at the foot of Katahdin. plus a giveaway, harvest dinners and more.
My book is now available for pre-order! 🎉 🎉
…and if you are one of the first 50 people to pre-order a copy, you will receive a free, custom designed, exclusive, first-run print of a Sarah Madeira Day bookmark!
Sarah used my photos as inspiration (scroll below to see the original photos!) & created two absolutely stunning bookmarks! Here’s how to nab one:
Pre-order your copy of Just Up The Road here! Books will ship from Islandport Press on or by October 10th.
pssst: this offer is available first to my newsletter subscribers before hitting the ‘gram - so, don’t delay!
Thank you so much for the support!
The below essay is pulled from my forthcoming book, Just Up The Road, coming October 10th, 2023.
I’ve always considered myself an average hiker. When given the choice, I seem to opt for a shorter hike with less of a time commitment, even if it is at an intense incline the entire way over choosing a long, winding, less rigorous (but probably more enjoyable) route. I’ll take a succinct workout, with less to savor and less to explore, if it means I can wrap up earlier. I’ve assumed my inclination to take the shorter trail was out of hidden intimidation or underlying fear that I wouldn’t be able to summit the longer trail - but over the past year, I’ve learned that’s just not true.
Because I can do it. I’ve never been especially good at sports, never truly invested any energy into a consistent workout that worked for me, but all things considered: I am actually very good at hiking. I have the stamina, I understand how to take the necessary precautions, I pack appropriately, I’ve looked over the map one billion times and I’ve got the gear. I can physically and confidently do it, absolutely - so it’s not that.
It’s time. I’ve realized this year that it's always been about the time. I’ve unconsciously decided that I don’t deserve the time in the woods, there are so many other things I should be completing. If I don’t accomplish the twenty things on my to-do list for the day, then it’s a total loss. If I can just get through this hike quickly, diligently, then I’ve got my workout complete for the day, check - now onto the emails, the laundry, the list.
But each month this year, upon reflection, I’ve noticed that I have consistently sprinkled in longer hikes to accompany my usual short workouts. The mileage is extending, the time at the summit much longer, and sometimes, it’s the only thing I “complete” that day. That’s laughable to me now, to think that completing an arduous hike isn’t a good enough marker of a successful day.
And there was a hike with decent mileage, a solid incline and an end-of-trail reward that I had long dreamed of lingering at for an unaccounted amount of time. With a kid free weekend finally on our hands, we were ready to explore Baxter State Park for the very first time and tackle the Chimney Pond Trail.
The Chimney Pond Trail, an out and back hike coming in at a total of 6.5 miles, is typically rated as “moderately challenging” with a steady incline the entire way up. There are a couple welcomed flat breaks to break up the trip, but the trail is mostly covered in rocks requiring hikers to be extra careful with their footing on each step to avoid twisting an ankle. Many hikers consider it their warm-up before carrying on to summit Katahdin on another connecting trail (five out of seven trails that reach the peak are accessed here) - and for some, it is indeed their rehearsal before the big show. But I will just say that we didn’t pass one person that wasn’t dripping in sweat from head to toe.
I wasn’t really concerned about the level of difficulty or the estimated roundtrip time; I was steadfast on ignoring my watch. After all, it took a good amount of work to just secure a parking pass at Baxter State Park to access this trail, and though I am trying to be less of a meticulous planner, you need a certain level of organization to even enter the 209,644 acre park. Reservations, for both campsites and day use parking, open four months in advance and will fill, oftentimes immediately - especially if your plans include Katahdin. Additionally, day use visitors must be through the gatehouse between 6AM-7:05AM the morning of their reservation or they will forfeit their pass for the day. If you are without reservation, you can attempt to nab one of these spots by waiting in your car in a first come, first served line - with the first car usually there by 4AM. The strict system and rules are all for good reason, they limit vehicles to protect natural resources and maintain a wilderness experience; and the average round trip time for a Katahdin hike is 8-12 hours, obviously requiring an early start.
All of this making for one gigantic, glaring reminder to enjoy the journey, of course. With hiking shoes laced up and a quick sign-in at the ranger’s cabin, we began our climb. We were really cooking when we first started - almost hopping from rock to rock, passing other families, out of habit darting toward the finish line. Luckily, the incline caught up with us and reminded our bodies to slow down.
It started to sprinkle a bit. Normally, my instinct to worry would kick in - the trail is going to become slick, I’m going to get drenched, the foggy clouds are going to completely cover the views I was looking forward to. But I had my husband with me, we were shrouded in natural beauty, we had absolutely nowhere to be, and so what if I couldn't snap the perfect picture at the top. Furthermore, the rain felt glorious against my hot skin. Bring it, rain.
We took all of the detours to devour each and every cutoff trail view. We took breaks to munch on trail mix and sneak in a quick smooch. We stopped to poke fun at the various pit stains developing across our bodies. We chatted with other hikers who were descending after having spent days camping at Chimney Pond, tackling every trail they could during their time in Baxter. We watched red squirrels chase each other.
As we finally neared the end of the trail, Chimney Pond faintly in view, the rain suddenly paused. The sky cleared with all of the clouds disappearing in a dramatic, swooping fashion behind Katahdin. I’m not a spiritual person, but it felt like an acknowledgement, a congratulations of sorts for arriving at the time the universe had hoped for us. I covered my mouth in astonishment as we reached the edge of the water.
The crystal clear pond is at the foot of Katahdin, surrounded by towering granite walls around the South Basin. I felt like an ant in the shadow of the mountain - but somehow, simultaneously, powerful. It’s the first time, ever in my life, I had no words, nothing to title or describe the emotion that pulsed through me. Andrew and I fell into an unprompted, hushed silence as we surveyed the scene.
I felt my eyes well. I deserve this. I deserve to feel my body uncurl in the woods, the welcomed drop in my shoulders. I deserve the crisp inhales of clean air, the time with my husband. I deserve this intangible connection to my planet, the serenity I find when lost in a forest. I deserve each opportunity to find this type of peace. No matter how long it takes.