Day 139: Monson Zero Day

Day 139. Reflection Day, more accurately.

Today was a typical town zero day, except for one thing. Everyone here was very aware of, and conscious of, it being our last town stop before finishing. There is still the town of Millinocket at the end, but when you get there your hike is over. Your thruhike is over. You are no longer a thruhiker. You are just a normal person again, day-hiking in Baxter State Park, and figuring out how to get home.

That weighs heavily on all of us out here. We still have 114.5 miles left, and at least 5 days in the woods, but the magic of the journey is coming to an end. The reality of it being behind us now all too real. We hiked up Springer Mountain, the Smoky Mountains, the Green Mountains, and the White Mountains. We traversed the Roan Highlands, Shenandoah, and Rocksylvania. We visited Fontana Dam, Hot Springs, Damascus, Harpers Ferry, Duncannon, Delaware Water Gap, Fort Montgomery, and Hanover. We crossed the Potomac, Hudson, Delaware, Connecticut and Kennebec Rivers. We walked for over 2,000 miles through 14 states.

And now we are at the end.

The destination is vey real now and the allure of this experience that we have spent weeks, months, years or lifetimes preparing for is at its conclusion. Because of that, there was a lot of chatter around the hostel today about what’s next. People booking plane tickets, scheduling job interviews, coordinating family meet ups, etc. The real world is quite literally waiting for us on the other side of this 100-mile wilderness, and there’s no avoiding the impending entrance back to our former lives. We’ll be different of course, but the rest of our world won’t have changed as much alongside us.

Because of those creeping thoughts, the typical eagerness and excitement to get moving was muted. None of us really have any reason to rush out the door and get on to the trail, and so few people did. Almost everyone took a zero day here in Monson … if for no other reason than to savor as much time in this alternate universe life we’ve been granted these past 5 months that we can. And to hold on to it for just one day longer.

We watched a movie, walked around town, ate (a lot), took naps, resupplied food, packed up gear, sat around a bonfire, and did all the normal hiker things … just a step slower than usual. Wait, what? This is my last resupply?! I better go to all 3 stores in Monson and make sure I get exactly what I want for my meals.

All that being said, we want to cross that finish line. We want to get there and triumphantly pose at the sign atop Katahdin for photos, to celebrate in Millinocket with friends, and to close out the last chapter of this book.

I’ve spent the better part of 18 years planning, outfitting and preparing for this hike. It has been the only item on my bucket list for as long as I’ve had a bucket list. I read countless books, journals, testimonials, and articles about the Appalachian Trail. I watched movies, documentaries, and YouTube channels of past hikes. I planned out every day I would have when I get out there myself, and I have now lived 95% of that dream to its fullest. I am ready to walk into the woods one final time and come out at the base of my goal. I am ready to have my amazing experience come to and end, and I am ready to finish my thruhike of the Appalachian Trail.

Side note, these thoughts may all be in my head and shared by no one else here, but I somehow doubt it’s just me…

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 2076.4
  • Start Time: 00:00
  • End Mile: 2076.4
  • End Time: 00:00
  • Miles Hiked: 0.0
  • Miles to Go: 114.5
  • Lodging: Shaw’s Hiker Hostel

8 thoughts on “Day 139: Monson Zero Day

  1. Yes, it is hard to see the end of the trail and you will thoroughly miss the life on the AT. But, just so you know, many of us will thoroughly miss hiking (vicariously) along side you through this blog. Thank you for sharing yourself and your experiences so openly and honestly with us!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sharkbait!
    Happy here,
    You took your dream and made it a reality. You can be proud of what you have done, and what few have accomplished with such precision planning and detailed organization. You are the best!
    Keep on truckin’ (for a few days)
    mom & Happy

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well said, Mike. This AT thru-hike has been, and always will be, a big part of your life… and who you are. That is and always will be, But all good things in life, usually come to and end… or a transformation… therein lies the secret! The trail has become a significant part of your life, more so than in the past. Yes, life goes on…kids and then grand-kids come along -with all that entails… but that love of the trail will hang on. I know, because I just can’t shake it. I don’t want to shake it, but things change as you get older! Ha! Let me count the ways.

    There are many trails. You can thru-hike the Long Trail in a month, the PCT in a summer, and dozens of others in any time-frame you care to choose. Then there’s the Canadian Rockies, AK and plenty of foreign destinations to hike. And then there is family, the most important facet of our lives… and friends!

    Enjoy this last week or whatever on the AT. Katahdin ain’t hard, it’s fun. Enjoy it… and give everyone a hug when you’re done… and that includes family! You’ll have to re-acclimate to ‘life off the trail,’ but I have confidence you’ll handle that well.

    I’ll soon be headed west into WY, UT and NM on what looks to be an excellent solo expedition. I just can’t give it up! One thing I ask… let me know when you visit your folks, and maybe we can get together around a fire-pit (mine if your dad dosen’t have one), enjoy some beer or whatever, and share some stories of trail life… especially your AT adventure!

    Enjoy the remaining miles, and shout loud from the top! Hope to see you soon!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey with us all along the way. And thank you for being willing to share your thoughts as you come to the end. What an exciting story you’ll have the rest of your life. Bless you as you finish this amazing feat!! . Please let me know if you’re ever back in Minnesota I would love to catch up!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Finish proud & finish strong Sharkbait! “Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that last G-D damn mountain.”
    – Jack Kerouac

    Rob & Barbara

    Liked by 1 person

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