It felt just like any other morning. I rolled up my sleeping bag, deflated my sleeping pad, popped my contacts in my eyes, and started putting things in my pack in the same order I always did. Except this morning was different, because this was the last morning on the trail. While I knew that in 5.2 miles, I would reach the summit of Mt Katahdin, the end of the Appalachian Trail, it didn’t feel like the end was that close. Nameless and I had planned to meet our parents at the Katahdin Stream Campground parking lot near the Hunt Trail/AT around 6am. The forecast was calling for 70% chance of storms and heavy rain, especially in the afternoon, so we figured the earlier we could get started, the better. My parents were camped at Abol Campground within Baxter so they were close by and had a quick drive in the morning. If anyone reading this ever makes plans to meet a thru-hiker at the end, my parents loved that campground and it was very convenient for meeting me. Nameless’s mom had stayed in Millinocket for the night and had to wait until 6am to get into the park and drive to the trailhead. We left most of the items from our packs down at the bottom so we didn’t have to carry much up the mountain.
Shortly after 6:30am, our group of 5 started hiking. The first mile was easy and very gradual, and it was a nice warm up for the parents. Slowly the trail got steeper, and the rocks got bigger. After 3 miles, we got above tree line and the hiking turned into climbing and bouldering. Up to this point I was very patient and waited for my parents and Nameless and his mom. However, with just over 2 miles left in the entire journey, I decided that I wanted to hike the final piece at my own pace. I started the journey alone, and that’s how I wanted to end it. Even though Nameless and I hiked together for almost 4 months and 1900 miles, we set out from Georgia separately and I felt like I needed the final moments to myself. After all, the biggest mantra on the trial is “hike your own hike.” So that’s what I did. I told my parents and Nameless that I would meet them at the top. To my surprise the sky was bluer than it had been in weeks, and the sun was shining brightly. Being above tree line, views were splendid in every direction. I had heard about how hard mile 4 would be with all the exposed rocks and technical climbing, but with all the adrenaline I flew up it. Once I made it up the steepest part of the climb, I reached the Tablelands, which is a flatter area with smaller rocks. Even after 4+ months of mountains and views, I will still in awe with what I was seeing. The beauty of the outdoors really never gets old. This section was definitely one of my favorites on the trail. The final mile to the summit was very gradual, and before I knew it, there it was. The summit sign. I had seen countless photos of the sign and of other thru hikers celebrating beside it, but seeing it with my own two eyes was different. With 100 yards to go I could feel tears coming on, but I stopped for a minute and composed myself. As I got closer and closer to the top, the emotions rolled in and I started to cry (a nice gentleman took a photo, insisting I’ll want to remember those emotions). They were tears of disbelief that I had made it to the end, tears of happiness that I could finally stop walking, and tears of sadness that the most amazing adventure of my life was over. There were probably a dozen people at the summit who were out for the day, and when they heard me coming and saw the tears in my eyes, they must have known I was finishing my thru hike. Everyone stepped away from the summit sign and gave me some space. I placed both hands on the sign just under the words KATAHDIN. In that instant, I was done. For 137 days there was always more trail to hike and more mountains to climb, but suddenly there was nothing left. It was hard to accept that I had really walked there for Georgia, and that the white blazes would not continue beyond that summit. I did it. I walked 2190 miles.
After a few moments to myself, I talked with the other hikers at the summit who were eager to hear about my hike. I felt like a celebrity! I put on some extra layers since it was a bit cold at the summit with the wind, and waited for my parents, who made it to the summit about 45 minutes later. I am so proud of them for making it up such a tough climb! Seriously, that mountain is no joke, and it takes every muscle in your body to get to the top. After some celebrating, my parents started heading down the mountain via the Abol trail. This trail is 1 mile shorter than the Hunt Trail/AT and parts of it are steeper, but it doesn’t have the giant boulders so it seemed like an easier option for getting down. The Abol trailhead is about 2.5 miles from the Hunt trail parking lot where our car was, so my dad ran from the bottom of the Abol trail back to the car. I waited up top for Nameless and his mom to get to the summit. When he arrived, we took some photos and admired all the views.
It was around noon and there was still no rain or storms, but we figured we should get off the exposed summit incase any rain came. Hiking down the mountain, it still hadn’t sunk in that I was done. My parents were there with the car when I arrived. I threw on a clean shirt, got in the car, and we made our way out of the park. It was still a beautiful day, and I was so thankful that for once the weather held out. I had a lot of bad weather during my hike, but none if it mattered after a beautiful day on Katahdin. We decided to drive to Bangor for the night, and our party of 5 went out for a celebration dinner. It was a very long day, but one that I will always remember. It was the day I became a thru hiker.
It has almost been a week since my thru hike ended, and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I walked all the way from Georgia to Maine. It is such a big accomplishment that it almost feels like it was all just a dream. The swelling in my feet is starting to go down, but most of my shoes are still too small. Half of my clothes don’t fit anymore, and my tan lines look more obvious than ever before. I am back at my parents house in Rochester, NY until I head out to Denver, CO for law school on August 3. If I can walk 2190 miles, law school should be a breeze, right? Thank you to everyone who followed along on this journey and supported me from afar. If you have a dream, big or small, go make it a reality. Like they say, a journey of 1000 miles (or 2190), begins with a single step).
Here are some stats and facts about my hike you may find interesting:
Total miles: 2190.3
Total days: 137
Days off: 14
Nights spent inside: 64 (this is unusually high)
Number of hitchhikes: 4 (this is unusually low)
Average mileage (not including days off): 18ish
Longest day: 45 miles
Favorite state: New Hampshire
Favorite section: White Mountains
Favorite mountain: Katahdin (duh)
Least favorite section: Southern Maine
Coldest day: high around 35 (in the Smokies)
Hottest day: high in the mid 90s (in NJ)
Number of bears seen: 0 (no moose either)
Weight lost: 8ish pounds
Money spent (not including gear): about $4000
I only used my knife to cut sausage and cheese
I never went more than about 36 hours without cell service
I never went more than 6 days without a shower
I went through 4 pairs of shoes
I only camped alone once (and that was by choice)
Favorite food at the end of the hike: fruit snacks
Favorite trail dinner: chili mac
Favorite hostels: Woods Hole (VA), Caratunk House (NH)
Favorite Inns/motels: Inn at Long Trail (VT), Libby House B&B (NH)
I didn’t get sick or have any serious injuries (thankfully!!)
Gear malfunctions: 1 Leki trekking pole (everything else held up great!)
Gear I sent home: winter clothes, soap
Gear I picked up: bug spray, sunscreen, spatula for cleaning my pot
5 Pieces of Advice for Future Thru-Hikers (in no particular order)
-If you want cell service, use Verizon
-Use the Guthook Guide app (uses GPS and does not require cell service)
-Be nice to day/section hikers. You were once a day/section hiker, and you will once again be a day/section hiker. They love to talk to thru-hikers!
-Don’t have a plan, and if you do, plan to deviate from it
-Take your time, it’s not a race