Saturday, August 25, 2012

Katahdin

I can see it!
It is less than one hundred feet away.
The end.
I start moving faster.
I need to get there.
The sun has erupted over the peak of the mountain.
The cold air chills my hot skin.
Colors so vivid are surrounding me.
I move faster.
My breath coming in gasps.
So many times I've tried to imagine this moment.
Faster.
Desperate.
Only 50 feet now.
Over 5 months I've been trying to get here.
Now I can see the end.
I need to be there.
My throat starts to tighten.
I move even faster.
20 feet.
I hear a wheezing with each inhale.
My feet are a blur of motion beneath me.
It is beautiful.
10 feet.
I throw my poles to the ground.
I begin to slow.
5 feet.
Emotion chokes my breathing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ascent

Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep.

     I rolled over and shut the alarm off on my phone.  The moment had arrived.  I let the air out of my sleeping pad for the last time.  I stuffed my sleeping bag into it's sack and then put everything not into my backpack like I had countless times before, but into the trash compactor bag I used to keep water from getting inside my pack.  I changed into my shorts, pulled on my socks and shoes and went through a mental checklist of what I needed to bring with me.  I had a couple energy bars to eat, my light thermals that I have been using to sleep in, my raincoat that I use as a wind breaker, and my wool hat.  I think I am ready.  I throw my backpack on and said farewell to "Sagebrush".  I turned and started walking.  First I stopped at the ranger's station to drop off my bag of stuff I no longer need, then I crossed the bridge over Katahdin stream and found a picnic table.  I filled my water bottle up from the stream and then made my breakfast of oatmeal and instant breakfast.  I sat down on the bench at the picnic table and gazed up at the sky.  The stars were glowing brightly and I fixated on the one constellation that I always look for, Orion, the hunter.  There he was perfectly displayed in the opening of the trees provided by the campground.  I found it suiting that I was staring up at him while I was about to set off on the last leg of the AT, which follow a path called The Hunt Trail.  I rose and walked to the edge of the campground where the trail head was and found the register. I wrote my name and time of departure - 3:25AM.  I sighed and started up the trail into the inky blackness of the forest with nothing to see by except the red glow of my headlamp.

The Wilds

     I ended up staying two nights in Monson Maine.  One to rest and the other because it rained all day long. When I did return to the trail it was warm and sunny and looking like it was gonna be good hiking weather.  My father walked with me for a bit and I came to a sign for The Hundred Mile Wilderness.  I signed the registration card so if I didn't show up on the other side in a few weeks, they knew where to look for my corpse.  The only real tricky part about this section was how much food to carry.  I had to make an estimate on how long it would take me to go 100 miles.  I planed on it taking six days, but in my mind I thought I could do it in five.  Either way my food bags were full to the top and with that comes all the extra weight.

     About fifty feet from the sign I came to a little brook that normally you would probably just hop over, but because of all the rain recently, it was swollen to a point where I was going to get wet.  I said farewell to my pops and tromped through the water.  The trail afterwards was no better.  It was filled with standing water so you could either hop from side to side trying to avoid it or go right through the middle and get wet.  Since I was already wet I figured why waste the energy, through the middle I went.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rest

     I left Rangeley Maine in the afternoon with warm weather and cloudy skies.  The trail headed steadily upward as I passed Piazza Rock and made my way towards Saddleback Mountain.  The trees became smaller as I gained elevation and the terrain much rockier.  Thankfully it was not wet or I am sure I would have slipped.  I crested the top of the mountain and sat down to rest and admire the view.  It is amazing how beautiful it is here.  I still haven't gotten tired of seeing the views.  I didn't linger too long though and started hiking again.  I descended slightly to the gap between Saddleback and The Horn.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bright Side

     I headed back out on the trail feeling better.  It was late in the day and still pretty warm.  I set my goals very short, just try to make the first shelter only two miles in.  The trail was steep from the beginning, but so far so good.  No dizziness, no fatigue, no crapping out my will to live.

     I made it to the shelter and sat down to rest and figure out if I was going to push on.  The next shelter and camping area was five miles away with some big climbing in between.  The more I rested the better I felt so I  decided to get up and get my sorry self moving again.  I went up and over Baldpate Mountain which was a rocky slab of a with an open ridge between two peaks.


Friday, August 3, 2012

The Plague

     I got a late start back on the trail, but had high hopes as to how far I was going to make it by the end of the day.  My father walked in a ways with me, but it wasn't long before the trail  began getting steep, so I set off on my own again.  I was feeling good and raring to go.  It rained earlier in the day and everything was still wet.  I was climbing up one particular rock face and my traction gave out and I fell hard.  Nothing too injured, just some scratches and probably bruises.

     Shortly after I fell it started raining again and it seemed like the trail was going up every steep rock face it could find.  I kept slipping in spots where I thought I should be able to grip.  It really wore on me that I wasn't able to trust my footing.  After almost five months out here I thought that I knew my capabilities.   I came to a side trail to campsite and stood there trying to decide what to do.  My guide said there was a shelter five miles away, but I had no idea how long that would take me.  Feeling a little defeated I decided to go to the campsite and set up my tent for the night.  It was still pouring down rain and when I got my tent up, but I wasn't sure what to do next.  Do I just jump in with my wet clothes on?  Do I take them off first?  Where do I put them when I do take them off?  I couldn't figure it out.  I stood in the heavy rain for about twenty minutes being indecisive, until I finally came up with a plan.  I strung a short clothes line attached to the side of my tent.  I quickly took off my rain coat and flung it on the line as I jumped into the tent.  There, I was greeted with a big puddle on the floor.  Crap.  Luckily I carry a little piece of a Sham-Wow for drying things.  I slowly mopped up the puddle thankful the tent wasn't leaking, it was probably water that got in as I was setting it up.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

White Out

     I returned to the woods after stripping as much non essential stuff from my pack as I could in preparation for what was to come.  I hiked a short distance to Jeffers Brook shelter where I ran into a surprising number of north bound thru hikers.  There was a guy named "ManBearPig" who I ran into over the Georgia North Carolina border, but hadn't seen the entire trip.  He was traveling with a guy that seemed constantly stoned, appropriately named "DudeManBro".  Also, I ran into "NutterButter" again who, since she had to split from two other ladies, was also hiking alone.  She and I decided to hike through The Whites together just to be on the safe side so neither one of us get too lost or too dead.  


     I woke around five the next morning, packed up quickly and started hiking in the grayish early morning light.  There was no approach to the mountain, it started immediately and continued a steep uphill grade for four miles.  I, of course, was soaked in sweat.  The forest slowly gave way to shorter scraggly pines.  The trail leveled off and I walked along a ridge lined with pines slightly shorter than myself.  In front of me loomed the peak of Mount Moosilauke.  I left the level tree lined ridge and began climbing again.  The trees faded as I gained elevation.  The trail was now marked with rock piles called, cairns (karens).  A wide grin spread across my face as I reached the top and could see in every direction.