August 12, 2013
Today’s mileage: 15.0
Total mileage: 2170.8
I didn’t sleep well last night even though we put in a long day of hiking. I don’t think it mattered how tired I was last night, my mind was racing. With the last day of our thru-hike fast approaching, all I can think about is the excitement of finishing, but also the sudden onset of normal life. There’s going to be a lot happening in the next few days. I’m ready for our summit day to arrive, but I’m also sad that our journey will be ending. It’s no wonder I couldn’t sleep. There’s a lot to think about.
We got going around 8:00 this morning and enjoyed an easy and short day of hiking. We made good time on the flat terrain. The rocks and roots are so normal to us now, that we don’t even think about stepping over and around them. Our only climb of the day was up to Rainbow Ledges. We were greeted at the sign by two Sam Adams from Sherpa, our fellow Bucksportian and ’03 thru-hiker. We cracked those cans open as we sat on the ledges overlooking Katahdin, sipping the foam around the edges before taking that first, cool sip of beer. It felt like the beginning of a few days of celebrating as we finish our hike.
Katahdin looked absolutely perfect from our viewpoint. Its rocky summit shone brightly in the sunlight as it towered in front of us, framed between the trees of Rainbow Ledges. We just stared at the majestic beauty as we drank our beers. We intended on taking a short break there, but it was worth spending an hour there at least. Thank you so much, Sherpa and Rita for the beers and message in the Hurd Brook Lean-To! Sounds like we just missed you guys.
We stopped a couple of miles later at the lean-to to check the logbook and see when hikers ahead of us had summited. A SOBO couple had just left to hang out by the brook and had left their gear in a huge pile in the shelter. Not that we minded, but it was interesting to get a look at all of their fresh gear, brand new and clean. We could look at everything that they had and immediately knew what they would and wouldn’t need. Chair? Send it home. Lantern? Don’t need it. Walkie talkies? Really?! I will admit that they had a good bear-bagging technique, but a bit unnecessary in the middle of the day. I mean, we didn’t have any of those luxury items when we started, but it was a bit of a rewind to the past and got me thinking about Miles and I starting at Springer five months ago with all of our new gear. Our packs had not a speck of dirt, our sleeping pads were shiny new, and our clothes smelled so fresh and so clean. Not to mention that we had no backpacking experience with over 2,000 miles of trail in front of us. We were the inexperienced once too. The important thing to remember as a thru-hiker who has made it this far is not to forget your humble beginnings at Springer. Too many times have we ran into know-it-all hikers, some who were inexperienced just like us only a few months ago. We certainly have a knowledge that we didn’t have previously, but how we choose to share, or not share, our experiences makes all the difference. It’s amazing to think how much our lives have changed in only a few months. Seeing all of the fresh, clean gear in that lean-to today really made me realize that. I can’t say that we’re the same two people that started the AT in March. The trail has formed and re-formed us over and over again.
We cruised for the last few miles of the day to the Golden Road. Up ahead, we could see Abol Bridge, a small bridge that crosses over the Penobscot. We were officially out of the 100-Mile Wilderness! We couldn’t believe that we only saw two NOBO thru-hikers over the six days that we were in the Wilderness. Dundee and Whiteout were the only two we saw as we passed them at lean-tos on the rainy day. As we crossed the Penobscot, there it was on our left. Katahdin. Rising massively before us, it was a sight to see on such a beautiful day. I was in awe not only because of the view, but because I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t remember hearing people talk about how amazing the walk over Abol Bridge was. Now I know what you mean, Sit-a-Bit. Wow.
We bought a cold drink and a snack at the campground store and then went across the road to the Abol Pines campground. It’s a Monday night and we knew no one was going to be around, so we set up our tent in one of the two lean-tos that are on the campground. We ate burgers and beer by the river at our own, personal picnic table. As I write this, I’m looking out at the moonlit Penobscot, where Miles and Hooker are talking at the picnic table. The moon is a sliver in the dark sky, but it shines brightly down upon us.
Only one more night out here. Only 15.1 miles left. Am I ready for this thing to end?