Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Struck the Klondike
My obsession with hiking encourages me to pour over maps, identifying every minute detail of the topography. Some people look at People magazine when sitting on the john, for me I look at maps. My road atlas and hiking maps are well worn. I even have a map room in my house and on one wall of the map room I have a detailed map of the White Mountains (from the Percy Peaks of the Nash Stream Forest as the northern boundary down to about Squam Lake region as the southern boundary. The western boundary is the Connecticut River and the eastern boundary is the Maine border. The map is about 8-9 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide). If I had a larger map room, I'd have a larger White Mountains map. On the map I have highlighted all the hiking trails that myself and my wife have trekked over the years.

Anyways, one of my hiking maps details the trails of Baxter State Park in Maine - location of the legendary Mt. Katahdin. A review of the topography of Mt Katahdin reveals some interesting details about why this mountain is so spectacular. There are numerous deep glacial cirques (basins as they are called in the Katahdin region), steep mountain walls, the famous Knife Edge (where the ridgeline is no more than several feet wide and dropoffs of 1000+ feet are on both sides), and miles of above treeline terrain.

In my reading of the history of trail construction and route finding in the Katahdin area, there was mention of an area called "The Klondike". It was described as a high plateau wedged in between the cliffs of the Northwest Basin of the Katahdin massif and the peaks of The Brothers. The Klondike posed particular problems for surveyors exploring the region for having expended considerable energy climbing up Katahdin (from the East), they found themselves at the edge of the cliffs of the Northwest Basin staring down into the tangle of stunted spruce and blowdown found within this high plateau. Even today there are no trails into the Klondike and the DeLorme Gazetteer of Maine shows this area to be somewhat undetailed (choosing to characterize it as swamp). In any case, this reading of the Klondike made me interested to know what it actually was and what it looked like and why in an area crisscrossed by many trails this particular area was devoid of trails. I found some information through Google searches, but what I really wanted was an idea of what this area looked like. Today, while surfing a hiker's photo journal, I found a good picture of this area, with the cliffs of the Northwest Basin on the Left, with that ridgeline of Katahdin extending to the right and in the foreground a decent idea of the density of the Klondike.

Now I am happy.


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