Day 144: Katahdin Peak

Day 144. I awoke at 5am and rushed to pack up my gear. The last weather update we saw showed rain around 10am, but looking up from my hammock, the sun was out and crystal clear blue skies surrounded it. It was only 8 miles to Abol Bridge where Honey and Moon’s parents would be waiting for us, with Subway sandwiches and forecast updates in hand.

I was the last one to leave the campsite, but was still on the trail by 5:45. I speed hiked (sped hiked?) those 8 miles to Abol Bridge, hoping that a fast walk could mean a possible summit today. When I arrived, the group was all there and they quickly agreed with the thoughts running through my head … we were headed for Katahdin. Today. Now.

We now knew that the latest forecast showed rain starting around 2pm, continuing all night and into the late afternoon tomorrow. Abol Bridge marks the end of the 100-Mile Wilderness, but there are still 10 miles to hike from there to the base of Katahdin in Baxter State Park.

Unfortunately, it was already 10am and Park Rangers require all hikers starting a summit climb to begin prior to 12pm in July, so it was either now or in the rain tomorrow. That timeline was simply too tight; and they have strict rules like this for a reason, as it’s very strenuous and time consuming to climb Katahdin, even for a thruhiker. We all agreed it was important (and significantly smarter, safety speaking) to hike in the sun while we had it … so that was that.

Side note, the 10 miles we missed will be a footnote post tomorrow. This is my summit post, my hike conclusion post, but tomorrow I’ll hike those 10 flat miles in the rain and make my northern terminus official.

After our massive food binge, Honey and Moon’s parents drove all 9 of us in their Yukon to the Baxter State Park Ranger Station. I checked in as northbound hiker #151 and then started the 4.5 mile ascent to Katahdin’s 5,200 foot summit.

It could not have been more perfect.

The climb up was tough as nails though. The official Appalachian Trail white blazes require you to take the Hunt Trail up, but you can take any trail down after that … since technically your thruhike is over. And the Hunt Trail is a BEAST. In all honestly, I can not recommend this trail to any casual day-hiker. It is incredibly steep, with severely tall steps over house-sized boulders, and scrambling up a sheer rock cliff called The Gateway for 2 miles. After this it calms down significantly, but that 2 mile stretch is no joke. Ok fine, it’s doable for casual hikers, but call your insurance agent to re-up your polices first.

And let me be clear, it would be deadly if wet. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT attempt to hike the Hunt Trail in the rain. Choosing to hike up today in the sun was the smartest decision I’ve made these past 5 months.

All that being said though, I loved it. We left most of our gear at the bottom, and scaling those boulders without any weight on my shoulders was like walking on air. I felt like a superhero learning how to use his powers for the first time, as I sprung from foothold to foothold with balance and ease. After 2 hours of scrambling, I finally reached the base of the summit and a much needed rest. After that, it was just a smooth 1 mile slow climb up to the official summit and sign.

It’s hard to describe this last mile to someone who didn’t walk 2,189 miles to reach it. But let me try and explain what went through my head …

I walked this mile alone, letting silence spread my emotions out over the canvas of the panoramic mountain landscape ahead of me. Each step was like a thundering drum beat in my heart, parading me to this dream-like place I envisioned for so long. Everything I experienced these past 5 months rushed through me in waves of memories as I watched the sign get closer and closer. Theme songs of my life echoed between my ears, like my own personal documentary was being filmed before my eyes. I was surrounded by people, but fully wrapped in a bubble of personal solitude. I walked alone, but not lonely.

And then, just like that, I was there. The giant brown sign beckoned me to it, looking immeasurably more real than the thousands of photos I’d seen before. I walked up to the sign and pressed my hand to it. I laid my forehead upon it, I exhaled a deep long-held breath … and I smiled. I didn’t cry, I didn’t scream, I just smiled. As the weight of 18 years of daydreams rushed over me in a single moment, I felt entirely fulfilled.

A day hiker asked if I would take his photo for him. I politely said no, not until he took 937 of me first. I wasn’t trying to be rude … but this was my moment. He reluctantly agreed and I posed in every way possible atop that famous brown sign. Then I waited for the rest of the group to arrive, watching them experience their individual emotional moments as well: Traveler, Honey, Moon, Candy, Ben, Rose, Willow and Charley Horse. We took more individual photos, then group photos, then goofy photos.

And then it was over.

We climbed back down the other side of Katahdin via the Saddleback Trail as it started to rain. This descent was not as bad after the first mile, and we soon found ourselves at the bottom, where the cars met us again with more celebratory snacks and sodas. We drive into Millinocket, had a BIG dinner, and then crawled across the street to the AT Lodge hostel. As I lie in bed writing this, I am physically and emotionally drained … but I am still smiling.

Thank you all for following me along my journey! Your reading of my blog motivated me in ways I could never tell you. Each hit, each comment, each like … they were fuel for me to keep going every single day.

I will post a few more times while I finish up today’s missed miles and finally get 3 weeks of late videos uploaded. In addition, I’ll write some more reflective pieces on gear, planning, food, and hiking this epic trail in the coming weeks as well. And I still have some “epilogue” posts to publish when I go back and finish that section of NJ/NY.

Also! I do want to turn this story into a book, and plan to do so this fall. If you’d like to see that happen, please share with me via comments or email which stories, characters, and moments you liked best! I want it to be a fun adventurous read, similar to the one that started this crazy idea for me so long ago. So, what do you think would best inspire others to enjoy my tale?

Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)!

  • Start Mile: 2168.0
  • Start Time: 05:45
  • End Mile: 2190.9
  • End Time: 14:15
  • Miles Hiked: 22.9 (-9.9)
  • Miles to Go: 0
  • Lodging: AT Lodge (Millinocket, ME)

61 thoughts on “Day 144: Katahdin Peak

  1. “And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
    Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
    you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

    This was an 18 year hike. The 2,189 miles were the finish line. Proud of you. Congratulations.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. AMAZING, my brother. I can only imagine the swell of emotions as you hiked the Hunt and finally came within eyesight of the giant brown sign. Can’t wait to sit with you over a beer or three and rehash moments from the journey. MAZEL TOV.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mike
    It’s Aunt Amy
    I read your blog every night before I go to sleep. I am so happy for you and can only imagine your joy. Of course one of my favorite parts was when my brother “Happy” joined you and had his spirit awakened literally!! I also was very inspired by the man who survived the explosion and runs a shelter on the AT. I will want my book signed😘

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael, you are so amazing! What you’ve accomplished . . . Wow! Tears in my eyes for all the many emotions you must be feeling! A truly phenomenal journey. May you be always blessed with the memories of this journey. 😊👍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You guys put the AWE into Awesome!
    What a magnificent achievement.
    I’m telling everyone in Australia that I have a nephew who has hiked the AT 😍😍😍
    Glowing with pride for you. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Congrats, Mike!!!! What an amazing journey! I’m so happy for you, and loved being included in reading these daily updates! This was a really impressive accomplishment; and all with no injuries that plague so many!!
    As impressive as this was, possibly even more impressive was getting me to read a daily blog for 5 months straight….
    My only complaint is that there weren’t more pictures of Fun Facts. Other than that, pure class!!

    Like

  7. Congratulations to you!!

    Thank you again for providing me with all the rich details of the trail that helped me understand some of what Starman’s experiences were like.

    I look forward to your book! Maybe you’ll come through Boston on your book tour and I’ll finally get to meet you!

    Your friend,
    Edie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, thank you Edie! I think a meeting over a beer can be arranged. It would be great to see Starman again as well, I know he finished weeks ago!

      Like

  8. Congratulations Sharkbait! I have followed you the entire journey and have looked forward to opening my email each morning. You excellent writer and I am looking forward to your book. An amazing journey. Good luck in your future endeavors.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Congrats!!! I’m going to miss your daily blog and am so excited you’re writing a book. My favorite parts are when your family joins you. You’re a great motivator – I’m starting next month and cannot wait! I noted all your favorite places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Joanne! And GOOD LUCK! You’ll love every minute of it (well, when you are done you will remember it that way at least, haha).

      Like

  10. Congratulations! You are truly inspiring and you have a gift for writing. I look forward to your book….but I will miss your daily posts. Thank you for sharing your life with all of us and CONGRATULATIONS again!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Congratulations on completing the trail. I so enjoyed reading your blog. One of the first things I did each morning was check my email so I could read it. It was informative as well as a fun read. I look forward to the book, hopefully loaded with pictures. At present I can’t think of a favorite story day, although I did laugh very heartily at your days with Happy. I, too, had mixed emotions the last few days knowing it was coming to an end, and especially this morning, seeking the picture of you with the sign. It’s over, happy with a tear in my eye you made it, sorry the morning story ritual will end. You have done something I’ve wanted to do dor some time. I retired, thinking it just might be reality, but then I got cancer and my thoughts changed. After treatment is complete, we may do a section now and then but no thru hike because I wouldn’t want to be away from my family that long. And I’ve lived it through you. Thanks for that. God bless you and keep you safe. Hoping to be able to follow another trial somewhere, sometime in the future. Wanda

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Wanda! I’m so glad I was able to share this with you and that you could experience it just a little bit. It’s been a great adventure, and even a small taste of it is a lifetime of happiness. I wish you all the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Congratulations on your accomplishment. How is it I find your blog just as you finish. Looking forward to reading it from the beginning. Life dictates working for the time being but I’m planning on a thru hike in 2023. Your description of your thoughts as you approach the end remind me of the Rush song Time Stands Still…

    I’m not looking back
    But I want to look around me now
    See more of the people
    And the places that surround me now
    Time stands still
    Summer’s going fast
    Nights growing colder
    Children growing up
    Old friends growing older
    Freeze this moment
    A little bit longer
    Make each sensation
    A little bit stronger
    Experience slips away
    Experience slips away
    The innocence slips away

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Robert! It’s been amazing, and I dreamed of it longingly for 18 years, so your 5 should go by in a breeze!

      Like

  13. Sharkbait!
    Happy here,

    Okay, you are now permitted to say “I’m happy” (note small case ‘h’), instead of ending your last blog note with “I’m smiling” :). I could echo the words of everyone above, but suffice it to say that I am happy for you that this life goal was accomplished. Your success reflects the thoughtful planning, thoughtful preparation, thoughtful execution, and a keen appreciation for the day-to-day experience rather than simply being locked into a “completion mode”. We’re all so proud of not just of what you did, but of much greater importance of how you did it. You faced a myriad of challenges on this experience: snow, rain, heat & cold, aches & scrapes, boulders, scree fields, mud… lots of mud, not to mention one extremely ravenous mouse. The fact that you did it with a flair for capturing the daily appreciation of crafting this experience for others (and your future self) through thoughtful reflection and an occasional breakthrough of humor. Following our long-established family tradition, It would seem appropriate to end this comment with a song and you’ll just have to picture your family all singing (see below).
    xxx
    mom & Happy

    Child of Mine
    by Bill Staines

    [male verse] Child of mine, you are the wildest wind and
    the dearest dream I will ever know. Love’s lasting light shines out
    from deep with-in this father’s heart, as I watch you grow.
    [female verse] Child of mine, you are the break of dawn
    and the brightest star I will ever know. Love’s lasting light comes
    shining on and on from this mother’s heart, as I watch you grow.
    [duet] There is a road, and that road is all your own,
    but we are here, you need not walk a-lone, to face, not fear,
    each coming new unknown is the way to lift your wings.
    Child of mine, you are the sweetest song and the
    greatest gift I will ever know.
    [female] *Child of mine, [male] child of mine…
    [duet] where spirits fly above there is but one – be-longs to you.
    [female] So, let it grow, [male] So, let it grow,
    [duet] and it will thrive on love for it is love that sees us through.
    *You have the hands that can open up the doors,
    you have the hopes this world is waiting for.
    You are my own, but you are so much more,
    you are tomorrow on the wing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m just happy I was able to share it with you. To the man that inspired my passion for the woods and lust for life, I thank you the most, dad. (and mom). I’m Happy Too (2).

      Like

  14. Neiman!

    I struggle to find the words to tell you how proud I am of your accomplishment and how inspiring your adventure is to so many people (me included). So many people say “someday I should” and you are one of those people that say “how could I make that happen” …. which turns into “I did”.

    Your posts have been so fun to read and I will have to be patient while I wait for your next adventure! 😉 I know I missed the early posts so I plan to go back to catch the early days of your phenomenal accomplishment.

    I expect an autograph copy of the book and would love to buy you lunch when you are in town.

    May you always have the passion and desire to accomplish your wildest dreams my friend!

    All my best,
    J Stone

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Congratulations Mike!! I’m so happy for you for fulfilling a lifelong dream. What an accomplishment. Thanks for letting us all share your journey. Can’t wait to see you this weekend and celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Congrats on your finish!!!!!! It has been so much fun to follow along each day. I’m so curious to hear how it is adjusting back to ‘normal life’ after your months on the trail. You have demonstrated such determination and fortitude, you should be proud!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Jessica! It’s definitely going to be tough to re-enter the world, but such is life. Can’t hide in the woods forever. 😂

      Like

  17. Congratulations Neiman! !! from Leap Frogs Mom. We are all super proud of you. Your beautiful spirit is infectious and that is what will shine through in your book. If you are catching a flight out of Boston or driving through MA this week- text Julia we want to make you some food!
    Mary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Mary! I am not coming through Boston this time, but I’ll be back someday soon and would love to connect then.

      Like

  18. I so enjoyed following you preparations and your journey. I take inspiration and advise for my own hike next year. Will definately look for that book! Congratulations on your thru hike!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Congrats on your big accomplishment! Loved reading your blogs every morning to start off my work day. Your book will be awesome; just don’t let anyone turn it into the terrible film mistake that was “A Walk in the Woods.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Mike,
    It has been a great spring and summer following your AT trek. There’s something about accomplishing a lifelong goal and having your parents proud of that as well. I have really enjoyed your daily blog as you traveled along the trail. Looking forward to reading your book and all the follow up blog posts. Way to go!!

    Liked by 1 person

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