The 100 hundred mile wilderness. Many of those that hear of it become slightly intimidated. It seems to be a place that is distant, vast, wild and dangerous. There is a cloud of mystery that surrounds this section of trail. It is intriguing how much us thru-hikers talked about it as we approached it in the past weeks. This was the final exam for all of us before summiting Katahdin, the last mountain. Hiking through the wilderness we discovered that there was nothing too difficult about it. It consisted of more of the same terrain that we had been hiking on: rocks, tons of roots and plenty of nasty black mud. Us guys hike this distance all the time between resupplies. Go into a town, resupply, hike 80-100 miles and get into the next town. That was basically my life for the past 6 months.
I fondly remember our conversations in the wilderness. It mainly consisted of food. The closer we zeroed in on Katahdin, the more we talked about all the different types of food everyone would eat once finished. I had this image burgers on my mind the last 2 days. BBQ pulled pork burger, cheese burgers with extra cheese… The promise of town food kept driving me onwards towards the finish.
Myself, Bear Juice, Blink
Robin Hood and Cartwheel
It happened so that I was hiking with the Kallin Family, Bear Juice and Blink. There was no better company than those folks on my last stretch of trail. Loads of positive energy. Last time I saw the Kallins was several months ago in NJ. They took 2 weeks off and then caught up to me in the wilderness. I know what you are thinking, “The kids took 2 weeks off and still caught up to you?!” Well, my rebuttal is this, “I know, I suck.”
The second to last night I was climbing up the last small mountain: Rainbow ledges where everyone planned to camp. This is a small mountain with a beautiful view of Katahdin in the distance.
Katahdin view from Rainbow Ledges
I was totally smoked by the end of the day. 23 mile day and I was rationing food like crazy. I destroyed my 15 lb food bag the first 4 days and so payed the cost on days 5-6. Anyways, when I got to the summit Blink yelled out “Spiderman! Berries! They’re everywhere!!!” Sure enough berries as far as the eye could see. I have never seen these kind of berries before. “What are they?” I asked. Blink: “I have no idea but they taste amazing!” Well, I did what anyone else with common sense would do; drop my backpack, plop down next to a bush and start eating handfuls of these mysteriously delicious berries. A thought did cross my mind, what if they are poisonous? To which I answered, “Who cares! At least I’ll die a happy man.” haha It’s funny what hunger will do to a man.
After what seemed like ages, Blink and I forced ourselves to stop eating and set up camp. A couple hikers told us later on that those were Huckleberries and totally safe to eat. I have no idea why they are not sold in grocery stores. They taste many times better than blueberries.
The next day we hiked into Baxter State park. We registered as Thru-hikers and set up camp in an area specifically designated for us hikers. It was so much fun hanging out with everyone on the last night. We built a fire (the first one in months) and sat around sharing funny stories late into the night. It was funny talking about the trail: funny moments, scary ones, embarrassing stories…
After a few hours of sleep everyone was out of camp and hiking up the mountain by 5am. We were told that there was a rainstorm moving in that afternoon so everyone was hustling up the mountain. I kicked it into overdrive because of this:
The rainstorm was moving in on me so I flew up the 5 mile climb in 2 hours 10 min. But, I didn’t make it in time. Freezing cold wind/rain hit me as I got close to the summit. And then I saw it, the legendary sign! The sign was probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen! I’ve only seen pictures of it and now I finally got a chance to physically touch it!
People asked if I cried when I saw the sign. Nope. Way too cold to cry. I was completely soaked by freezing rain and was trembling pretty bad from the cold- totally worth it!
I simply can’t convey my thoughts and feelings very well about my finish on paper. Laughter/happiness/smiles/hugs, all of these things were experienced on Katahdin.
I am glad I hiked the AT. It has made me a better man physically, mentally and spiritually. This was a walk-about that I needed in order to grow and improve on many different levels. Would I ever do it again? Nope. Once is enough. This endeavor was life changing in a positive way. I’ve recieved much from people and my experiences on the Appalachian Trail and am now ready to give back to others. Many thanks to all those that supported me, sent me letters of encouragement and care packages. I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful friends and family in my life.
After (with my little cousin)
Chuck Norris hiked the whole AT without ever taking one step!