There was no way I was going to be late. The all you can eat buffet breakfast started at 7am. Like Pavloffs dog I was salivating outside the restaurant at 6.55am. At exactly 7am I was treated to yogurt, granola, coffee, bagels and a very large bowl of fruit. But I had other places on my mind.
A group of 4 tired hikers left their campsite on the Appalachian Trail for the last time. Ahead was the long and sometimes steep climb up Mt Katahdin. I led the way at a fair pace which left us all dripping in sweat.
We registered at the ranger station near the Katahdin Stream campground. Several other thru hikers were on their way to the summit. The ranger station offered thru hikers the opportunity to store unwanted gear and borrow a daypack for the climb of Mount Katahdin. Many took up the offer but I chose to carry my fully loaded backpack.
The first mile it so of the climb was very easy. All the other hikers set off at a pace that an ultra marathon runner would have been proud of. Enthusiasm overtook their physical ability as I caught up to them once the climbing started.
Climbing Mt Katahdin was just that, a climb. Trekking poles were of little value as I needed both arms to haul myself up, over and through the rocky obstacles. This was no longer hiking, it was rock scrambling. I’m lucky the weather wasn’t too bad or this would be a seriously dangerous mountain.
As we climbed higher the warm and humid weather made way for cold and cloudy. Progress was slow due to the steep climb, in parts there were handholds, railings and even steps in places. Climbing to the top of this mountain isn’t easy, many day hikers had to turn around before the summit due to its difficulties.
After about 3000ft of climbing the trail followed a rather easy summit ridge. Loads of delicate alpine plants survived in what could only be described as a harsh environment.
Thumper and I approached the summit. Our emotions were getting the better of us. With such low visibility I looked at my gps. A quarter mile from the summit I let a very emotional Thumper go ahead. I stopped and gathered my thoughts.
With less than 100 feet of visibility I heard the summit before I could see it. A group of hikers were crowded around a small wooden sign that many a hiker has visualised. I reached the top of Mt Katahdin. I just hiked the Appalachian Trail.
I did a good job to fight off the tears. With the trail complete I tried to take in what I had done for the last 129 days. I felt strangely numb. Devoid of feelings. I was neither happy nor sad. My feelings were more towards the future. What’s next? Has this trail changed me? Have any of the trails changed me? Reflection like this shouldn’t take place on the summit of Mt Katahdin. They should take place days, weeks and months later. I’m a Triple Crowner now, a Triple Crown hiker.
Some people hike this trail and will never hike a long trail again. Others are hooked. I’m hooked. There will be more trails for me. I’ll be cycling and hiking the most amazing places on the planet. I just hiked the Appalachian Trail.