Monday, September 3, 2012

Big K

Is it really over? I really don't live in the woods anymore? I'm really going home?!
I have so many thoughts and feelings it will take awhile for me to sort all of them.
I left Monsoon on Tuesday and began the 100 Mile Wilderness. The day began wet, rain had been falling over night but the clouds appeared to be breaking up rapidly though. Five of us hikers got a shuttle to the nearby trail head. There was a lot of excitement everyone felt the end coming, felt the end of the Trail looming closer. Funny how spilt the mentality was, everyone was ready to be done, but half the hikers wanted to speed up and half wanted to slow down.
I was dropped off with: Tex, Craisin, Rebound, and Ranger. We stuck together for a bit, I passed them, later all but Tex passed me later. I was feeling real good, especially after the Trail dried out and the sun came out. The trail was a bit rooty and slippery, but I faired well and only had one minor fall on wet rock. Falling is always scary, it happens so fast and you have no idea if you are about to be in a world of hurt!
I did 19 miles the first day and made it to a windy cold campsite, Cloud Lake Leanto. I woke up early with plans to go as far as I could go! I came down out of the Barren Chairback range to a road crossing. I didn't know what my pace was going to be so I had a food drop hidden in a bucket here, I picked up the four additional days worth of food and headed up Gulf Hagas Mountain. Over the four peaks I headed, up the nice trail and well made steps. The Maine AT Club does a very good job on some portions, the amount of stone steps is incredible! On top of White Cap Mountain, as the sun was setting, I got my first good look at Katahdin. Still so far away, but so close. I stood staring feeling mixed emotions, relief that I was coming to the this hike, but with sixty miles left I also felt a large stirring of determination to get there! After 24 miles I got to Logan Brook Leanto and setup camp for one of the last times... I was very aware of the trip winding down, I would sometimes just pause and look around, trying to capture these memories, to imprint these last days. The days had been pleasant, the miles easy, I was feeling good and really enjoying myself, maybe because I knew I would be home shortly?
The following day the Trail left the mountains and crossed rolling hills and winded around lakes for the next 50 miles. I did 27 miles and camped next to a river. I skipped over going to the famous White House Landing, not needing a night in a hostel!
There were several good views of Big K, but mostly I was hiking through beautiful Maine flat land, over roots and rocks with sections of pine carpet floor. Another 25 mile day got me within 3 to the end of the wilderness! I shared Hurd Brook with an older guy, we sat and chatted for a long time, he was doing a long section hike with the intention of summitting the same day. The next morning the three miles to Abol Bridge went very quickly, in time for coffee! I had gotten a text to my parents letting them know I would be at Abol around lunch, not having cell signal I decided to wait to see if they were in the area. Also a good time to eat burgers and ice cream! I sat and chatted with the hikers there and a Trail Angel, the view of Katahdin from Abol bridge is spectacular! Can't wait to be able to upload pictures! After awhile Craisin, Ranger, and Rebound showed up just as I was about to leave. I was glad that I was going to be summitting with them - good guys! Into a wonderful warm periwinkle-blue skyed day I strode; the last nine miles followed a river into Baxter State Park, waterfalls and rapids making watery music. What a perfect day! I got in to The Birches, a long distance hikers campsite, late in the afternoon. I set up my tent and hammock one last time. I cooked dinner one last time, treated water, and readied myself for the next morning. A bit after dark another Trail Angel showed up in camp: with a cake! Thanks Jonathan! I set my alarm and woke easily and full of excitement at 4:45. I packed up and ate and headed down to the ranger cabin. Dropping off my full pack and taking a day pack I truly became a day hiker, my backpacking days of this trip were over! I got to the trail head and saw that a group of ten started the trail before me, I was imagining a mobbed summit - but I've been hiking for nearly give months, I can beat them up the mountain. The first couple miles of the trail to the top were great, following Katahdin Creek. The trail began to get steeper, and I soon passed the group of ten. Right at tree line Craisin caught up and we walked the rest of the way up... actually a lot of it was climbing! Up boulders and rock faces, along a incredible rock ridgeline to the tablelands. The wind blew chilly and I had to put a few more layers on. The last 2 miles was spread out before me, the summit still hidden. At last the top came into view! The celebration began in earnest! The sign I never really believed I'd see, I was now standing on it! Ranger and Rebound showed up quickly and we all congratulated each other, they spewed champagne all over. I got a bit of signal and got to talk to Cara for a few minutes! After pictures and lots of smiles we headed off the mountain. And that was it -the end of the trip, the summer of hiking over! An amazing trip, filled with pain and exhaustion, frustration and hunger. It was great at times and the most challenging task I ever committed to. There were good views, awesome weather, and fun people. At times I never thought I would ever get to the end, at times I wanted to quit more than anything. Next - going back and doing the Whites! So I am done hiking this Trail for now, but I'm not complete with this Trail. Am I happy that I have trail left undone, a reason to come back and do small sections? YES! I am very happy that I'm going home now, and I never want to be gone from home for that long again!