All of the day’s magic came from things not going as planned. Our food drop was on Jo-Mary Road at ten o’clock in the morning, only four miles from our house. I hiked only a short distance to filter water. I sat down and took in the sound of water and the light play on a mossy rocks. These are the little things I take for granted, and will soon forget.
Initialy, I was full of energy and bounded along. It started to slow down and I was tired and longing for coffee. There was a sign at Jo-Mary Road for trail magic, and it was incredible. Chili P and Laurie, a lovely couple with their dog Effie. They enjoyed coffee, corn on cob, and grilled portobello mash. We were unable to get our food delivery on time so we stayed for two hours, talking with Hypo and Sir Elton, our trail angels. The driver brought me gluten-free banana bread, made by his wife, when I arrived at the drop. I was thrilled!
My pack was heavy when we set off but my energy was high. Serendipity, Serendipity, and I talked about the excitement at finishing in three days. We also discussed things we will miss and our future plans. Many squirrels ran around the woods, ripping down pinecones. We stopped at Lower Jo-Mary Lake, where we were joined by Tracks and Hobble-It. We had snacks and then we waded out into cool water. Bumblebee appeared for the first time since Shaw’s and joined us in the lake.
I hiked all afternoon with Serendipity, Hobble-It and other friends. One point led us to the shores of Pemadumcook lakes. We saw Katahdin in distant distance. The trail then followed a wide stream to the left until it reached Nahmakanta Lake just before dusk. Dinglebeary was returning from a swim, while Tracks was there.
Our original plan was to walk 2.5 miles more. However, the morning fun gave us an excuse to start late. The lake turned out to be a better spot to camp. To escape the mosquitoes, I ate dinner in my tent. Before going to bed, I stood on the shore of the lake. The water was calm, and in the sky, the big dipper and milky way stood out.
My legs were extremely sore when I awoke. I took my sweet time packing and eating breakfast. I was not ready to leave so I went to the lakeshore to meet Dinglebeary. Tent condensation was a problem at his lakeside location. It took me a while to get my stride together once I was on the trail. However, I enjoyed the way the trail continued along the lake’s edge, twice dropping down to a gravel beach.
I hiked alone with the intention of documenting my last long day in woods. However, I had 22 miles ahead and was worried that I would not arrive before dark. The second half of the day went faster than the first, but that didn’t happen. I leapfrogged alongside Bumblebee and Sir Elton as well as Hypo.
The trail ran alongside many streams, ponds and lakes. One pond was where I filtered water. A large dragonfly flew amongst the tall grass. Later, I saw a tiny green caterpillar crawl across a rock. I loved the sound of waves lapping Rainbow Lake.
The Rainbow Ledges was the final climb. I was delighted to find countless blueberry bushes at the top. The trail was mostly made of rock slabs with dry moss at the edges. I then descended through woods dotted with yellow and orange mushrooms. I was able to get water at Hurd Brook thanks to Serendipity, Hobble-It, and Hurd Brook. They took me to our campsite by a shallow pond. I had dinner with the tramily and then set up my tent.
I heard a noise from my sleeping bag and quickly unzipped my sleeping bag to retrieve my rain fly. It was squirrels dropping pinecones and not a moose, unfortunately. Sigh. After breakfast, I sat down with Serendipity by the edge of the pond. It was quiet, though there were no moose.
Burnt Foot was my trail companion for the first 1-2 miles. I enjoyed chatting with him. While he was disappointed that I had finished, I was mostly happy. It didn’t take long to reach the end of the 100 Mile Wilderness. Tracks, Serendipity and I crossed Abol Bridge to see Katahdin’s top, which was covered in clouds. Then, we stopped at the Abol Camping Store for snacks, and then sat on the porch to enjoy a second breakfast. We were joined by Hobble-It (Dinglebeary) and Bumblebee.
We walked less than a mile to reach the Baxter State Park border. The six of us met a helpful ranger, and we checked in at the kiosk. There is a 12 person first come, first serve site for thru hikers, but we had two site reservations (made by Serendipity’s friend Brian) at Katahdin Stream Campground. It was a great idea, and the reason for our push through 100 Mile Wilderness. The last 10 miles to the campground were easy once we arrived in the park. The majority of the paths were flat and followed streams with beautiful views of waterfalls. It started to rain four miles later.
Brian, who wanted to make sure we had a smooth check-in, surprised us as he arrived at the campground. I was so pleased to see that our site had a leanto tent, which is perfect for rainy days! The five of us stayed in the tent while Rawhide, Brian, Florida Man and Bumblebee camped on the other site. It was cold so I put on my puffy and had a hot meal. Then, I made tea for Serendipity.
It continued to rain so Brian Rawhide and Florida Man came to visit. Then Bumblebee’s dad, Russ, arrived with pizza and coffee and the two of them joined us. Tracks moved the picnic tables closer for more seating. We talked about our hikes and plans for summits. Our five air mattresses all fit together side-by side when we went to sleep.
Summit day! I woke up early, my excitement keeping me awake. I listened carefully to the rushing water and watched the sky change. I woke up at six o’clock in the morning and ate breakfast, while I sort gear. Dinglebeary was able to carry his entire pack, while the rest of us had what we needed for that day in our backpacks. My sister would be proud to know that I had a lot of snacks. Tracks’s wife Barb arrived and we put our extra gear in her car.
Brian, Barb, Bumblebee and Russ formed a large group. It was a gradual climb for the first mile. Then it became steeper. Before treeline, we were climbing up boulders and using slender branches as handholds. This is typical AT. Barb and Brian eventually turned around. The trail became more enjoyable above treeline. It felt like low grade rock climbing with lots of solid rock handholds, and occasionally metal rungs. One move was where I grabbed a ladder and shoved one shoe in a crack. Then, I lifted the other shoe to press against small metal loops, then lifted myself up. The air was misty and we couldn’t see far.
After 0.7 miles of climbing, the trail flattened and we resumed our standard hiking. Soon, we met thru-hikers descending. I bumped Sir Elton and Hypo to congratulate them. I congratulated Florida Man and Rawhide at the top. The Appalachian Trail was over and I was on the top of Maine’s highest peak. It was a strange feeling to be at the conclusion of such an epic journey. Our first pictures showed a grey background. However, as we took a break, the clouds began to dissipate and revealed a sunny blue sky. Katahdin rose above the clouds, but there were gaps that showed lakes and trees. We received a second round.
I began April 11th and finished September 6th, achieving my goal of finishing in five months.
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