July 21. SUMMIT DAY! I wasn’t too cold overnight…which was good, but it also meant that I slept in until 5 AM. No matter, I thought if I woke up around 3 AM or so I’d get an early start up Katahdin, but 5 AM is good too. I packed up my gear (FOR THE LAST TIME) and put everything I needed for the day in my pack and the rest including my sleeping bag, tent, and extra food and gear in a trash bag. I had heard from lots of other people that I should slack pack (hiking without all of your gear) up Katahdin, and I didn’t want to do it, but after 109 miles in 3 days I worried I was too worn down to carry all that weight up the mountain. I headed for the privy and did my business and when I came out one of the Atlanta Brothers was waiting and I said something about slack packing up Katahdin. He said “Dude, I don’t know you well enough to give you a hard time about slack packing, but have fun!”
Gee, thanks! Well, I walked the 0.2 miles down to the ranger station and thought about it…by the time I got there I decided I had carried a full pack this far, 2,179 miles, there was no way I wasn’t carrying a full pack up Katahdin! I took a few minutes to repack my bag and took only food that I would need for the hike and hung the rest of my extra food in the ranger station. I walked over to the parking lot and found two guys who had just parked their cars talking about their sons hiking the AT. I talked with them and met the Atlanta Brothers’ Dad and Rafiki’s Dad. They would both be hiking up with their sons. I visited the privy in the parking lot, not because I needed to go again, but I had left my toilet paper in the other privy and being a state park these toilets actually had TP, so I grabbed just enough in case I might need it somewhere up on the mountain today. I filled my water in the stream and headed up the mountain. Rafiki and the Atlanta Brothers were taking it slow with their dads and Two-Cents and Roots were both ahead of me.
I signed the trail register for Katahdin at 5:48 AM…time to get this trail done! The first mile or so was ok…dirt trail, a gradual incline, and then it took off up. In under 5 miles we were going to be climbing 4,000 feet…not easy! The trail also got pretty rocky, with big rocks. We had to climb up and over and around lots of boulders. I had to even take my pack off once to squeeze through a tiny slot between boulders. It was not easy trail for sure, one of the toughest climbs on the AT. Lots of places were more like gentle rock climbs with foot holds and hand rails or rocks to pull yourself up with. It was best not to look back or look down…because we had to go back that way! At 8 AM I hit the Tableland at 4,500 feet. This section flattened out and I took a break for water and a cheese danish. The morning was amazing…perfect weather for Katahdin. It was warm and clear, fantastic views in every direction, even up. As I sat there I looked up at the top and could see something glistening in the sunlight…I would find out soon enough that it was the Katahdin sign! I walked across the ridge and passed Thoreau Spring. I knew I had another climb and looking at the ridge above me I thought I could see my trail and the eventual summit of Katahdin. On my way up I was playing several songs I had been listening to along the entire AT…it was my AT hiking playlist and I was getting pumped. I started up my last climb and crested a small rock pile and could see a few people and the sign.
It was a few hundred feet away but I had thought I had to hike another half mile or more to the top so I was surprised to see it so soon! I set a quick pace up to the top and ran the last hundred feet like I was in a race…I headed straight for the Katahdin sign, kissed the dang thing, and celebrated with high fives and yells with Roots and Two-Cents. It was 8:45 AM on July 21, 2012…and I WAS DONE!!!!!!! There were 2 other day hikers on the summit and they were the first non-thru-hikers to congratulate me. I had been getting lots of congrats from people we passed in Maine, but this one was the first that really mattered! The day hikers headed off and it was an awesome experience to be able to sit down under the Katahdin sign for a half an hour or so, just me with 2 other thru-hikers on a priceless morning looking out over the mountains and wilderness, talking about our 4 month journey.
We took turns doing photo shoots on the sign and waiting for the clouds to pass to get good sunny pictures. It was a little chilly on the top so we had our jackets on, but still amazing weather to just sit and wait for the other hikers. A few more day hikers climbed the popular mountain and gave us congrats as I opened my 24 ounce Budweiser. Around 9:30 the Atlanta Brothers made their way to the top and they all ran for the sign as well, another 3 completed! We all celebrated and talked and at 10 AM Rafiki and his dad showed up and made it to the summit! We all sat down below the sign, a group of dirty, tired, and very happy thru-hikers. We shared stories, talked about the good and the better of the trail, the amazing day we had, what we looked forward to after this (a shower, a coke, and a burger was the most popular!).
At 11 AM JD and his wife made the summit and that made 8 of us thru-hikers on top of Katahdin that morning to celebrate the end of this journey! We got some great pictures and JD opened a small bottle of champagne to celebrate. We all stayed and talked until around 11:45 when we started to trickle down off the mountain. By the time we left the top of Katahdin was feeling more like Disneyland…there were people everywhere, tons of people. It was hard to get in line to take any more pictures with the sign and people were asking us about our trek, lots of them knowing nothing of the AT. It was so crowded that I was starting to feel it…I needed to get away, or back into the woods, or something. Getting used to crowded places was going to be a hard transition for sure. The way down was by no means any easier than the way up, probably harder. On the way down I had to put my trekking poles in my pack and use my hands. We had to slide down, lower ourselves, or sort of fall, most of the way. Rafiki and his dad were both tall and I think the extra height helps…I could barely reach my feet to the ground a lot and it made me wonder how hard that would have been for my dad and brother who both wanted to hike up Katahdin with me. It took a long time to reach the bottom and we finally hit the campground at 2:45 PM.
We headed over to the ranger station to officially register as AT Thru-Hikers. The office wasn’t open when we got there but the ranger was around and she had us come in and fill out our paperwork. I was officially thru-hiker number 67 of the 2012 season, but several of the people in front of me were going to summit tomorrow or had made it to the summit this morning after me…so after looking through the list I figured I was actually Thru-Hiker number 59 for the year. Not bad, considering that in Georgia I was hiker number 210 and in Harper’s Ferry I was somewhere around hiker number 240. Since Harper’s Ferry I had really picked it up and knocked out some miles! I had pushed hard through PA, took 12 days from PA to VT, and when I got together with Rafiki we threw some big miles through the Whites and Southern Maine. I was happy with my finish! Also, Q-Man, the only hiker I really knew ahead of me, had finished 3 days before me, so I paced exactly with him since we left Deleware Water Gape, PA! Not bad! We finished our paperwork, I signed my last hiker log book, and loaded up Rafiki’s Dad’s Jeep and headed out of the park. The only thing left to do now I guess is go home! The drive out of the park on the single lane gravel road was pretty interesting…it took us a good bit of time to get to Millinocket and when we arrived we headed to the Appalachian Trail Cafe and met the owner Paul. The cafe was awesome with AT stuff everywhere…pictures, memorabilia, paintings, and more. We all three ordered the Katahdin Burger, a double cheese burger. Rafiki and I both downed it easily, Rafaki’s dad didn’t eat the whole thing, but we definitely had the hiker hunger going! After hanging around the cafe for awhile we headed out of town. We stopped at a store first and I picked up a Moxie for Rafiki’s dad to try…I didn’t get one for myself, I stuck with a root beer. We drove down to Bangor and instead of driving on through the night Rafiki and his dad and I got a hotel room. It was good to take a shower, do some laundry, and relax. When I went to get quarters for the laundry the lady at the desk asked if I wanted a whole roll of quarters…why yes! Did I need them, no, but I also didn’t have to worry about backpacking with the weight of quarters anymore, so I thought I might as well get them! We did the wash and unfortunately the dryer was broken…oh well, most of our clothes were all quick dry. At least they were clean! We all fell asleep pretty easily that night. My arms and shoulders were actually really sore from the rock climbing we had to do today. Tomorrow I head home! I had been thinking about the John Muir quote recently…”The mountains are calling and I must go”. I think I have a quote similar to that now…but a little more personal…”The west coast is calling, and I must go.” Time to head home! We finished the day at mile 2,184.2….0 more miles to go! I AM DONE!