Week 23: I Did It!!
After 2189.1 miles, 14 states, and 160 days, I did it! On August 25 (also the 100th birthday of the National Park Services), I summited the Big Kahuna, Katahdin, and partook in my much awaited photo shoot. Now sitting in the real world where you can take 3 showers in 3 days and don’t have to build your home every night, it seems like a dream. Yesterday felt like a zero, that I would be back to my walking life shortly. Today the reality of the situation is more real. I won’t be heading back to the trail tomorrow, or in a few days, or even in a few weeks. I’m done.
My last week on the trail was bittersweet. As I alluded to in my last post, I learned while in Monson that my rowing coach and a man I greatly admired had passed. In each great period of your life, I think you have a person or two who have a tremendous impact. Jeremy was that person for me while at KU. It was through rowing that I realized that I am capable of far more than I give myself credit for and really led to believing that I was capable of completing a 2,000 mile hike. Jeremy served as proof that you can have it all. You don’t need to settle. We used to joke that he was Peter Pan, never really growing up. But he had a non-traditional job he loved, a super hot wife he adored, the car he always wanted, great friends. It seemed that he had everything that he always wanted. For me, I felt that if he could make it happen, so could I. I didn’t need to settle for less either. He was one of the first people I told that I wanted to hike the whole AT. He responded that was badass and he didn’t doubt that I would finish it. He didn’t bullshit. When I summited Katahdin, I wanted to share that I had actually done it with 1.) my mother and then 2.) Jeremy.
So what should have been one of the most exciting weeks on the trail was tinged with grief. Leaving Monson with what seemed like the heaviest pack ever (aka 6 days of food), I lost my friends. That first night I set up my tent alone near some ledges, and eating my dinner I watched the sun set among the mountains thinking about what Jeremy met to me along with the reality that my hike was reaching its closure.
A greater portion of the 100 Mile Wilderness was spent hiking alone. I was 2-4 miles behind my friends. I could have pushed and caught up, but it was nice spending time by myself in the wilderness. When else am I ever going to be able to eat dinner next to a secluded mountain pond? However I do wonder if I missed out on valuable time with my hiking friends by doing so.
Exiting the 100 Mile Wilderness, I finally caught up to my friends at Abol Campground. Entering Baxter State Park, where Katahdin is, seemed unnecessarily complicated. However, that’s a story for another time. Or a complaint for another time.
Summiting Katahdin was both epic and anti-climatic. It’s a hard hike to the top. If I had had my pack I might argue that it’s one of the hardest hikes on the AT. The 5.1 miles took me 3 hours up and 3.5 hours down. However after 2,200 miles I still dont know how to effectively hike on rocks. In order to beat the crowds of day hikers we woke at 4:30. Reaching the summit, I was hangry and mad about something (probably lack of sleep and rocks) so I pouted for about 5 min. Sometimes I’m probably insufferable. I’d hiked 160 days to get this summit and chose to be pissy. But whatever…
After celebrating the moment, you turn and walk back down the mountain. There aren’t the fans cheering for you and it doesn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion. Of the many day hikers, many don’t even realize Katahdin is the Northern terminus of the AT. You hitch a ride into Millenocket to celebrate your big moment, which is small, and the next day everyone goes their separate ways. There are no medals or cheering squads. It feels like a regular tough hiking day. Except it isn’t. Even several days out, it doesn’t feel like I’m truly done. Perhaps in a few weeks it will really seem like it. But now for celebratory photos.
So what have I taken away from the trail?
I expect the impact to solidify more in the following weeks. It doesn’t seem real that I’m done. But I am more confident in my abilities. I can roll with the punches with the best of them. However, that doesn’t mean I’ll like it. I know I can hike 2,200 miles which was the big question. I’m also more comfortable with how I look minus makeup. Before I’d worry about the dark circles under my eyes or bad hair. But who cares?
I’m planning on lounging at the Grevort until Sept 4. A pedi is definitely in the cards. I have my thesis to finish and jobs to apply for. I plan on running full throttle towards whatever is next. I’m not exactly sure what that will be, but I’m afraid if I stop life will be too hard. Currently I miss my trail friends and my See Food diet. Will I do another long distance hike? We’ll see after I’ve forgotten all the bad parts about this one.
I would like to thank everyone who put me in their prayers, sent me a supportive note, mailed me a care package, read this blog, opened up their home to this smelly hiker. I’m surprised the number of people who my hike has touched. It’s truly taken a village to get me from GA to ME. I’m not completely out yet, (aka done blogging) but I think I need time to process what the hike has meant. In the meantime the Grevort pool and drinks are calling.
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