September 6, 2000

Millinocket, ME 5 Miles Hiked Today 2167 of 2167 Miles Hiked Total

Summit! The end began last night.  Ulcer, Amy, J.T. (two section hikers we'd stayed at lean-to's with several nights - cool people!), and I had a fire, ate well, had beers, and smoked cigars. It was a great way not to overanalyze and over think the whole thing.

After sleeping fairly well (I awoke at 3:30 and had a hard time getting to sleep again) we woke to find the skies blue and the temps in the upper 30's, but warming quickly, and little wind. A perfect day to summit.

The hike up went quickly for tough terrain. It was similar to Moosilauke but higher and farther. Up past Katahdin Falls, over the rock scrambles, across the barren "flats," and to Thoreau Spring about one mile from the top. At this point I knew it was close to being over and was anxious and scared to get to the top. Ulcer and I agreed about half a mile from the top that it was time for silence.

View from atop KatahdinAs I came over the final rise I could see the sign at the peak only a few hundred yards distance and began to cry. I had to hold back though because it was still quite rocky and required clear vision. As we approached the summit, Baxter Peak, a group of about a dozen people noticed us and began to talk about us and snap a few pictures, all while asking if we were thru-hikers. Once they knew we were they began to clap and yell for us, which was actually quite weird. I asked "where were you in Georgia?" through sort of a haze that made them seem very unreal.

View from atop KatahdinI walked up, touched the sign, and let it out a bit, ignoring everyone. After a couple of seconds I realized I needed more time and particularly more space so walked away and sat on a rock and bawled. The realization that I had achieved a long-time goal, walked 2000+ miles, learned so much, changed so much, overwhelmed me. In an instant I realized, too, that the trail had indeed been a life-altering event. The question "now what?" also kept coming to mind.

View from atop KatahdinAfter a few minutes Ulcer came over (he'd been doing much the same as I) and we just sat. Then it was picture taking time. We took a bunch and decided to have lunch in order to give Amy and J.T. time to get there (we'd passed them on the way up) because they said they wanted our picture and to see us up there.

After we hiked down, we packed up, and got a hitch from the first car we saw. Once here, it was back to the usual town errands. The new twist was the need to find a way to get home and I decided not to call anyone. I just needed time to absorb and deflate.

Tomorrow I begin reacclimating, journeying home, and writing my summary.

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