Where it all begins: Katadhin
The journey began at 3:30am on a Friday morning. My lovely fiancé, two amazing friends, and myself got into my car and began our drive to Maine. We spent nearly 12 hours driving before we reached the small town of Millinocket. I dropped off some food to a local who provides resupplies in the 100 mile wilderness. We then drove the last short leg of the journey to Baxter State Park where we had reserved a campsite for two nights.
When we arrived we quickly setup our camp and then found the ranger stations to buy wood for a campfire. The bugs were biting like crazy and we figured a bit of smoke might help. Dinner was traditional hiker dishes which included every assortment of carbs. We talked and laughed around the fire for a few hours before crawling into our tents. We knew that Katadhin was no joke of a hike and we wanted to be well rested. A fine night with amazing people.
Our 5.5 mile climb began shortly after 6am. The first mile and a half was easy going with a slight incline. We passed a beautiful stream with some small waterfalls followed by a larger falls. The climb began to get steeper and eventually led to the alpine zone. Our greeting from Katadhin was a 1.5 mile section of nearly vertical boulders. This required meticulous footwork and some stamina.
After struggling for well over an hour we reached a false peak. Luckily we were on a plateau that had a gentle incline for the last 1.5 miles of the hike. We could see the large cairn pile on the summit. The views were amazing and morale was high even with the relentless bugs and tired legs.
As we crest the final ridge we were only a few hundred yards from the summit. My legs were no longer sore, nor did the bugs bother me. Reaching the classic sign at the summit was surreal. I had dreamt about this day hundreds of times. I had imagined touching that sign every day for years and now it was real.
We took pictures and relaxed at the top. I was also sure to touch the actual summit which is a cairn about 20 feet from the sign. The weather was perfect at the top. A bit over 70 degrees with some mild wind gusts.
Their End, My Beginning
The way down was nearly as tiring as the way up, especially in the boulder field. We took our time and stayed safe. The views continued as we descended but burgers and beer were taking over our minds. As we neared the bottom I was hit with a daunting realization. My thru-hike had just begun. 5.5 miles down and so so so many more to go. There was no turning back now. I either complete the trail or I quit. That thought stuck in the back of my head for the rest of the evening but didn’t hit for real until the next day (I’ll talk about that in my next post).
Dinner + Moose Sighting
After the tough hike we took some time to relax and then headed into town for some chow. As I said before… burgers and beer were on the mind. On our way out of the park we were fortunate to see a cow moose eating vegetation out of a pond. Everyone in the car was so excited, it was the first moose that some of us had ever seen.
Further down the road we found something just as delightful as a moose, a log tavern. Although I had been craving a burger all day I ended up getting a massive fish fry which did the trick. A perfect meal before spending the next 8 days in the woods. They also had PBR on tap… made my night.
My friend Pat offered to drive home and I passed out from exhaustion and gluttony. I was awoken to the bumpy road leading into the park. We purchased some more wood and got the fire started early. More conversations and laughs followed. For me this night felt different. Tomorrow was no longer summit day with friends. Tomorrow was the real deal. Tomorrow meant the start to a journey that I was so excited for, yet so scared. As you will read in my next post.. I had nothing to fear. I had prepared myself well both physically and mentally. The hardest part of the trail was leaving my amazing fiancé, family, and friends.
I hope you all enjoyed the update. I’ll be a bit behind posting for multiple reasons but I am loving every day, every mile, and every person I meet. Until next time, keep wandering in your own direction!
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The lightest thing in your pack is the pure joy of loving life in the moment; pack it near the top in case you or someone you meet needs a refill every now & then.
Thank you for including us on the start of your journey. Can’t wait to keep following along with all your stories!