The Owl / by Greg Westrich

Every time I climb Katahdin or one of the mountains around it, I see the round granite hump of The Owl. I tell myself that I need to climb it. But I never have. Saturday, I headed up to Baxter with Ann and the kids. We were planning the hike up to the North Basin and Chimney Pond. We arrived at Togue Pond Gate at 8:00 to discover that the Roaring Brook parking permit I had paid for was only good until 7:15.


We opted to climb The Owl. Henry and Emma were still grumpy from getting dragged out of bed before six. They didn't transition very well. None of us did.


To hike The Owl, you follow Hunt Trail (the AT) from Katahdin Stream campground. The first mile climbs very little as follows the chattering stream. The forest is open, lots of big boulders and moss. Just before Katahdin Falls, The Owl Trail climbs away from Hunt Trail. From the junction, it's 2.6 miles to the summit, climbing almost 2300 feet.


After a short climb, the trail runs fairly level across a mountaintop. Emma struggled, not wanting to be on a hard hike. Eventually, I gave up hiking ahead with Henry and hung back with Emma. We talked and hiked and her mood changed. She ended up rocking the mountain. We named several interesting features we passed: the giant erratic the kids climbed, trillium alley, the rock garden, the balanced rock.


The last ¾ of a mile was straight up. Huge expansive views across Witherle Ravine of the Hunt Trail climbing a spine to The Gateway. We could see hikers—just stretched out dots, really—slowly climb upward.


We skirted huge cliffs and climbed steep sections of crumbling granite. We felt very exposed, but the kids climbed on undaunted.


From the summit, we had a 360 degree view. I turned slowly taking picture after picture: The Northwest Plateau; Katahdin; The Whitecap and Barren-Chairback Ranges on the horizon; Doubletop and Moose Mountains; Barren, Coe, South Brother, North Brother, and Fort Mountains lined up in a row across The Klondike.


High fives all around, then a celebratory lunch.


On the way back, Emma and I took a detour to Katahdin Falls. There's no place where you can see all the drops and sluices at the same time, but it's fun to try. It's a magnificent waterfall. In fact, it's the highest in Maine. I'd always heard Angel Falls in western Maine was the highest, but evidently that's wrong.


We climbed back in the car after seven miles tired, sore, and grateful that we'd had to change out plans.