Trail Update #19 – Southern Maine

So after getting out of the Whites, I honestly thought I was in the clear as far as tough stuff. Once again, like many things in my life, I was wrong. The first half of Maine was just about as tough, if not tougher, than the Whites. For some reason, they just don’t get as much coverage as the Whites – maybe because they don’t have names of presidents. That always adds some clout to things. A couple of years ago I actually legally changed my named to George Theodore Lincoln Washington to try to help with my physical and mental inadequacies. Everyone saw right through the ploy though, so I changed my name back.

One of the tougher areas of Maine were the Mahoosucs – the range you run into right after leaving the Whites. The two highlights of that range are the Mahoosuc Notch and the Arm. The Notch is this crazy rock jumble that lasts about a mile. I heard horror stories of this one mile taking people up to three hours. You are literally rock climbing, scrambling, and crawling for a mile straight. I did it in about 1:20 – not too shabby. I ran into an older gentleman in the Notch. I have no idea how he was doing it. He said he already fell twice and he had a pretty good gash on his leg. But he powered through, I give him a lot of credit for making it through. I just saw a picture today of an artist’s interpretation of the Notch. I forgot to take a picture of it, so I recreated it below. I thought it was pretty funny:

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Right after leaving the Notch, you hit straight up the Arm for about a mile and a half, or somewhere around there. It’s a steep rock face that is exhausting. The combination of Notch and Arm is brutal. Needless to say, that was a late day even though I think I only did a sub-15 mile day. But I came away without any falls and no bloody messes. I consider it a success. Because I did see a skeleton stuck in one of the crevasses of the Notch – so I was just glad I wasn’t that guy.

After getting out of that mess, I met Paul. Now I don’t want to steal any of Paul’s thunder by going through our whole trip. There were some really funny parts that I want him to tell. But I’ll give a little teaser. Below is our attempt at taking our first picture of the hike. We literally started hiking across the road to the left, saw this cool AT thingy, and tried to do a timed photo of ourselves next to it. As you can tell, we didn’t do too well. I am nowhere close to being ready for the photo, and Paul hasn’t even make it into the frame yet! He’s off to the left somewhere.

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But Paul did about 2.5 days of hiking and did an awesome job. Solitaire returned to all his hiking glory! We did some really tough stuff and he stuck it out. We also got some really neat views too. Below is a picture of Solitaire. We have some other good pics, but we can post them in Paul’s account of the trip. Be sure to read that one – a rinky dink town, a crazy old man named Bear, and a moldy old camper all played prominent roles in the trip. So you know it will be a good one.

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Paul’s few days he also brought some awesome weather. Unfortunately, when he left, he took the good weather with him. Over the next four or so days, it was wet, rainy, and cold. And in those conditions, going above treeline is quite terrifying. There were a few mountains I had to do so, with miserable results. In those conditions, you feel like you have entered hell. Your brain gets turned off, your body is freezing cold and wet, and you are on the verge of survival mode. Below is a picture I took on the first of three or so peaks that I went over in quick succession above treeline. This is the only picture I have up on those peaks because after this one my hands stopped working well enough to operate my camera. And my camera also started to get soaking wet, so I tucked it away in my bag. You’ll notice that white stuff on the side of that pole – that’s ice frozen sideways. The moisture in the air was freezing when it contacted stuff I guess. It was pretty intense. And I’m also holding back the hood of my rain jacket because the winds were brutal. My hood kept hitting me in the face, so I had to hold it down, resulting in my sweet pose.

Luckily, these few peaks were the last that I would go above treeline in bad weather. I wish I had the dexterity to take some pictures on one of the peaks, Saddleback, because that was even worse than the picture below. I found myself running across the top of the mountain in order to get down as soon as I could. I ran into two friends, Lady and Cannon after getting down from Saddleback. And Lady was bawling her eyes out. All she kept saying was, “No woman should be hiking in these conditions!” It was brutal, but it was also kind of funny. Like a lot of things  on the trail, it was both good and bad, rolled up into one.

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So after surviving the cold and wet, I got back down to a reasonable altitude where I wouldn’t die if I tried to sleep. So that was good. But what I did next wasn’t so good. I attempted to capture a bull moose using only my stupidity and a 50 foot length of paracord – I failed.

Take a look at the below diagram. The series of events leading to my attempted capture are slightly complicated. But I shall explain here. My operation was a nocturnal one. I slept on what the guide book refers to as a ‘woods road.’ Sometimes these are automobile paths, or just thin game paths, or something along those lines. This one happened to look like a wide automobile path that hadn’t been used in a long time. I tried looking for a good spot to pitch my tent off the road, but unfortunately I could not find one and it was getting late. So I pitched on the road itself with the fear of being run over by a drunk Maine man riding an ATV or a truck down the road in the middle of the night. This fear slowly grew, and along with it some ideas to combat those ravaging Mainiacs and their destructive vehicles! So in order to signal any would-be drivers down the road, I strung up my paracord line across the road and hung some slightly reflective items on it – my tent case, my pole case, my white bandana, and my socks (these weren’t reflective, but their smell may be able to reach the driver to warn them that a hiker was ahead).

Brilliant! I crawled into my tent after dinner happy to have my signal cord up and confident that I would not wake up dead. As I settled into my bag, another fear crawled into my head however.

“That road sure didn’t look like any vehicles had been over it in a long time, but it did look like there was a game path down the middle of the wider vehicle path… and I just hung up a rope right about head high on a moose. But whatever, I’ll just take down the moose with my bare hands if he becomes a problem. Sleep now Warrior of the Woodlands.”

I wake up a few hours later in the pitch black to the grunting walk of what sounds like a gorilla walking down the woods road to my tent. The noise this creature was making a dull, low, exhalation that occurred with every earth-moving step he took. Mother of God, there’s a moose right outside my tent. The Warrior of the Woodlands was scared as hell. I tried to stay as quiet as I could so I could track the moose’s movement by sound, but the only thing I could hear was my breathing and my heart. Next thing I know, I hear a tree break, some more moose sounds, and then nothing. Well something weird just happened, but I have no idea what. I don’t hear the moose anymore, so I go back to sleep. A couple hours later, I hear the gorilla breathing again, followed quickly by my heart in my throat. I’m glad to say I survived the night.

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Waking up, I turned to my left to notice my paracord line and my signaling items were gone – completely gone. I went over to the tree I had tied it to and found it wrapped around the trunk. And then I saw the end of the paracord, broken and frayed (this paracord is about 500lb test or so).

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And it began to dawn on me what happened – the moose walked right through my line. I found three of the four items I had hanging on the line. And walking across the woods road, I searched for the other half of the paracord. Couldn’t even find the tree I tied it to, it was gone – literally gone along with my pole case and the other half of paracord.

I found them 80 yards down the woods road. So here’s what I think happened. Monster moose runs into cord, snapping cord in half. Half of the cord got caught in his rack. He keeps walking like Frankenstein, breaking the tree in half and dragging it 80 yards down the road where it eventually fell off his antlers. This all happened about ten feet away from me – horrifying.

So I packed up my stuff and got out of there as soon as possible. I didn’t want this thing to find me and eat me. I hiked about a mile from camp, and I hear some movement to my left. And I see this beast staring at me:

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Now who knows if this was the man I tried to capture. It may not be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was him. I inaudibly apologized to him for the attempted capture as I clicked a quick photo and then ran away. What animals though! They are huge and pretty scary. But man, what cool creatures! So now I can tell people I almost caught a moose with some string and my bare hands. I think I came pretty close – but I think I also came pretty close to getting trampled and eaten as well.

With my moose hunting adventures behind me, I made it into Stratton to complete the final planning of the last leg of the journey. After calling home, I settled on a date to summit – October 6th. I tried to postpone the planning of the end for quite a while. It was a little depressing to know the end was now set. Luckily I ran into Munchies in town (formerly known as Dry Key). He was the first guy I ever met on the AT. I met him atop Springer Mountain in Georgia, way back on May 7th. It was good to see him again. So the sadness of the impending end was pushed aside for the time. I hiked out the next day, heading for my last town on the trip, Monson.

P.S.: Here are some random pictures from this stretch. The leaves really started to change during this week, as you’ll see from the second photo. Of course, the picture never captures the reality. The oranges and yellows were much more vibrant than what you see there. And the lakes in Maine! They’re beautiful. I swam in a few just to say I did even though they were pretty cold. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!

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Trail Update #20 – Stratton to Baxter

Hiking out of Stratton, I hung with Munchies for the next few days. I may have mentioned, but Munchies was the first other thru-hiker I ever met. On my third day down in Georgia, I also met Tangy, Cannon, and Lady. Munchies just sent me this picture – there’s Lady, me, and Munchies on the day we all met. Throughout most of Georgia and into Tennessee, I hiked a lot with Tangy and Munchies. So it was cool to be hiking with Munchies again. The only thing missing was Tangy Booch Magoo.

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The next few days were beautiful – more swims in lakes, beautiful sites, and the changing of the leaves. Maine really is a beautiful area even though it’s tough. I remember before I got there, I was talking with some Southbound hikers, and I asked them what Maine was like. Their response was something along the lines of, “Well it sucks when you’re climbing the mountains. All you do is ask yourself why the hell you’re doing this. But then when you get to the top, it’s like ‘Wow,’ and it makes all the hard work worth it. It’s beautiful.”

And I couldn’t agree more. It is just so beautifully wild out there. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine vast tracts of land that have been minimally touched by the push of human progress – but they are there, and they are amazing. It is a powerful view to look out over forest and hills and not see roads cutting scars across the land. It’s powerful to know that this is what the world really is – it is not cars and buildings and schedules and presentations. The real world is something far more awe inspiring and spiritually massive than anything we can imagine sitting inside a home or an office. There is a feeling of stewardship that arises when you look out over the wilds. Because although we can do what we want with the land – we can lay roads, cut trees, mine ore, and build towns –  it is not ours to do as we wish with. And we can feel that in some moments, when we see ourselves as peaceful individuals on a hillside – when we are integral with the rest of the world.

But that’s off topic, so back to the updates! A couple of days before getting to Monson, one of the highlights of the whole trail occurs – the crossing of the Kennebec River! Unlike all other river crossings, the Kennebec must be crossed by boat – and by boat, I mean canoe. Twice a day, for a couple hours each, there is a guy who picks up hikers on one shore and brings them over to the other. It is the official AT route, so it’s a pretty unique experience on the trail. I got to the south shore of the Kennebec at about 8:50 in the morning, ten minutes before the ferryman was scheduled to begin his trips. A few minutes later, I saw a guy pulling out his red canoe and paddling over to me:

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This man was quite a character. He goes by the name Hillbilly Dave. He said he’s been doing this for about seven years now, and he’s only lost two hikers, one dog, and a bag of beef jerky to the raging Kennebec (just kidding – he’s never lost anyone or anything). Another hiker strolled up just as Dave was coming up, so we piled in and shoved off for the far shore. I got to help Hillbilly Dave out with the paddling which was awesome. The water was real calm, so it was an easy trip across. There is a dam upstream though, so Dave said it can get a bit choppy sometimes. Here’s Hillbilly Dave talking to that other dude who was in the boat with us:

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That was definitely one of the cooler modes of transportation I took while on the trail. After crossing the Kennebec, nothing too exciting happened until I arrived in Monson. Monson was a pretty cool little town. I stayed at the Lakeshore House Hostel – one of my favorite hostels on the trail by far. An awesome lady named Rebekah owns it, and she is a jack of all trades. I think she does everything in that place besides the cooking (it’s also a bar/restaurant downstairs). She tends bar, waitresses, and keeps up with all the necessary chores that go along with being the hostel keeper. Needless to say, she was a busy bee. She was also a pretty angry busy bee. The few days prior to my arrival, there was a three day hiker party that was made up of some not too kind folks. Admittedly, hikers can be an inconsiderate bunch sometimes, and it sounds like that’s what happened during that rager. So Rebekah was a bit fed up with hikers by the time I got there. But luckily that would all change soon.

I got my room assignment, picked up my pack, and headed upstairs for the hostel. As I climbed the stairs, I see none other than Tangy Booch Magoo sitting on the deck. I didn’t think I’d ever catch back up to Tangy after he jumped ahead to Dalton, MA. But lo and behold, there he was, bumming around in Monson, ME – the very last town on the trail.

Needless to say, that night was a pretty neat reunion. Munchies got in a couple hours after me as well as some other friends. Me, Munchies, and Tangy had a blast reminiscing about the early part of the trip. The crew of hikers staying at the hostel was also a good crowd, and Rebekah got into a much better mood by the end of the night. It pretty much turned into a party at the bar with Rebekah playing the part of gracious host. The beers flowed, the food was delicious, and the jokes were plentiful (A skeleton walks into a bar and says, “Give me a beer… and a mop.”) We closed down the bar and then headed upstairs to the hostel. Before we hit the hay, Rebekah came up to the hostel quarters and told us that we had restored her faith in hikers. Most of it was thanks to Tangy who can get anyone to like him. But hey, I’ll take some of the credit too. It was good to hear that from her though – it really was a great day and night. Here’s a couple pictures from that day:

This is the backyard – it was obviously right on the lake, therefore the name Lakeshore House.

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You can take kayaks out onto the lake whenever you want. I took a kayak and a beer. 🙂

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Here’s a really bad picture of Munchies. Tangy got cut off, but that’s half of his face on the left. Tangy cannonballed me off of the dock as I was brining my kayak back into shore. It was a pretty good move.

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So the next morning I hung around town for a bit. Tangy and Munchies were zeroing that day – it was a tough place to leave. I had my sights set on Katahdin though, so with a goodbye and the hopes I’d see my friends before the end, I hitched a ride back to the trailhead and took my first steps into the 100 Mile Wilderness.

The 100 Mile Wilderness was pretty neat. It was flat which was great. But it was pretty rocky and root, which is never that great. For about half of the Wilderness, I hiked with a guy I never saw before – this dude named John. John was a good dude. We shared a couple trail magic beers and a few days hiking. It was cool to be near the end with him, especially because he started his thru hike in February! He has been on the trail a long long time. Most of his delays happened from trips home (son broke his arm, had to get his dog, then return his dog, etc). So his time on trail wasn’t all that long, but his thru hike time was obviously very long. At first I though he was a little insane because he had a cackle like a maniac. But he didn’t kill me in the middle of the night, so I decided he was a cool dude.

But for a lot of the time through the Wilderness, I was alone. It was strange to be getting so close to the end. Over the last few days, I could see Katahdin in the distance:

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It was a sad feeling to be in sight of the end, but it was also exhilarating. The last several days were a time to reflect on the journey as a whole, the people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, and the experiences I will remember. Even now, it’s a difficult feeling to explain. This experience has been unlike anything I’ve ever done. But I’ll get into more of that later! Katahdin looming before me was a beautiful image – and one that I have frozen in my mind, but one that I knew I had to continue to push toward. So on Saturday, I finally made it into Baxter State Park, the home of Mount Katahdin.

The hike on Saturday was one of the easiest of the trail. I only hiked about fifteen miles to Katahdin Stream Campground, right at the foot of Katahdin. There was one treacherous area in the park though which I remember fondly. I had to ford a branch of a decent sized river only about three miles from the campground, and the river was raging pretty good. I looked up and down the shore for somewhere to rock hop across – no luck. I looked up and down for a good place to ford the river – no luck. There was no way I was going to take the high water trail around the river, that would just seem cheap after I’ve walked the whole trail from Georgia. So I decided to ford it. In Maine, you ford a lot of rivers, but for most of them, you can get away with just rolling up your pants and putting your Crocs on. This was not one of those. Even with pants rolled up, they would have gotten soaked. So I went just in my undies. I suppose I could have gone in the nude, but I think some other hikers would have frowned upon that. And if I took a spill during my fording, I didn’t want to be a nude man floating down the river. So I went across, very carefully, in my undies. My first successful pantsless fording! I was quite proud of myself, and rewarded myself with a snack on the far side of the river… in my undies.

And with that, I arrived at Katahdin Stream Campground, my home for the very last night on the trail. Patches had reserved a lean to for me for the night, so I didn’t have to deal with the Rangers who I couldn’t find anywhere in the park (thanks Patches!). So after checking out my little lean to, I walked out to the front of the campground where I’d be meeting Mom and Dad. We’d head into town for a bite to eat before they’d have to drop me back off at the campground later that night. They would be hiking up to the top of Katahdin via another trail the next day. We would meet atop the peak to celebrate the end of my journey – the end of 2,185 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

 

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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I Suppose This Is The End…

So I guess this is the end of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve been home for a couple weeks or so I think. It’s a bit strange to be all done with it. I know I’ve said that a hundred times or so – but it’s true. And it’s not a negative thing – weirdness is a fine thing, and if you don’t think so, you need to get a little bit weirder, and a little stranger.

This entire experience has been an absolute blessing from the beginning. It has been bizarre, funny, painful, tedious, euphoric and everything between.  And that is what I wanted – that is why I set out on this trip. I was tired of the monotonous comfort. I was tired of time passing in a consistent manner. I needed something to jar me out of the routine, something that made time pass painfully slowly (summiting mountains in freezing rain above treeline was a good one), and something that made time fly by (beers in town with friends always went by too fast). Whenever anything terrible happened out there, I reminded myself that this is what I wanted. I asked for the struggle, and I’m happy I received it. We tend to categorize everything nowadays. Nothing is simply what it is. Things are either good or bad, this or that, up or down. But what if we started accepting things simply for what they are. Everything we experience is something amazing. And that means the falls and the scrapes, the freezing rain, the brutally long miles, the rocks and the gnats, and the knowledge that all things must end. Things are all ok, because they are what they innately are.

I wish I could have figured out the secrets of the universe out there. But I didn’t. I answered some questions, but more always follow. And that’s a perfectly fine thing too. I don’t think we’ll ever answer those questions, at least not for a long time – plus, I don’t think our brains are big enough to comprehend the questions nor the answers. But the good news is, our spirits are an aspect of ourselves that can comprehend what our brains can’t. Although we can’t figure out why, we know that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We know that what we see is not all there is. One day, we may gain scientific proof of the oneness of the cosmos, but right now, all we have is what we feel.

I’m just a stooge, I know that. So I know I have no idea what I’m talking about. But one of my inspirations had thoughts similar to mine, so I’ll let him sum up what I want to say in a much more succinct and eloquent manner.

“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe , a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty… We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” – Albert Einstein

This trip has allowed me to begin my quest for a “substantially new manner of thinking,” and it has allowed me the key I need to “free myself from the prison.” The thoughts I have had will remain with me, the experiences I’ve had will stay with me, the kindness and love I have seen will stay with me. And these will be the catalyst and the building blocks of a new manner of thinking, one that seeks to integrate seemingly disparate matter into a timeless embrace of the Whole of Nature.

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I want to say thanks to Albert Einstein first of all – great quote. And I too want to thank Mom and Dad for making the trek up Katahdin, and the siblings for all their support and mail drops and letters throughout. And I can’t name everyone here, but everybody at home, thanks for all your support and encouragement along the way. Big thanks to Scuba Springsteen (Olson) and Monkey (Brandon Imp). They were a big resource for me before I started the trip (both have thru-hiked in previous years). And also a big thanks to my visitors on the trail: Joe Don the Megaladon (Neil), The Googan (Matt), Solitaire (Paul), and Scuba Springsteen. The visits were awesome, and I’m glad you all survived!

And thanks to all my readers out there. I’ve had people read from all across the world – pretty cool stuff. I’ve gotten followers who I never met in my life. I’ve had followers who I met briefly on the trail. And of course I’ve had all my friends and family back home who I forced to read my updates. 🙂

And I want to thank everyone I’ve met on the trail. Especially my closest friends who I’ve shared the greatest experiences with. As I’ve said, people tend to open very quickly on the trail. And it’s an amazing feeling to be able to do so without fear of condescension or pity. There is a trusting acceptance between everyone that we are all different and we are all a little crazy out there.

There are too many memories of people to thank, so if you don’t fall in to a category above, then just know you’re a stooge like me. And know that I am grateful.

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