Mount Katahdin

Who shall describe the inexpressible tenderness and immortal life of the grim forest, where Nature, though it be midwinter, is ever in her spring, where the moss-grown and decaying trees are not old, but seem to enjoy a perpetual youth; and blissful, innocent Nature, like a serene infant, is too happy to make a noise. . . (“Ktaadn”).

Mount Katahdin (Thoreau spells it “Ktaadn”) has an elevation of 5,269 feet (1,606 m) making it Maine’s tallest peak. Thoreau first visited Maine in 1838 while looking for a job as a schoolteacher. During that visit he met a Penobscot Indian who, pointing north, told him about the beauty of the Maine wilderness. This encounter, along with a piece Thoreau read in the Boston Daily Advertiser in August 1845 about Edward Everett Hale and William Francis Channing’s ascent up Katahdin, inspired him to return to the Maine woods and experience it for himself.
On 31 August 1846 Thoreau left Boston and traveled via train and steamboat to Bangor, Maine where his cousin George Thatcher lived. The following day the two began their journey towards Katahdin. Along the way they met up with Charles Lowell, Horatio “Raish” P. Blood, George “Uncle George” McCauslin, and Thomas Fowler; their party now consisting of six members. The group had thought it best to hire an Indian guide to help them navigate the Maine wilderness, but the guide they hired, Louis Neptune, failed to meet them on their departure date. Instead, McCauslin and Fowler agreed to serve as replacement guides since they were the most familiar with the land and waterways they’d be traveling through.

View of the eastern half of the Penobscot Bay. The Penobscot Bay is the inlet for the Penobscot River. Thoreau traveled both the eastern and western branches of the Penobscot River during his excursions to the Maine woods. Photographer: Haley Quinn.

When the party finally reached Katahdin, Thoreau pushed ahead and attempted to make a solo ascent with what little daylight remained. However, he was forced to return back to camp without ever having reached the summit. Thoreau found his friends picking wild berries in a small mountain meadow, and after agreeing that the view they had from that spot was enough they started their journey home.
On 3 January 1848 Thoreau delivered his lecture “An Excursion to Ktaadn” to the Concord Lyceum.