Well, I didn't get quite the sleep I was hoping for last night. It was really like being a kid on Christmas. Supposed to be in bed sleeping, but instead, I tossed and turned and constantly had trouble falling back to sleep because I was so pumped up for today. Instead of waiting for my alarm to go off at 2am, I got started packing up at 1:30 when I was wide awake. Banjo was already awake and moving. By 2:30am, we were leaving The Birches. Headlamps on.
We dropped extra gear at the ranger's station that we wouldn't need for the trip up and back down Katahdin. I kept my rain coat, synthetic jacket, water, water filter, some food, and only a few other small items I would need. The hike started off very tame, but after about 1.5 miles, we reached Katahdin Falls. We could hear the falls but couldn't see them. As we hiked on, the terrain got progressively steeper. Soon I had my trekking poles broken down and stowed on my pack, climbing up and over boulders about half my height. As we went on, it got even steeper with even bigger boulders. Most of the boulders had places to step and grab to assist, but in some places, rebar was installed into the rock to use as handholds and footholds. Known as the Hunt Spur, this section was awesome! It was the most technical section I can remember on the trail. Somewhat similar to Mahoosuc Notch, but with significant elevation gain. for about a half hour we navigated up, over, and around this section. From there, it climbed steeply still, but not as challenging. We made it to a few false summits, then came to The Gateway, where it started to flatten out into the section known as the Tableland. At this point we could see the sky getting brighter. This was a flatter section with only smaller rocks/boulders to navigate around and over, less than knee height. A mile on the Tableland, and we made the last small ascent up. We could see a silhouette of the sign I've been waiting to see for some time now! Before I knew it, there I was standing in front of the famous Katahdin sign, on Baxter Peak of Mt Katahdin, 2,184 miles north of where I started on Springer Mountain in Georgia. The sun wasn't up just yet at 5:35am when we reached the summit. A whirlwind of emotions flooded my body. I was excited, shocked, nervous, unbelieving, blown away, relieved, and probably others I can't think of now.
Fozzy and Skunkape were already up there and waiting for the sun to rise. The four of us congratulated each other and we all took a bunch of pictures posing with the sign. The sun came up about 10-15 minutes later and it was incredibly beautiful. It added color and depth to the mountains. It was fairly chilly in the wind, so we took cover behind a large boulder and stayed warmer. For about 3 hours, we were the only four up there. Then other thru hikers filtered up. Our group up at the top of Maine was great. Poncho, Great Dane, Chesty, Roadhouse, Pedestrian, Houdini, Stingray, Juggles, Fozzy, Banjo, The Flash, Thirsty, and Lasagna.
After numerous photos and hanging out while we congratulated each other, it was time to head down. Chesty, Roadhouse, Poncho, and Great Dane asked me if I wanted to go with tel across Knife's Edge and down the other side of the mountain. I said "heck yes"! Adding another amazing challenge to the day sounded great, especially after a 5 hour break at the summit. Even though Banjo and I left our extra gear at Katahdin Stream at the ranger station, we decided to go with these guys. The Knife's Edge is 1.1 miles long, extremely rocky, sometimes narrow path, shoots up and down sharply, and has extremely steep drop offs on both sides. While this doesn't seem fun to a lot of people, I absolutely loved it! It was one of my favorite sections, and it wasn't even on the AT. After much careful foot and hand works, we made it 1.1 miles to Pamola Peak.
We then took the Helon Taylor Trail down to Roaring Brook Campground. Took a while of walking down a gravel road, but a few miles later, we were picked up by a pickup truck that had Chesty, Roadhouse, Great Dane, and Poncho in the bed already. We hopped in and got the hitch all the way to Millinocket. On the road, I was finally able to get cell service and call my dad. He flew out from Indiana to come hang out for 6 days after my hike. I had him meet me in Millinocket instead of our initial plan of meeting at Katahdin Stream Campground.
I got to hang out with some of the guys for one last time before we split ways. It was great getting to know these guys and we had a lot of good times I'll always remember.
Over the next few weeks, I'll see how things go with the transition back to the "real world", and possibly post a few more blog entries.
I would like to take the time to thank as many of you who have been there for me, supporting me and cheering me on along the trail, if I get a chance, individually. As a blanket until I can get to each of you... THANKS TO ALL who at some point inspired me, encouraged me to push through tough times, sent me goodies in care packages, followed and commented on my blog, prayed for my health and well-being, and overall added to the enjoyment and excitement of my hike.
This was certainly a journey that I will NEVER forget! I hope I have encouraged some others to get out there and live life to the fullest. I feel so blessed to have been able to make hiking the Appalachian Trail a reality for me, remaining (mostly) healthy and strong during the trek, to have met so many great people, seen so many beautiful places, and experience so many amazing things along the way.
If you have been following my blog, I would really like to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.