Trail Update #21 – Mount Katahdin

I had a pretty tough time sleeping the night before summit day. It was a strange feeling to know that tomorrow would be the last day of the hike. I’d walk the last five miles to the top of Katahdin, and that’s it. I’m done up there – I’ll have become a thruhiker. I’ll have walked from Georgia to Maine in five months. I’ll have visited tons of places and met some characters. And at the top, it’s done – it’s all over.

So I woke early and began my hike around 7am. The hike up was great. Climbing Katahdin is pretty tough, but it’s a very fun trail. As you climb, you can just turn around at any time and have an absolutely gorgeous view of Maine:

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Crazy looking shadow in this picture:

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I took my time on the climb up. I wanted to cherish the last climb and the last five miles. It was pretty quiet on the way up the mountain except for when I passed a couple of day hikers. They were two girls about my age. One had clearly hiked Katahdin before. The other had clearly not hiked much in her life. When I first approached them, the novice was having a complete mental breakdown. “What?! How do people climb this thing! How do people get down!? This is insane!” She said all these things between tears. Her friend was helping her out with advice on where to put hands and feet and such. I thought it was overall pretty hilarious. I kept an eye on them as I climbed up – they survived.

The last mile or so of Katahdin is actually fairly easy. The mountain tabletops after the steep climb. Although I enjoyed the relative ease of the hike, it also gave me a clear view of the summit, and of course, the end of my journey. Here’s the tabletop:

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As I made my way across that last mile, I came upon Thoreau Spring. I had seen that name so many times in my guidebook looking at the last page. It is the final landmark before the summit. Upon passing the spring, I realized this was the end. I had no more landmarks to hit, nothing else to stand between me and the end. I hiked with my head down intentionally across the tabletop. I did not want to see the end. I didn’t want it to end. So I kept my head down, and my legs moved mechanically forward. I hoped that somehow this wouldn’t be the end. My mind wanted to go back to the beginning, I wanted to relive it all. But the body continued forward – very slowly, but it went forward, toward the end.

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About 200 yards away, you can clearly see the signpost that marks the northern terminus of the AT. I ran into my buddy John here. He was just coming down from the summit. His thruhike was complete. My mind was racing so fast that I didn’t tell him to come back up and hang out. I had a celebration drink that I wanted to share with someone up there. But next thing I knew, I was shaking his hand, and he was heading back down the mountain. And I continued up the last 200 yards.

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I didn’t feel a ton of emotion upon reaching the end. I didn’t want to touch the sign post yet. I felt that would be my symbolic end. So I mozied around the summit for a minute before approaching the sign. I reached out and touched it, and that was it – that was the end. A day hiker asked me if I had just thru hiked. “Yup, this is the end. I’m done.”  And just like that, I was no longer thru hiking. There were a lot of day hikers on the summit, but I needed some space by myself. So I walked a short way down where I sat alone.  As I think is natural, I thought over the whole trip and how amazing it was. It seemed like the whole trip ran through my mind in a minute, and I missed it already. To get off the sadness, I took out my phone and snapped this picture:

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I sent it to D, Matt, and Paul with the caption, “Harry, I’ve reached the top!” As I waited, a couple friends came up to the top and we hung for a few minutes before Mom and Dad made it to the top! They had hiked six miles to the summit (not the three miles we originally thought it was). So they were hurting a little bit, but they made it! It was great to see them at the top.

I opened up my celebration drink and we all had a couple of swigs (well, Mom had one, and immediately got a headache). After some more pictures and some more swigs and some more talking with buddies, I ran out of ways to postpone leaving the summit.

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So with a last glance back, I headed down off of Katahdin. We had another six miles back down to the car, so it was a full day of hiking. Mom and Dad did an awesome job. There was a mile stretch of very steep, loose trail that was tough hiking.

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They gutted it out though, and we eventually made it back to the parking lot. With the hiking done, it was time to celebrate!!!

We headed into Monson where we’d be hanging out the next two or so days. The first night we were all pretty drained, so we just did dinner and a couple of drinks. You have to realize that there is not much to do in Monson. We asked the B&B what we could do for fun, and the choices were:

  •  An antique tool museum (one hour away)
  •  Drive around trying to find a moose
  •  Indoor mini golf (across the street, but it’s never open)
  •  Movies (one hour away)
  •  Eat and drink (down the street)

Needless to say, we went with the eating and drinking. So that’s pretty much all we did for two days. But I was certainly not complaining! The cafe down the road was a neat place. They have thru hikers sign ceiling tiles which they then hang up. It’s pretty neat. Here’s my signature. I went with my full official trail name, “The Esteemed Stooge, Sir Charles Guilons.”

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The second night, we met up with Indy who had summited a couple of days before. It was his last night in town, so it was good to catch him before he left. I finally met his good trail buddy, The Voice. This guy was great. He was a hilarious German dude. We pretty much just hung and drank the night away while The Voice taught us some German words. At one point we were just repeatedly yelling ‘dri glaze’ (three glasses). Then we ripped a few shots of Rumpleman’s. There’s Indy in the middle, and The Voice on the left:

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The next night, Tangy and Munchies made it into town. They hadn’t summited yet, but they jumped into town about 15 miles before Katahdin for the night. They’d be summiting two days later. We had a blast that night. Here’s a bunch of pictures of us. That dude in the blue is some random guy named Scarecrow. He was a mess that night.

Me, Munchies, Scarecrow, and Tangy:

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Tangy and me:

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I saw Munchies signed his name on the blackboard in the bathroom. So I added the second part to the below picture. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to declare Munchies a stooge.

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I’m glad it all worked out that I saw most of my buddies before the end of the trip. That was one thing I really wanted to make a point of in Monson, and the main reason I stayed a few extra days in town. You make some good friends out there, even if you don’t know people’s real names! People open up a lot about who they are and what they want to be. And you feel like you’re a part of everyone’s journey out there, no matter how small. So to be able to say farewell to those guys before we went our separate ways was something I really wanted to do. The trail wouldn’t be close to what it was without those people. The sites are beautiful, and the towns are fun, but it’s definitely the people you meet that makes the trail so special. And these guys I got to see in the last few days were my best friends out there. So I am massively grateful that it all worked out that I could see them one last time before the end.

By the start of my last day in town, most of my buddies had left. Luckily, I ran into Trucker at dinner on my final night. He had just summited earlier that day. It was a pretty quiet night. We just hung at the bar and ate some food and talked about who knows what. Some crazy locals were being hilarious. They ate some of Trucker’s pizza, then we got out of there. After I said farewell to Trucker, I turned down the road toward the hotel I was staying at. There wasn’t a soul in sight, nor a car, nor anything. I walked home down the middle of the street for the hell of it. The next day, I flew home. My journey was done.

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11 replies
  1. Mom
    Mom says:

    Congratulations on a job well done!! Thank you for allowing Dad and I to be a part of your journey. We loved our visits. Seeing what you were doing for the last 5 months was mind boggling!! Even though I was scared to death when you told me that you wanted to hike the AT I am so happy that you did!! I know you met some awesome people, make a bunch of wonderful new friends, saw beautiful sights and have wonderful memories!! Welcome home Toad!! I missed you!!!

    Reply
  2. Kim
    Kim says:

    Congratulations Toad! So proud of you for finishing the trail – such an unbelievable accomplishment. I must admit, I’m sad that your posts are coming to an end 🙁 Love you!

    Reply
  3. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Congratulations!!!! What an accomplishment. I’ve been following your blog since I last saw you in Erwin TN — probably seems like a lifetime ago. Great job and thanks for sharing it all.

    -Rusty

    Reply
    • stoogesandstrangers
      stoogesandstrangers says:

      Thanks Rusty! Awesome, thanks a ton for following. Meeting you feels like it only happened yesterday, but it also feels like an eternity ago. And I’ll never forget those scrambled eggs and bacon! My first Mountain House meal ever. Haha. Thanks again Rusty!

      Reply
  4. chasedickens
    chasedickens says:

    Congrats my Lord Stooge it was great meeting you all those months ago. Boo Bear and I really enjoyed your company. Just caught up reading your blog. Great writing my friend. Good luck in your future endeavors.
    ~Wash

    Reply
  5. Dad
    Dad says:

    My son, the Esteemed Sir Stooge. It now rings true in my mind after referring to you in this fashion for five months. I have purposely waited a week or so before commenting as every time I began to write, I felt a deep sadness overtake my soul knowing that you had completed this journey. It was exactly this reason that Mom and I ventured to Katahdin to meet you soon after your summit. We chose specifically to meet you afterwards but at the top to allow you to finish as you started; a journey of solitude but never loneliness, a hike filled with reflection but always just a moment from familial embrace and a challenge to be triumphed over with assurance of congratulations from those who love you endlessly soon to follow. You had the great fortune to touch the lives of all you came across either on the hike itself or through your words. You had been blessed with getting to know some very special friends along the way and meeting up with those closest to you in Millinocket proved special indeed. The fact that “people open up a lot about who they are and what they want to be” to you along your journey, I believe says more about you, than others. You are gifted with compassion and caring which frees those you come across to freely and without fear of judgement, share their emotions and desires with you. You have a unique quality which is envied by most.
    I can understand that your journey, your entire five months ran across your mind in a minute while atop Katahdin. And the feeling of sadness is rational especially when you realize that “it is definitely the people you meet that make the trail so special.” Life is a journey and I believe that your statement applies to each hike, each adventure, each summit you accomplish in life. So make it so Sir Stooge. You have had the great experience to reflect, to learn and accomplish a feat unimaginable to most others.
    Your poetic narratives have made us laugh, some made us cry and some simply dropped our jaws – but all inspired us. When you looked down the darkened street in Millinocket your last night and “not a soul was in sight,” you realized your journey was done. Well, my son, a new dawn had come just a day thereafter and your journey continues. So, continue to inspire us though your words. Choose your next adventure with the zeal and passion you have completed the Appalachian Trail. Follow your dreams and if that means that you use your feet, so be it, if it means that you use your hands (with pen in hand), then do it. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish in life’s journey, start it and take on the challenges you will face as you had these past five months. Make the “Adventures of A Trail Stooge” a lifelong work of art.
    Journey on Christopher and always “hike your hike.”

    Reply

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