Day 170 (9/27/15)
Start: Carl A Newhall Lean-To
Finish: Antlers Campsite
Miles Hiked: 26.8
To Go: 51.8
Today would be my last day of big climbs until Katahdin. I had a long day planned but the first hurdle was getting out of my bag. The temperature was close to freezing again last night and thin layer of frost covered the ground. I delayed the inevitable as long as I could and finally started hiking around 7:30. Hiking uphill is a good way to warm up and the trail was happy to oblige. First up was Gulf Hagas Mountain followed by West Peak, Hay Mountain and finally White Cap Mountain. From the north side of White Cap I could see Katahdin resting miles away. I was getting closer and knew I would be there soon.
View of Katahdin from WhiteCap
I descended White Cap thinking my day was basically over and that the next 20 miles would coast by. I was wrong. Although it wasn’t very long, the climb up Little Boardman Mountain had me huffing and puffing. I was cursing the AT every step of the way for making me hike up this PUD. It seems the closer I get, the harder the miles are to pass. I think some of this has to do with me hiking solo. I haven’t seen another NOBO for a few days and when I do, I blow right by them. The good news is that I will not be hiking alone for much longer. In a few days I’ll be joined by two familiar faces and as of now, the plan is for the three of us to summit Katahdin on Wednesday.
I made it to Antlers Campsite about 30 minutes before dark. There were about 15 people already tented there to watch the lunar eclipse tonight. Antlers is one of the most beautiful settings for a campsite I’ve seen so far. It’s positioned on the edge of Jo Mary Lake and protected by surrounding mountains. As I was down by the waters edge, I noticed a glowing ball rising from the end of the lake. It was the moon.
Dusk was setting in and the full moon was amazingly illuminated. I dropped my water filter and sat down. For thiry minutes I watched the moon rise over the lake. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I will never forget it. A few hours later, the bright moon turned dark during the eclipse but I didn’t notice, I was asleep in my tent. Tomorrow would be another long day.
Day 171 (9/28/15)
Start: Antlers Campsite
Finish: Rainbow Lake Campsite
Miles Hiked: 25.5
To Go: 26.3
I woke up early and was hiking by 6:30. My day started off great and made my first 8 miles in 2.5 hours. I was hoping to keep this fast pace all day after looking at my profile map which showed reletively flat trail. Looks can be deceiving because the trail turned out to be anything but flat. It was the rockiest, rootiest and muddiest trail I’ve had to face so far. Not only was my pace hurt, my body hurt as well. The hard rocks and roots really took a toll on my feet and I was in a lot of pain.
View of Katahdin from AT
These last few miles won’t go easy. I was really hurting and thought about calling it a day after only 14 miles. I had to keep going though if I was to make my Wednesday deadline with the guys. I hadn’t seen any other hikers all day and felt like I was the only person out here. I popped in a podcast and got moving. I hadn’t listened to any podcasts or music in a few days and it made all the difference. Finding ways to get myself out of my own head is the only way to pass the time. A short climb up Nesuntabunt Mountain provided a great view of Katahdin just 16 linear miles away. Getting closer!
I was still listening to my RadioLab podcast when I spotted another bull moose in the woods to my right. This one was smaller than the one from the day before but at least I was able to get a quick picture before it moved on.
I made the additional 8 miles to my campsite where I was happy to see several hikers I had met off and on already there. Apparently, some of them skipped over the last few days of trail. I haven’t missed a white blaze yet and no way was I going to start now. A few of us were down by the lake when I noticed a crawfish in the water by my feet. I instantly thought of my friends and family back home and all the crawfish boils I missed this year. I love getting together with everyone and can’t wait to be home. I’ll be back soon!
Day 172 (9/29/15)
Start: Rainbow Lake Campsite
Finish: Katahdin Stream Campground
Miles Hiked: 21.1
To Go: 5.2
A man fishing in the rain
It rained overnight but I managed to stay dry in my tent. I’m not really sure how the weather got in a few weeks ago but it really doesn’t matter now because last night would be my last camping out here. It was still raining as I packed up and moved out. I quietly made my way past the three other tenters at the campsite. Rainy days usually keep hikers in their tents longer in the morning but today would be my last full day of hiking on the AT and I just wanted to get it over with. For the last 7 months I have thought about today and how I might feel. I suppose most thru-hikers have Katahdin on their minds while limping these last few miles but I just couldn’t wait to get to Abol Bridge Campground and get a Coke. The 100 Mile Wilderness ends at the campground and I was happy to finally be out. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have great weather over the last 2 1/2 weeks so when I didnt get a view of Katahdin from Rainbow Ledges I didn’t mind. I also didn’t mind sloshing around and falling in the mud twice because within a few short hours it would all be over. I made it to Abol Bridge Campground and got my soda. I was surprised and happy to see Rocky Mountain High walking around. The last time I saw her was back in VA and we spent a few minutes catching up before I moved on. She summited a few weeks ago and now works for the campground, it was great seeing a familiar face.
I’d be seeing two more familiar faces within an hour or two, I just had 9 more rainy and muddy miles to go. It turned out to be the fastest 9 miles of my entire hike. I would be getting picked up from Katahdin Stream Campground and driven to a warm hotel room; I was practically running down the trail. I didn’t care when I slipped off a rock and fell knee deep in a stream; I didn’t care the weather was ruining amazing views of Katahdin while I hiked – I just wanted to see those two faces. I made it to the campground a few minutes early and changed out of my wet clothes into some slightly drier and less dirty ones. Just as I was finishing up, a White Subaru pulled into the parking lot and out stepped the two most beautiful faces I’ve seen since returning to the trail – those of RockBoat and Jeopardy. These two summited over a month ago and now they were back to rehike Katahdin with me. You meet all kinds of people on the AT, some you never want to meet again and others you come to regard as great friends. Well, the jury is still out on these two guys but I was happy to see them nonetheless. We caught up on the last few weeks and checked into a nearby hotel. We hope to summit in the morning but the weather is looking horrible. Fingers crossed.
Finish: Katahdin Stream Campground
Miles Hiked: 0
To Go: 5.2
It rained heavily all day and flooded parts of town. My summit would have to wait one more day.