Week 22- The Final Week and Summiting Katahdin!

Day 147

After a good nights sleep, we got back on trail, ready to tackle the rest of the Chairback range. We still had four more peaks to summit, and quickly made our way up the Chairback Fourth Mountain (this range is similar to the Wildcats in that some peaks have names and some are just given a number). During the climb we passed 2100 miles walked, only 94.3 to go, how crazy!

The final mile marker before Katahdin!

Toward the top we passed next to an old plane crash, and took a couple minutes to look at the wreckage. This was the third or fourth plane crash site that the AT has skirted, seems crazy that there are so many crashes in the one strip of the mountains that the trail passes by, there must be hundreds scattered across the whole Appalachian mountain range. The trail in this area had been recently rerouted, and the new trail was still covered by springy moss and dirt that was yet to be stomped down and eroded, so the trail felt bouncy and very easy to walk on in this section. The morning passed pretty quickly as we made our way up and over the Third Mountain and Columbus Mountain, and then we pulled into the Chairback Gap Lean to for lunch. The day was becoming warm again, and all three of us were pretty sweaty and enjoyed sitting in the shade of the shelter. After lunch we tackled Chairback Mountain, the final peak in the range, before we started heading down the mountainside. There was one very steep and rocky section reminiscent of the Mount Madison descent in the Whites, before the trail evened out and entered a section of forest with tall pine trees and especially fluffy moss on either side of the trail.

Reminds me of the Whites

We took a quick break here and enjoyed the peace and quiet of this section of forest, especially with the soft breeze that was blowing through it. Eventually we reached Katahdin Ironworks road, where dad decided to take a break and get off trail for a couple days (good thing mom was around to pick him up) and Nathaniel and I continued on our own. We forded the Pleasant River before entering a section of old growth forest, where we took notice of the very large pine trees that had been spared from the historic logging that had occurred in the area. The trail meandered gradually uphill, which was a nice and easy change from the steep mountain climbs earlier in the day, and we made pretty good time hiking along. After a few more miles we decided to end the day a little early after finding a nice campsite next to the Gulf Hagas Brook. The brook was very cold, and it felt nice and refreshing to splash around in the water after eating dinner. Then we headed to bed early, mostly to escape the mosquitos, and fell asleep listening to the flowing stream next to us.

Day 148

The first task of the day was climbing up into the Whitecap Range, which started out with some gradual climbing before turning into a very steep ascent up Gulf Hagas Mountain.

Nathaniel on the first steep ascent

Once we made it to the top, we took a breather before descending a little ways on the saddle between the previous mountain and the slightly higher West Peak, before starting the equally steep climb up the West Peak. This pattern of bouncing up and down the steep peaks continued for Hay Mountain and Whitecap Mountain, the other two peaks in the range. By the time we made it to Whitecap Mountain, I was starting to feel tired and it wasn’t even noon yet.

Snack time at the summit

The summit of Whitecap was rocky and covered by short evergreen trees that were easy to see over, so we got nice views of the surroundings and I had my first peek at Mount Katahdin in the distance. We headed down the mountain slowly, being careful on the steep rocks, and stopped for lunch at the shelter on the north side of the mountain which had an icy cold creek flowing a few yards away that provided nice chilled drinking water. After lunch we continued the descent, and made it to some flat ground for a while. This area was covered in blueberry bushes with ripe berries, and I snagged a couple berries as we walked by. In the early afternoon Nathaniel and I started up Little Boardman Mountain, which was comprised of a couple of 500 ft climbs with a flat section in between them, nothing too hard. Unfortunately, we were both feeling pretty worn out from the bigger climbs earlier in the day, and this climb felt way harder than it should have as a result. Finally we made it to the top and quickly started down, eager to get to camp. A bit later we found the campsite on the banks of Crawford Pond that we’d been aiming for and set up for the night. The pond had a nice sandy beach area right next to our campsite, and we went out and cooked dinner and had a campfire on the small beach.

An evening at the pond

We had a very peaceful evening watching the sun set and loons swim across the pond as we sat next to the fire, before we settled down for the night.

Day 149

Nathaniel and I woke up next to the pond in a very light drizzle that started and stopped often as we packed up and got ready to head out. We only had seven miles to get to the road where we were going to meet dad and get a ride into town for the night. After tackling the Whitecap range yesterday we’d finished the hard part of the 100 Mile Wilderness, and the miles we had to do for the day were almost completely flat- hooray! We headed down the easy trail, crossing a handful of trickling springs and bog board covered mud pits. The trail was feeling nice and easy, and I was almost surprised when we made it over three miles to the next shelter in only an hour! We admired the falls next to the shelter before heading on.

Cooper Brook falls

The trail led through a quiet forest with large pine trees and glimpses of a lake in the background, which was very pretty to hike through. After just over another hour we popped out onto the road. We’d hiked the seven miles in just over two hours, making our pace around 3 mph, maybe my fastest miles on the whole trail. After waiting for a bit dad zoomed down the road and whisked is off to town for the afternoon. After the previous hot and sweaty days I was more than ready for a shower and a room with a/c for the night.

Day 150

We lazed around Millinocket for the morning before dad, Nathaniel, and I got back on trail in the mid-afternoon. The trail remained super easy with only one small hill to climb over the ten miles we were aiming to do. We walked through open pine forests, around a couple ponds, and crossed numerous wobbly bog bridges spanning a variety of mud, moss, and murky streams. The bogs on trail may not be remarkable to some people, they have no amazing views and often come with more bugs than other areas on trail, but especially in the northernmost states of the trail they’ve been extremely green and mossy, and sometimes almost jungle-like in how thick the vegetation is nearby them.

Dad has specifically requested more bog content on the blog, so dad this one’s for you

Next to one pond there was a small sign pointing to a view of Katahdin, which I rushed over to see. My first clear view of the final mountain was impressive.Getting pretty close now

 

We stopped for the night at the Mahar Landing campsite, which was .2 off trail and didn’t seem very popular from the few FarOut comments I could see about it. The campsite was awesome though, out on a bit of a peninsula so that Pemadumcook Lake was on all sides of us, we had our pick of a large flat area under pine trees to pitch our tents, and a nice fire ring as well. Nathaniel immediately jumped in the lake, after which we cooked some dinner and started a small campfire. Halfway through dinner the urge to swim struck me, so I dropped my pad thai and dove in the lake. The water was clear and quickly got deep as I swam out a hundred feet or so to a rock out in the middle of the water. After a quick cannon ball off the rock, I came back in to dry off and finish my dinner. We sat around the fire as dusk fell before heading into our tents for the night.

Day 151

After a good nights sleep, the three of us set off down the trail. The trail was fairly flat as it stretched along the banks of a river, but it was covered in roots and rocks, and was tricky and slow going. After a few miles we stopped and took a short break out on some rocks in the middle of the river, which was a relaxing pause in our hiking. After we pushed onward we skirted a very large lake while enjoying the waterfront breeze, before we headed up Nesuntabunt Mountain, which was pretty small for a mountain although steep. At the top we had lunch and looked out over the lake we had just walked along.

The view over the lake

After lunch we descended the mountain and weaved around streams and ponds, including the cool Rainbow stream cascades, which splashed along rocks for almost half a mile. We kept pushing past the crowded Rainbow Spring Campsite until we got to the small Doughnut Stream, where we walked along the creek bed for a couple hundred feet until it came out on a rocky beach along Rainbow Lake. We set up our gear and cooked dinner while Nathaniel set up another small fire, and then we settled in for the night as the chorusing loons called across the lake.

Campfire next to Rainbow Lake

Day 152

My last full day on trail, kind of crazy to think about as we set off around Rainbow Lake. The morning passed quickly with a small climb up to the Rainbow Ledges, a granite half dome that rises above Rainbow Lake and provides views of the mountains around.
We paused for a break on the top of the ledges, and I spent a few minutes picking a handful of tasty blueberries. As I walked along today I reflected back on my hike and how the journey has gone. I’m not sure if I’ve learned anything huge about myself or made any big epiphanies while out here, but I am sure that I’ve enjoyed my time out here and I accomplished what I set out to do- which was to thru hike the trail, and that’s good enough for me. After we descended off the ledges the trail slowly became less rooty and rocky, and after a few miles we passed the sign indicating that we’d finished the Hundred Mile Wilderness and popped out on a gravel road. Along the road was Abol bridge spanning the Penobscot River, which had an amazing view of Katahdin set behind the river, so I had to stop for a picture.

Wow so majestic

After crossing the bridge we headed straight for the Abol General Store and got some lunch; poutine and burgers, which were very tasty. After lunch, dad hung around the general store, he was going to get a ride into town for the night so he could be fully energized for the climb up Katahdin tomorrow, while Nathaniel and I entered Baxter State Park. The trail first led through a pretty stand of birch trees before turning and following the Penobscot and then a series of its tributaries up river. The trail was mostly easy and the streams often had small waterfalls and cascades that were fun to look at as we passed. Nathaniel spotted a small snapping turtle crossing the trail and had to pick it up, which got him musked on, and then he smelled even worse than he already had been smelling.

Two stinky guys

Toward the end of the day we passed two more small ponds with lily pads, and crossed over their feeder creek on a series of bog boards, before we ended up on the road to the Katahdin Stream Campsite. We checked in with the ranger before heading over to the Birches Campsite, the site designated for thru and long distance hikers. We set up our gear carefully, rain was predicted overnight, before eating dinner. I decided to have one final Ramen bomb as my last trail dinner, and it was a tasty and filling choice. After eating we headed back to the stream to rinse off. The stream was almost too cold to comfortably rinse off in, but I splashed myself to get the worst of the dirt off and felt refreshed. Then we headed back down to our campsite and settled in early trying to get some extra sleep after our second twenty mile day in a row. The day had been full of mountain views, lakeshore walking, pretty forests, flowing rivers, restaurant food, hiker trash gourmet cooking, blueberries, waterfalls, mosquitoes, a turtle, hot sun, and some predicted overnight rain. Almost everything that one could experience on the AT packed into one final day, what a great last full day on trail.

Day 153

The overnight rain became a torrential thunderstorm that woke me up around 11pm with its bright flashes of lightning and loud thunder. Nathaniel and I had set up on a wooden tent platform, and despite setting up carefully, with the heavy rain coming down there was a lot of splash back bouncing up off of the hard wooden platform, a lot of which made its way into my tent. That’s how I was woken up again at 2:30am when I rolled over and put my hand in a puddle of water in my tent. So then I had to spend the next fifteen minutes using my pack towel to mop up and ring out the small lake that had accumulated around me, before I went back to sleep again. By the time 5:45 am rolled around I was not very well rested, but ready to get going, and after packing up Nathaniel and I set off to meet mom and dad at the nearby parking lot. Once the whole family was together, we set off up the trail which started out with a fairly easy incline that crossed Katahdin stream and passed a large waterfall. As the trail continued upward it became more rugged, with larger and larger rocks that were closer together, necessitating larger steps and then rock scrambling as we proceeded upward. Eventually dad, Nathaniel, and I forged on without mom (who had decided to do part of the trail and not go all the way up to the peak), and as we passed the treeline the trail became more rock climbing than hiking.

No going around these rocks, the trail goes straight over them

The morning was mostly misty and we climbed up through the dense low hanging clouds, which meant that we didn’t get many views on our way up. The trail continued to get steeper and involve more technical rock climbing as we worked our way up. I think this mountain is definitely the most technical and is in the top five hardest hikes on the whole trail, but the rock climbing was a fun challenge for the three of us. Eventually we popped out on top of the flat tablelands, and got to spend a nice mile picking our way through smaller rocks along the level plateau.

Nathaniel strolling across the Tablelands

The clouds were slowly breaking up as we climbed up the final ridge, and we enjoyed watching them across the rides and break into pretty shapes as they were blown against the rocks. Finally through a break in the clouds we spotted the summit and the iconic sign ahead of us, and we quickly hiked the last few feet to the summit and touched the sign. The winds were pretty strong and with the cloud cover we were chilled quickly, so we took some cover behind a pile of rocks to eat lunch. While we ate we watched the clouds streak by and enjoyed the views.

The view of the Knife’s Edge ridge and the valley below

After lunch and when the clouds had cleared a bit more, we stepped over to the sign to take our photos.

My picture at the summit

All three of us at the summit sign

Then we started heading back down. I’d officially walked from Springer Mountain, GA to Mount Katahdin, ME and finished the trail, all that was left was to hike off the mountain. The clouds kept clearing up as we made our way back across the Tablelands and started down the steep rock climbs. Maybe it was good that we hadn’t been able to see too far up the trail on the way up, because the view down the ridge was steep and intimidating.

A very sheer drop on either side of the trail along the ridge

The climb down all the boulders didn’t go much faster than the climb up them, and I started feeling tired as we clambered our way down. Slowly the trail started getting easier again, and I was very glad once we crossed Katahdin Stream again and had all of the rocks and elevation behind me. We made it back to the parking lot about eight hours after we’d started in the morning, and met up with mom again (who had enjoyed her hiking too). Then we hopped in the car and rode back to town for showers and a delicious fish fry dinner.

 

Well there’s my thru hike, 2194.3 miles in five months and three days. It was a lot of walking, a lot of cold, hot, bugs, and uphills. I really enjoyed pushing myself and spending so much time experiencing the diversity of nature along the Appalachians. Now I think I’ll go lie down for a week straight. I hope you enjoyed reading my posts, I read and appreciated every comment even if I didn’t get to reply to them all (except for Sue’s 😛). I’m hoping I make one more post-hike gear review and some hike statistics post in a couple weeks, so if you’re interested in that technical stuff then stay tuned, and if not then thanks for reading!

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Comments 12

  • Alice Hornstein : Jul 30th

    Congratulations Miranda !
    I have enjoyed reading your blog .
    Way to go completing the AT Trail !

    Reply
  • Melissa Williams : Jul 30th

    Congratulations Miranda!! Been following you since Georgia. I live right off the AT in Hampton Tennessee. You did GREAT, so happy to see this accomplishment made by a woman!

    Reply
    • Kurt Oswalt : Jul 30th

      Hi Miranda. I have really enjoyed and looked forward to reading each of your posts. You have accomplished a wonderful thing and you should be so proud of yourself. I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

      Reply
  • Reindeer : Jul 31st

    Congrats…job well done. I haven’t been following your blog but after reading your last 2 posts, I plan on going back to your 1st and reading through.
    Great job and good luck to your future 👍

    Reply
  • Anne Mitchell : Jul 31st

    Zazz, thank you so much for sharing your hike! I am 66, did most of the Trail when 63 and 65, including Mama K. But I still have most of MA and up to Caratunk ME to go, hoping next year. Your matter of fact love for the Trail, and your description of each day and week thereon, have helped me as I wait at home this year! Again: thank you so much! Enjoy what comes next. -Sky Pilot

    Reply
  • Jeanette : Jul 31st

    Congratulations Miranda that is a great feat you accomplished!!! You should be so proud of yourself. I have been following you since the start, and looked forward to your posts every Sunday while I drink my morning coffee. So glad you were able to share your journey with all of us!!!
    Thank you!!!

    Reply
  • Pam : Jul 31st

    Congratulations, Miranda! How exciting for you!! You did it!

    Reply
  • thetentman : Jul 31st

    Congrats. Epiphanies or not you did great, those may come in the future. Good luck in the future and they were great pics. Your Dad was right about the bog pics.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  • Debbie : Aug 1st

    Congratulations Miranda! I have been following your posts from the beginning of your journey. My daughter had friends who hiked the trail a few years ago. We picked them up near where we live in Front Royal, VA and provided showers, a bed, and stuffed them as much as we could. Ever since then, I pick a couple of people to follow on the blog. You are a great writer and I have enjoyed following your journey!

    Reply
  • Wesley Wilcox : Aug 1st

    Congratulations on your thru hike! It’s been very enjoyable keeping up with your progress the last 5 months. Thanks for all your posts.

    Reply
  • Doug : Aug 2nd

    Congratulations! I enjoyed keeping up with your hike. I thru hiked in 2021, so it was fun to relive many of the things you described.

    Reply
  • Denis Thibodeau : Aug 4th

    Congratulations on your great accomplishment. I enjoyed following you to the end.

    Reply

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