There was worry about the weather, but I woke up early to a pretty clear (and COLD!) morning. Tripper, Wizard, Stickbuilt, 413 and Scooter were all up, eating breakfast and packing up. We made some hot drinks and said goodbye/good luck to them as they left camp just after 7am. Master Chief and Backwards left soon after, and then Boss and I left, too, after our last pack-up from camping this trip?!?!
We walked over to the ranger station. Most thru hikers leave their large packs and poles at the station and take only a few snacks and water in a day pack. There's a pile of day packs for our use - it's quite nice of them to offer those. I decided to take my own pack up and take out everything I wouldn't need so it would be practically day-pack-sized. I just really like my pack, and without much in it, it gets pretty small.
And then we began the last 5.2 miles of the entire trip... Katahdin is a nice mountain on which to finish because the climb starts out VERY gradually. It's a flat mile, then a slightly increasing grade until it's straight up. Then you hit the table top, and then a really nice ramp up to Baxter Peak.
The weather was great. We couldn't believe how clear it was after such a cloudy peak day yesterday. We had been watching the weather forecast and felt very good about our decision to push to summit today. Boss was pretty excited to get up to the top, so he ended up taking off at a speedy pace. I was so "in my head" that I didn't even notice when he was out of sight. I couldn't believe I was climbing Katahdin, but it was all happening. Conditions were perfect. I felt good. The weather was good. I was going to finish this thing!
The ascent got tougher after mile 2 ended, but it was fun boulder-climbing. And the light pack made hiking so much easier. (So THIS is what slack-packing must be like!) When I got above tree line, the wind was howling. I caught up to On the Loose and her mom (Mama Loose - she came out just for this climb), who had both stopped to layer up. I did the same and put on pants, my jacket, hat and gloves. Much better. The next section was difficult to get up and around, and On the Loose asked me to lead her mom up while she stayed right behind her. Despite a slight fear of heights, Mama Loose made it past that dangerous section just fine. They stopped for another short break and I hiked on.
The wind died down a bit, but was still a factor when I got to the steepest part of the day. It was pretty much straight up, rocky and challenging, but adrenaline pushed me right up. I teared up a bit at one point here, thinking about getting to the sign on Baxter Peak which signified the end. It was a powerful day. Lots of emotions running through my head. It was hard to be "in the moment." I was thinking about other moments on the trail that had been super-difficult. About all the other thru hikers who had made this climb before me and what it must mean to all of them. What it means to me now. How this experience will stay with me forever. About what's going to happen next.... It was a lot.
I got up to the table top and enjoyed the break from climbing. I had about a mile and a half left... of the whole, entire trip. As I got closer, I could see a group of hikers near the Baxter peak sign. I was seeing the sign in real life, with my own eyes! I teared up again as I approached it and finally touched it. I was done. I was DONE!
2179.1 miles of white-blazed trail. Wow. Millions of footsteps, thousands of stumbles, hundreds of Clif bars, and dozens of mornings where I had to put on cold, wet clothes in the mornings. All leading up to this moment. It was magical. It was indescribable. It was surreal, but also quite normal, too. It felt like just another mountain, and it was... but it was THE mountain. I was on Katahdin. My AT trek was over. It felt amazing.
Boss had been up there for twenty minutes or so and was hanging out with Heads Up, Yahtzee, Stetcher and Eric the Red. We took photos and had snacks and enjoyed the GORGEOUS view. We completely lucked out with such good weather! Even though the ranger station declared it a Class II day (when they don't recommend going above tree line - because there was a chance of rain in the afternoon), it was beautiful. Lots of silly photos while other hikers showed up. The Aussies made it up, and so did Captain Slick who brought up and changed into his uniform from the Marines. There were a couple groups of day hikers, too. Lots of people - maybe 25-30? It was warm enough to hang out on the rocks in the sun, and the breeze wasn't too strong. Finally, On the Loose and Mama Loose made it up, too. We got a group photo, then it was time to descend. Goodbye Katahdin sign. I have dreamt of you for a while now, and I will continue to do so for many years, I'm sure.
The weird part of heading back to the ranger station was that it would be the same trail as coming up. The first time I'd be "back-tracking" for five miles. Going down was just as slow in the same places where it was slow coming up, but eventually, Boss and I made it back to the ranger station to sign the register and recover our packs. After a clothing change and casually repacking our bags, we left to hitch into Millinocket. We were done... and exhausted.
By the end of the day, Boss and I made it all the way back to Scatters' house in Rangeley, Maine, where we'd recover for a few days. Three hikers (Giggles, Special Needs and Vegan) were staying there another night - they were still a few weeks from finishing. We all chatted for a while before laundry, showers and tv sent us all to bed.
What. A. Day.
How am I going to feel in the morning...? More exhausted? In disbelief? Relieved? Proud and accomplished? Sore and broken? However I will feel, it sure will be nice not to have to hike! (and it's supposed to rain... :)
(5.2mi (10.4??) 5st)
-- Posted from the trail...
Location:Baxter Peak, Katahdin