Nahmakanta Stream to Abol Bridge, South Boundary of Baxter State Park
I’m an emotional person. I think if you know me, or you’ve been getting to know me through my blog, you’ve realized that I am, at times, an emotional roller-coaster. I love it and hate it and honestly, it’s what sets me apart from the rest. You can guarantee that life will not be boring when you hang out with me, and perhaps that’s why I’m loved by so many, and have so many friends. I’m unique. I’m eccentric. I’m unpredictable…at times.
That said, I was drifting further north, walking along the Nahmakanta Stream, it’s edges swollen, a light rain pinging against its surface. I was listening to the audiobook Hell or High Water, a great tale about seven kayakers who paddle Tibet’s Tsangpo River, a death-defying feat down a river that had never been successfully paddled before. I was, in all essence, trying to distract myself. I was trying to hold back my emotion, trying to keep my head strong and my eyes dry. But I couldn’t and after taking my headphones out, I let my eyes grow blurry, my legs still striding forward. I was caught in a swirl of saddness that this trip was coming to an end, and further more, a saddness and uncertainty that came with the notion of climbing Mount Katahdin in the dark, cold, wet, snowy and lonely night. You see, the northern terminus sits in a state park that has rules and regulations and at that point, the trails to the summit were closed. Off limits, unless you wanted to summit illegally. Days earlier, and for months, I thought I could pull it off. I thought I’d just go for it. I’d hike it at midnight, tag the summit and say see ya later AT.
But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. I realized that this forced concept was causing that particular emotional meltdown. I love these trails and although they drive me absolutely bonkers at times, there was no way I wanted to summit THAT mountain…Mount FREAKIN’ Katahdin...in the dark, rain, cold and loneliness. Wasn’t this year of hiking in part to hike three trails, but also for self-discovery and to also write an epic story about being the first woman to hike the Calendar Triple Crown? Yes, that’s what it was about. And that wasn’t going to be the ending of this chapter. No, no, no. Instead I realized I’d rather move on to the CDT and fly back in July, and summit with my friend Delightful, who joined me for a few days just north of Erwin, TN, and who is two months south, hiking her own thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. And maybe even Rookie will join too. Because that folks is how a thru-hike should end: as a celebration. Not as a peak-baggin, bragging right.
So, on May 3rd, I walked out of the 100 Mile Wilderness and toward Abol Bridge. It was a quiet afternoon, and overcast sky and cloud obscured the summit of Mount Katahdin. But it was a beautiful day regardless, and I was thrilled. In 114 days I’d hiked from Georgia to Maine, more than 2,100 miles. I’d faced bitter temperatures and blizzards, and many cold and lonely nights. As I drifted north, I watch spring blossom to life from an otherwise silent and still environment. I witnessed the migration of snow geese and saw moose who too, had a hard run of it this winter. I devoured countless burgers and enjoyed many a fine brew. I suspect I’ve lost at least 15 pounds and it’s no doubt my body is firm and fit and ready for more…at least if I can get this painful circulation under control. More massage and more chiropractic work is in my near future.
I met few hikers, but those that I did meet, I’ll never forget them. Starting from the south, and regardless of how long or short or which direction walked, or the length of their walk, I’ll never forget these names: Otis, New Year, Blizzard, The White Walkers, Pickel, Delightful, Rookie, Dr. Love, No Care Bear, Kinga, Jabba, Legend, Apple Pie and Greenleaf. Was there someone else? Heck, I told you it was lonely. And Delightful, Apple Pie and Greenleaf are hikers that came to the trail specifically to hike with me. And thank goodness they did. (There were a few other southbound hikers I met the first few days, but honestly they didn’t stick in my mind. I suppose I didn’t expect to have it so lonely, or maybe there wasn’t any spark. Or I was focused on miles. Who knows).
And so, as I walked toward that bridge, a man walked toward me. I waved my arms in the air, cheerful. He waved back. Rookie embraced me with a big hug and a big smile. He knew that feeling, having completed his southbound hike in early March. I was speechless and nervous and excited and sleep deprived. It felt good. Real good.
We stood on the bridge, looking out across the Penobscot River, two bald eagles sitting in a tree across the water’s surface. The base of Mount Katahdin was a bold blue, but it’s summit would remain a sight for later.
And that’s it folks. That concludes the first hike this year, which I can say with complete confidence, will be the hardest of the three. There are so many stories to share, or to elaborate, but you’ll just have to wait for the next book. Which, if you’re not aware, as I’m terrible at marketing myself, I have a published book for sale on Amazon, called Married to the Trail. It’s a story about my hike along the Continental Divide Trail in 2011, a record-setting snow year and a year that saw an equal amount of solitude as my hike along the Appalachian Trail. I’m curious to see it in a new light, with the advent of the Guthook App, which takes so much anxiety away from navigating with just map and compass. Additionally, because of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, there are hikers leaving from the border every day in the peak season, which is now and had officially kicked off April 18th. And, besides having dozens of hikers to leap-frog with, or at least to break up the silence of an afternoon every once in a while, my good friend Allgood is out ahead and I’m planning on hiking some big girl miles to catch his ass. I mean, I trained for the CDT by hiking the AT, so in therory I should be good to go! I don’t enjoy being as alone as I might lead on, or perhaps how much I once thought. Life is better with friends. That’s for sure.
I’ve witnessed my blog see more and more followers, and I apologize that I don’t have time to respond to emails, but I am truly grateful that you seek comfort or entertainment or advice from my words. I love writing. It’s what
I’ve realized makes this year’s hike that much more important, more purposeful. So thanks for reading.
On to the CDT!