Day 3 - Up the Helon Taylor Trail

This trip was going to be more difficult than the Brothers, especially since most of us were sore from the first hike. When we woke up the weather was mostly clear so our spirits were high. We managed to hit the trail around 10:00 and quickly started up the Helon Taylor trail, getting some early views of the route up to Pamola Peak. At Bear Brook we stopped for water then spread out a bit as the trail continued a steady ascent. We saw occasional wildlife and had great views across to Hamlin Peak, North and South Turner, and Basin Ponds, so we took many pictures. As we cleared treeline we could see the remaining climb ahead and our first view of the Knife Edge.

The remaining climb was uneventful and spectacular, if that's possible. Above treeline the trail just picked it's way thought rocky terrain and a surprising amount of vegetation. Then came the moment when we crested Pamola Peak and the whole Chimney Pond basin came into view. It's hard to describe what the whole scene looks like, just say it takes your breath away. The Knife Edge sits before you in all it's glory, tempting or scaring depending on your disposition. We could hear some cheers all the way across from Baxter Peak, which we correctly guessed were AT through-hikers finishing up their 2200 mile journey. We could even see though the Saddle to the Brothers and Doubletop. Across Chimney Pond was Hamlin Peak. It was lunch time, so we ate while basking in the glorious sunshine. The summit of Pamola Peak is the intersection of three trails, Dudley (up from Chimney Pond), Helon Taylor (up from Roaring Brook), and the Knife Edge. We watched folks coming across the Knife Edge and chatted with them about their experiences.

Day 3 - The Knife Edge

After a group shot the real work began. The first part of the trip is a steep descent to the col between Pamola and Chimney peaks. This is where the Chimney, a technical route up from Chimney Pond, reaches the ridge. This is followed by an equally steep ascent. We met some folks finishing up the trip, one wearing Teva sandals and the other attempting to do the whole Knife Edge without using his hands. The nasty crux move on the ascent finally foiled his plans. From Chimney Peak, you can see the Helon Taylor trail and the lakes to the west. You also get an interesting look down the Chimney, in case you were tempted to try that route.

After that you are on the Knife Edge proper. The ridge goes through some narrow and precarious spots, as well as some wider sections before starting the steady climb to South Baxter. We met the through-hikers we had heard cheering along the ridge, smoking cigars and enjoying themselves immensely. Brenda and I took more pictures which slowed us down a lot. Just before reaching the summit we looked back across the Knife Edge to appreciate what we had done. From here you finally get a clear view of Chimney Pond and the whole basin. The last section of the Knife Edge is very rocky with many false summits, but the It's a long, tiring journey from Pamola Peak, but definitely worth it.

Day 3 - The Summit - Baxter Peak

We reached the summit cairn, took off our packs and relaxed. The others had been waiting a bit for us to arrive but didn't seem to mind the rest. On the summit there is a plaque and a sign (close up) that marks the endpoint of the Appalachian Trail. There's also some real nice rock outcrops that let you hang out over the void. I wandered around, looking at the geological survey marker, Index Rock on the Dudley trail, and a ground squirrel who was checking out our packs. Everyone was very happy, as you can well imagine. But it was 4:00 and we needed to keep moving. After the final summit shot we started down the Saddle Trail.

Day 3 - The Descent

Just a short ways off the summit we encountered a trail crew moving rocks above treeline with a hoist and cable arrangement. They worked in one of the most beautiful environments one could hope for. Then we hopped onto the Cathedral trail and the steep descent started right away. This trail isn't recommended for going down, but that never stopped us before. The whole time you get this incredible view of Chimney Pond, but we were too busy trying to keep our footing to fully appreciate it. The trail goes over a large rocky outcropping which gives the trail its name. Finally, after a long journey, we reached Chimney Pond where we observed the most unusual water ballet I have ever seen. We filtered some water and started down the rest of the way, past the bunkhouses at the entrance to the pond area. From here it was just a steady slog, finally reaching the Roaring Brook campsite around 8:00. It was almost dark enough to need headlamps, but we never used them. Lafe saw a large moose alongside Roaring Brook just before he reached the trail junction with the Russell Pond trail. We whipped up our dinner and slept a good sleep.

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