By: Lauren McCarthy, Science Communications Intern
Working at Bigelow Laboratory has presented many new opportunities to the 2016 summer interns. We have been given the chance to conduct scientific research, utilize advanced laboratory facilities, and be mentored by a veteran Bigelow staff member. We’ve learned to identify new species of phytoplankton, attended Café Sci lectures, collected samples in the field, improved our scientific writing skills, and learned new programming languages. All of these experiences have helped us grow academically and intellectually.
This internship has also brought many students from around the country to the state of Maine. This past weekend, eight Bigelow interns travelled to Baxter State Park for the first time to hike Mt. Katahdin. In my four years in Maine as a student at Colby, I have realized that the outdoors is a large part of the Maine culture and forms a major part of the state’s identity. Katahdin is a symbol of Maine and is considered by many Mainers to be a must-do hike. The group of us decided this adventure was worth the five hour drive, so we boosted out of East Boothbay with our energy levels high.
We camped outside of Baxter State Park at Salmon Point Campground the night before the hike. We had the whole site to ourselves, and enjoyed a swim in the river, fireside mac & cheese, and an awesome sunset.
We got an early start the next morning and drove to the trailhead. After a scary realization at the park ranger’s office (we didn’t have a parking pass and might not be able to get into the park), we headed to the park gate to try our luck. Fortunately, we were the second to last car to be let into the park and could continue our day as planned. That was a close one!
The eight of us began our ascent via the Cathedral trail. It led us through the woods and above the treeline, next to streams, and over lots of rocks. It was definitely a challenge!
In addition to the great views of the surrounding area, we saw some rockin’ geologic features. Several of us are majoring in geology, have taken classes in geology, and/or are just general science nerds who think rocks are cool. Katahdin originated as a dome-shaped igneous intrusion known as a laccolith, comprised mostly of granite and rhyolite lithologies. It has since been weathered and eroded by natural forces, including glacial ice cover. Katahdin and neighboring peaks exhibit several cirques, which are glacially-carved, circular regions that form on the sides of mountains (source: my Geomorphology class, thanks Dr. Bob!).
After about 4-5 hours, we reached the summit! There were great 360° views of Baxter State Park. We even got a photo with the iconic Katahdin sign.
After a quick break at the summit, we decided our return route would be the infamous Knife’s Edge. We did more rock scrambling on all-fours than hiking, but it was definitely a challenging and rewarding descent.
The past 8 weeks have been busy for all of the interns, and a lot of time has been spent preparing for poster presentations and the REU symposium that will be held during the final week of the summer internship. We were excited to have the opportunity to balance the academic learning experience of this internship with weekend outdoor adventures. It was an overall great weekend hiking Katahdin and experiencing one of the most beautiful places in Maine!