After a near sleepless night at Katahdin Stream Campground there was some nervous energy as we got ready to climb our last mountain on September 25th. I was cold in my sleeping bag for the first time, so I could have started up much earlier, but we got going around 6:15am. It was just getting light as we trundled on. The trail was kind to us for a little bit and then there were a few rocks. We got to a bridge over Katahdin Stream and then started climbing stairs. At this point Beth (who was awesome enough to summit with me) was already feeling the burn. The Katahdin falls marked 1.4 miles from the start. That part went fast…the last 4.1 miles took a long time! Soon we got into boulders and then into slabs of rock. The trail was well marked thankfully, but some of the places we looked up and thought: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? There were a few places where we weren’t sure if we could make it up, but somehow we did. Thanks to the help of other hikers holding feet or offering hands to pull!
I had told Beth it would be a full body workout. Indeed! We weren’t
looking forward to coming back down those boulders. We reached the tablelands and had a snack. At this point we had heard that the hardest part was over. YEAH! The tablelands were much flatter and the rocks much smaller. There was even some easy walking in there. We passed by a spring and made our way up to the peak. It looked like we would have to go off to the right, but as we got closer we could tell there was a large gathering of people on the peak closest to us. Are we almost there?
As we got closer they yelled for me to come into the group picture. I sat next to N Trovert and got tears in my eyes. Wow. My journey is over. It was pretty overwhelming. We did it!! OH MY GOSH! There were a lot of people up at the top, many of which I didn’t know. I would say there were about 25-30 up there. I waited awhile to take my picture with the sign, and it was so cold and windy. I was eager to get somewhere not as cold. I took pictures with the Troverts and Beth and took pictures of the challenge coin I brought up for Gypsy and a yellow golf tee that Andi VanHove had given me before I started. Wow.
I thought about those that are not with me, that were unable to finish. Like Reaper and Alison and others that I know have gotten off the trail. Why was I special and was able to finish? It’s just crazy.
At one point I was taking pictures for a group and one of the guys asked me if I was good at taking pictures…this is important. I immediately got the hint. He proposed to his girlfriend and I was the photographer. I hope I got some good pictures. Pretty cool. That is the second engagement that has happened on the top that I am aware of this year. Tree trunk said that guys will have to be careful now if they are hiking with their girlfriend because there will be some expectations when they reach the peak. 🙂
We reached the top a little before 11am and we headed back down around 11:30. I was so ready to get out of the wind and when we reached the end of the tablelands we ate lunch. Then we started the boulders. We found that we could slide down most of them and that was easier than going up. I wasn’t sure my shorts were going to hold up much longer. At one point I asked if my shorts were still there! My knees were threatening to give out, but I coaxed a couple more hours out of them. I have found that my balance has improved a lot since the beginning. That’s pretty cool.
Beth and I were very much looking forward to the first privy that we saw as we were coming down. It was about 1 mile from the bottom. We still had to navigate some rocks but eventually the path smoothed out and we saw the registration box! X and N were waiting for us and we decided to sing our summit song. I will put the song in the next post. 🙂
We finished at 4:28pm. We took 4.5 hours up and 5 hours down. Nearly a 10 hour day. Crazy. We met Alison and the Troverts met their base camp manager Ashley and her husband Clint. It was nice to meet them after hearing so much about them.
We were not sure how much we would be able to move the next day, especially Beth cause she hasn’t been hiking for 6 months. 🙂 I am so thankful that she came with me. She is a really good friend!
It was an amazing day – hard, beautiful and emotional. Wow.
Through most of my trip on the Appalachian Trail I have had cell phone reception every few days. In the wilderness I had no reception. That was fine for most of the time until we changed our summit date several times and we couldn’t let Alison know. The Troverts had a friend make reservations at the Katahdin Stream Campground in Baxter State Park. But we didn’t know if Alison and Beth (Swartzendruber who is a college friend of mine who came to vacation in Maine and see me summit) had a place to stay. We had the opportunity to camp with some friends at KSC and we decided to change the reservation to Alison’s name, but we couldn’t get ahold of her. We left her a couple of messages as we held up the phone while standing on a gravel pit near Abol Bridge. Park Ranger Jonathon helped us figure out that there was cell signal up there. He was talking to everyone as they entered Baxter to make sure that there were enough spaces for everyone to camp. September 25th was a really popular date to summit because the weather was going to be nice.
We finally gave up trying to call her and hoped everything would work out. X and I started hiking and N went back to the store to charge his phone. A few minutes into our hike N came running up and said Alison had shown up at the store. Wow! So, she didn’t get our messages, but she came anyway. We told her the new plans and she slack packed us for the last 10 miles into KSG.
The last 10 miles were very pleasant and we took our time, enjoying the streams and sunshine and the last real day on the trail. It was very nice to have smooth trail for most of the day. It is quite surreal. It was nice to have everything figured out with Alison as well.
We got to the campground around 4pm and Alison and Beth were waiting at a picnic table. It is very nice to have a picnic table again after many miles without them at shelters. We signed in at the ranger station and I was number 537 of the northbound thru-hikers this year. I guess last year there were 585 total for the year. They will definitely surpass that. I wonder how many south bounders will finish too.
Bed time was around 7:30pm as per usual with expectation that we wouldn’t sleep well because of the KATAHDIN SUMMIT TOMORROW!!
The last few days in the wilderness there were several different examples of trail art. I thought they were pretty cool. Here are some pictures:
Since I finally have internet access again I am able to update. I want to keep things in order, so things will be a bit behind. 🙂
The 100 mile wilderness begins with a sign that tells the hiker to bring 10 days worth of food in and basically to turn around if you are a novice. Well, we are thru-hikers and we can do it quicker than most so we thought. We started with a 15 mile day to get through some fords because it was going to rain. We made our first goal, but the next day we did less than 10 miles because the trail was basically one big puddle. This wasn’t just over the sole of the shoe, but nearly engulfing the leg up to the knee in some places. At first it was fun to romp through the water, but after awhile I was ready not to have wet feet anymore. Thankfully the trail drained quite a bit overnight.
The third day we got a food drop at one of the roads. We filled a bucket with food and the people at Lakeshore took
it out for us and hung it up so we could find it and we filled the buckets with trash after we took our food out. It was really nice to not have to carry all that food from the beginning. And to not carry our trash for another 7 days. We snarfed down some food at the bucket place too so we wouldn’t have to carry all of it. 🙂
The wilderness was not anything we haven’t seen, just more of it. There were lots of lakes/ponds which were beautiful. We walked along the length of Rainbow Lake which was 5.7 miles. I thought the lake would last forever. The trail comes down pretty close to the water and by each lake or pond there are lots of roots and rocks. We cruised over some of that because by now we are experts at walking over roots, but it does take a lot of mental energy to be constantly picking and choosing where to put your feet.
As the wilderness ended we started getting Katahdin fever. So, we put in a 17 mile, 21.5 mile and 19.6 mile days to finish it out. It was pretty amazing that we could go over this kind of terrain and do that many miles. But, you can do a lot when you’re almost done.
In the wilderness by Jo-Mary road we said goodbye to Castaway for the time being. His foot was really hurting and we all thought it would be good for him to take a bit of time off. He ended up taking 2 days and then continuing on. It was one of the hardest things I have done on the trail is to tell him goodbye. We all have been pretty close these past months and it was hard to break up the group. We all wish him the best and quick healing.
Hiking with the Troverts has its advantages! And one of them is that their friend Susan from Mississippi came to meet them. She has been amazing and has slackpacked us, bought us food and given us many encouraging words. She was with us from Gorham NH to Stratton ME. She even moved her flight back a few days so that she could help us out more. I feel totally blessed to be a part of this group and by Susan!
Susan left us some sodas by one of the road crossings and wrote on the
bag to save for the Troverts, Castaway and Kleenex. She even noticed I had cream soda the evening before at the restaurant. She is so observant! Thank you Susan for all you did for us! May you be blessed as you have blessed us!
Monson Maine is the gateway to the 100 mile wilderness (which is not rally 100 miles and is not really as much wilderness as it seems). This means it is the last stop in town before you reach Katahdin. What?! we’re here already? Or finally! I imagined the town to be a mecca of thru-hikers and that there would be a lot of bustle. There is some of that, but I hear we missed about 60 hikers yesterday. There is a huge bubble ahead of us. This is my last library update and I won’t update until after I summit. The plan as of now is for me to summit on September 25th. That is if everything goes according to plan. If there is bad weather, then we will wait a day. Evidently Katahdin has it’s own weather just as Mt. Washington.
We are planning 6 days to get through the wilderness and
instead of carrying that much weight we will be sending ourselves a bucket with food in it. One of the establishments here sends out buckets to resupply and it seemed like a great opportunity to not carry so much weight. There are logging roads in the wilderness, but they are like 20 miles from civilization. And, you probably have to go about 40 mph on them, so it takes awhile.
It is hard to believe that the next time I have any sort of computer access I will be done with my hike. The big K is out there and we’ll be able to see it long before we get to it because the land is fairly flat before it. In other words it is a stand alone mountain. We are trying to figure out details and such for the rest of the trail and meeting up with Alison and the Trovert’s friends. It is all a bit overwhelming. As we are in the wilderness if you could pray for sure footing and no rain that would be great. We have heard of several people breaking legs in the wilderness. They are so close to finishing, and we are too, but it doesn’t take much to ruin a hike.
As I said, I won’t be able to update for a while. I will be texting my mother as I can, so she may have more up to date info. Thanks you all for all your support!
Often when hiking you plan to stay at a shelter for the night. But sometimes you want to do more miles and there just isn’t a good place to stay. They you end up looking for woods roads and other flat places. This can be difficult in Maine terrain. I would rather not spend the night in a mud puddle, but that’s just me. One evening we came to a gravel road hoping to find a place to sleep. We call this stealth camping. It sounds like it is sneaky, but people do it all the time. Basically it just means not staying at an established campsite. Because there are 4 of us and 3 tents it is harder to find a place to stealth. Usually you don’t have a problem if it just just one tent.
As we were looking around trying to find a site Jerry
Childs and his wife pulled up on a 4-wheeler. We chatted with them for a bit and then heavily dropped the hint that we were looking for a place for 3 tents for the night. X Trovert is not afraid to ask for anything! They told us about a boat launch that was about 1/2 mile up the road and it was gorgeous! We were close to the water obviously and we had tree cover and a flat space. Jerry even brought us drinking water, soda, cranberry juice, candy and beer. The last of which I did not partake. Oh, and zucchini bread! Reminds me of home!
As we watched the sunset on the water we belived that we were blessed! Jerry was in the right place at the right time and we were blessed by him. Lots of trail angels! He even took our trash!
I would love to show you some pictures of the 2000 mile signs that I saw on the way to Monson, but alas the library here does not have a place where I can upload pictures. So, I will have to add some later. Because the mileage of the AT changes every year there were several 2000 mile signs that we passed. The first one was on a rock with some moss cut out in the shape of 2000. The next was a sign on top of Avery Peak of Mt. Bigelow. Another was a 2000 painted on a wooden board in the middle of the trail somewhere and the last was written on a paved road that said 2000 + or -. That day we went 8000 miles! Crazy how time flies!
When you complete the AT you can apply for a 2000 miler
certificate. You need to prove that you did the whole thing and I am not sure what kinds of questions they will ask. Some will have to do with how much money I spent and where I stayed etc. Now the At is actually 2184.2 miles so, we could have quit at the 2000 mile part and we could still get the certificate? No such luck. I think they played it safe because the mileage keeps changing. Maybe someday the trail will be shorter? That would mean taking out all the switchbacks. No thanks!
As I have said in a previous post we have to ford several streams/rivers in Maine. One such is the Kennebec River. In the 80’s a woman drowned trying to cross there in high water and so they now offer a free shuttle service by canoe. Hill Billy Dave takes 2 hikers at a time across and has to paddle upstream mostly to get to the other side safely. There is even a white blaze in the bottom of the boat so that it is the true/pure way to go. He has been ferrying hikers for many years and is subcontracted by the ATC. He was saying that he has given 4000 people rides this year. Wow! Of course they are not all northbounders or southbounders. But, that is still a crazy high number. He said the numbers will be posted by the end of October. In 2009 the climate was so wet that mold was growing on people cause they never got dry. We have been very lucky as to how dry it has been. And it is still muddy!
So, there have been a couple milestones that we have crossed recently. When we hit 218.4 miles to go we had done 90% of the trail. And we also went under 200 miles this week. WOOT! The end is getting nearer!
As the end draws near though we are finding our mental fortitude sagging. Maine is a rugged state and it is hard. There are lots of ups and downs and steep parts and roots and mud…the list goes on. So we are tired of all these hard things and are ready to get into a place where we don’t have to think about hiking the next day. I know all trip I have been sleep deprived (and not just because of people snoring) and I won’t catch up until I have this huge goal done. I may sleep for a week! So, I am fighting these emotional lows as we get closer to the summit of Katahdin. I am ready to be done. But, I will finish unless something drastic happens.
There are good days too, September 11 was gorgeous! Fall is in the air and the sun is shining. The temps are dipping into the 30’s for the night and it is hard to get out of the tent in the morning. Thankfully we were in Stratton ME for some of the colder nights. The weather is beautiful for hiking. 🙂 I love fall. And I hear that the mountains will turn into a colorful patchwork as the leaves turn. I am looking forward to that!
Maine has a lot of ponds. I think in one day we passed by 6 ponds. Some you couldn’t see because there was a
lot of fog, but some were just gorgeous. We ate lunch by one and basked in the sun. These ponds are some of the most beautiful areas on the trail. Of couse the trail around them is usually muddy and boggy, but the views are worth it! If it was a little warmer I would have been tempted to swim. I am sure that the southbounders that were here during the summer would have taken full advantage.
There have also been a lot of streams to cross as well. Most of the time you can hop across on rocks strategically placed in the water, but when it rains these are actual fords. This means that we have to walk across the water, umm, I mean not ON the water, but THROUGH the water. 🙂 Fording streams can be tricky and uses a lot of concentration. The last thing you want to do is lose your balance and dunk yourself and your pack in the stream, getting everything soaked. We read a note from a fellow hiker about how to ford…facing upstream, going sideways and staying in the rapids (cause it is more shallow there)…and set across. The water was calf deep. I wasn’t afraid as I have forded before, but I wouldn’t want the water level to be too much higher.
One place that we forded Castaway picked up about a million leeches. There was one big one and lots of baby ones that stuck to his shoe. He was pretty freaked out about that! 🙂