Katahdin: This Dream Is Ours to Capture

Had I written this post last evening, it would have been an absolute shit show.  For the first time since OneFoot started this walk in March, I had a complete meltdown.  I came home from work to an empty house, thought about making chicken breast for one yet again, wanted to share my day with him, and I just lost it.  It was an exhausting release.  After, I put my big girl pants on, gathered myself, and got my head back in the game.

I’m workin’ on a dream
Though it can feel so far away
I’m working on a dream
Our love will make it real someday
~Bruce Springsteen

Coincidentally or maybe not so much, I wasn’t alone in my sadness.  OneFoot happened to call mid-breakdown.  He too was feeling particularly down but his was a combination of physical and mental exhaustion.  Moving out of New Hampshire and into Maine had not lessened the difficulty of the terrain.  Every mile was challenging and most of his time was spent looking down so as not to trip on a root or rock.  He had set out, in part, to prove to himself that he could do this.  He feels he’s done that.  He is 160 miles from Katahdin.  There’s really nothing more to prove.  But there is still Katahdin.  Yeah, there’s that.

OneFoot came across a fellow hiker days before who was in the same state of overall fatigue.  She shared that she cried five times that day alone.  It’s a long, freakin’ walk from Georgia to Maine.  Hike. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.  Many hikers are feeling the effects of the mental and physical grind that is long-distance backpacking.   I don’t expect people to understand my state of mind at home.  Some of those closest to me don’t get it.  I suspect past AT hiker support people do. They know the pressures and emotions that come with supporting a long-distance hiker.  Those who step into the role next and future years, you will see.  Know that this is normal for both hiker and support person.  Most importantly, know that it is worth it.

OneFoot and I reminded ourselves that we have just two weeks left to this journey.  Two weeks until I join him in Maine and bring him back home for the first time since March.  Two weeks until this epic journey comes to an end.  I woke this morning with that same thought but from a new perspective.  We have just two weeks until this epic journey comes to an end.  A simple comment from Ray’s cousin Travis on a Facebook post sharpened my focus.  “Don’t rush the end. Enjoy,” he said.  You are so right, Trav.  I looked at our reservations for Baxter State Park and began to get excited again.  OneFoot and I have dreamed of this AT thru-hike for many years, and in the dream he always stood on Mount Katahdin at the end.  There’s still work to be done.

I began to think about all the work OneFoot has put in over these last six months and all the challenges he has overcome.  The cold and snow, the rain, shoe issues, blisters, shin splits, poison ivy – and every time, he persevered.  I thought of the sacrifices I’ve made so that we can both see this dream through.  I thought of the friends we’ve made, both of us, through this trail.  Navster and Wiley just summited Katahdin on Sept. 13.  Godfather.  Flex and Curly Turtle.  So Hum.  50/50.  Nemo. Gray Squirrel. Reboot. Mission. Hank Hill.  Jukebox. Vegas. Autumn.  I then remembered the list he wrote of his reasons for hiking this trail.  I picked up the trail journal I keep at home and I turned back many pages.  I went back to the beginning where he listed his reasons for hiking.  From his journal and our Nov. 14, 2017, post on The Trek:

–First, and most importantly, I LOVE BACKPACKING!  I simply love waking up in my hammock and knowing I get to hike today.  I love the anticipation of who I will meet, what I will see, and how exhausted I will be at the end of the day.  I love feeling that level of physical exhaustion that tells me “I lived today!”

–I want to work on becoming a more patient, more accepting and more spiritual person. These are all areas where the “needs improvement” box on my adult report card would be checked.

–At 50 years old, I am looking forward to being in the best shape of my life. I’ve always enjoyed physical activity and working to stay in shape.  I was proud to run my first marathon at 47.  But this?  This is a whole other level of fitness.

–I am actually going to see all those trail landmarks that I have read so much about! And, I hope to know firsthand what it feels like to come around that last corner, after thousands of corners before, and see Mount Katahdin.

–I look forward to being a part of the hiker community and feeling like I really earned it.

–Make no mistake about it, this hike will be cleansing. It’s about stripping off the bad that has been accumulating for the last 20 years and replacing it with more of the good.  Again, I’ll quote Springsteen:

“Well my soul checked out missing as I sat listening
To the hours and minutes tickin’ away
Yeah just sittin’ around waitin’ for my life to begin
While it was all just slippin’ away
I’m tired of waitin’ for tomorrow to come
Or that train to come roarin’ round the bend
I got a new suit of clothes a pretty red rose
And a woman I can call my friend
These are better days baby
These are better days it’s true
These are better days
Better days are shining through”

–Finally, I want that look… you know that look, when you see someone with that beard and that worn look that one only gets from living outside. You’ve seen them – and when you do you just know – that dude walked all the way from Georgia.  I want to be him.  I want to be the dude that walked all the way from Georgia.

I sent him a message with his long-ago written list of reasons and reminded him that this dream is his to capture. It is within his reach. Today with fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm, Mount Katahdin doesn’t seem so far off to either of us.

About that Katahdin summit. OneFoot and I plan to do the final five miles together.  This simultaneously thrills and terrifies me.  To be there to witness the moment he touches that Katahdin sign and feel the emotion firsthand is something I would do anything to experience.  In this case, that anything happens to be climbing a 5.2-mile trail with roughly 4,100 feet of rugged elevation gain including a mile and a half vertical rock scramble.  That’s just one way.  Although OneFoot said he’d like to call an Uber to get him back down from Katahdin, we’ll have to carefully make our way back down to Katahdin Stream Campground, where his family will be anxiously waiting to greet their newly crowned Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.  I have read a lot on the Hunt Trail (AT) to Katahdin.  I’ve probably read too much, as I’m known to do.  Even those who have walked from Georgia find this trail challenging.  It’s like the AT’s final exam, except I haven’t studied.  I haven’t  bagged a bunch of 4,000 footers in the last couple of months.  OneFoot assures me we will take it slow (like there’s an another option) and enjoy his last day on the trail together.   I know it will be challenging. I know it will take us ten hours or more.  I also know that I am truly blessed to be a part of the experience.

OneFoot and Should be Good.

Nothing is a given on this trail.  We still have two weeks until summit date.  In the past week alone OneFoot has dealt with some wonky ankle issues and out of nowhere back spasms.  We take nothing for granted.  He is enjoying a zero day today, resting up before a big day tomorrow. One day at a time has gotten us this far and, if fate allows, one day at a time will bring us to the summit of Mount Katahdin.

A friend suggested that we have a renaming ceremony when OneFoot reaches the summit.  She suggested Two Feet on the Top.  I love it!  But, I think I’m going to go back to calling him Ray.  Ray, Version 3.0.

Until the next white blaze,

OneFoot and Should be Good

OneFoot being OneFoot.

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Comments 9

  • Avatar
    Sam I Am : Sep 21st

    You officially had your dark day and your anticipation is obviously high but the best part may come later when you both look back and remember what you accomplished together. I am proud of One Foot that is indeed a long walk. I am, however, equally proud of you. You stepped far outside your comfort zone, managed your life alone and supported One Foot every step of the way. That summit belongs to you both.

    • Avatar
      Cheryl and Ray Galli : Sep 22nd

      Hey Sam, this time you made me cry. Thanks for being so supportive. Knowing you’ve walked this walk and are willing (& eager!) to help others means the world. Thank you for everything – hope to see you soon. Cheryl

  • Avatar
    Curly Turtle : Sep 22nd

    Thanks for sharing your heart here. The struggle is real for both of you and it’s true that not many can understand without having been there. 2 weeks can seem so short and yet so long when you are hurting physically and mentally. Flex and I are so proud of you both for pushing thru it all. Praying for a fun and safe ending!!! Love you guys.

    • Avatar
      Cheryl and Ray Galli : Sep 22nd

      Thanks Curly – we’ll gladly accept those prayers. Ray is getting ready to cross the river today! Big day on tap. And 2 weeks from today, it will be over. This morning that makes me feel sad. Two weeks from tomorrow he will be next to me as I make Sunday dinner. That makes me sooooo happy. Love to you and Flex – Cheryl

  • Avatar
    Ruth morley : Sep 22nd

    You express yourself so well, and are not afraid to do so. I have truly enjoyed following both of your journeys and am excited about the big finale. But I will truly miss reading your blog entries. Please consider posting an update 6 months later. I’ll very interested to see if you two do have that serious discussion you meantioned esrluer, if he says, “PCT!”

    • Avatar
      Cheryl and Ray Galli : Sep 23rd

      Thank you, Ruth – I’m sure we’ll post an update…but PLEASE don’t let the words “I wanna hike the PCT” come out of his mouth just yet. Next up will be our road adventure next summer. Hmmm, no where shall we go?

  • Avatar
    Autumn : Sep 23rd

    Cheryl – what a beautiful, inspiring, we’ll written post. You remind me so much of my mother, and I tell everyone she is the strongest woman I know. You are a warrior! I can’t conprehend how difficult this must be for you. And yet everyday, you put on your big girl pants and always say the right thing, the encouraging thing. You’re truly a rock star. I am honored to know you!

  • Avatar
    Cheryl and Ray Galli : Sep 23rd

    Thank you, Autumn. It’s been a long and rewarding journey for both of us. I’m excited for these last days (can’t even say weeks any more!).

  • Avatar
    brewerbob : Oct 10th

    Where’s the update and the summit photos. It’s been 18 days since this was published. That’s less than 9 miles a day with the reported mileage. Don’t keep us waiting!!

    Looking forward to a post-trail blog; how he’s feeling, how he’s coping with “real” life, plans, etc. Post trail depression kinda scares me but I guess I should worry about starting a thru hike first.


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