Or: in which I finish the AT and get melodramatic about it.
North of the Mahoosucs ME is pretty easy, the Bigelows are there but aren’t a significant challenge what I’d already gone up against, and it was getting time to speed back up. I was Getting into ME when a lot of the SoBos were getting out, and I gave them some (hopefully) good advice when we met, but for the most part, if they were making it outta ME, they’d probably be fine getting to GA. Managed to pass off the copy of The Hobbit I’d picked up in VA to a SoBo who said she’d try and drop it significantly farther South so it could keep bouncing around the trail. Book-wise, I’d moved onto Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, an Author who I’ve found myself reading in the wilds on more than one occasion, as for my thoughts on it, in a word, great. Easily my favorite new book I’ve read on trail so far, (speaking from MT a year later.) and I would recommend it to anyone who is searching their person, or the world for something.
My parents, almost as excited as I am about my antics on trail had decided to meet me in ME for the end and a day or so of rest. (… and to try and set up this blog, didn’t work out all that well, took till this past May to actually get things set, and I’m only a month in so who knows if this is fully set[fingers crossed here]) Best of all, they brought their dog, and my cat along for the ride, both of whom handled the trip surprisingly well, and I was very happy to get to play with my cat Athena. Only problem with this arrangement however, is that I was behind schedule, by a fair bit too. They we able to extend their time out here and disperse trail magic (homemade brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and whole milk!) for other hikers as they got into slackpacking me northward. This really picked up my pace, and I was able to three day the hundred mile wilderness as a result. This lead to my longest day so far (and somewhat unlikely to be surpassed…), Jo Mary Rd in the hundred miles, to Katahdin, and back to Katahdin springs campground, for about 62 miles.
Nearly everything went my way for that final push, little in the way of elevation, a full moon to climb Katahdin by, and clear skies the whole way up. On a mission, I wordlessly passed the last few shelters filled with hikers in various stages of sleep. Made my way into Baxter, gave a token effort to find a register before heading up, and started the climb. Katahdin is maybe the most significant elevation gain on the whole trail, and it shows as you climb inadequate ladders of rebar, and hoist yourself up the rocks chasing the trail ever higher. A half hour or so after reaching the tree line the moon had begun to set, and I was strictly on headlamp for actionable light. Moving as if dreaming, “surely, the tablelands can’t be much farther…” I would repeat to myself. Finally the sky began to brighten, as I was just on the cusp of the tablelands: I had not walked all this way, from Georgia, through this night, to have set my eyes on a summit sunrise and fail. Reaching the table lands as the deep black of night turns navy and the yellows and oranges bound up from the peripheral horizons as if jeering me onward. Half stumbling, half running, till I could faintly see the sign that marks the Appalachian Trail Terminus, Looming over the last bit of elevation before the end, twenty-one hours and 57 miles of hiking since I had started the morning before.
I had made it.
Fiddling around so I could take a good picture of me on the sign took forever, angling a camera between a rock and a jacket so you can climb a sign in amid decent gusts is hard work, especially when you are already tired. I ended up spending about an hour and a half at the aerie by my lonesome, not quite ready to be done, not quite ready to get back to walking. When the sun was firmly in the up position I began to head down, meeting other thru-hikers all the while put it in perspective, I was done, and the AT was over, every time I would see one of my friends from here on it might be the last time. That’s how it always is though, life gives no guarantees. I finally made it back to KSC, found my father and signed the register and collapsed into the passenger seat of his van, ready to sleep until it would next be time to eat.