past several similar great views of Mount Katahdin.

 

Along this stretch, I passed Rainbow Spring, which was even bigger than Potaywadjo Spring and almost as good. I spent fifteen minutes relaxing there, guzzling water and watching dark clouds begin to move in from the southwest. It figured. After all of those miles, I was kind of hoping for fair weather for my big day.

 

After the spring, the AT continued along the shore, passing Rainbow Lake Camps, the third and final of the three sets of hunting camps which are still on the trail. These are now private cabins of no use to AT hikers.

Something big must have been happening at Rainbow Lake Camps that night. Numerous float planes were landing on and taking off from the middle of the lake.

 

I followed the shore of Rainbow Lake for about five miles, as the blue skies clouded over.

 

Still October 1, 1983. Still Chapter 24.

At the far end of the lake, the Appalachian Trail climbed a ridge known as the Rainbow Ledges. Whoever named all those places I passed that day worked that rainbow theme a bit.

 

A large burned-over area near the top had good views. Katahdin seemed almost close enough to touch. So did the thick, black clouds drifting sullenly across the sky. I began to hope that it rained the next day and got it over with before Monday.

As the Appalachian Trail followed a wooded portion of the ridge over some knobs, I spotted moose #5. She was moving so slowly and quietly through the darkening forest below I almost missed her. After a long descent, I Arrived at Hurd Brook Lean-to at 6:00. This was the final shelter on the Appalachian Trail, although Baxter State Park rented out similar structures to campers in the two campgrounds through which the trail passes. I wound up hiking about nineteen miles that day, which made the third of my planned three short days to Katahdin even shorter.

 

This brings us to the end of both October 1, 1983 and Chapter 24.

Chapter 25. I had Hurd Brook Lean-to all to myself that night, my final night in the hundred-mile wilderness. It rained during the night, short spurts of very light drizzle. This let up by daybreak October 2, 1983, but the sky remained gray and overcast.

 

I left the shelter at 8:15. I had not exactly busted my butt to get ready in a hurry. I did not have far to go that day -- less than thirteen miles.

 

My first view of the 1977 burn area from across the Penobscot River.

My first three-and-a-half miles took me through the end of the wilderness. When I came out onto the paved Greenville-Millinocket Road at 9:25, only fourteen-and-a-half miles of white blazes remained before me. I turned and began the final roadwalk on the Appalachian Trail.

 

The AT crossed the Abol Bridge over the Penobscot River and continued to follow the road past a private campground with a small store. I dropped off and made a beeline for the store.

The Appalachian Trail stayed on the paved road for another quarter mile past the store, then turned off onto a gravel road, then onto an old, unpaved logging road. For the first half mile, the road was fairly wide and showed signs of vehicular traffic. It crossed several brooks on small bridges. Gradually, it diminished to a grassy, abandoned lane.

 

I passed through the outskirts of an immense area which had been burned over in a 1977 forest fire. Six years later, the surroundings were far from desolate.

 

Still October 2, 1983. Still Chapter 25.

Occasional blackened shells of partially consumed tree trunks still stood their mournful watches, but a dense mass of scrubby second growth was springing up all around them. Its saplings were far ahead of most of the older forests through which I have traveled in attaining their autumn foliage, and the area was a riot of reds, yellows, oranges, golds, and innumerable shades of green. It was one of the most unique and schizophrenic sections of the entire Appalachian Trail.

The trail paralleled the Penobscot River, occasionally leaving the old road in order to travel the riverbank. Despite the overcast, it was still remarkably warm for the place and the season. I sweated buckets.

 

At the point where Nesbwadnehunk Stream emptied its waters into the Penobscot, the Appalachian Trail turned right off of the old tote road for the final time and followed the stream bank into Baxter State Park.

The burnt-over areas were soon left behind. I followed the stream for more than two miles through mature forests, past a progression of cascades and waterfalls. I had expected the section between the wilderness and the park to be rather boring, but it was great. A couple of the stream crossings were especially shaky, though, and at one point I had to bushwhack around some flooded trail. But it wasn't boring.

 

Still October 2, 1983. Still Chapter 25.

A side trail brought me to Big Niagara Falls (no, the other one). 

The falls were not enormous (no, that's the other one), but they were impressive enough, and quite scenic.

Little Niagara Falls were pretty, too, and the spot featured a nice view of the surrounding mountains.

 

The sky tried to clear a couple of times as I walked along, including here, but on both occasions the clouds quickly returned.

 

Still October 2, 1983. Still Chapter 25.

The ranger on duty at Daicey Pond Campground checked and informed me that lean-to's were available in Katahdin Stream Campground. As it was just 2:15, and Katahdin Stream was two miles closer to Baxter Peak, I reserved one. After a beautiful walk past several wild ponds, I arrived at Katahdin Stream. Far across the last pond, I spotted two more moose, bringing my total for the trip up to seven.

 

This brings us to the end of both October 2, 1983 and Chapter 25.

Chapter 26. In the morning, I dropped off my unnecessary gear on the ranger cabin front porch (a thru-hiker tradition), signed the hiker register, and started up the Appalachian Trail. It was 8:30 A.M., October 3, 1983. There were 5.2 miles to go.

 

Mother Nature had saved up one last curve to throw at me, and this one was a pleasant one, for a change. Contrary to the forecast, the sky cleared gradually as the day wore on. It remained hot, humid, and hazy, but even the haze dissipated considerably by afternoon.

After a fairly easy initial ascent along Katahdin Stream, the Appalachian Trail left the stream and began ascending Hunt Spur. I had come 1.2 miles. There were four to go.

 

The trail climbed fairly steeply for a short while, then leveled off. It crossed several open areas with great views of the surrounding mountains -- particularly of a long range which stretched out to the west.

A rather routine hike took a somewhat bizarre turn as I neared the small stream crossing which would put me 3.1 miles from journey's end. A young couple were perched high up in two tall trees, hanging on for their lives. "Don't go up the trail," the lady warned me. "There's a very surly bull moose out there!" Apparently, they had interrupted a couple of moose sharing an intimate moment, and the bull had charged them. Hey, I'd be just a little ticked off myself, were I in his hooves. Still October 3, 1983. Still Chapter 26.

Having just backpacked 2135.4 miles with just over 3 to go, I wasn't in the mood to stop. The moose (#8 on this trip) was standing at the far edge of a meadow, glaring and snorting at me, but I flashed him an even darker scowl and snarled a few choice phrases. He continued to favor me with some nasty muttering but stayed put. Sticks and stones. I called back to the tree people that he had let me pass, and I kept going.

As I ascended, the grade began to stiffen and the rocks over which the trail climbed grew into boulders. I passed several slab caves along the way.

 

The breakout above tree line was breathtakingly sudden. One moment I was moving along, scaling huge boulders beneath a solid canopy of trees. The next, I was climbing a short, exceptionally steep pitch and popping out into the open sky. I was 2.4 miles from Baxter Peak.

The ensuing mile covered most of the elevation gain of the entire hike. I had to human-fly straight up enormous boulders. Except for one incident, which was only tricky for a few moments, the climb up Hunt Spur was fun. It was maniacally steep, it had many tricky parts, and it was strenuous as hell, but I rather enjoyed it. It was the last big climb. There were none ahead to worry about.

 

Still October 3, 1983. Still Chapter 26.

There were awesome views along the entire climb.

I took my time, climbing slowly and steadily. I never actually sat down for a rest -- I did not need one. I did pause a few times to take photos and enjoy the views, but mostly I climbed.

 

At the pointy top of this climb, though you could not tell from way down there where I shot the pic, was "The Gateway". From that point on, the day's major and minor dramas were all behind me.

 

Still October 3, 1983. Still Chapter 26.

I finally reached "The Gateway" and broke out onto "The Tableland."

 

I pulled myself up to the top of a final large boulder and a span of flattish trail unfurled before me. I had survived the last great test and Baxter Peak, Katahdin's main summit, was in sight. There were 1.6 miles to go.

The whole trail from Hunt Spur to Baxter Peak was a series of gradually evolving views.

I quickly passed Thoreau Spring, the final landmark on the Appalachian Trail. Exactly one mile remained. I felt nothing. I was nearing the top of a mountain which I had essentially been climbing for more than two thousand miles, but the end was coming on too quickly to sink in.

 

Still October 3, 1983. Still Chapter 26.

There was just one more rocky climb of maybe a couple hundred feet from The Tableland to the summit ridge.

Then I was atop a high, wind-swept plateau of mostly naked rock.

 

Still October 3, 1983. Still Chapter 26.

There was actual sunshine up on the peak. Much of the haze had disappeared, and it continued to clear as I walked around the summit. A fairly strong breeze was blowing, so I put on my chamois shirt, but it was still surprisingly warm.

After all of the crazy weather I had experienced these five months, I suppose it was only fitting that, at the end of the trail, I should be standing atop a 5000-foot summit in northern Maine, in the month of October, feeling comfortable in shorts, with a heavy shirt thrown over a sweaty tee shirt. What a long, strange trip it had been.

 

About fifteen people were on the summit of Baxter Peak when I arrived. After taking in the views for a while, I took a picture of myself standing next to the Appalachian Trail sign, propping the camera up on some rocks and using the self-timer.

Ironically, this last pic was the one slide from this hike that I seem to have lost over the ensuing forty years. I scanned it once in the 90s with the more expensive and far less effective scanning technology available then to people of average means. I'm glad I have this, but still having the rest of the pics around now was far more important. I was never super attached to the obligatory Springer Mountain and Katahdin selfies. As a matter of fact, I walked 2087 miles after Springer before taking my next selfie at Old Antlers Camps.