Day 160 – The End Is Near

I woke up to an empty shelter. It was mildly alarming, not because I knew anyone in the shelter. But rather when I went to sleep it was full, and when I woke it was empty. That juxtaposition as the bookends of my unconscious mind was jarring.

It was a chilly morning and I did not want to leave my TBC. However the intense heat of an actual fire sounded better than the suboptimal warmth of my sleeping bag. I got up and piled some sticks on the embers still glowing, albeit mildly, from the night prior.  I stoked up a morning fire and made breakfast next to it.

While getting ready Wiki, Feral Goat, Orphan, and Hays came to the East Branch shelter from further back on trail. We all left and crossed the small stream right next to the shelter. Hiking today was pretty flat and easy. A few miles in, along a dirt road, we came across the most unexpected trail magic. In the 100 mile wilderness of all places!

It was a group of former 2017 thru-hikers and their dogs. I had Gatorade, chips, and even a pizza they baked with their pizza oven and fresh made dough. It was the most pleasantly random thing I may have ever experienced.

We continued on down the trail after that. The trail in the 100 mile wilderness seems to ebb and flow. One minute it’s through a forest, pine then oak, then evergreens. Then you’re in a muddy bog, crossing a river or walking next to a pond. It happens seamlessly and dynamically, multiple times throughout the day. Today was a meandering meld of everything Maine had to offer.

The goal was just to get as far as possible by sundown but the late start, constant water crossings, snack breaks, and impromptu stops seemed to hamper our intended progress. One such stop that we ran into was (and I shit you not) a full film crew in the woods, with a boom microphone, multiple cameras and like 8 support staff around. Purple pioneer and I found Hays, Wiki, Orphan and Feral Goat by the road with their food drop resupply. Shaws can drop you off additional food if you need some, at one of a couple locations in the wilderness.

Late in the day, I finished Brave New World. It had a depressing ending. But the commentary on so many topics was impressive: suicide, eugenics, conditioning, consumerism, sex, science, and state control. It was getting late and I not looking forward to night hiking for the 3rd night in a row, I set up camp next to a pond and watched the sunset. Today ended up being a 17 mile day despite all the welcome distractions. Katahdin campground is 45 miles away.

Im looking at a potential summit in just 3 days! Where does the time go? Maine has absolutely snuck up on me. The same could be said for Katahdin (as much as a destination you’re walking towards for 5 months can sneak up on someone).

It’s a weird feeling. It’s been this far off distant thing I’ve been hiking and working towards all this time. Something you know you’re getting closer to everyday, yet it’s here before you know it. I’m not saying that because I don’t want it to end either, it’s time.

It’s absolutely time. But that time used to appear to move so very slowly, but now with the finish line so near at hand, every movement is magnified. Every mile so dramatically more meaningful because it signifies the end. It’s a surreal feeling. It’s like I’m crashing into a personal victory in slow motion.

The end of this trail is finally starting to hit me. I’ve been so blessed to be able to hike this trail. To meet some of the kindest souls and lifelong friends along the way. To see a side of nature that changes your perspective on all things. And to remain (relatively) healthy throughout it all. I feel so lucky to be here. I go to sleep 97.7 percent complete with the Appalachian Trail.

Stow away in my pack for Day 161 on the Appalachian Trail

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Comments 8

  • Al K. : Sep 30th

    I’m going to miss you Doc! Have enjoyed your outstanding photos, your engaging writing, your enthusiasm, your observations…Thank you

  • Rem : Sep 30th

    It’s been a real treasure keeping up with your hike through three seasons. You’ll get to enjoy these memories for the rest of your life. Thanks for sharing.

  • CB : Sep 30th

    At the beginning of the movie, when you were in GA, I was following a half dozen, or so, other hikers. Here toward the end it’s only you and one other, and the other only posts occasionally. You both have been excellent. I am surprised that you were shocked to see the film crew in the woods. That’s how it’s gonna be when production starts on your movie. Whaddya expect?
    I am going to miss the writing, the pics, your positivity, your sense of humor, the other characters, and your musings! But it’s not over yet! Or is it? I hate time lags.

  • thetentman : Sep 30th

    Nice post. Do a gear review of what made it and what did not. Please.

  • Rushmore : Sep 30th

    Each day I anticipate your next post. In a few days that will be over. Sad for us readers but happy as you move on to the next journey of life. Enjoy these last miles!!

  • Marie : Sep 30th

    Kept up with you thru the hike in spirit! Beautiful photography, great storytelling and I’m sure you’ll be delighted to finish and have cherished memories.

  • JB : Sep 30th

    You have been my favorite follow of this AT season, by a long shot. Thanks for letting us all live vicariously through you!

  • Jenny : Sep 30th

    Derek, as others have written above your photos are outstanding as well as your expressive writing – both have brought me along on the trail. As the miles count down you are wise to reflect now as you approach the end. The final photo of sticks up on Katahdin will signal an end to a grand adventure ..but your heart will carry the memories.


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