7/18/2009 - 9:00 PM - Appalachian Trail Lodge - 5.2 mi today - 2178.3 mi total
Woke up at 5 AM and got the daypacks ready for Katahdin. Had breakfast at the Appalachian Trail Cafe with Mom, Dad, and Rachel. The weather looked really nasty early with light rain and fog. Ate our fill and then made the drive to Baxter State Park. The ranger at the entrance station informed us that there was a 100% chance of rain and thunderstorms today. Got to the trailhead and began our hike at 8 AM. First mile flew by. Before we knew it we were at the Katahdin Stream Falls and took some pictures. The terrain wasn't bad to that point, though we were all getting wet quickly from the water falling off the trees. The higher we climbed, the more strenuous the terrain became. The boulders got larger and there was more scrambling higher up. Trekking poles quickly became useless, so we stored them on my backpack. Once we finally reached treeline, the terrain became ridiculous. We had a brief view looking West, but the fog thickened up quickly. Although the rain had stopped, the wind was picking up and the fog was thick. We reached the part known as "the wall" and had to use the rebar handholds to climb 12 feet vertically. We met some other thruhikers coming down at that point and they were making a big deal about it which frightened Mom. We all made it up that obstacle, then down a short slide, and then up over two more similar walls. Finally, we got to an obstacle that put Mom past her limit and forced her to turn around. Katahdin is a serious mountain and people get injured on it every week (last week a guy broke his ankle, and yesterday a woman broke her kneecap). I was proud of Mom for how far she came up the mountain, but I was more proud that she knew her limits and didn't put herself in a dangerous situation. She said a tearful goodbye, and headed back down the mountain to the parking lot. Dad, Rachel and I continued up the mountain and the conditions only got worse. The fog was very thick, the rocks were slippery, and the winds above treeline were gusting up to about 50 mph. We slowly made our way up and eventually saw a sign in the fog. I thought it was the famous Katahdin sign, but it wasn't. We had only reached the tableland, a relatively flat section of the climb, and still had a mile and a half to go. Frustrated, cold, wet, and worried about Mom, I hurried along towards the summit. We passed Thoreau Spring and I knew I was on the last mile of my hike. Finally, we could see the sign in the fog. I took the last few steps with Dad and Rachel and burst into tears. All that hard work. The ups and the downs. I was so happy to be there, but I was so sad for it to be ending. It was a whirlwind of emotions swirling inside of me. I collapsed on the sign and embraced it for a while. Dad and Rachel shot some pictures. I sat on top of it and took my summit photo. The fog was so thick that you can hardly recognize my face when you look at the photo. Took a couple pictures with Dad and Rachel. I did it.
At this point, we were all freezing and anxious to get back down off the mountain. After a short photo session and snack break, we turned around and started to head back. The descent was slow and the weather was much of the same. Luckily, the thunderstorms held off and we were not in danger. By the time we reached the bottom and were reunited with Mom, we were all exhausted, wet, cold, and sore. I signed my last logbook on the porch of the ranger station and found out that I was NOBO number 24. Woohoo. Hopped in the car and headed back to Millinocket for a shower, dinner, and some much needed rest. Great day on the AT, and what a way to end the hike. This is by far the best thing I have ever done in my life.
Welcome to my trail blog for my 2009 Appalachian Trail Hike! Here you can find all of my journal entries of my 2178.3 mile journey from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. You can see my picture slideshow to the right, as well as a recap of my hike mile by mile and gear list. Download the ebook about my hike on iTunes. I hope you find my quest inspiring. Thanks for visiting and Happy Trails!