Major League ~ OUT!

Major League … the Trail Name I gave myself after attending an Appalachian Trail thru hike program.

My daughter had named me BearMingo … Bear for Charlie ( my late husband) and Mingo for Flamingo for the beach girl that I am.  It was the perfect Trail Name for me … until I attended the program.

On the first evening of the program, as eight of us sat around the room, the person teaching the class asked us to answer three questions.  I listened to each person give their answers … none which were better, wiser, or any more experienced than the answers in my head.  Each received an understanding reply.  I was the last to answer.  I bravely explained my reason for wanting to hike the AT, my experience, and my fears.  Again, my answers were no different from the others.  The difference was in the support they received from the instructor verses his support to me … which was not there.

The instructor begin to give an analogy of T-ball to the Major League.  He didn’t stop there … he proceeded to drill this analogy home with the analogy continuing through school years, college and the Minor League … each time telling me no one goes straight from these levels to the Major League.  Hence my Trail Name … because I WAS GOING to do this!

An 85 year old (Grandma Gatewood), a blind man (Bill Irwin), an amputee (Scott Rogers), a 14 yr old (Neva Warren – solo) and a 5 year old boy with his parents did it … Why couldn’t I?  I have two close friends (Tim Pegram and Cathy Shouse)  that did it.  Why couldn’t I?  I’ve read countless pages of people’s trials and tribulations on the trail … I could do this.  Charlie, who had hiked some sections said I could do it.  I knew I could to!!

My one FEAR … those mountains.  I read that one man got all the way from GA to the Whites (mountains) about 2000 miles into his trek … and quit.  I didn’t want to do that … I needed to conquer the mountains first.

I didn’t!

I attempted to summit Katahdin on June 5th via the Hunt Trail.  I hiked / climbed Mt. Katahdin to 4409 ft.  The last of the climb, referred to as the gateway, was to difficult for me.  So I didn’t make it to the plateau and across to the summit.  But I tried.

After hiking out of Baxter State Park (12.5 mi) and taking a zero day, I attempted it again.

The Abol Trail had a land slide a few years back and was rebuilt with switchbacks … sounded promising.  Abol Trail was a shorter hike, even more promising.  Everyone told me it was easier than the Hunt Trail, including the Park Ranger.

On June 8th, with renewed confidence, I again attempted to summit Katahdin via the Abol Trail.  It was a beautiful, clear, hot day.  What I discovered was a much steeper trail.  A trail less traveled so the footpath was not as well packed, loose pea-gravel allowed my foot to slip easily, loose rocks and roots made it even more cumbersome.  It was a more bouldering climb, which I did on already bruised and sore, knees and hands.  I was going to do this.  Several other hikers had passed me at this point, none of which had summited.  I was determined to not stop.  I had a 1/2 mile to the gateway and knew I had it!  I had a good cell signal so I posted pictures on FB and called two peope to say Hi.  I was so excited … I had this!  I kept climbing.  I reached a point that made me stop and look up, contemplating where to place my feet / hand next … where the next blaze was on the path.  At that moment a man, whom Sully (hiking parnter) dubbed Mountain Goat, appeard.  His comment to us was, “I wouldn’t go … I’m 6′ and I had a difficult time making it up.”  That was all I needed to hear.  I offered to pay for him to get me up to the top (I was serious).  He wouldn’t do it.  Mountain Man said that it was almost impossible for him to do it, so nope, not even for money.

So, like before, I made it to the gateway, and like before, I couldn’t get past that gate!  I sat down and cried.  With tears I descended Mt Katahdin.  Once we were back at the Rangers Station, we learned that of the eleven people that attempted to summit that day, only three were able.

The GPS showed that I climbed 4200 ft this time.  My daughter, Sarah, said looking at the topographical map it looked like I stopped at the same level on both trails.  Damn Gateway!!

To top it off … on the way down the mountain, my feet slipped (several times) on the pea-gravel.  On one of those slips my knee bent wrong.  I had to decend the rest of the way hobbling in pain.  I had a knife stabbing pain in the back of my right knee that radiates to the front of my knee cap and halfway down my leg.

So today, June 9th, I’m sitting in the Eastern Maine Medical Center Walk-in Clinic, Bangor, ME waiting for someone to take a look at my swollen knee.

What will I do now?  I don’t know.

I do know that if I can’t summit Katahdin, I’d never be able to climb the Whites.  Both would need to be accomplished to be able to say I hiked the entire AT.  So that’s out.

Two of the girls that took the AT class had started their trek and came off the trail for the class and to regroup.  So perhaps after regrouping I’ll section hike sans the climbs.

Or maybe I’ll go to the beach and drink a Bahama Mama!

No matter what I decide to do, I am happy with my attempts … it’s more than some people do in a life time.

I am in awe of those that triumphed without fear, standing straight up on that mountain side taking each boulder like a stair step.  I am even more so in awe of myself for how far I pushed myself, especially while fearful of those heights and ledges.

I am especially thankful for everyone that supported me in my quest.  The encouragement, words of wisdom, the faith you had in me gave me the push I needed.  I didn’t want do disappoint any of you.  I am not disappointed in myself … I hope you aren’t either.

I like adventure as much as I like fine dining.  I love variety and inhaling all that life has to offer.  This won’t deter me from trying other challengers.  If I don’t try it, how will I ever know, right!?!

All I know at this moment is my right knee is swollen and I’m down for the count for now.  We’ll see what tomorrow holds.

Final word … I have a partial Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear … brace and crutches for 2 weeks and then a visit to my regular doctor for a re-check.

Major League ~ OUT!









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Comments 15

  • Staey : Jun 9th

    If you decide you want to hike more , come to the smokies and we will take you on some good tune up hikes.

  • Shannon : Jun 10th

    Love your efforts and of course your spirit. You made this fearless attempt and gave yourself so much power just by suiting up.
    Love that!
    Whatever you do next…I know you will keep moving forward and that is the key!

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      Thank you Shannon … hope to see you soon 🙂

  • Brigette : Jun 10th

    While I truly understand the all or nothing mentality, it is a stop put that keeps us from enjoying what we CAN do. I hope someday you go back and do all of the AT you can because some is worth way more in my book than none. Good luck!

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      Brigette … the all or nothing was a goal … to become a SOBO 2017 Thru hiker. Will this stop me from completing other parts of the trail … NO. At the moment, I am at a stand still (or sit still) … at least for the next few weeks. Durning this down time, I’ll re-evaluate my goals. I won’t sit still for long … but what I will do is up in the air for now.

  • Amanda : Jun 10th

    You can always do the Florida Trail! No mountains here AND there’s a beach at the northern terminus!!

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      It’s on my list! The Pinellas Trail and others … I believe there is one that actually goes from FL to ME … maybe I’ll take that walk and then begin my AT hike 🙂 First I have to heal and re-access. Do you hike? Maybe we can do some together 🙂

  • Greg : Jun 10th

    I had a somewhat similar experience 2 years ago: I almost summited Katahdin when a sleet storm (On June 28th!!!) turned the trail to ice: When I turned around and began to descend, I slipped and injured my knee. All thoughts of a 6 month through hike vanished when I thought about entering the 100 mile wilderness on an injured knee. I returned home to NJ, got some PT and toward the end of the summer started doing some section hiking in PA. Northern PA is not the best place to rehab a knee but I am over 1/2 way through the state SOBO and almost “out of the rocks” (LOL I’m sure they never really go away!!) Section hiking is not a bad option for many people: you can ease into the challenges presented by the trail with a far more time constrained goal. Heal and regroup: The trail will always be there!!

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      Thanks Greg!

      Glad to hear that you’re back at it … take care of your knee … it’s never the same after a ligament injury.

      I know the AT will always be there … but I had this small window of opportunity … that now seems to be escaping me. I know I’ll be ok physically … just need the time to heal my knee and the effect it has had on an already bad back (2 previous surgeries). I was great with stamina, never tried and never sore after all that I did accomplish … except for those climbing bruises. It’s the heights … I worry that if I go back to ME and try to summit Mount Katahdin, if I do succeed … would I then be able to climb the others that are required to be a thru hiker. Very concerning for me … especially the Whites!

  • Su : Jun 10th

    Don’t give up! Maybe try a smaller mountain first. My daughter and I really wanted to climb Mt Kathadin the week before Memorial Day and the park would not let us, or in other words the trail was closed. So we hiked the Presidential Traverse. It was just plain awesome. Loved it.
    It is rough, sometimes tough, but don’t let yourself be beaten.
    Start slow. Climb some hills. Then higher. Totally worth it. Then get on the trail. Be patient with yourself. And take care!
    Thank you for writing your story. And enjoy life! Have fun!

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      Thank you SU … I appreciate your words of encouragement. I won’t stop completely … just may not be able to met my gaol to be a 2017 SOBO Thru Hiker. I’ve got a few weeks to figure out a plan and decide which direction to go in life … S.

  • Paul Boulay : Jun 11th

    I agree with you Class coach. You should do shorter less challenging hikes before you take on Katahdin and the whole AT. Acrophobia, heart-lungs, muscle-ligament strength, are all built with progressive challenge.

    I did it SOBO from Katahdin, but after estimated 300mi in the WMNF peak-bagging.

    I suggest after several hikes to gain experience, strength and, most importantly, good judgement, try starting NOBO from Springer. Your biggest challenge prior to New England will be the several big elevation changes in the Secoahs. Concentrate on low pack weight and do that.

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      Hey Paul,

      I missed Class Coach’s post … so I don’t know to what you are referring.

      My hiking is great … I live in the foothills of VA and have hiked well here. I don’t tire early, I have great stamina on hills (able to keep up with a group of 20-somethings). Even with what I did climb and hike in ME, I was quick, strong, and able to do so without fatigue.

      I knew from the get-go that the mountains were going to be the challenge, hence my reason for starting with Mount Katahdin. I went up fast and came down fast … it was that gateway height and the boulders that were so close to the edge that made me stop. I’m not sure any gradual practice will prepare me for the gateway.

      I’ve got a few weeks for healing to decide whether I go back and attempt the summit again.

  • Emily : Jun 14th

    Major League! Ryan and I had been wondering if your were okay! I’m so sorry about your knee. You’ve been in my thoughts!!

    • Suzanne : Jun 14th

      Hi Emily!

      So wonderful to hear from you (and Ryan) … I’ve been wondering about y’all too 🙂

      Sully and I hiked out to Abol resupply on the 6th and then decided I’d try to summit before we got to far … took a zero and then attempted to summit on the 8th … unsuccessfully. We both wished we’d had done the Hunt Trail again instead of the Abol Trail. Either way I’m trying to decide what to do next. So frustrating!

      How are you? Ryan?? Let me know … I’d love to keep in touch with you both 🙂

      Let me know if my email address doesn’t go through to you in this message and I’ll openly post it.

      Happy Trails,


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