5.2 miles, 40,482 steps, 430 stories climbed
2198/0.0 miles/left, 5,886,193 steps, 52,035 stories climbed
Trail Magic Moments: 79
Maria and I woke up early to the soothing sound of torrential rain. The weather had been concerning us but we heard there would be a window for hiking today and it was the only day we had.
Fortunately, the rain stopped by the time we were ready to walk over to the hostel. We boarded the shuttle and as the packs were loaded Ole Man, who runs the hostel, was commenting on the weight of all the SoBo packs. Mine was very light since I didn’t need to carry most of my stuff, just what I needed for the day. Poor SoBos….they’ll learn. I had to learn the hard way too, that we really don’t need as much as we think we do.
As we were in the shuttle, people were talking about how nervous they were and I was just a ball of excitement. We got to the park and Maria and I made our way up.
The hike starts easy enough, the first 1.5 barely has a climb and Maria and I stopped at a beautiful waterfall for a bit right before the climb started. Right after the waterfall the climb begins though.
The higher you go, the more difficult the climb becomes as you go from trail to bouldering. It goes from just putting one step in front of the other to having to take a minute to find the best path up and just how you’re going to accomplish it. The morning rain did not help matters at all either, making the Boulder nice and slippery.
Along the way a group of grizzled NoBos passed us and one of them looked at me with surprise and asked if I was Hermit. I looked closer and realized it was Tree Ninja!!! He was difficult to recognize with all the facial hair. We hadn’t seen one another since Virginia!
We spoke for a bit and then he was on his way. Maria and I made it up above the tree line and that’s when the real fun began. It was all bouldering for a while and way more difficult. It was one of the more difficult sections on the trail.
Concern for the weather and Maria’s injured ankle, which at this point was throbbing, caused her to have to turn around. I was sad to see her go and for her not to be able to summit with me but it was the smart move. Coming down is always far more painful and difficult than going up.
I then made my way up the scramble, trying to find the best way up until finally I made it to the tablelands, a flat stretch of land before the final climb up.
The tablelands are said to have rare and exotic plants but you are strictly forbidden from going of trail in search of them. At this point in the trail you’re in the alpine region and it is very difficult for plants to grow up there so, if you step on any of the plants you are doing a great deal of damage so they do what they can to keep people on the trail.
The tablelands are pretty easy and then after that is the final climb. I ran into Tree Ninja on his way down and congratulated him and hurried up ahead as there wasn’t much left and excitement was taking over.
The fog had been blocking my views most of the climb a gust of wind came through and cleared a view of a bunch of people taking pictures around a sign that I could easily recognize as the summit in the distance. It was so close.
With a huge grin on my face and a steady thumping in my chest, I bound forward up the last of the mountain. I got to the top and placed my hand on the sign officially completing my journey.
I asked for someone to take a picture of me and then sat up at the summit for a bit, eating some snacks and staring at the sign I had been seeing in my dreams for the past year or so, ever since I first decided to do this. I remembered the struggles and doubts of the first weeks, the times spent looking through my guidebook at places that seemed so far in the distance that were now in my past, the rainy, wet, cold and snowy days, the friends made along the way and all the wonderful trail angels that helped me get here.
It was all over. I didn’t want to get up but the threat of thunderstorms made me drag myself away from the summit and start my hike back down the mountain, there was someone down there I really wanted to celebrate with.
As I climbed down the fog dispersed, wisps of clouds would come and go giving me spectacular views of the valley and trail below.
I hurried down, through the tablelands and the rock scrambles and made my way back to Maria, who had been sitting waiting for me by the waterfall. The rain had started to fall by this time and we were both soaked but I don’t think either of us cared. She gave me a huge proud hug and we were both so happy.
It was great to see them all. They all congratulated me and asked me questions about the climb. More hugs and fistbumps were exchanged along with emails and real names. I wished them all luck on their summit and they wished me luck on the next adventure.
Maria and I then hitched a ride back to Millinocket (it took a bit but we did eventually get one) and then it was off to the café again to finally sign my name on a ceiling tile as a successful thru-hiker.
The journey took 140 days, some moments were rough but most were absolutely amazing. The beautiful views, being immersed in nature almost every one of those days, the sounds of the birds and their mating calls, the mountain climbs and the forest walks, the crazy challenges of Mahoosuc Notch to the easy flats of Maryland and of course the wonderful buffet at Ming’s all combined for this incredible adventure that sadly has to end but with each ending an exciting new beginning follows and this adventure is only bowing out to make room for the next one…and this time I’m making sure to drag Maria with me!!!