Wetfoot and Arry, Vol 9. Days 17 and 18: Katahdin!

Day 17: 9.9 Miles

Today was a lazy morning. Resting in a hotel on a mattress was luxurious. You’d have thought that with a king bed, bigger than my entire two-man tent, there would have been plenty of room for me and Arry. She cuddled so close I ended up almost off the bed!

I woke up early as usual.  The hotel said they had a complimentary breakfast. So about 5:30 a.m. I checked to see if they had coffee ready. No coffee. I checked again at 6 a.m. The door was still locked. I checked at 6:30 a.m. No dice. Finally, just after 7 a.m., the smell of fresh coffee wafted down the hall as I checked once more.  It made me so happy to sit on my bed in the hotel drinking cheap coffee out of a paper cup watching cable TV reruns.

After thoroughly enjoying my complimentary coffee, Arry and I walked a mile and a half across town to meet Over It (previously Roadie) at the AT Cafe for breakfast. He had been planning to summit Katahdin today, but decided to take a zero due to forecasts of rain.

Breakfast at the AT Cafe with Sunshine and Over It.

We sat down outside and who should come strolling up, but Sunshine! The gang was all back together!

I didn’t think I would see her again! Her mom and dad were supposed to fly into Bangor last night and summit today.  But their flight got canceled so they weren’t making it in until later today. They too were going to summit tomorrow.

Crazy how things work out on the trail.

As we ate a couple finishing their vacation in Baxter State Park walked by. They were enchanted with Arry, and told us all about their dog they left at home.  Before they left they shared some of their leftover deli cheese with Arry, and gifted me the remainder for later. I’m sure she will enjoy it, despite the smelly farts it will give her.

After lunch we wandered around Millinocket for a while. Then Arry and I walked the mile and a half back to our hotel to await the arrival of my sister!

We lazed around the hotel as the clouds darkened and the heavens started to open. We watched more cable reruns and waited. It was awesome!

About 3:30 p.m. my sister arrived! It was pouring rain outside.

Driving is an adventure!

Almost as soon as she arrived I was changed and ready to go. I wore my normal hiking clothes, but with Chacos so my hiking boots would stay dry. The only thing I carried was a CamelBak my sister brought me, along with some snacks in case of emergency. My plan was to sprint up from Abol Bridge where I left off, up to Katahdin Stream Campground (KSC).

My sister dropped me off at Abol Bridge. It was a harrowing ride and I feared for my life a few times. On top of my sister’s lovely driving skills, we had to travel down a looong dirt road, while it poured. But we did get there safely.

Headed to Katahdin Stream Campground in Chacos.

I left her with strict orders to meet me at KSC in three hours.

Crossing into the park was magical. I was almost to Katahdin! Even in the rain Baxter State Park was beautiful.

The edge of Baxter State Park!

I missed Arry. While I didn’t have to deal with her trying to smell all of the things, I missed her entertaining antics.

The beginning of the trail I power walked. Although I kept pausing to admire the raindrops on the water, so I wasn’t truly going much faster than usual. There were a few water crossings, through which I managed to soak both feet. I missed my handy dandy walking stick, but I was very thankful to be wearing my Chacos.

When I reached Little Niagara Falls I knew I was behind schedule. But I also knew I would never be close to this falls probably ever, so I shimmied as far along the slick rock as I was comfortable until I could get a view. It is uncomparable to the actual Niagara Falls, which I highly recommend you visit if you can.  It was still a cool waterfall.

Little Niagara Falls.

From that point on I ran as much as I could. Parts were rooty and rocky, there I had to walk fast, but that last three miles I ran the majority of.

Let me tell you, running with foggy, raindrop-covered glasses as you’re trying to sidestep rocks and sticks up and down hills is tricky.  I worried my sister would get nervous something bad had happened to me.

Just under 30 minutes after the meeting time I finally arrived! I waved at her and kept running straight to the ranger’s station to check-in.

The ranger was a little confused as to whether I was a SOBO, NOBO, or flip-flop hiker. But I was the 185th thru-hiker to register for Katahdin!

Once dry and back at the hotel my sister and I searched for something to eat. It was almost 8 p.m., and the hotel had a Chinese restaurant attached to it. Too lazy to take anything other than the convenience option we filled up on lo mein, orange chicken, and Chinese doughnuts smothered with Nutella. Hopefully my food choices tonight don’t affect me tomorrow.

My fortune. “If you don’t program yourself, life will program you.”

Everything besides my boots and socks are completely soaked through, with a forecast that it will be cold and rainy tomorrow. Hopefully my clothes dry tonight.

It was really great to see my sister. I couldn’t do this without the support of her and many others. I am so grateful she drove out of her way to shuttle me to and from KSC and keep Arry company.  We stayed up waaaaaay to late just chatting and catching up. But that’s what sisters are for.

Tomorrow, I take Katahdin.

Day 18: 5.2 Miles

We made it to the top of Katahdin!

My clothes were still wet from yesterday when my sister and I got up about 4 a.m. I put on my soggy clothes and realized quickly how miserable I would be if I had to hike in them all day.  Unfortunately, the laundromat was closed this early in the morning. Eventually I had the idea to put them in AT Lodge pay dryer while we ate breakfast at AT Cafe. (Lifesaver. Thank you!)

Breakfast at the AT Cafe with my sister!

The whole gang showed up bright and early for breakfast  at the AT Cafe! Me, my sister, Over It, Sunshine, her mom, and her dad! The morning chatter was full of anticipation, excitement, and hope that the weather would hold out.

Overnight the weather report had changed from impending rain all day, to cloudy with a chance of showers in the afternoon. My hope was we could summit and get down past the tabletop before the rains began.

The trip to the trailhead felt like a completely different route in the morning sun without rain.

Once again I left my sister with instructions to come back for us in eight hours, unless we messaged her an update. The ranger this morning had said it was taking an average of four hours up and five or six down. Last night the ranger who gave me my pass said I’d have service at the summit, but the one this morning said not to count on any communications.

Hunt Trailhead!

Over It and I hiked out ahead of Sunshine and her parents. The trail was smooth and relatively flat the first mile; it was one of the mountain’s tricks.

We stopped at Katahdin Stream Falls. It. Was. Gorgeous.

Katahdin Stream Falls.

As we continued onward and upward rocks started to appear. I tried playing a game called “what route would Arry take.” Turns out after hiking for days on end you miss sharing these experiences with your furry quadruped.

The rocks grew larger and more frequent. Then they turned into boulders we had to climb hand over hand.

At a particularly tricky section where rebar was drilled into the rock for support, we passed a man from Boston. He had driven up to spend two nights at the campground and climb Katahdin. He shook his head as he decided to turn back due to the weather. It made me sad inside to watch someone give up on something they drove so far for. But that is the way it is with mountains I suppose.

The fog began rolling in.

You couldn’t see very far ahead of yourself from that point. The fog rolled in and the wind picked up.

Clambering over the rocks, I was glad for Over It’s company. I was determined to only think about the way down on the way down, but I was nervous.

After about two miles the terrain leveled off into what they call the tabletop. A generally flat area where the wind whipped at us, and the visibility was slight. We couldn’t see much more than five feet ahead. I saw a sign in the distance and got excited! “We made it!” I thought.

Turns out it was just a sign to stay off the vegetation and on the trail.

We continued hiking; eventually the tabletop turned into a gentle climb. We saw a gaggle of people and a sign in the distance! We made it! For real this time.

At the summit of Katahdin!

At the summit we met seven gentlemen hiking Katahdin as part of a bachelor party. I don’t think most of my girlfriends would attempt to accompany me on an endeavor of that kind. Kudos to them and I wish them a happy marriage!

We took the obligatory pictures with the sign. They look like I photoshopped myself onto a white backdrop. It was a complete whiteout, but we made it!!

After a celebratory Snickers bar I tried to send my sister a message to be picked up earlier than the prearranged time, but alas, I had no service.

It was chilly and cold at the summit once we stopped moving so we soon headed back down. We had high hopes we would see Sunshine soon.

At the summit of Katahdin!

When we reached the tabletop it extremely windy. I’m not sure what the miles per hour was, but at times I felt like I was about to be blown off the mountain!

I was actually glad to get to the rock scrambling part as it was partly protected from the winds.

There we saw Sunshine and her mom! Her dad was waiting for a ways back, as he felt he was slowing them down so they pushed on without him to beat out the weather.

We scrambled down more rocks. At one point I fell. It happened in slow motion, one foot didn’t have a solid grip as I shifted my weight down, but I couldn’t undo the movement. My body weight slowly shifted until I went down. There was nothing I could do to stop it. Thankfully I landed perfectly between four sharp pointy rocks. I was much more careful after that.

As we hiked it began to rain, and yet the sunshine was still trying to come out. Over It and I liked to think that meant Sunshine had reached the summit.

Climbing out of the tabletop!

Mostly through the bouldering section we found Sunshine’s father.  He was beginning to get chilly from not moving. Over It and I asked if he would join us the rest of the way down, and we pushed on slowly down the mountain together.

It was slick.  I think going slowly helped me appreciate all the beauty even more than if Over It and I had simply cruised down.

We paused for a snack break and checked for cell service; we all realized we were going to beat the meet-up time by quite a few hours. Over It and I both attempted to send my sister a message. All we could do was wonder if either text made it, and worst case wait until she showed up at the original agreed upon time.

We made it down, and just a few moments later my sister showed up! She happened to get Over It’s message as she was waking from her nap and jumped in the car to come meet us.

We are currently headed back to the hotel for a nice shower and celebratory beer! Over It took my stick so Poet can add a nickel to it. I’ll pick it up tomorrow when we drive through Monson.

Also tomorrow, we plan to visit an old friend and mentor from the Marine Corps. Then it is off to Connecticut for a dear friend’s wedding. I’ll be taking a few days off for the wedding before I get back on the trail to head south finally. Perhaps the timing will work out that I’ll meet up with Sunshine and Over It again.

Until then, happy trails.

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