Day 130: Millinocket, ME to Katahdin Stream

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

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good evening AT diary,
Well it has been a long fantastic journey. Those of you that have been bearing witness know that it was also painful, rainy, difficult, dangerous, funny, and long.

Tonight I am camped out at the base of katahdin, with only a 5.2 mi journey to the top and 4000 ft in climb. It is the single greatest climb on the entire AT and it is the "final exam." therefore no celebrations yet, but rather reflections.

First, haven't even climbed up yet but Katahdin is an incredible, beautiful, looming hulk of a mountain. I've been looking at it for days, but now I'm looking UP at it. It will be exhilirating to attempt the summit tomorrow morning.

Hiked a mere 10 miles today over easy terrain. I've been hanging with Cool Tool and Freddy Rat. Their buddy is here at the campground too and let me in on their campfood. We've been sitting around and relaxing since noon.  Saw Nightcrawler coming down, they had terrible weather on the summit, but it seems to be clearing. Got info from the rangers, and everything is in place and ready to climb.

The idea of this walk (hike, trek, whatever) coming to a conclusion is something I never really planned for! I guess I never thought I'd make it this far and questions about "what'll I do next" and "what did you learn about yourself" remain to be answered. They say (cliche) that it's the journey, not the destination. True, but when the destination is a towering 4000 ft rock climb, it's also about the destination!!!

The Appalachian Trail, and the mountains along it's length, have inspired people for generations. At least I know that if I have grandkids someday they'll know I was once a young strapping capable lad. Perhaps I've inspired some of you, to do more walking, experience more of nature, or just watch an outdoors channel special. But I do know that all of
your comments, encouragement, and good vibes certainly helped me along the way. Right or wrong, when I felt down or thought about quitting, I told myself: but I can't let down my fanclub!! Your inspiration certainly helped me :)

Of course the real reason I'm out here hiking is selfish. I wanted to. I love to hike (still do even) and camp, and everything about the outdoors, nature, and the wilderness. This trip has shown me all kinds of new reasons to love it: watching a mother moose protect her calves, the momma bear wait to leave the trail until her cub was out of harms way. Watching squirrels run from me in the leaves and sound like bears, and walking past a rattlesnake that weighed more than my dog. (I judged this visually)

There is ALWAYS something new to discover about our world! I'd never seen otter, bear, porcupine, peregrine falcons, or rattlesnakes before! I'd never walked on 5-6 feet of snow. I had never slept in a wet tent, in a soaking wet sleeping bag, in soaking wet clothes before. I'd never camped on top of a bald. Never forded a river. The experiences go on and on (and I'll stop now, you can go and read the entries if you want to relive all of it!)

As the the sun sets (and the Mosquitos come out) on my last full day on the trail, an I've set up my sleeping arrangement for the last time, I know I've become comfortable in the woods. I'm not afraid of things that go bump in the night. Not afraid to sleep alone in the woods, or climb up a mountain into the blowing fog all alone. I am now a mountain man. Haha.

It has taken it's toll though! I walk the "thruhiker gimp" and have callouses in weird places. I have perpetual acne on my shoulders, lower back, and legs. My feet ache everyday. My stomache often behaves angrily. I've lost 15 lbs (that I didn't have to lose) bloodied my  
face, cut up my arms and legs, blistered my feet, been bug bitten everywhere (including THROUGH my clothes) twisted my ankles, fallen in the mud, and many other follies. But I'm still here.

My equipment has been through it too! I've used 3 pairs of shoes, 4 pairs of socks, destroyed 3 trekking poles, ripped a hole in my pants, ruined the button on my pants, broken my camera, my cell phone is failing, my sleeping mat leaks, my pack is ready to go, my first tent failed...

Yet the stuff got me here. Many have much better stories about why they are here. Recovering from cancer, injury, emotional trauma.  Recentering themselves after military service. Doing a pilgrimage, walking for charity, etc. But each and every person hiking this trail goes through a range of experiences that I'm sure none imagined before they started.

The Appalachian Trail kicks your butt and then does it over and over.  I'm sure a bunch of you are thinking "yeah that Donner he'll have no problem with Katahdin." but it's gonna teach me a lesson tomorrow too.  In short you don't set out to defeat the trail or the mountain. "it is  
not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

Tomorrow should be an emotional, thrilling, and hopefully successful day. I hope I can sleep a little! Thank you again for reading and for all the support. Can't wait to see you and share experiences in person.

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