Total miles: 2,189.2
Miles left: 0
Wow. That’s it, we’re done. I can’t really describe what it feels like to finish the hardest undertaking of my life, but as soon as I touched the sign, I cried. Not my first tears on the trail, but my first happy tears.We went through the 100 Mile Wilderness in four days, including a 34-mile day, our biggest of the whole trail. But even as we hiked the final ten miles through Baxter State Park, I still couldn’t picture myself on top of Katahdin. It wasn’t until I touched the sign that it felt real.We were out of the Birches campsite by 6am, and reached the summit at 8:30. It was perfectly clear and sunny, and there wasn’t a single other person there. We could see the side of the sign silhouetted against the sky as we hiked up the last rock pile– it appeared faster than I thought it was going to. We came around to the weather-beaten front view, we touched it, and our thru-hike ended. I’ve never seen Rocky smile so hard, and I was at a loss for words… for perhaps the first time in my life. Another hiker showed up 20 minutes later and took our victory photos. Then we headed down through the throngs of day hikers making their way up, hitched to Millinocket, and that was it..Our hike took 159 days, or 5 months and six days. To be honest, neither of us thought we had the greatest chance of making it. I have asthma, bad knees, and I suffered from stomach issues for the whole trip. Rocky had never been backpacking before, and it’s not really his thing. And as you can see below, we were in horrible shape.
Boy did I want to quit though. I wanted to quit for a solid 800 miles, and Rocky wanted to go home for longer than that. The bugs were relentless, the rain felt constant. Rocky’s achilles is practically calcified, and the wall of fatigue that hit me in Vermont nearly ended my hike. But if the AT wasn’t so hard, it wouldn’t feel nearly so amazing to complete it.
The images and memories flicker in and out, and I’m sure they’ll solidify in the next few weeks. I remember sleet and ice throughout Georgia, running across Tennessee balds in a lightning storm, inhaling a fly in a privy, the pride of finishing the Smokies. The gorgeous ridge climbs in Virginia, eating four ice cream sundaes in Harper’s Ferry, campfires and campsites, the first splashes of green in the valleys. Being chased by a turkey in Pennsylvania, seeing bears in New Jersey, losing my mind in New York, seeing a shelter at the end of a rainy day. Fifty miles of mud in Vermont, too many poptarts and Clif bars, visiting Rocky’s family, visiting my family. Hiking with my dad and brother, crawling through Mahoosuc Notch, seeing Katahdin for the first time. Seeing it for the last time.I cried more on this trip than I have, ever. But I also laughed more, and it’s because I have the most amazing partner– in hiking and life. In our own ways, Rocky and I both needed this accomplishment, and we promised each other we wouldn’t quit. We would keep putting one sore foot in front of the other until things got better, which they always did.I couldn’t have done this without Rocky to literally pick me up off the ground when I fell, get water when I was too lazy, remind me to drink that water, dig out the bug spray as I cried at the bugs, laugh with me when I stopped crying, and hike with me, 24/7, for five months and six days. We did this together, and now we have the accomplishment to reference whenever things get rough in life and we want to give up.I’m so grateful to the Appalachian Trail for putting us through trials and giving us the grace to continue forwards to the amazing days that lay just ahead.
We’re heading back to Montana in a few days, and I can’t wait to put the dog in the back of the pickup, drive to a trailhead, and go hiking.
Thanks for reading.
Till next time,
Honey Badger and Hare out.
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