August 10, 2004
Miles To Go
August 10, 2004
Miles To Go
I’M THRU HIKING!
Heather & I joined Rockhound, MoonPie and Chestnut atop the summit of Katahdin at 11am on a staggeringly beautiful Class 1 day. I had my eyes on the sign for the last ¼ mile despite the sea of hikers atop the mountain and experienced such a range of emotions over that distance. There was acute relief in finally finishing the hike, dismay at the number of hikers sharing the “terminus of the AT” sign, joy in the act of completing this awesome journey and disbelief that it could actually be over. We watched the crowd by the sign for a few minutes, unable to simply summit and reach the climax that had building for five months because we were unwilling to allow so many strangers into our pictures and memories. Finally Rockhound broke for the weathered board bearing the word KATAHDIN and let out a yell worthy of our accomplishment. I laid a hand on the board, slumped against the rocks supporting it and let it wash over me for a few minutes before moving away.
We broke out celebratory Long Trail Ales and let the crowd take some time to notice us and clear the sign area. Don’t get me wrong—anyone who climbs the 4,000 feet to the summit deserves to celebrate, to touch the sign marking the end of the Appalachian Trail and get pictures at the highest point in Maine. It’s just that we needed a bit of extra time with the sign. 2174.1 miles of hiking from Georgia to Maine had earned us a bit of private space atop the summit to take pictures and let our emotions out.
After about 10 minutes, the crowd thinned and we saw our opportunity. With Heather acting as group photographer, we took all our pictures. I posed for several shots but my favorite was just standing with my arms resting on the sign, letting a few tears evaporate in the 70* breezy sun. Heather joined me behind the sign for a kiss and then we enjoyed the theatrics as the others posed for some wild shots. Rockhound, MoonPie and Chestnut draped themselves over the sign nearly naked, upside down and in numerous other poses. MoonPie changed into fishnet stockings and a feather boa for a few shots and donned a MoonPie T-shirt for shots destined for the cookie manufacturer that’s sent her free MoonPies throughout the trip. We broke out a bottle of champagne for some final group shots and by now were smiling and laughing with happiness and relief as we finished taking photos.
The AT up Katahdin is a wonderful trail. There’s a waterfall down near the campground, then it starts going up and up and up. Rock scrambling is required for a mile or two until you reach the Tablelands—the plateau atop Katahdin. After walking across/up the Tablelands for a mile or so, the summit finally comes into view. We beat the heat by starting at 7:15 in the morning and caught sunshine almost the whole day. It may be the best day of the entire summer up there, given the amount of cold & rain there’s been in Maine this summer.
After our time on the summit, we found our way back down the same Hunt Trail that we’d ascended. There was a wonderful icy foot bath in the water of Katahdin Stream. But then it was over. Heather and I said our goodbyes, packed up, and drove all the way home with barely a stop. Rockhound and MoonPie hung out for another day and ended up summiting again with Hoplite, Packrat and others. Chestnut continued up the trail. Jbird and Burning Boots summited a few days later, as did many of the hikers who’d become friends along the way.
What an amazing 5 month journey! The people I met on the trail as well as my friends & family back home were the most important part of the adventure. No matter how many new experiences I had in the woods, regardless of how exhilarating, beautiful, painful or annoying, it all comes down to the people. In addition to all the hikers who made the trip so meaningful, I need to thank:
My fiancée Heather for her support, understanding and frequent visits as well as her transcription of this journal. My life on trail often felt incomplete without her company.
My brother David & sister-in-law Melicca for getting this show on the road. D planned the whole thing with me and hiked 600+ miles before deciding family meant too much to miss. He and Melicca set up and mailed all my food/equip mail drops as well, taking a huge burden off my shoulders.
My parents Ellen & Elliott for their endless support; Mom for sending all kinds of care packages to mail drops up and down the trail and Dad for keeping hiking with me and keeping me updated on the Red Sox.
My friend George Kao for covering my web development business while I was on trail, allowing me the possibility of earning a living upon my return.
Friends Cy & Gail Kendrick, Paul & Peggy Fleming, Claude and Laura Ferry for joining me on the trail in various locations and for coordinating the lodging and rides that made such companionship possible.
My cousin Sue & family for their food drops when I was in need of banana bread and treats from the kids.
My to-be in-laws Margaret and Phil for some quickly demolished Girl Scout cookies and for caring for Tally so that Heather could visit me.
My neighbor and friend Dolores Bush for coming over every school day and taking Tally out for a mid-day walk.
Friends Rog & Beth Anderson for helping hold up the home front, supporting Heather & myself before and during the trip.
Heather’s brother John for handling the ride to the trail in Georgia, making the beginning so much more fun and relaxing.
Jerry & Jerrie for their wonderful hospitality while I was hiking through Shenandoah. I can still taste that incredible food!
And you for reading! My mantra while I was on the trail was “Live Your Dreams Today,” and that remains one of my deepest wishes for everyone reading this journal.