Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Sarah Sindo found the perfect spot for lunch during a recent hike up Sentinel Mountain in Baxter State Park. The peaks include (from left) Doubletop, West Peak, and OJI. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

Katahdin needs no introduction. Like the popular kid in school, everyone is familiar with the highest peak in Maine. But what about the quieter kid who sits in the back of the classroom?

While smaller in stature, but certainly not to be forgotten, Sentinel Mountain sits in the southwest corner of Baxter State Park and, to me, resembles that softer character.

And that’s just where I went on my birthday a couple weeks ago.

Bangor Daily News Outdoors contributor Sarah Sindo took this photo of Katahdin and all of its majesty during a recent hike to Sentinel Mountain. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

My partner, Chris, and I knew we weren’t up for a big hike and Sentinel Mountain had been on his radar. Nearly every day, while working on the river, he paddles Horserace Rapid on the West Branch of the Penobscot and can see the mountain from the water.

I packed what few snacks remained in the nearly empty kitchen cupboard, handed off our dog to my helpful mother, and drove off toward Togue Pond Gatehouse.

We decided to park at Daicey Pond because that’s where I remember starting the hike when a friend and I hiked it back in 2013.

I pulled into a snug parking spot. We laced up our hiking boots, threw our packs over our shoulders, and tightened the buckles.

“OK, where’s the trailhead?” I asked. “I don’t see Sentinel Mountain on any of these signs.”

Looking west from Sentinel Mountain offered views of the West Branch of the Penobscot River, Ripogenus Dam and Chesuncook Lake. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

We looked around for a few more minutes and then ran into a ranger. He shared that the footbridge that connects to the Sentinel Mountain Trail is out, and that we could either ford Nesowadnehunk Stream or drive up and park at Kidney Pond.

Chris and I went back and forth, and in the end, decided a cool stream crossing would feel nice on the 80-degree day.

After stepping in a small nest of ants and bushwhacking our way through a short section of trail, we made it to the more frequently traveled section.

If there’s one thing that most folks who have hiked Sentinel Mountain will tell you, it’s that the approach is on the long side. I’d say more than half of the 3-mile hike is the approach to and around Kidney Pond and then toward the mountain. It’s a nice warmup.

The approach section of the trail to Sentinel Mountain includes many footbridges across mossy areas. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

The trail gains 800 feet in elevation which, for a summit hike in Baxter State Park, is on the small side. Hence, one of our main reasons for choosing it. I think all 800 feet came near the last half to three-quarters of a mile.

Our late summer, slightly out-of-shape bodies huffed and puffed up the 800-foot climb to the mostly wooded summit.

We knew there was a half-mile loop around the summit that offered different views and perspectives of the surrounding area. We walked the loop clockwise.

Looking west, we got our first glimpse of the West Branch of the Penobscot River. We heard the roar of whitewater below us and followed the thread of the river through the thick forest.

I was tickled to see Big Eddy, my summer home, from high above. Ripogenus Dam and Chesuncook Lake loomed in the background while the Golden Road snaked its way through the never-ending sea of trees and wilderness. It was a peaceful perspective.

We continued on.

Just up the trail a small opening in the trees revealed a peek of Katahdin. We arrived at the viewpoint and knew that it would be our lunch spot.

The climb up Sentinel Mountain gains 800 vertical feet, over many rocks and roots. Credit: Courtesy of Sarah Sindo

The view of Katahdin, OJI, West Peak and Doubletop was like no other and offered us an opportunity to appreciate just how grand the landscape is. The highs and lows of the valley, the numerous remote ponds, the remnants of mountainside rockslides and jagged peaks. The land that makes up Baxter State Park is truly one of a kind.

We devoured our PB&J sandwiches and wished we had our all-time favorite summit snack, a Snickers bar. Refueled and ready, we made our way back down the mountain.

Earlier that morning, upon sharing that I was 36 years old, a friend told me I’m now closer to 40 than I am to 30. Instantly, a twinge of sadness crept in. Going for a hike offered an opportunity for my mind to shift gears, though.

Turning another year older and getting outdoors was a reminder for me to slow down and get out and enjoy the things I love. What everyone says is true — time seems to only speed up as the years go by.

And at the end of the day, you are only as old as you feel you are. The number is, well, just a number.

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Sarah Sindo, Outdoors contributor

Sarah Sindo was locally grown in Millinocket. Her love and appreciation for the outdoors took off after college when she hiked numerous mountains with her brother, Nick, including her first ascent of Katahdin....