Day 113 – Dexter, Maine – Wilber Brook Tentsite – 13.5 miles
I woke up around 7:30 from the smell of bacon cooking downstairs in the kitchen. I was pumped for breakfast so I got up and went to get a cup of coffee. Everyone was already up and I exchanged good mornings with everyone. We ate around 8:15 and Lauri made bacon, egg, and cheeses and huge banana pancakes. I ate a B.E.C and crushed a banana pancake then started getting all my things together. Steve and his family were so great that it was definitely hard to leave, but I knew I had a mission to complete and looked forward to getting some miles in on the trail. Around 9:20 I said my goodbyes and Steve drove me the half hour back to Monson. The sun was out, but it was extremely muggy and humid. I almost started sweating just standing around. The trail today was relatively flat, but continuous ups and downs with a few scattered long climbs. I passed a bunch of ponds and streams and in the beginning passed a few northbound hikers, but didn’t see many people all day. About 8 miles in I got to a river and had to walk up and down a little bit to see if there was anyway I could get across without taking off my shoes. After a bit of looking, there was no other option, but to ford the river. The current was pretty strong, but it was only about 30 feet wide so I found the most shallow part and slowly walked across, making sure my footing was secure so I didn’t go in the water. I was able to stay dry and continued hiking until I got to Wilber Brook. My original plan was to continue for another mile and a half or so to the next lean-to, but I found a solid spot to set up my tent and was good with being done for the day. Excited for continuing on in the 100 mile wilderness!
Day 114 – Wilber Brook Tentsite – Gulf Hagas Trail Stealth Camp – 18.9 miles
I was in my sleeping bag around 8 last night and was out like a light as soon as I closed my eyes. I had a great sleep and felt refreshed when I woke up around 6:30. It was 7:15 by the time I finished up packing up all my things, ate breakfast, and filled up my water bottle. The weather was perfect all day today. There was a slight chill in the air with the breeze, but the sun gave the right amount of warmth. The day started with a 5 mile climb up to the summit of Barren Mountain. There was a fire tower at the top, but the top was taken off so there was no way to look out from up there. The next five miles I followed a ridge and hit the summits of Fourth Mountain, Mt. Three and a Half, and Third Mountain. Since I was already at a higher elevation the climbs up weren’t too crazy and I felt good throughout the day. 2 miles after Third Mountain I hiked over Columbus Mountain, and then got to the Chairback Gap Lean-to around 2:30 and wanted to take a little break. There was a group of northbound hikers hanging out there having lunch. I met Calves, Chaco, and Box Turtle. I also saw two hikers that were at the pancake breakfast the other day, but I can’t recall their names. I chilled for a little bit and then had a small climb up to Chairback Mountain before descending about 1,500 feet. I hit some smooth trail at the bottom and followed along a river that I eventually would have to take my shoes off and ford. I stopped to eat some dinner and the same crew all caught up, so we ate and chatted together before I hiked on another couple miles and found a spot to put up my tent by a river. It’s nice falling asleep next to the sound of the water. I also passed the 2,100 mile mark today! I remember climbing up Albert Mountain and reaching the 100 mile mark on the summit in May, back in North Carolina. I don’t know which I’m happier about, both seem surreal to me to be honest. I never thought I’d hike 100 miles, nonetheless 2,100. Great day today!
Day 115 – Gulf Hagas Trail Stealth Camp – Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to – 22.4 miles
I fell asleep wicked early last night, around 8:30. I felt refreshed when I woke up and started making moves around 6:20. It was cold so I put on my puffy jacket as I broke down my tent and got all my things into my bag. The sun was out and would stay out for the whole day. After the morning cold it stayed cool and was very comfortable hiking all day. The day started with a climb up onto a ridge line where I would hit 4 different peaks over 5 miles. It started with Gulf Hagas Mountain at 2,681 feet, then West Peak at 3,178 feet, Hay Mountain at 3,244 feet, and finally White Cap Mountain at 3,650 feet. I stopped on the top of White Cap Mountain to eat lunch and I talked to my friend Jack on the phone. On the descent down the north side of the mountain I saw Mt. Katahdin for the first time! There weren’t really any other mountains around it and it’s prominence gave it a dominating presence. It was so surreal to see it and literally have the end in sight. It was a long, steep descent down, but I eventually got to the bottom and the trail really flattened out. Well it did for a few miles and then there was a little climb up Little Boardman Mountain, but after that the elevation dropped to about 800 feet and the trail became flat and smooth. I stopped to eat dinner at a pond as the sun was setting and thought to myself how much I’m going to miss being out here as I was putting down my ramen and peanut m & ms. I continued on and head lamp hiked for about an hour before getting to the shelter and setting up my tent for the night around 8 o’clock. 60 miles to go!
Day 116 – Cooper Brook Falls Lean-to – Hurd Brook Lean-to – 41.1 miles
Before I went to sleep last night I took a look at my trail guide and scouted out the last 60 miles I had until the finish. There wasn’t much elavtion gain/loss, and besides a couple 500-600 foot ascents there wasn’t much climbing to do. I didn’t know what the terrain was going to be like (I.e. rocks, roots), but it didn’t matter. I decided that I wanted to push myself today harder than I’ve had the past 2,140 miles and set a new PR (personal record) for myself. My longest day before today was 33 miles and I wanted the mental and physical fight for a 40+ mile day. I woke up at 5 am and was all packed up and actively hiking by 5:30. I ate some breakfast while I was walking and was able to keep a 3+ mph pace pretty much right away. The trail was flat with a few roots and rocks, but nothing that I had to tip toe through. The weather was supposed to be nice all day, and it ended up being a gorgeous day, but around 7:30 I had my headphones in and could hear what I thought was heavy wind in the distance. I stopped and took a better listen and all of a sudden heavy rain made its way over me. I got soaked in less than a minute, but kept walking and 30 minutes later it was over and the sun would be out for the rest of the day. Throughout the day I passed a bunch of nice people and beautiful lakes. I stopped for two long lunch and dinner breaks (about 30-40 minutes) and many times to fill up my water. My body felt good all day, and it really took an immense amount of focus and concentration to be able to hit a big mile day like today. It was cool hiking 14 miles by 10 am, 21 miles by 12, and 40 miles by 8 pm. It’s amazing what your body can do if you really push yourself as hard as you can. Mental strength can create superhuman efforts. I’m now about 20 miles from Katahdin!
Day 117 – Hurd Brook Lean-to – The Appalachian Trail Lodge – 13.4 miles
I woke up around 6:15, but was in no rush and stayed in my warm sleeping bag until around 7. I had a 3 mile hike to Abol Bridge where there was a store and AYCE breakfast from 7-9. I left camp around 7:30 and made it to the AYCE buffet 10 minutes before it ended. It was plenty of time to get two huge plates of eggs, sausages, and pancakes and enjoy it with a coffee and some other hikers. I stayed at the restaurant for a couple hours, just chilling and charged my phone. I ran into P1 who I had last seen in Virginia and we ended up hiking the 10 miles to the lodge together. A mile after the restaurant I passed into the Baxter State Park boundary and finally felt so close to the end. It was a really easy hike today and the trail paralleled a river pretty much the whole way. It was a beautiful day for my last full day of hiking and really enjoyed soaking in every step. We got to the Lodge around 4 o’clock and there were a bunch of people there, some whom had summited Katahdin today and other who will tomorrow. It was cool talking with people who just finished their hike and seeing how they were feeling. Most people at this point are somewhat relieved to be done and ready to not have to hike everyday haha. I feel the same way. Of course I will miss the trail, but it’s a tough lifestyle to live everyday and it will be nice to not be on my feet walking 20+ miles up and down mountains everyday. Can’t believe tomorrow is the day!
Day 118 – The Appalachian Trail Lodge – Mt. Katahdin – 5.2 miles
The Final Ascent
2190.9 miles. Georgia to fucking Maine. I can’t believe it’s over! I’m overwhelmed with a ton of emotions right now. Happiness, sadness, appreciation, gratefulness. I feel relieved and at the same time wish it never had to end. Today was such a beautiful day. The weather was so clear. It was a little cold up on the summit, high of 36 with some strong winds. I started my hike at the base of Katahdin around 7:30 and already about 40 people had started hiking up before me. I passed a bunch of people within the first 2 miles and then the terrain got tough. It was steep, and turned into a rock climbing session. The wind was so strong I was afraid of getting knocked back so I made sure my body was pressed up against the rocks at all time. The whole ascent I felt like I was in another world and I’m so happy that it was such an epic climb to the finish. About a mile from the summit my mind started playing flashbacks of the past 2189 miles and tears started running down my face. I wasn’t sad, but thinking about the whole experience and everything I went through to get there was so special to me I couldn’t help, but get emotional. I started thinking about the adversity I had to punch in the mouth. The rain, the cold, being wet, dirty, hungry, fighting off mosquitoes, walking through mud, 15 hour hiking days, sore feet and legs, endless climbs to the summit. It was beautiful thinking about how the shittiest of times would be countered with gorgeous sunny weather, amazing people, animal encounters, plants and trees I’ve never seen, learning who I am and what I’m made of, views that you can’t buy. The combination of good and bad created an experience and journey that I’ll never forget and will change my life forever. Around 12 o’clock I got to the summit, stood on the sign, and let out one of the most gratifying yells as loud as I could. It brought me to a different place. I felt unstoppable. I felt like I was the world. After a bit of hanging out and enjoying my last view of the trek, I hiked the 5 miles back down and was greeted by two very special people in my life, my mom and sister. Both are my rocks and I seeing them at the finish was a truly special moment. Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey. It’s been amazing for me to share my experiences with you.