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When was the first official summit of Maine's highest mountain?

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most readers already know what the highest mountain in Maine is. Of course, it's the legendary Mount Katahdin at 5,269 feet. In fact, it has the two highest peaks if you count its spur, Hamlin Peak.

Every year, thousands of Maine residents, climbers, and Appalachian Trail hikers climb the peak. I still remember my first time climbing it as a young boy in the early 1990s. It was awe-inspiring, to say the least.

The climb to the summit is no joke. The trails are difficult (some are just plain nasty, like the nightmarish and aptly named Knife's Edge). There are all kinds of terrain, constantly changing weather patterns, metal rungs and steps, and hikers of all skill levels. It's a smorgasbord of potential pitfalls that will really test you mentally and physically.

This is what it feels like to climb it today. Imagine what it was like for the first surveyors to climb Katahdin over 200 years ago.

Let me start this history lesson with a disclaimer. Although the first official ascent of Mount Katahdin is believed to have occurred in the early 1800s, it is very likely (100%) that Native Americans had climbed the mountain long before that. The last thing I want to do is erase that history, so it is very important to include this disclaimer.

However, according to the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Penobscot tribe considered the peak to be the home of evil spirits. In particular, they believed it was the home of the evil spirit Pamola, who would kill and devour anyone who climbed the mountain.

But when the surveyors arrived, they ignored the warnings and went to work. According to the Appalachian Mountain Club, Mount Katahdin quickly became a peak to climb.

In the summer of 1802, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (yes, Maine didn't exist then) commissioned a survey trip to the northeast. The man for the job was Charles Turner Jr., and he set out for Katahdin along with 10 men and two Indian guides.

According to the Appalachian Mountain Club, Turner insisted on climbing Katahdin. However, his two Native American guides refused to attempt the climb because they believed in evil spirits on the summit. However, this did not stop Turner and his 10-man team and they began the ascent of the mountain, climbing what is now known as the Hunt Trail.

The first official summit was climbed by non-Indians on August 13, 1804, when Turner and his crew reached the summit. However, the survey did not go so well, as he estimated Katahdin to be 13,000 feet high. This was only a small error.

Turner Jr. and his crew proved that the mighty mountain can be tamed, and since that fateful day, it has gained a following of enthusiastic fans.

You can read more about the early days of hiking in Katahdin on the Appalachian Mountain Club website, which has some interesting information, including a summit attempt by Henry David Thoreau shortly after Turner's ascent.

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