Katahdin: The Halfway Point for This Flip-Flopper
Good news all around!
I survived southern Maine.
I survived the 100 Mile Wilderness.
I survived Katahdin.
I survived Maine.
Leaving the tough climbs of southern Maine was a blessed relief! The views from the top of the Bigelows were amazing; definitely one of my favorite summits so far.
In the Wilderness
The 100 Mile Wilderness was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be. Based on what I had heard from other hikers, I had expected swarms of mosquitos and black flies, endless bog, and days of hiking in wet boots and socks. Oh, and lots of roots and rocks in the Trail.
The roots and rocks part was definitely true. However, the bugs were not that bad. They were worse in Vermont and New Hampshire. That being said, my ankles haven’t looked this bad since I had a baby vulture nipping at them all summer long (I work at a bird sanctuary).
The bog was not that bad either. There were definitely soupy sections of the trail but nothing, I repeat NOTHING, like the 2-3 days I spent in Vermont plowing through liquid trail with no hope of dry feet. In fact, there wasn’t a single morning in the wilderness where I had to wake up and put on wet socks and boots!
I was ready to be out of the 100 MW by the end of it though. It was a tough week emotionally, complicated by the fact that I wasn’t eating enough because I was afraid of running out of food. There is a formidable sign at the beginning of the Wilderness urging hikers to carry 10 days of food. I carried 7 days of food and my pack was stupid heavy when I left Monson to begin the 100 MW, so there’s no way I would’ve carried any more food, plus my food bag wouldn’t fit any more food. But it was just enough food. Consequently, my last day in the wilderness I pushed a little harder to make it to Abol Bridge Campground for real food (and a shower).
I got the best site in the whole campground, right on the Penobscot River with an incredible view of Katahdin. Several more hikers stayed at the campground that evening as well and everyone ended up congregating at my picnic table because the views were the best.
Speaking of Katahdin…
That greatest of mountains. That holy grail of thruhikers.
I climbed it.
The night before I could hardly sleep. The morning of I had to force myself to eat something for breakfast and couldn’t finish it. My nerves were tying my stomach in knots. My biggest fear was running into bad weather up there and having to turn around. I had my flight booked already, which meant I HAD to summit that day. Other fears: that my boots wouldn’t be up to the task (1100 miles through Pennsylvania, the Whites, and southern Maine had eaten away the tread); that I wouldn’t be up to the task (someone told me you had to do a pull-up for one part and I panicked because I can’t).
I woke up at 4:30 and began the 5.2 mile climb around 5:30. It was foggy and damp, but no rain yet. The climb up was long and there were lots of rock stairs (I swear hell is full of endless sets of rock stairs). Then there is a vertical boulder field that makes Mahoosuc Notch look like child’s play. Thankfully, the rocks are dry and it doesn’t rain. Once I climb above tree line, the fog is below me and I look out to see mountain peaks in a lake of clouds.
Once in the Table Land, there is a flat section of trail before the final climb. I had been with another hiker until this point, but I pull ahead now.
Then I see it up ahead: the infamous sign at the summit.
Tears spring to my eyes. I speed up. It feels like I run the last quarter mile. Even though it is the end of only half of my journey, it is no less a huge milestone. The northern half of this trail has tested my limits physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. It is the harder half of the Trail; not that the southern half is easy, but it is different.
I spend a good amount of time on Katahdin, taking it in, reflecting, and celebrating with other thruhikers, some of whom are fellow flip-floppers and others who are fully-fledged NOBOs finishing their journey.
After a while, we head back down to the rest of the world. I am heading home for a week to reset and recharge before starting my SOBO journey to Springer, so I confirm travel plans, sort through gear, and enjoy having cell phone service again.
Northern AT: Check!
Katahdin was amazing. Although there is a small part of me that wishes I could have been done with the whole trail up there, it was still an emotional, exhilarating halfway point. It is indeed the “holy grail of thruhikers”, which makes it an incredible place to be, whether it is the end of a thruhike or the halfway point. I realize that Springer Mountain in Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT, will also be a special, emotional place as well, because for me it will truly be the end. So here’s to a week of zeroes, rest, real food, family, my dogs, “my” vulture (at work), and preparation for the second half of my hike!
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