The night before Katahdin a disagreement over accomodations broke out, and there played out a perfect inversion of positions as per a Thomas Bernhard novel. My companion had wanted to sleep in the carpark before the hotel, to rise early, and to take breakfast in a gas station. I, on the contrary, wanted a room in the hotel, to sleep later, and find provisions in the neighboring grocery store. Following the expression of our disagreements, my companion shifted to my position and I to his, such that we now raised voices in favor of that which we had vehemently opposed to begin with. Fatigued, we let things lapse as they were and awoke to the grey light of the predawn hours. Although my limbs had grown stiff with the chill, my mind ran over the inversion of the night before, unaware that this was to be just the first of such instances surrounding our climb.
The ascent began early as parking on-site is limited. Under time pressure, we took the narrow pavement somewhat faster than advised by passing road signs and cleared Baxter State Park’s series of ranger checkpoints. Once parked and underway, I resumed old hiking habits, which attest either to my considerable inexperience on the trails or the distillation of long walks over the years: conjugating the points of my body so as to pad over obtruding stones rather than to tread the earth between. Though beginning late, we made the ascent in short order and overtook other hikers through first the flat wooded path parallel to the gently sloping stream; the stepped limestone and the trickling rivulet running over it; the winding stairs, vertical slabs, and boulders; the final approach to the first peark and entry into the tablelands; the main peak and subsequent rock scrambles along the ridges.
In the course of our travels, I made note of diverse thoughts and sight: perception proves as much, if not more, an affair of environment than of the object; the hanging shadow of a contrail which, given our elevation, extends a solid bar of shade from sky to valley floor; the artificial look of the islands as seen from above and as if in model miniature; the matter of will as regards walking and getting ahead and the limits of such a view; numerous misquotations of Henry David Thoreau, misquotations revealing more about the intended audience than the speaker in that the speaker misquotes with the aim of intriguing a given listener.
I spoke of Thoreau’s cloud factory and our luck, for its workers seemed on strike for the day, clear as the air about the peak was. I alluded to his views on the unfinished quality of the lord’s work with the rocks of Katahdin’s peak and all else for which they might eventually serve. To my companion’s amusement, I tried as well to illustrate Thoreau’s tales of the windbent spruce lain over one another and of which the branches were so interlaced that he had been able to reach the summit via the treetop carpet. As for myself, I failed to corroborate the tale, due to the passing of time, changes in gravitational constants, or other.