AT- Days 143-154

August 14, 2018

Day 143- Thursday, 8/2- Boothbay, ME- (0) (1450.0 total)

Nice relaxing day today here in Maine. Jack and I walked down the road from our cabin for some breakfast and then headed over to the site of the fundraiser that we are having tomorrow for a walkthrough. The site is gorgeous- a big house right on the water with a big yard and pool. We are monitoring the weather for tomorrow evening, as the event will be outdoors and there is some chance of rain. There is a huge tent set up in the yard just in case it does rain, but hopefully we get some dry weather. We all went through the plans for the evening- I’ll be sharing my story for how and why I’m doing my hike. I think it’s going to be an amazing event and am really looking forward to it.

After that, Jack and I just hung out back at the cabin for a while and went out for lunch. I had to try my first ever lobster roll that I have heard so much about. It was quite good, although very pricy up here. I’m not sure if that’s just the market price or it was marked up since this is a summer tourist area. Jane’s sister arrived in the afternoon by bus in the next town, so we drove Jane over there to pick her up and the went back to Jane and Patty’s home. They live on a farm with 2 horses, 4 goats, 3 alpacas, and 1 chicken. They used to live in a big house across the road, but decided to sell that and convert their horse barn into a smaller home for themselves. It’s a gorgeous place and we spent a really relaxing evening there. About 10 people showed up for a really nice dinner.

Day 144- Friday, 8/3- Boothbay, ME- (0) (1450 total)

Today was the big day for the fundraiser. Spent the day running around town with Jack, getting my usual errands done to get back on the trail in a couple days. We headed over to the house for the fundraiser around 5pm. The organization flew 2 of the girls over from Thailand, Aon and Som-O, for 6 weeks this summer to give them some exposure to a new culture and expand their horizons. It was fantastic to see both of them again tonight. It just spins my head to think about their experience here. It is their first time leaving Thailand, their first time on an airplane, etc. And then staying in the US for 6 weeks, attending 3 different summer camps here, it must just be such an amazing yet overwhelming experience for both of them. Their English has improved dramatically since the last time I saw them in Thailand. They both spoke at the event tonight in English and shared their personal stories. It was beautiful.

The event went off pretty smoothly, although the weather was a bit of a challenge for part of it. It has been beautiful up here everyday since we arrived, but of course rain was forecast for right around the time the event started. Luckily they had a big tent set up for the dinner, so everyone kept dry when the rain came. It absolutely thundered down for about 30 minutes, and I was worried that no one would be able to hear anything when the time came for our speeches, but fortunately the rain backed off and the weather cleared up. The theme of the evening was “What’s your ‘why’?” Why do you support Friends of Thai Daughters? Why are you so passionate about this program? What drives your involvement? A few of the top people in the organization got up and shared their ‘why,’ the 2 Thai girls got up and sang for us, and then we were all treated to a really nice dinner. There had been a happy hour beforehand with an open bar, so by the time dinner started everyone was pretty well lubricated. Lol! It was sometimes hard getting the crowd to quiet down and listen. Everyone was clearly having a fantastic time and really enjoying the evening. After dinner I got up and shared my ‘why’ for the the reason I’m hiking and how I first got involved in the organization way back. Then we auctioned off 3 different prizes, including a trip to Italy, and a yacht trip to the Virgin Islands.

This was designed as a VIP event this year, with the aim to raise a large sum to pay for the college tuition for 10 girls. All 10 of these girls will be graduating from high school this year and starting college next year. Obviously it’s a lot cheaper to study university in Thailand than the US, but it still will cost a solid amount to send all of them for 4 years. One organization who was represented last night at the fundraiser donated half the needed amount right off the bat. And after that, the auction of the trips was able to raise the other half. The goal was achieved, meaning that all the college educations for all those girls was covered. Absolutely amazing! It blew me away seeing all the generosity and care in the room. You know, sometimes when I’m hiking I get so wrapped up in the daily grind of the whole thing that I forget why I’m out here doing it. But last night seeing the 2 girls and feeling the whole spirit of generosity and caring at the event, it reminded me why I’m out here doing this and gave me some food motivation to keep grinding for this final push. What a tremendous evening.

Day 145- Saturday, 8/4- Monson, ME- (0) (1450.0 total)

Jack and I took a pretty slow morning after the late night. Had some breakfast in town and later went by Jane and Patty’s house to say goodbye. I have seen the Thailand side of things several times, but it was great to finally see the Maine side of the organization and meet all the great people running and helping to fund the organization.

Jack has been such a huge help with all the driving for this leg of the trip- trail magic for sure. And such a great chance for us to hang out and catch up again after all these years. Today he drove me 2.5 hours to Monson, Maine where I will start hiking again. My original plan was to drive up to Mt. Katahdin with Jack, climb it together on Sunday, and then start southbound the next day. But when I researched things and called Baxter State Park where Katahdin is located, it turned out that you need a parking permit (which also acts as your hiking permit) and those are limited to keep the number of hikers to a manageable level and not trample the environment. And they didn’t have a parking permit available until Wednesday! This system doesn’t apply to thru-hikers who are hiking northbound, but since I left the trail and am trying to just drive into the park, I now fall under this system. At first I thought I would be stuck waiting until Wednesday, but then we came up with the idea of driving further south and getting me back on the trail in Monson. This would allow me to hike northbound in the 100 Mile Wilderness, which ends at Katahdin. That will put me back in the northbound thru hiker group and I won’t need that permit. So that’s what I have decided on. Gonna keep heading north, and then after Katahdin I will travel by shuttle back south to Monson and go south from there. Complicated, I know. But it works.

So Jack is staying a night with me at a hiker hostel in Monson tonight and he will drive back to NY tomorrow morning when I head out and get back on the trail. The funny thing is that we were both just taking part in this fundraiser with some very well off people in some very fancy VIP surroundings. And a day later, we are hanging out with all the hiker trash in a hostel. It has been raining quite heavily so the hostel is packed full and everyone is drying out their tents, hanging wet stinky hiker socks off of every possible railing to dry, bumming around the hostel, etc. Super hiker scene. Such a contrast from our previous few days. Jack’s head must be swimming from all these new and opposite worlds. Lol!

Day 146- Sunday, 8/5- Long Pond Stream, ME- (14.3 miles) (1464.3 total)

First day back on the trail in a while. The break was good, but always a bit tough to get back to it after some days off. Jack took off at 4am this morning as he wanted to avoid any traffic while driving back to NYC. I signed up for the famous breakfast that the hostel offers hikers each morning. Pretty good deal. $9 for 3 eggs, bacon, all you can eat blueberry pancakes made with Maine blueberries, coffee, and OJ. I definitely ate my fill and then got the shuttle to the trail and started hiking at about 9am.

Then elevation looked fairly flat for the day. Some small ups and downs, but nothing too crazy. What I found on the actual trail however, was a totally different story. It was very slow moving and rough terrain. Lots more pine trees up here in Maine, which means a lot of shallow roots that we have to navigate all day. On top of those, lots of rocks, mud, and water everywhere. It was a mess and it was so hard to walk with any descent pace. It had rained pretty hard the past couple of days, so things were muddier and wetter than usual I think. All that rain also raised the levels of all the rivers as well, and I experienced something new on the AT here in Maine- rivers with no bridges. In other words, rivers that we have to ford ourselves. I think we forded around 5 rivers today. Some were pretty mellow, but others were flowing a bit. With my trekking poles I was able to ford them with little trouble, but the faster sections were still a challenge. I met 2 hikers on the trail today, Rocket Man and Riddler, and we forded most of these rivers together, just keeping an eye on each other to make sure everyone got across safely. There had been no rain overnight, so I heard the rivers had dropped a bit. 2 guys I met said they had to camp before one river, just to wait for it to go down. An older guy we met with them apparently tried to cross it yesterday and got knocked down, lost some stuff in his pack, bruised himself up pretty good, and nearly died. Crazy.

Anyway, did the final ford of the day and am now camping with Rocket Man and Riddler. It took us 10.5 hours to hike just over 14 miles today with the terrain. Crazy. I’m exhausted.

Day 147- Monday, 8/6- West Branch Pleasant River, ME- (16.1 miles) (1480.4 total)

Today was one of the hardest days I have had so far on the AT. We hiked over the “Chairback” mountains today, going over 6 different peaks. It was endless. Rocket Man and I broke camp early and hiked all day together. I was surprised to learn that Rocket Man is only 18 years old. He seems quite a bit older. He was homeschooled and has put off college to hike the AT. He wants to triple crown (AT, PCT, and CDT) by age 21 he says. He got his trail name due to how fast he usually hikes, but he also hikes in sandals and hurt his food as a result. So now he has slowed down to my pace and we can hike together. Amazingly, he has been northbound all the way, so is looking to complete the trail in just over 4 months. Anyway, just a brutal day for both of us. The views were incredible from the tops of the peaks tho. Endless hills of pine and so many lakes. One mountaintop had the rusted frame of an old fire tower on top of it. Rocket Man randomly decided to scale it to the top, bum foot and all, just because. (He also has been hiking with very minimal and cheap gear. Didn’t have any rain gear to use as windbreakers when going thru the temperamental White mountains. Doesn’t carry a cell phone.) Here and there he does stuff like that that reminds me that he is 18. It always makes me laugh and shake my head, because that’s the type of stuff that I probably would have done at that age, but now it’s the last possible thing in the world that I would ever consider. Guess I’m getting old. Lol!

It took us over 13 hours to cover just 16 miles today. Didn’t get in to camp until 7:45pm. This is what kills me out here. Multiple days where there are long hiking hours. You get in late, get to bed too late, then have to be up at the crack of dawn the next morning to get an early start on the next big day. Sleep always takes the brunt of these kinds of days. And sleeping only 6.5-7 hours is not great to get the body ready for the next big day. I swore when I got to NYC and did the whole fundraiser thing in Maine, that that would be the end of those kinds of stretches. No more 19-20 mile days. The flip-flop has removed the deadline and allowed me to take my pace. But out here in the 100 Mile Wilderness of Maine (most remote area on the AT), we need to plan very carefully in terms of days and food. They are doing a food drop for me on a remote road out there so I can resupply, so I have to be there by a certain time to meet them. And for this reason I have to push. I did lower my miles to 15-16, but so far out here that is still taking all day and they feel like 20 mile days. Damn. Well, tomorrow looks to be another tough day, but hopefully it mellows out after that.

It has been kind of a trip seeing all these super fast northbounders who are finishing in 4-5 months around me now. 6 months is the average, so these guys have pushed it. It’s amazing and hats off to all of them. It does make me a bit jealous tho, thinking about probably another 2 months out here. We all hike our own hike tho. This is just the pace I can do to keep sane out here.

Day 148- Tuesday, 8/7- East Branch Lean-to, ME- (16.3 miles) (1496.7 total)

A second tough day in a row out here. Today is was the Whitetop mountain range, with 4 successively higher peaks in a row. It was a doozy, but not quite as tough as yesterday. I hiked most of the day with Rocket Man again, until his foot started hurting him too much and he decided to push on faster to get the miles over with. I gave him some Ibuprofen to help with the pain. Then I just hiked alone. Got to the 4th and highest peak and had to make a phone call to the hostel I stayed at in Monson. Because this is such a long stretch with no towns or resupply, they do food drops for us half way. I had given them my food before I left, but just needed to confirm with them that I was on pace to be at the agreed upon location on time. This shelter does their food drops a bit differently than others. They don’t just drop the food and come back the next day to pick up the empty bucket like other places do, they meet you there and carry out the bucket. So that means you need to have a pretty good estimate of the time you will arrive, since they will only wait around 30 minutes or a bit more. I had told them 12 noon based upon my usual hiking time, but after the last couple of days of hiking in this terrain, I wasn’t so sure I could make it. So I asked the people to switch the time to 2pm. The elevation flattens out a lot tomorrow, but this just felt safer. No telling what the terrain will be like. They said if I don’t arrive while they are there, then they take your food back and you would have to wait there and pay again the next day for them to return. My guess is that that was bullshit. That’s our food. I was pretty much out of food at that point and was dependent on that food drop to resupply. I don’t think they’re going to make us starve out here. I think they prefer to hand it to you and take the bucket back. This is more in line with the “leave no trace” philosophy. I’m guessing they will leave it if I’m not there on time. But, no sense in risking it to find out. I’m gonna push hard early tomorrow morning to get there on time.

The other thing I asked them to send out with the food drop was my other pair of hiking shoes. I bought a new waterproof mid cut pair in NYC with Jack and I was excited about them. More ankle support. But I forgot about the reason I didn’t buy them in the first place when I started the hike. I had tendinitis in my Achilles before I left, and that mid cut hits right on the bad spot when I walk. Well, I have been stretching my Achilles like crazy out here and it has gotten way better as a result, so I forgot about it pretty much. But the first day out with these new boots, my Achilles flared up again and has been sore ever since. I can’t guarantee that it’s the shoes, but that’s my best guess. I had left my low top pair in their hiker box at the shelter when I left, so someone else could have them, but luckily no one grabbed them and they will bring them back to me tomorrow. I’m hoping that helps and my Achilles calms down again.

I met up with Rocket Man at the shelter tonight. His foot is hurting him pretty bad. His solution is to push 2 25-mile days in a row, then climb Katahdin, just to get it done sooner and then rest. I advised him to take it slower and go easier on the foot, but he seemed bound and determined to push it. 18 years old. I wish him the best and hope he can finish. He’s so tantalizingly close!

Day 149- Wednesday, 8/8- Antler’s Campsite, ME- (16.1 miles) (1512.8 total)

Passed my 1500 mile mark today. Nice round number and feels like a good chunk. Still 700 to go tho. I got up super early and left at 6am to make sure I made it to this food drop on time. 1 small mountain to go over (the peak turned out to be my 1500 exactly) but nothing at all like the past 2 days, then a mostly super flat and easy trail the rest of the way. I was pushing and making very good time. So of course I make it to the roadway by 12 noon, my original time that we had set before I changed it to 2pm. Well, better safe than sorry. I laid out my sleeping pad and chilled a bit, dozing off some, then had lunch. I also took the time to catch up on the past few days of journal writing. Usually I write every night before bed, but the past few days have been so killer and we have gotten to camp so late, that I just needed to rush to get to bed and get as much sleep as possible before the next early morning. The girl showed up at 2:15 with my food and my shoes. My Achilles immediately felt better upon putting those on, so I’m hopeful that was the problem. It’s pretty sore right now as I write this, but hopefully it will start calming down now.

Day 150- Thursday, 8/9- White House Landing- (6.1 miles) (1518.9 total)

I discovered something new on the trail a couple of days ago. “No-see-ums.” I had heard about them before, but got some first hand experience with them. They are a kind of tiny gnat, so small that they can get through screens. That’s why most tents have no-see-um netting that is tiny enough to keep them out. The other night when we got in to camp so late, I had to cook dinner next to my tent in the dark using my flashlight. I had the red light on so as not to disturb other campers who were already in bed. It was warm so I just put on a pair of shorts and sat down to cook. I thought I felt something on my legs, but when I shined the light I didn’t see anything, so I thought it was just my imagination. Well in the morning I found out it wasn’t. My feet and ankles are now covered with about a million bites, and they ITCH!!! Driving me crazy. Since then I wear socks and pants when I go out to cook. Lesson learned the hard way.

Found out a couple of days ago about this place called Whitehouse Landing, a hostel in the middle of the 100 Mile Wilderness where I am staying tonight. You have to hike to this boat landing and call them and they come pick you up. The lake is huge and gorgeous and the speedboat ride to their place was super fun! So nice to move so fast and so smoothly after all the hiking, especially with the amazing view. Their property is on a hillside overlooking the lake. They have a front porch with rocking chairs to chill out on and enjoy the view. It’s run by a couple who have been here since 1992. They accommodate hikers in the summer, hunters in the fall, and snowmobilers in the winter. They are off the grid power-wise, with everything running on solar, wind power, or propane. Just an incredible spot. Hands down the nicest place I have ever stayed on the AT, by a mile. Just mind blowing. They provide breakfast and dinner, and I hear she makes an amazing pizza from scratch. They don’t usually do lunch, although I was the only one here when I arrived so she made me a couple of sandwiches. All kinds of baked goods available as well. What a perfect chill out spot. Got a hot shower, and took care of a few things online when I got here. Luckily there is a pretty good Verizon signal here, as they don’t have WiFi. Now my dilemma is whether to stay here another day as a zero, or to push on to Katahdin. This place is a rare find and that makes me want to stay. But the next 4 days are supposed to be sunny, and it will take me 4 days from here to summit Katahdin. After that some rain may be coming (although the weather report always changes as we all know), and I don’t want to climb Katahdin in the rain. It’s a lot of rock scrambling to get up there and will be more slippery when it’s wet. Plus I would miss the views. Decisions, decisions.

Day 151- Friday, 8/10- Rainbow Stream Lean-to- (15.5 miles) (1534.4 total)

Tough decision, but I finally decided to push on today and leave the amazing Whitehouse Landing. It would have been an amazing place to spend a day, but I just couldn’t see risking climbing Katahdin in the rain. Bill and Linda were excellent hosts, just extremely friendly and kind people and I had a really nice time talking with them. I definitely avoided talking any politics with them tho. Big Trump book proudly displayed on a table in the main area, and Linda was wearing a t-shirt that said “Black guns matter,” with a picture of a black AR on it. I left all that alone and we had a great time. The other funny thing tho was that they told us they had voted against the recreational marijuana legalization bill for Maine. However once it passed, they now grow their own and hand out free joints to anyone over 21 who stays there (I passed). Lol! Weird change of position. In general tho, that was probably the only place on the AT so far that I would come back specifically to stay at again. Would love to spend a week there. Perfect spot to just fully relax.

We enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, bacon, English muffin, and all you can eat fresh Maine blueberry pancakes. Only 4 of us stayed there last night, so a nice small group. One skinny guy with us could really eat tho! He kept asking the guy to bring out more platters of pancakes and made sure we all got our money’s worth. Then time to say goodbye to everyone there, including Trapper the friendly black lab, and get in to boat to head back to the trail. The wind had picked up, so what was a glassy smooth ride yesterday was pretty choppy this morning.

The elevation was pretty flat today, except for 1 1000ft. climb. Fair number of rocks and roots, but still made reasonable time. Met a couple of older local guys camping out by one of the lakes and they invited me over and gave me a soda. They had a tent set up that was the size of a house and all the bells and whistles of car camping. Another hiker, Blue Whale, and I sat a while with them and talked story. They made me miss the leisurely comforts and pace of car camping, and they had a great spot right on the lake. For a second time in a day, I was tempted to stay.

Day 152- Saturday, 8/11- Abol Pines Campground, ME- (15.1 miles) (1549.5 total)

Finished the 100 Mile Wilderness today. I’m now at the edge of Baxter State Park, where Mt. Katahdin is located. Staying at a proper campsite here with a restaurant. Had a nice burger and fries when I arrived and a huge ice cream cone. Lots of families camping around us hikers. Showers and laundry are available for a fee, but I’m so used to going multiple days without a shower now that I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. That’s more of a town thing for me so I’ll wait. I just showered yesterday morning anyways. Can’t get too clean and comfortable or I’ll lose my hard earned “hiker trash” status.

Had a real scare with my phone today. Towards the end of the day, I went to check my Guthook app and my screen wouldn’t turn on. I could tell that the phone was still on and functioning, because I could hear the camera sound when I pressed the side buttons, and Siri answered me when I activated her with the side buttons, but I couldn’t do anything touch-screen wise. My first thought was to do a hard reset which usually solves these things. But the iPhone X has no home button and I tried all manner of combinations of pushing the 3 side buttons to reset, but to no avail. I started thinking about all the important ways I use my phone out here and what it would be like without it for a while. Being way up here in the boonies of Maine, that could be several long days, especially since we have no phone service. I constantly use the Guthook app for GPS and maps. I’ve gotten un-lost a few times with it as well. My AWOL guidebook is on my phone as a PDF. The GPS emergency signal is on my phone. Calling home to check in. Calling ahead to hostels or motels in town to reserve a room. Calling to replace damaged gear. Writing this journal daily. Posting on social media sites as part of my charity fundraiser. Etc. etc. In other words, I’m screwed without my phone out here. Could potentially be dangerous not to have it. Crazy how dependent we have become on them, but the ways they assist us is amazing too.

Got to the camp and tried to plug my phone in to my power bank to see if that might jog something. Nope. Then too it over to the restaurant where they had WiFi. Figured I could use another hiker’s phone to Google how to hard reset the X. Turns out the internet is paid, super slow, and very limited in terms of data and time. But a very cool hiker who is out here to join his Dad for the Dad’s last 200 miles was kind enough to let me use his phone. It turns out to be a sequence to restart the X rather than a multiple button press like the previous phones. Press and release the up volume button, press and release the down volume button, press and hold the power button. Would never have figured that out without looking it up. And luckily it worked. Phone is back to normal. Wheeew!
Tonight is the Broncos first pre-season game. Starts in 10 minutes. Was hoping to find a good enough signal to stream it but no dice. This internet is expensive, slow, and gives very limited data. So I’ll have to avoid all internet for the next few days in order to avoid the score until I can watch it somewhere. So stoked the season is finally here!

Day 153- Sunday, 8/12- The Birches Campsite- (9.7 miles) (1559.2 total)

5 month trail anniversary today. And a pretty nice and mellow day to celebrate it as well. The campsite restaurant we ate at last night did a $10 breakfast buffet this morning so we all got to fuel up nicely to start the day. The the terrain was nice and smooth most of the day and the miles were short. Basically, we entered Baxter State Park officially right in the beginning of the hike, and hiked nearly 10 miles in to the base of Mt. Katahdin. This is where everyone stages for the summit of Katahdin tomorrow morning. It’s 5 miles to the summit from here, but we gain just over 4000 feet of elevation in that time. Nice to have a shorter and easier day today to get the legs rested for the big climb tomorrow. The good news is that we can leave our big packs at the ranger station near here in the morning and they loan us small day packs to summit with, just to carry our food and water, etc. That will be a nice feeling to shed the big pack for a day.

It’s been a trip to be sitting around this camp with a bunch of northbounders who are finishing tomorrow. Most of these guys are completing the trail in about 4 months. Incredible. These are the super humans out here. The top 5% I would say. They tell stories about doing 30-40 mile days sometimes. Hiking through the night. Crazy stuff like that. We just met some guys this evening that just came down from Katahdin today and are done. It seemed very surreal for them. They were heading home to start job hunting and figuring out where to go with their lives next. Depression is quite common for people after finishing this hike. From all accounts the transition back in to regular life is rough. I hear a lot of people say they wished they took it slower and stretched it an extra month or so, to savor the experience a bit more. I think for a lot of people out here the competitive instincts kick in along with the fear of not making it all the way or not getting it done in time, and they push really hard as a result. The results are amazing tho. I can’t imagine getting through all these miles so quickly. But we do hear stories of people afterwards wishing they did take it slower. Well, a million ways to skin a cat. We all hike our own hike. Cool to be here to witness everyone’s big moment tomorrow. My day will come.

Day 154- Monday, 8/13- Millinocket, ME- (~10 miles) (1564.5 total)

Big day today. Finally climbed Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus of the AT. I have been seeing pictures of this famous mountain and reading accounts of people climbing it for the past 3 years as I have been researching this hike, so to finally summit it was amazing! It certainly was not an easy climb. The first half wasn’t bad. Just a pretty gradual hike up the lower flank of the mountain. But once we cleared the tree line, things changed a lot and it became much more of a bouldering/climbing experience. There were sections where they had put ladder rungs and metal hand holds into the rock so that we could get up, and the drop offs were steep and really far down. Overall it was a fun climb and all the bouldering was a nice change of pace from the usual hiking. But there were definitely a couple of sections where I was a bit scared. Just awkward areas where I had to really contort my body to climb up and it felt pretty sketchy. Fortunately those were only a couple short sections, but they were areas I definitely did not want to climb back down. Up is usually a lot easier when dealing with that kind of stuff. Going down, you often can’t see below you and where to place your feet. Luckily there are several different routes up Katahdin, and many people had advised us to come down a different route. I was debating which way to come down until I went through these crazy sections, and then decided for sure to take everyone’s advice and come down the easier path.

It took me 3.5 hours to summit- about a 4000 foot elevation gain over 5 miles. The last mile really relaxed and was quite an easy walk up to the top. It was a trip being on top. That iconic sign on top where everyone stands and takes pictures was something I’ve seen a million times in photos before and along the trail, so to see it in person was very surreal. I saw a few people who were finishing get up and have their moment up there and it was pretty moving. Lots of emotion for people who had finished the entire 2200 miles. I felt really happy for them and their amazing accomplishment, especially at how fast they were able to do it. I summited with Nate and his Dad, Down East, the guys who had helped me with my phone issue 2 days before. The Dad is 60 years old and finished the trail in 3.5 months of hiking time (he took 2.5 weeks off for a family function, so 4 months total). That is amazing, especially at his age, when the average completion time is 6 months. Superman. I did feel a little envious that all of them are done and also kind of wished I could have my final moment on Katahdin on that sign. Such a special location to be done. But my time will come. I still gotta earn what they all earned. But I did still get my moment on the sign and took a few pictures. The Friends of Thai Daughters organization gave me their flag at the event, so that I could display it and take a picture on the summit of Katahdin. Those photos are posted on Facebook and Instagram. All in all, a very special time being up there.

Like I said, after coming up the sometimes sketchy Hunt trail, I took everyone’s advice and descended on the Abol trail. People said the Abol trail is way steeper, but without the scarier parts. Just as I was coming off the summit, I suddenly heard someone say, “Hey, stranger!” I look down and it was Taylor who I had hiked with in Georgia and North Carolina but hadn’t seen since. Wow! Was so cool to run into her up on Katahdin after so long! Great seeing someone from the very beginning. Taylor got off trail in NC to work in a hiker hostel for a couple of weeks, then has gotten off a couple other times for different reasons, but is still out here grinding. Like me, she had to flip flop to avoid the Oct. 15 deadline and cold weather up here. She still has to get back south to Pennsylvania where she got off and she hopes to finish in November sometime. We are all hiking our own hikes and taking our own paces out here. Just so incredible to reconnect with old people from the early days and knowing that we all are fighting the same fight.

The Abol trail was pretty much as advertised. Steep but not dangerous or scary to come down. It is shorter as well, so it saved me a good hour. Hiked part way down with a dad and his 9 year old son. The son tells me he just had an appendectomy 2 weeks ago and today was hiking Katahdin!!! Towards the bottom, Kirk- a guy I’ve been hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness with for the past few days- and Paddington caught up to me and we finished together. Paddington just finished the entire trail, and Kirk was just doing a small section in preparation for a thru hike in 2020. We hitchhiked together back to the ranger station to retrieve our packs and for Kirk to get his truck. His dad had driven his truck in for him and was supposed to be waiting for us there. But when we arrived at the truck the Dad was no where to be found. Kirk had promised us a ride to Millinocket, the closest town about 40 minutes away, so we waited with him for the dad to come back. He and his dad had texted and agreed to meet right there. After waiting for over an hour and looking around the area for him, we asked some hikers who had just come down the Hunt trail (the trail we went up). Turns out they had seen his dad 30 minutes up that trail, hanging out and waiting for Kirk to come down. He didn’t know we had come down a different trail and were waiting at the truck. So poor Kirk, with his dead legs after the big climb and descent, had to go hike 30 minutes back up to get his dad. During that time, Taylor came down and so me, her, and Paddington managed to get a ride from a lady with a mini van into town.

I was supposed to call the hostel in Milinocket from the summit of Katahdin to reserve myself a room, as I hadn’t had any service for days before then. But I forgot in all the excitement up there, and I didn’t have service again until we were almost in town. By then of course they were fully booked so I had to make a reservation here at this motel. A lot more expensive, but a nice place to stay. I hadn’t had a shower in 5 days or so, and hadn’t done laundry in 10 or more days, so I came in here smelling ripe! Finally got laundry and shower done this evening which feels great! Also, the WiFi here is pretty fast, so 2 days after the fact I could finally watch my Broncos game. They lost, but just a pre-season game so no big deal. Was just good to be able to watch them play again after 7 months of no football.

 

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