I’m halfway there!
I summited Mt. Katahdin this week! Now I’m home for a few days of family love and rest. Back at it soon, though! I still have the southern half to complete. I’m hoping the remarks I’ve gotten from seasoned hikers are true and that, since I’ve completed the toughest parts already (The Whites and Maine), the rest will be easier. Not to say there won’t be challenging terrain, but it won’t be like what I’ve already finished.
In the last few weeks, I’ve completed the 4K mountains in Central Maine, the 100 Mile Wilderness, and Mt. Katahdin. I’ve also had several days over 17 miles, which is a lot of miles for me. Most of those longer days were followed by nero or zero days. Keep in mind, that it often takes me up to 10 hours to do a 15 miler. The longer miles are on days where the terrain is easier with little elevation change and fewer obstacles like boulders.
I am often asked by day or section hikers if I feel like I am still getting stronger, or if I think I have plateaued. It is hard to say, but I see some signs that I am STILL getting stronger. My 15 mile days are a bit shorter. My long mileage days are getting longer. I even hiked a 13 mile day after my longest day – 19.7 miles! And I don’t feel sore or worn out with my longer days, either.
The challenging sections of trail, while still challenging, don’t seem as impossible as they did a few months ago. I am not a big fan of the rock climbing sections. I’m still not fast on them, but my speed has more to do with my hyper-caution because of my fear of a serious fall. Both my upper body and legs are stronger. I am able to pull myself up onto boulders without pain. I still get plenty of bruises, but my muscles don’t ache from the exertion.
I am getting stronger in mind and spirit, too. I approach the challenging sections, like the 100 Mile Wilderness, with a bit of trepidation balanced with confidence that I can do these hard things. Climbing up and then down Mt. Katahdin was mentally and psychologically challenging, too. Remember, I don’t like heights? There were several times on the climb up when I had to climb on top of a boulder that was less than 6 feet wide, on a ridge, with the wind gusting. Talk about building mental fortitude! Yikes! But I climbed them because to choose not to meant I would have to climb down and not finish the whole trail.
Climbing down was even more challenging because I came down the Abol Trail which is essentially a steep rock slide. For most of the climb down, I couldn’t see too far ahead because of the steep slope. The ground between the boulders – which were smaller than most of the boulders on the Hunt Trail – was usually hard pack dirt or gravel. That meant that each step was not secure and my foot would sometimes slide if I wasn’t careful. But again, I did it! So yes, I am getting stronger, physically, mentally, and psychologically.
The good times
I think the challenges on the trail are what prevents people from attempting or completing the trail. I’ve heard from several Triple Crown completers that this trail is the most difficult. As one of my friends said, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” On the flip side, the rewards from the beauty and the easy times keep me going. The beauty of a lake/pond campsite. The sweetness of foraging for blueberries on the trail. The excitement of seeing wildlife. I was fortunate to camp beside a lake or pond on 5 of my 8 days in the 100 Mile Wilderness. One of those nights I was alone at the beach campsite! I was so excited when I found my first ripe blueberries and snacked my way across Maine. They were a temptation that was really difficult for me to resist!
So far, my most relaxing day on the trail was that 13 miler after the 19.7 miles. It was buggy, boggy, and rocky for the first few miles. Then I got around Jo-Mary Lake and the trail became easier. It was smoother with fewer obstacles and had just a slight ascent. I had one small “mountain” to climb on my way to my planned stop for the night. I camped solo at a beachside site on Nahmakanta Lake. While I was wading, I discovered fresh water clams! A hummingbird visited the campsite a few times. I heard a moose (didn’t see it) walk up at dusk, and then another splash into the lake at dawn.
And then there are the good times which are pure celebration! Like summiting Katahdin! I was holding back tears as I climbed onto the sign. I was so excited to be finished the first half. I was so proud to have climbed those boulders on the Hunt Trail for meeting the physical challenges, but mostly for facing my fears again.
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