Day 162 – The Day Before Katahdin
I woke up well rested but in no hurry to start the day. Today was a day for savoring. Today was a slow burn kind of day. The kind where all moods are lifted and you’re high on life. Because life is good, and more good things are on the horizon. I took my time getting ready and lounging in the cozy little stealth site.
Purple Pioneer and I started the day 34 miles from the peak of Katahdin and 20 from Baxter State Park. We rode cloud 9 the whole way in. It was a beautiful day and nothing could ruin it. Not rocks, not roots, not mud, or bugs.
Every stream, lake, pond and portion of trail had an extra bit of meaning to it. Was it because this was our penultimate day on trail and it all just meant more? Or was it because it was really just that nice out? Looking back on the photos I would venture a guess it was both.
The trail was leisurely and flat. The 20 miles into Baxter were cake by the hiking standards we’d become accustomed to. There were giant moss covered boulders and trails strewn with freshly fallen, bright red leaves. These leaves had seemed to speak to me all trail long. A pop of color I could remember fondly, as far back as Virginia. They seemed to have an uplifting effect every time I’d see one. And here I am in Maine, spoiled by them. Maple trees spilling their bounty out before me to admire.
14 miles in I arrived at the Rainbow Ledges. It’s a highland of rock, roughly 1500 feet in elevation, with a sneak peek of Katahdin framed through the trees. A small descent took me to Hurd Mountain Lean-to, the last shelter before Baxter. I jotted down a quick note, hoping those I’ve met along the way, and still behind me might read it.
My heart is feeling very full and grateful for all the memories this trail has provided. I’m even more grateful for the beautiful souls I’ve had the pleasure of meeting along the way and sharing those memories with.
The final stroll down into Baxter State Park was like the end of the ‘Land Before Time.’ Against all odds, trials, and tribulations, I strolled down into ‘The Great Valley,’ with my dinosaur friends having reached the end of my journey (terrible analogy but you get what I mean). It was an immense feeling of accomplishment having come this far (despite having one day left).
I crossed Abol bridge in the park looking forward to the convenience store on the other side when I was completely blindsided. There standing in all its glory, obscured by trees up until crossing the bridge, was Mt Katahdin. It stood out clearly and larger than life. I had just seen a glimpse of it 6 miles before but it really impressed at this moment. It had an effect on Purple Pioneer too because she almost dropped my phone off the bridge trying to take my photo.
We eventually made it across, phones intact and proceed to stuff our faces with convenience store glory (Mountain Dew, beer, and sandwiches). Outside we found Lucky McShorts, Build-a-Bear, Ninja and Photo Baggins. After our feast we proceeded on into Baxter Park.
The campgrounds were another 9 miles in and it was 6PM. We signed the roster for summiting the next day. We could have shortened it by taking a blue blaze, but I was not about to break my purist streak on the second to last day. After filling out the paperwork we pressed on down the trail.
It was flat and easy and meandered passed more streams and various views of Katahdin. Katahdin is an Indian word which means ‘highest land.’ It was certainly visible from a number of vantage points on this day.
After 3 miles, I took my last dip in the stream at sunset. It was brisk but highly refreshing after a whirlwind of a day. By the time we made camp, it was dark and we enjoyed a quick dinner and it was early to bed for an early rise.
I thought back to a line from Brave New World. It’s said:
“Is it any happiness, or any comfort to consider that we are our own? It may be thought so by the young and prosperous, these may think it a great thing to have everything they suppose their own way, to depend on no one. To have to think of nothing out of sight. To be without the irksomeness of continual acknowledgement. Continual prayer, continual reference of what they do to the will of another. But as time goes on, they as all men will find that independence, was not made for man. That it is an unnatural state. It will do for a while, but will not carry us on safely to the end.”
I’m taking it out of context, but to me it has meaning that I did not complete this trail alone. Sure I started it alone, but the camaraderie I found along the way, in hikers and you readers alike, has meant the world. I surely had help, and that fact is not lost on me. I’ll give my thank you’s out tomorrow but it was something I thought about before bed. On that note, and for one last time.
Stow away with me in my pack for Day 163, my last day on the Appalachian Trail
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