Littlefoot and I woke up early and packed up our gear, everything we would need to summit Katahdin. We emerged from our small cabin into the blackness of the morning and jumped into the hostel’s minivan at 6:00 am. There was a feeling in the air of excitement and anticipation. We hiked 17 miles the day before in the pouring rain, soaked to the bone. Everything was wet and our rain jackets had provided little protection from the downpour. It had rained for nearly two days straight, a torrential downpour that had washed out roads and turned the trail into a stream. Today, however, was dry and cool with the promise for nice weather at the summit. We joined the line of cars waiting in the darkness to enter Baxter State Park. As we drive through the park, we notice parts of the road were washed out and water was spilling over the culverts. When we reach the ranger station, we can see what should have been a calm stream. Due to the rain it was now a raging torrent of water. We crossed the wooden bridge above it and can feel the spray of water slamming into the rocks below. We walked through the park campground, following the white blazes. The first few stream crossings, thankfully, had bridges across. The water was rushing downhill, splashing against the rocks and banks trying to break free of the stream bed and spraying the wooden bridges above making them slick. The morning was cold, but not unbearably. As we walked, we started to warm up and by the time we begin uphill we were taking off layers. It is a great morning to be hiking. As we continue, we run into more stream crossings. These are typically no more than a foot wide and a few inches deep, easy enough to jump across. However, with the recent rain they were now covering several feet of the trail and threated to submerge your whole foot. Carefully crossing using wet rocks that just broke the surface, we made it across without too much water hitting our feet. It mattered little, however, because the trail soon turned into a fast-flowing stream itself. What was a normal hike turned to boulder hopping trying to stay above the water. In many places the water was unavoidable, and we ended up with soaked feet just a mile from the base of Katahdin. The conditions did not improve and slowed our pace tremendously. The air was cold, but the water was colder. Even after my shoes could no longer hold any more water, I still avoided the rushing stream that was the trail, trying to keep the water my feet had warmed in my shoes rather than fresh, ice-cold water. There were waterfalls in places the trail was so steep you had to climb up with your hands. As we broke tree line, we were granted a brief relief from the cold creek of a trail. Mother nature has a cruel sense of humor and when we thought we were passed the worst of it the terrain turned into large boulders and rock slabs with blank faces that were slick from the constant mist we were experiencing. The gloom of the day had not broken yet and we were in dark clouds, accumulated with moisture, continuing to dampen our clothes and the rocks. The clouds obscured our view and limited our visibility to roughly 15 feet. With each step it seemed that we might slip off the edge of the mountain into the void. Each rock seemed more slippery than the last, we didn’t know when our feet were going to slip but it seemed inevitable. Not knowing what lay below us off the edge of the rocks was more terrifying than if it had been a 500-foot drop. The unknown allows for your mind to imagine the worst and I constantly pictured Littlefoot or myself sliding off a rock into the unknown. We continued up the treacherous rock traverse, using the slippery rebar where it was available. It seemed as though the rocky terrain went on forever. It felt that we had been climbing for hours and that we must be nearing the top, but it just kept going. Eventually, we come to a plateau known as the gateway. On a clear day you can see the summit sign from here. The terrain becomes much more manageable from here and we are renewed with energy knowing we are so close to the end. Soon we discover that the flat terrain was not without challenge and the flooded trail begins again. With an effort to not damage the fragile alpine vegetation we begin rock hopping again, but it seems more of a fun game than before. While still cold and wet we begin to laugh, and our moods begin to rise. Just as we pass the one-mile-marker to the summit the clouds begin to break. The sun is fighting her way through the clouds and the wind picks up and being to push the clouds over the summit. The sun peaks through the clouds but is engulfed in another. Eventually, the sun pushes her way through until the clouds are parted. The skies are as blue as they could be, the sun shining gloriously on our wet cold faces and warming us. We are both giddy with joy as we look up the slope to our left and can see the sign. The northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail, the ending to a 2200-mile, 5-month journey for Littlefoot, and a place to reflect on the memories we have created along the way.
Thank you to all the people that supported me and fellow hikers on our journeys along the Appalachian Trail. To my friends that I met along the way, I am so glad that I got to be a part of your journey and you a part of mine. Congratulations to all those that finished and all those that had the courage to try. Whether you hiked 100, 1000, or 2200 miles, the trail always gives us an experience to learn and grow from. And to the AT, thank you for the people you provided, and the memories created along the way. The experiences you provided will stick with me for the rest of my life. However, don’t think that I won’t be back. One day I will walk you from end to end. Thank you my friend.