A Dream Fulfilled (Day 175, Katahdin)

Day 175

Start: Katahdin Stream Campground
Finish: Katahdin – Baxter Peak
AT Miles Hiked Today: 5.2
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 2,189.1
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 0

The final day dawned cold – It must have dropped down into the low-40’s last night at Katahdin Stream Campground. I woke at 4:30 when Reindeer got up to pee, and was too excited to fall back asleep. My parents tell me that when I was a kid, I would get overexcited for things like vacations and birthdays, and proceed to not sleep and vomit and poop everywhere because I was so excited. I managed not to spill bodily fluids this time, but I was still really, really excited. This is it – This is the day I’ve been dreaming of for years, this is the day I’ve been walking towards for 6 months! When my alarm went off at 5:30, Reindeer and I quickly packed up and headed over to the AT.



My Uncle David was driving in and meeting us at the base of Katahdin, so we waited for him to show up in the cold. A few other hikers were meeting drivers, and they were walking around to stay warm. Reindeer and I had hand warmers, which helped immensely with the cold! Hand warmers are a really cheap and light form of insurance for when it gets cold out on the trail. Future hikers, take note.

My uncle arrived around 6:30 and we headed up the mountain!



The trail started off easy enough. We were hiking in puffy jackets and winter hats. It was still above freezing, though, so we stopped about a mile in and threw our coats, gloves, and hats into our day packs. (Thank goodness we didn’t need to schlep our full packs up this mountain!)


The trail started to turn pretty technical about 2 miles in. Many hikers have said that Katahdin is the most difficult climb on the entire trail. I began to see why as we finally got above tree line.



The wind was biting above tree line, and it got really cold, really fast. We threw back on our warm clothes. I put on my gloves and winter hat. Reindeer didn’t have gloves, and was paying the price – His fingers were frozen, and the climbing was so technical above tree line that he couldn’t leave his hands in his pockets as he hiked. The hand warmers were the only thing between him and blue fingers.


The day clouded over (what happened to our mostly sunny forecast??) and the winds were gusting at 30+ mph (what happened to our 5-10 mph forecast???). The steep section of Katahdin was rough! Lots of climbing up and over boulders and carefully navigating handholds and footholds. It wasn’t a cardio challenge as much as it was a flexibility challenge. I can see how some hikers get overanxious, try to rush their ascent, and end up falling and really hurting themselves.

On our way up we saw many familiar faces who had summited closer to sunrise. Calves, Coach and Sunflower came by first, then Purple Mist and Optimist later in the climb. Each time we stopped to hug, high five, and back slap each other. Their grins could light up a room. Their journey was over, as would mine within a few short hours.



Once we got over the difficult ascent to the last mile or so (called “The Table”), the trail really smoothed and leveled out. We were still frozen and being buffeted by winds, but the hard part of our ascent was over. But, it was definitely below freezing. Ice everywhere on the trail. Ice in our beards. Ice in our mustaches.

On a clear day, we would be able to see the summit as we walked along The Table, but today, we were in the clouds, and could barely see 20 feet in any direction.






We began to see brief snatches of blue sky, and Reindeer and I started yelling “COME ON, SUN!” every time it would get a bit brighter. The sun actually made a few appearances as we excitedly walked the last half mile.


Then, there it was – The End.

It was over in a flash. Reindeer and I walked up to the sign together, touched it at the same time, and let out primal screams of joy. We started slapping the sign, hugging each other, high fiving everyone around us, and laughing like idiots. That’s it! No view? No problem! This was the happiest moment of my entire life.




We retreated to the east side of the summit rocks, where there wasn’t as much wind, and sat down. Then, all of a sudden, I was crying. There was no moment of “Oh shit, am I about to cry?” – One moment I was smiling and talking with Reindeer, the next I was bawling uncontrollably.

It’s hard to put the emotions into words, but I’ll try. The adrenaline of my last day on trail carried me all the way to the summit, and the excitement of finally seeing and touching the sign carried me through the photos. Now, resting out of the wind, with my 6 month journey behind me, I was left with nothing but an immense amount of joy and gratitude. The weight of a thru-hike had been lifted off my shoulders. There was no more “What If?” scenarios running through my head. No more worrying. I’m done. I’m going home. Relief was flooding through me. It’s over. I did it. I achieved my dream, and now I’m going home.


The clouds broke on our way down from the summit, and we were treated to some spectacular views.




My Uncle David brought us come Coca-Cola to celebrate our summit, and once we got below tree line, Reindeer and I got to sit and drink to our success.



The rest of the day was amazing. We drove back to millinocket where my family was waiting to celebrate with me. My mom and dad drove up from North Carolina, and my little sister flew up as well. My dog was there waiting for me. Reindeer’s mom had somehow, through pure luck, gotten the hotel room directly next to mine. We all sat and drank and celebrated. I finally showered after 8 days, tying my longest stretch of the entire trail. We all went out to dinner that night. Then, an early bed time. I doubt I’ve had a more emotionally-draining day in my entire life.



No more waking up and planning water sources. No more breaking down my tent and putting everything I own on my back. No more walking 20 miles a day over mountains. This is the end of an amazing journey. Am I sad or happy? I don’t know yet. I know I’m tired, though, so for now, I’m content to be finished and sleeping in a real bed for the night.

There will be another post in a week, or two, or maybe a month. Who knows? I think some time will be needed to really reflect on what the heck I just went through over the last 6 months. Truly, this is one of the greatest things I have ever accomplished. I am so happy to have hiked the Appalachian Trail this year. What an adventure it’s been.

Until next time, happy trails!


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Comments 12

  • Brenda M Lynch : Oct 4th

    And I have just shed some tears with you–well, not exactly with you, but you know what I mean__Congratulations so so many times–what a wonderful dream to fulfill–I believe you will accomplish many many things in your life and so many of them will go back to the experiences of the last 6 months. Once again it has been aloeasure to follow you and share in some small way in your life!! Welcome Home!!

  • Jac : Oct 4th

    I’m so happy for you! I’ve been following your blog from the beginning–one of the only ones I stuck with. Is it because you’re from Chicago (I’m from downstate) and a fellow Italian? Or because you’re an epic writer? I’m not sure– your tips were handy. I’m a planner and blogging your miles and trail stops were super helpful for getting my plan ready– I know it’ll all go out the window the second I step onto the trail but it’s helpful for now. I’m so glad you made it all the way through. I’m so glad I was privileged to have been following your journey- thank you for taking me (and others) with you and I’m so extremely happy for your completion of the trail– what an amazing accomplishment. I wish you all the best as you return to life off the trail.

  • Colleen Rossi : Oct 4th

    I am so happy for you!!!! You are an inspiration. I have been reading all of your blog posts for months. Been cheering for you!!! Way. To. Go. Enjoy the moment. What a journey. 🙂

  • BunnyHikes : Oct 4th

    oh snap I need to NOT read this while at work! I got the leaky eyes going on here myself.

    Congrats on your successful thru and you surely do a terrific job of translating emotions to words.

    Let us know how and if post thru depression hits and how you deal with it?

    Again ….. congrats!!

  • dan waits : Oct 4th

    I cried all the way through your blog, thankful & grateful you finished well & safe.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for caring enough to take us all along with you. Following your hike has meant more to me than I can say.

  • Dennis Johnson : Oct 5th

    Congratulations!!!!! What an amazing ending to your epic journey. I have followed you from the beginning and want to thank you for taking me along. I saw on Facebook that you had summited several days ago and could hardly wait to read about your experience during the final days.

    As a 2017 NOBO hiker, your journal has provided me with invaluable information for planning my hike, and I’m certain it will be a treasured resource for many other hikers as well. Your story has been my favorite this year, and I appreciate the amount of discipline required to keep writing these updates, as well as processing your wonderful photos.

    Congratulations again on your amazing accomplishment!! Best of luck to you in your future endeavors.

  • David Odell : Oct 5th

    Congratulations on finishing your AT hike. Enjoyed your journal. David Odell AT71 PCT72 CDT77

  • Ashley Dusenbery : Oct 5th

    Congratulations! I’ve enjoyed following your blog through your entire hike. I’ve enjoyed it not only for the detail and excellent writing, but I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through it. Good luck with whatever is next! I’d love to get a post-mortem from you about a month from now.

  • Chris : Oct 5th

    Vinny/Slice–Congratulations on you magnificent achievement, and thank you for sharing your journey with the rest of us. Like many others, I followed your AT blog from the start. I eagerly awaited your updates, invariably insightful, honest, humorous, and humble. Of all the blogs I followed here and on Trail Journals, yours was, hands down, the best. I’ll be following in your footsteps next year. I hope I will have the mental wherewithal to approach the trail with the same equanimity you displayed throughout. Also hope I’ll have your luck with the raindrops! Please keep writing. Looking forward to your post-Trail reflection and updates on your future adventures!

  • Catequil : Oct 6th

    Slice…congrats on a major lifetime achievement. First caught you and your trail name story on Hiker Trash video. Glad you made it and mentioned Sunflower, Purple Mist and Optimist doing likewise. Was binge watching those guys and so much fun to see familiar faces in so many videos so often. I can see the familial bond restoring faith in each other, something non-trail world desperately needs right now. Got to get out there. Stuck in Milwaukee waiting for snow to fly so I can get my mountain fix back. Thanks for putting into words an indescribable experience. All the best.

  • Emily : Oct 8th

    Way to go, Vinny! It’s been a pleasure to follow your journey! Congratulations!

  • Jill Kocar : Oct 11th

    Congrats Vinny! What a great accomplishment. Enjoyed following your travels and seeing the pictures. Great job!


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