Section hiking the appalachian Trail all along the east coast led to the must-do end to our USA stretch by summiting Mount Katahdin. Located in Baxter State Park, the northern terminus of the Appalachian trail was a hot destination for many through hikers and day hikers alike. Therefore, we had to estimate when we would be there to ensure a campsite over a few days. This gave us time to pick a good weather day (if one was available.) I hate to say it, but Eric and I were really really hoping the weather would hold and we would be able to complete this long planned goal. For once, we were treated to a perfect day for a mountain climb.
The hike up was not as difficult as expected, mostly because it was so engaging that it was fun rather than just arduous. After throwing ourselves up iron rungs on the the side of boulders, we walked through one of the few high alpine environments on the east coast towards the summit. Upon reaching the peak we both were excited to see the iconic Katahdin sign in person. However, what overshadowed our personal achievement was sharing the joy of so many finishing the 6-9 month long distance challenge. Most notably with a specific family. This particular father and son had been section hiking the AT for eighteen years together and we were able to cheer them on at the final moments of the last section. This kind of challenge can be so emotionally overwhelming when it's over, that no matter how hard you try, tears of happiness and pride burst forth for most long distance hikers. To be able to witness such a moment was priceless. The whole mountain cheered as father and son finished eighteen years of memorable hikes together. Once their glory had passed, the father continued to celebrate every new hiker on the summit, especially if they were solo, encouraging all others to share the moment with their fellow nature enthusiast.
After spending some time on the summit, observing and taking in our surroundings, we started the long decent down a different path. We chose to go down the Abol trail to make our summit a loop rather than an out and back. This trail was fairly new since the original path had slid out a few times. Loose gravel and sand proved to be more of challenge than the trek up as most of the trail had not been finished yet. We finally were able to use our first aid kit, unfortunately, while hiking behind another couple, the wife slipped and fell and had a pretty bad head wound. If it wasn't for the fact she was a trauma nurse, we would have followed them closely down the trail and provided as much assistance as possible, but she was a champ and insisted we continue on.
At the end of the hike, we planned to walk down the road for two miles back to camp, but once again Maine locals shocked us with their kindness, and we were offered a ride without even hitching. Since we were able to summit on our first planned day, we enjoyed two days to lazily explore the rest of Baxter state park. I could have sworn their was going to be a moose at every pull out. It was beautiful untouched wilderness. Loons serenaded us as we read in the 'community cabin' and we finished each day with a soak in the creek accompanied by local beer (Baxter Brewing.)
Extremely proud of our accomplishment, and shocked that the weather cooperated for once, we left early in the morning for the Canadian boarder (still looking for moose....which was not seen.)
But seriously, what joy would we have without nature. This hike was filled with dense, well cared for forest and breathtaking views. It is rare, but for once the experience was heightened by seeing other people share in this joy on the trail as well.
10/ 10 would cry on a mountain top for others again.
Song: Also Sprach Zarathustra - Richard Strauss