It has been six months since I summited Katahdin, and over a year since I set out to thru hike the Appalachian Trail. So here I am, six months off trail, and I think I’m finally ready to give some final thoughts on my hike (I warned you at the very beginning that I am a procrastinator).
When I last left off in my narrative, I was at the Welcome Hikers Hostel nervously anticipating entering the White mountains. My entire hike up to this point, I had struggled with feeling like I didn’t belong on the trail. I never felt like I could hike fast enough or strong enough to keep up with other thru hikers (I know, I know, HYOY, but that’s hard to tell yourself the hundredth time you have to say goodbye to awesome people because you just can’t keep up). Even though I had hiked hundreds of miles to get to this point, I still felt weak and defeated, and I was about to attempt one of the most difficult sections of the trail. Sitting there, I decided to not be so focused on finishing the trail, but to just be present and enjoy each day as it came.
About to Summit Mt. Washington
For the most part, I think I achieved this goal. I can honestly say that New Hampshire and Maine were my favorite parts of my hike. Most people love this section because of the stunning landscape, but for me, it was because I finally felt at home on the trail.
The trail was still hard, but I finally felt strong enough to handle the adversities.
There were still the low points. I was sure I was going to die in the Presidential range walking across Thunderhead Ridge (ironically) in a lightning storm. I was borderline hypothermic huddled in a cave in the Bigelows after getting soaked in a freak thunderstorm. And the 30 miles of the Mahoosuc Trail chewed me up and spit me out leaving me a mangled puddle of smelly thru hiker crying on the side of the road in Grafton Notch.
So many lakes = so much swimming
But overall, the last 500 miles of the trail were the sweetest. My trail family became more like real family with every passing day. We received unbelievable kindness from strangers, even in the midst of utter wilderness. I reveled in every view, every misty morning, and every challenging summit.
Even what seemed miserable at the time often turned into something amazing. That cave in the Bigelows? Yeah. Turns out, it was filled with awesome people. We all bonded over the near death experience and ended up hiking the rest of the trail and summiting Katahdin together, taking the moniker “The Cave Dwellers.”
Those last few weeks hold some of my most precious memories of trail life. A resupply in town that turned into a combined effort hiker feast in a church basement, belting Disney songs at the top of our lungs. Swimming in the moonlight in the hundred mile wilderness. Completing my first 20 mile day. Weeping around the fire in Katahdin Stream campground.
100 Mile Wilderness
Reaching the end of the trail, I was conflicted. As we were laying in our tent that last night on trail, I told Jordan that I didn’t want to hike anymore, but I also never wanted leave.
I lived in two worlds, and no longer knew where exactly I belonged.
If there is anything that I learned on trail, it is that nothing turns out like you plan. One thing I certainly never planned on was standing at the base of Katahdin with unfinished trail miles behind me. Injuries, time constraints, and a slower than average hiking speed necessitated skipped sections closer to home in VA and TN.
So there I was, at the end of the trail, with an unfinished dream. Because that’s what Katahdin is right? The end of the trail.
We started our ascent at 2 a.m. intending to watch sunrise at the top. It was the hardest climb of my life with winds that threatened to blow us over as we scrambled over the icy granite. But I couldn’t focus on the difficulty of the climb because all I could think about was how I would feel when I touched that sign. I was worried those unfinished miles would haunt me.
That I would feel like I had failed.
When I crested the final summit and saw the sunrise behind the sign it hit me:
This is not the end. This is the beginning.
I don’t have unfinished miles behind me. I have miles I get to do in front of me. I don’t have to choose between the civilized world and the wilderness, I belong in both.
Most of my adventures lie in the future.
And when I touched that sign, I was happy and I was home.
Thank you so much for following along on my hike! I has been truly amazing to be a part of this awesome hiking community! See you up the trail!
If you would like to watch our Katahdin summit video, you can check it out here.
You can also check out more videos from our hike here
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