Happily Ever After The AT
I DID IT!
I mean, WE DID IT!
We summited Katahdin on Sept. 19. It was a beautiful day atmospherically and emotionally.
When chatting with folks about my recent accomplishment, there’s always someone who asks the question: “What was the best part?” For most through hikers, Katahdin is more than likely the answer because it marks the end, or completion of their nearly six-month mission.
While finishing what I set out to do feels like graduating from a crash course collegiate outdoor adventure program, saying “Yes!” to a new journey with the man I love was my favorite part.
I won’t lie. I hinted around pretty hard to Botany about how meaningful and epic a Katahdin proposal would be. But, I was still completely shocked. It was such an emotional day. I can’t count the number of times I had tears of pure joy streaming down my face. All day, I was asking myself, “Is this real life?”
I’ve been home for a week and a bit of remorse has set in. I miss trail life. I was so eager to come home as the last few weeks on the trail were winding down. Still, I knew it was going to be bittersweet. Planning the last 115 miles was exciting, yet somber. In Monson, ME, I saw hikers I had not seen since New York. It made me think about how fun it was for a fellow hiker and friend to randomly pop up along the trail when you thought they were either days behind or ahead.
But, there were only 115 miles left for that to happen. And, it didn’t happen at all throughout the Wilderness. In fact, I found new faces there. I was not upset that I wasn’t hiking to the summit with long-term trail friends. I was thankful that the trail was still offering me new friendships even this late in the game.
The most interesting part of the 100-Mile Wilderness was the food bucket scavenger hunt. We paid $25 to the Lakeshore Hostel in Monson to leave a bucket of food at a road crossing. While the directions to the secret location were quite vague, we were able to find the food drop very quickly. The honor system among through hikers was evident in this situation. It would not be hard to dip into other hikers’ food bucket since they were all hidden in the same place. But, of course, we all know what the other is going through out there. We know that bucket contains the fuel that will get that hiker through the last stretch to Katahdin.
Yeah sure, some people think it’s cheating, but I enjoyed not having seven days of food in my pack leaving Monson. Carrying less food enabled us to churn out about 20 miles a day through the Wilderness. Our calculations in Monson were that we would summit on Sept. 22. But, we pushed ourselves and made it back to Tennessee a few days earlier.
We pushed ourselves because Botany found out he potentially had a job teaching high school biology. How lucky, huh? The guy gets a job interview before he even finishes hiking the AT.
Now that we are home, the reality of everything is setting in. I’m job hunting, brainstorming on a book idea about the AT and filling up my planner with many more activities other than, “Wake up, filter water, eat breakfast, hike 20 miles, filter water, eat dinner, set up camp and go to sleep.” I’ve been driving around town with my through hiker mindset, yet no one else is on my level it seems. I’ve been cut off, tailgated and honked at repeatedly by hasty drivers. I just don’t see the need to rush life away anymore. The biggest reality check came during our travel back home. We took the bus. In total, we spent 34 hours by bus traversing the terrain that took us five months to hike.
Still, it feels like there’s no room in my life for post-trail depression because I have so much to look forward to.
I’m hoping to deliver some trail magic to southbounders coming through Tennessee this year. I’m also excited to pay all the trail magic I received forward to 2015 through hikers.
Now that Botany and I can design and organize the dispersal of our post AT cards, I realize how much we relied on the kindness of others in order to complete this journey. So, THANK YOU to everyone — family, friends, fellow hikers, trail angels and magicians (self-proclaimed or not), hostel/hotel owners, restaurant owners, the ATC, Appalachian Trials (Zach Davis) — for your support. We may have done all the leg work, but we will most cherish the memories all of you helped create.
I will use the quote on the back of my AT Passport in closing:
“Feel the spirit of those who have gone before you; Imagine those who will follow you; Appreciate those who walk with you today.”
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