Day 19: Nahmakanta Stream Lean To to Rainbow Spring Tentsite
I’ve been thinking a lot about sinking in to things. Just sitting and wallowing in the dirt, the hiker smell, the sounds around me, the feelings. There’s something so relaxing about giving up on keeping your feet dry and just stepping into the mud. Or laying down in the dirt and kicking your shoes off. Jumping into the lake with your dry clothes.
We set off this morning intending on hiking 21ish miles. But we stopped for a snack break (the hiker hunger had fully hit) and then we found a beach perfect for swimming.
So we hopped in. We swam. I had a VERY dramatic encounter with a deer fly that lead to me running and screaming down the rock beach and then violently sitting in the water and splashing my head to keep him at bay.
After the deer fly let me escape, we laid on the rock beach in the sun. We talked some. We dozed a little. Beetle and Friendly Ghost and Gandalf eventually arrived. We convinced Beetle to take a quick swim and then eventually we all pushed on.
We sat at an overlook for lunch. We talked to Gandalf about the feelings and thoughts we had about finishing. How hiking had changed him. What would come next.
We decided to stop a little early to tent with Beetle and Friendly Ghost. We grabbed our tent sites and got set up, luckily before a horde of teenagers arrived on a group trip. I built a fire and we ate dinner, talking about all sorts of things. It was a very good night.
We got ready for bed, but FD and I got caught up with some of the campers talking about hiking. They’re writing about us in their group journal! It’s so funny, to be “the AT hikers.” One kid said he thought we looked like we were in our early 20s. Bless him.
The loons are calling to each other on the lake. The Danes are discussing their day (I think; they’re speaking danish so I really don’t know). FD is snacking in his tent, I think. And I am lying in my tent, resting my bones and smiling about the day. I feel excited and peaceful all at once. Tomorrow I will finish the hundred mile wilderness.
MVP: dinner (all of it)
LVP: DEER FLIES WHY ARE THEY SO SPITEFUL
Day 20: rainbow springs Tentsite to Katahdin Stream Lean To 8
I woke up to birds. My favorite way to wake up! We packed and sorted and all gathered by the fire pit to make breakfast. We spoke quietly, as the camping teens were all still asleep.
(I take a picture every morning so I can tell when a day starts/stops for uploading pictures to my blog. Some days are… more flattering than others. Oh well!)
Beetle and Friendly Ghost left first, and we made plans to meet for lunch at Abol Bridge.
FD and I left only after a MAGNIFICENT performance by the loons. Truly incredible!
We stopped to watch two woodpeckers do their work. They were so unconcerned with us! The male was harder to spot but the female was just right in front of us.
Before we knew it we were at Rainbow Ledges. I literally said, “I know this is too easy to be the climb to rainbow ledges but I wish it were.” And it was.
I found blueberries!
We saw Katahdin again. It’s so close and so big!
A quick stop at a Lean-to with the old “baseball bat” floors. In the early 60s and 70s, the first hikers of the season would gather spruce and fir boughs and line the floors. Other hikers would freshen it up, but that gave them a soft floor to sleep on. There are too many hikers to do that now, so we just suffer on hard, flat, smelly floors.
Almost before I knew it we were at the end of the hundred mile wilderness. We raced to Abol Bridge.
I have no pictures from lunch. We were too busy eating and chatting with Friendly Ghost and Beetle. I will miss them so much!
I grabbed a cone (blueberry and fly fishing fudge) and off we went for the last few miles into Baxter. (The cone is almost half eaten at the point this picture was taken.)
It was suddenly so close. The last few miles felt forever long and startlingly quick at the same time.
We stopped to watch a giant beaver swimming in front of us. He was so big!
We slipped into camp and registered at the ranger office. We dropped our packs off at our Lean-to and went to find MuddyFeet and Safety Chute and Mr P. They were at a nearby site with a spaghetti dinner to share! It was delicious.
And now FD and I are listening to the stream (no birds here) and I’m stewing on the climb tomorrow. I’m nervous about it. Will I be embarrassingly slow? Will my socks manage to stay knit long enough? (There is already one hole and likely two more tomorrow.) Will the scrambles be hard? Will the summit be crowded? Will I have to descend in the rain?
I don’t know. But I do know that I’ll climb up that mountain tomorrow and come back down. I’ll have completed the entire Appalachian Trail. And then I’ll be heading home to see my family.
Plus I owe my younger sister quite a bit of money for taking care of my cat and sending me packages!
MVP: lunch. All of it!
LVP: these deer flies are stalking me and a mosquito bit me on top of an existing mosquito bite. Also, I smell so bad.
Day 21: Katahdin
I set an alarm last night. And good thing, too! Walking this much makes you tired.
We woke up and had coffee then set out for the Hunt trail up to Katahdin.
The trail starts off nice enough, but quickly turns into a scramble.
The scrambling was actually kind of fun for a while. Going up is better than going down, for sure.
We took a break at the Hunt Spur, a brief flat bit that lets you recover a little bit.
And then it was the last ridge walk up to the summit.
We ran into some friends on the way up — Gandalf, DayGlo, No Break, Mr P, Safety Chute, Muddyfeet… I loved seeing friends during that last little walk! They kept telling us we were so close, and then finally… we were.
We sat and ate for a bit, taking time to sing Beetle “happy birthday.”
And then the Abol trail back down. This trail is shorter than Hunt. It starts with a long scramble over an old avalanche slide. Lots of sitting and scooting. I eventually ended up crab walking a lot of it.
We finally got back into the tree line (after 3 coats of sunscreen for me!). The flat was nice but my knees and feet were just shot.
We got a hitch back into Katahdin Stream to pick up the rest of our gear from the ranger office. We sat and chatted with DayGlo and No Break for a bit, then walked out to try to get a hitch to Millinocket. We eventually got a ride to a gas station a few miles from town, stopped in to say hi to Poncho and grab snacks, then got another hitch to town (from an old Maine couple — the husband sounded like he could have hosted Car Talk).
Checked-in, showered, and in clean clothes, we grabbed dinner, walked to the pharmacy, got more ice cream for me, and then, as we were walking upstairs to go to sleep, we found Beetle and Friendly Ghost!! They’d checked the weather and made a quick decision to summit today instead of tomorrow and managed to get up and down Katahdin super fast. A great birthday for Beetle!! We went to dinner with them and enjoyed more time with our friends.
Sunday morning we grabbed breakfast with Beetle and Friendly Ghost. When I first woke up, my first thought was, “oh no. I have to climb Katahdin today.” And then later, “wait. I’ve already climbed it. I have to go down it.” It took a while to sink in that I was just… done. I’ve done it all. After 3.5 years, there’s no part of the AT I haven’t walked. I’ve been to all the big hostels. I’ve swam in streams and ponds. I’ve hiked in snow and tornadoes. I don’t even know what’s next (jk, of course I have a plan for next year). It’s such a weird feeling.
Our room at the AT Lodge in Millinocket is the same room where Earl Shaffer stayed once. He was the very first person to thru-hike the AT, and they still have his old VW bus (the original #wanderlust Instagram influencer). This poem of his was framed in our room:
Hiking the trail has meant so much to be. Being able to finish it has meant even more. I am so grateful for all of the love and encouragement from you, my friends, while I’ve fallen in beaver bogs, injured myself way too many times, felt the deep grief of having eaten all of my good food when I’m still 3 days out of town, been lonely and sad, too hot to sleep, too cold to get up, and too sore to do more than hobble in the morning.
I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my AT life. I suspect it’ll be a while before I write here again, but I’ll be back eventually, with new shoes, new trail, new stories, and new typos.
I love you all! Thank you for being with me. Happy trails!
Trip Total: 319.4 (+ the 5.2 back down Katahdin)
MVP: that SIGN
LVP: none. I am grateful for the time, eager to be with my family and at work, glad to feel the pain and soreness from working hard, and lucky my shoes survived enough to get me back down the mountain (they are now in the trash).