There’s a famous tale in Maine, the story of a 12 year old boy named Donn Fendler who got lost on Mount Katahdin, in the largest wilderness of Maine. For 9 days, he survived on nothing but stream water, wild strawberries and prayer, struggling through treacherous terrain, until he finally stumbled upon a camp and was rescued.
This week ten lucky campers from Chop Point, inspired by Donn’s story, embarked on their own – much safer – Mount Katahdin adventure! They hiked the first leg of the journey to Chimney Pond, and then started the grueling ascent on Saddle Trail. The path winds up the beautiful mountainside, through trees and over streams, until it becomes a sheer scramble with hands and feet up a rock face. When they arrived, out of breath and sweaty, at the plateau a mile from the highest peak in Maine, they were greeted by winds gusting up to 40mph, fog, rain, and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, conditions identical to those faced by Donn Fendler 80 years ago. A less hardy crew might have given up, but these campers pressed on, well protected by fleece jackets and rain coats, encouraged by chocolate and jokes from their counselors, until they reached the 5,268 foot summit.
The climb back down was slippery and cloudy but unlike their predecessor, these campers stayed together, followed the trail closely, and made it safely back. It was a tired and wet gang that returned to the tents that afternoon, but there was no shortage of laughter and pride.
The next day, instead of simply returning to camp, the hikers decided to tackle another peak: South Turner Mountain, a 3,177 foot beauty with an alpine forest at the top. The distance was only 2 miles, but it was 2 miles of intense climbing up natural rock stairs that culminated in a final “mountain goat” scramble over boulders to the top. South Turner offered phenomenal views of Mount Katahdin and the surrounding backwoods, and everyone was content to sit and stare at the raw beauty. To make the day even better, on the hike down, the group stopped at a pond where 2 moose happened to be feeding! You’ve never seen a troop of teens fall silent so quickly.
During his days lost in the forest, Donn Fendler always dreamt of a doughnut with a glass of milk. So in honor of his courage and their own accomplishment, the campers stopped off for doughnuts and milk and a quick dip in the river, before returning to Chop Point, singing all the way.