Day 131: Katahdin Stream to Katahdin

Trip Start Mar 15, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Friday, July 23, 2010

Hope everyone is doing well and ready to enjoy (or ignore) the majority of my final blog. I'll try not to be too long winded, but remember you don't have to waste your time reading these anymore! To those that have been following along, congrats on making it all the way through. Reading my error-prone and sometimes boring entries takes it's own skill and determination. Ok maybe not quite like hiking the whole AT, but a feat nonetheless.

So as you may have guessed, I successfully completed my journey today by summiting Katahdin, highest mountain in Maine at about 5200 ft. It feels weird, but mostly hasn't sunk in yet.

We woke up much too soon after bedtime (4:20 AM) to a beautiful clear sky and cool crisp air. A perfect day to climb a mountain. Many AT hikers would be disgusted to know that I had near perfect weather in the Smokies, the Whites, and Katahdin. I can't adequately convey the
LUCK in this. Remember that just yesterday Nightcrawler summited in total fog, high winds, and blowing rain/sleet. All I can complain about (and complain I will) is my sunburn!!!

Took a few minutes to roll out of camp and drop some things with Cool Tool's friend who offered storage space in his car. We are registered at the trailhead by 5:15. From this point we follow the Katahdin Steam about a mile up to the Katahdin Stream Falls. Really picturesque set
of jetting falls that defied photography. Ah well, none of this stuff can ever be truly captured.

The trail continues to be relatively smooth until nearing treeline where some creative maneuvers are required to hoist myself up. By this time I've gone ahead of the others. You've gotta HYOH and keeping up my momentum meant a faster pace.

Above treeline I ran into a girl who had started up much earlier and was toting an interesting companion: her cello! She had planned to play at the summit (how cool!) but the high winds on the exposed rock were nearly throwing her (and me a few minutes later) off the cliff.  Cool idea and I heard from the others that she did play below treeline, filling the forest and mountain air with the haunting music of Bach cello. I was reminded of climbing 'la Campana' in Chile where a guy was playing a tin whistle type flute high up on the slopes.

The trail ascends on the west flank so most of the climb is in the early morning shadows, a chilly couple miles until cresting the ridge to the warm rays of morning sun. This spot marks the beginning of the "table lands" a large plateau near the top of the mountain. (you could fit a football stadium up there) In the distance about a mile away you can see the summit and at times, the glint of reflected light off of the famous and all important sign.

That last mile is a path of memories and emotions. At times I felt like I would get choked up but mostly it was feelings of exhuberance... I found myself laughing and grinning uncontrolably! The last climb completed, I followed the final couple white blazes and ignoring a young couple sitting near the sign (how dare they infringe on MY moment!!) I collapse into the sign, hugging it and resting my weary body against it's comforting letters. KATAHDIN: Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail. I did it!

The bottom of the sign proudly and ridiculously proclaims the distance to Springer mtn, GA at 2178 miles. (this year we had to walk 2179.1) The distance seems inpossible, but somehow it isn't. One step at a time you can get anywhere. (as someone once said, anything is within walking distance if you've got the time)

Since the day is picture perfect there is no need to rush! I unpack my lunch (it's around 9:30 by now) and eat my bag of Cheetos. I had saved this favorite snack food for a certain special occasion and reveled in the delight of licking cheeto cheese off my dirty mountain fingers. I guess I've earned it!

The others are 30- 40 minutes behind and I wait to commence the festivities. I packed up a bottle of sparkling cider (Cool Tool doesn't drink and I don't want to consume alcohol before hiking down)  We stand on the sign, take pictures and then spray celebratory cider foam all over. (I'll claim that the stickiness helped me cling to the rocks later )

Great to receive heartfelt congratulations and expressions of awe from day hikers gathering around the summit by now as well. I guess this is my ten minutes of fame and it's fun. This day is perfect and the mountain is incredible. Makes me wonder how SOBOs will react upon
reaching the totally nondescript summit of Springer.

Katahdin by comparison is a beast. (in the east anyway) Rough granite faces and sharp cliffs make it seem more like the Alps or Rockies than the Appalachians. The views are amazing.  Looking back on the trail I can make out a far as the Bigelows (over 70 mi) and all the lakes we've passed.

Beyond the summit is the "Knife's Edge" which is a narrow ridge extending from Baxter Peak to South Peak and then down to Pamola Peak.  After enjoying a couple hours at the summit I leave to traverse this gnarly knife. As I set out on a new chapter in life (no more white blazes) I don't really feel any emotional let down... Maybe because my heart is pounding adrenaline in preparation for the knife's edge.

So this edge is as narrow as a few feet across in places and with drops of 2000-3000 feet on either side you don't want to attempt on a windy day or if you're afraid of heights. It's only a mile long but it takes over an hour. There are only two really dicey spots. One involves hugging a rock wall (but with good hand and foot holds) and skirting a minor peak with a 1000 foot straight drop just inches away!

The second is at Chimney Peak where you descend straight down with very dificult footing (as in zero) and a good 30 foot drop below. This is the only spot where the pack really gets in the way, but I managed.

The views along the way are amazing and the experience is worth the effort. Most hikers go back down the AT to the campground where they left their packs, but I heard this hike was much better.

After the 4 mile descent (including the Helon Taylor trail) I am at Roaring Brook campsite on the other side of the mountain. I approach some people and manage to comandeer a ride to Millinocket (20 mi) with mom-daughter hiking pair from Maine. Weird to be in the car with strangers for so long especially when you are worried about stinking up their car. They were really nice and we had a good conversation before they dropped me right off at the town center.

I stop in at the hostel to claim a bag of things and also happen upon "Lil Buddha" a guy who is hiking from Key West to Newfoundland. (yeah I'm a slacker...) Cool Tool and Freddy Rat arrives minutes later and then are kind enough to drop me off at a hotel up the hill where I get a room for my roadtripping family.

They arrive at 10:30 from NYC and nasty traffic. Great to see them and we'll pick up my dad tomorrow.

Thus concludes my Appalachian Trail adventure. I was going to do some further reflections, but I think we've all had enough of my long winded blogging. I might add a follow-up or something later on. For now though, it's vacation time. You can rest easy knowing I'll be relaxing in one of the most beautiful places in the world and also one of the most relaxing.

Thanks everyone for paying attention to my trip. I want to remind y'all that I do have a whole bunch of pictures that I'll be posting when I get the chance (1-2 weeks?) and you can look forward to putting images to the words.

Hope that all is well with you. Back to civilization. If I see you in the next months, feel free to remind me to eat with utensils, use the facilites indoors, wear deoderant, and wear clean clothes. Itll take some adjusting!

Donner signing off
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Robert, loved hearing about the final days on the trail. Grandma, Aunt Ruth, & I enjoyed every minute of your adventure through your eyes & FEET! Thanks for taking us along! Now I'm sure you won't get irritated if I say one more time, "congratulations," and also breath a sigh of relief you remain in one piece and not splattered on a mountain somewhere. Have a wonderful vacation--you deserve to rest, rest, rest! Know the whole family is enjoying these days together.

Karen James Kerekes on

Rob, I just had a chance to read your final entry, Congrats to you on your accomplishment. You should be so proud of yourself. I really enjoyed following along on your journey. That part of the country is so beautiful, I'm sure you will forever remember this journey. I'm sure you Mom is glad you are finally finished and she can hug you again, I know I would be.

Tom Gale on

Rob, Congrats! Enjoyed reading your comments on your hike. One day I hope to make that journey. Thanks for the detail/pictures you have shared. Two friends, Spokes and Recurve hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago (they are on

Frankie The Sleeper on

Well you did it my friend. I am honored to have shared some of the Trail with you and the others. I have followed your hike and must admit not a day has pasted since I left the Trail that I have not thought about it. The Trail really draws on your soul and gets into your blood. I will return someday. I had no way of knowing at the time but life was going to provide me with other opportunities that would have called me away from the trail very soon, so I'm glad that God gave me peace to leave it on my own terms before these other things came my way. I have been to Africa on a misson trip, have spent time with family that I may never see again because of their ages, was called away for miliary responsibilites, and have done a lot of soul searching as well. This just wasn't my year to become a thru-hiker. It was your year for sure. Congratulation Donner. Take care, and we'll see you up the Trail.

Ridley & Panther on

Don't know if you remember us from wayyy back in TN hiking with you, Roughin' It and Aikido Jo....anyway, you were so speedy we never would have caught you. We summited last Wednesday and it was perfect! We were like with you, with great weather in the Smokies, Whites (well, except one day) and Katahdin. Will rummage through your journal!

Cool Tool on

What a day that was!

Cool Tool on

By the way, the last piece of candy I've put in my mouth is the Snicker's bar I ate at the top - along with that wonderful sparkling cider.

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