Morning: The Birches Campsite
Saturday October 22nd, 2016
Baxter State Park
Written in my journal on that wonderful day:
"It's pre-dawn in a shelter in The Birches campsite and I am not ready to wake up. I know friends would say that I never am, but this day is different. When we reach the top of that mountain, life will return to "normal." We will no longer be adventurers, Thru-hikers, we will be ordinary people without money or work or housing or proper attire (hygiene suffers too but this list must end somewhere!). I don't even know if I'll be Kodak anymore. I will be Ryan and I will be even more backwards than ever."
**Editors note: I am Kodak and always will be. I may also be a little stranger, but I am more ok with it than ever**
Climbing Mt. Katahdin
Climbing Mt. Katahdin is brutal. It is five miles to the top gaining over 4,000 feet of elevation. Many portions of the hike are not hiking. They are climbing. Be prepared for massive steps and house-sized blocks that require climbing. Nothing too crazy, mind you. We are talking funky-ladder kind of climbing. There is rebar in places to assist. This is not technical rock climbing; although, this option is available to those not possessed by little, white rectangles.
We have the mountain to ourselves. A forecast of rain kept nearly everyone off the summit. Tomorrows forecast is even worse. They are calling for snow. Others will summit regardless. They will return with partial frostbite on fingers and other, private, places. Lucky for us, the weather holds. We have sun on the summit with warmth and views. Clouds are on the horizon and add another layer to the sensation. They are white and fluffy but dense and slightly below eye level. They will, eventually, encompass us.
"The real world hits like a tropical storm."
For me, it feels good to be standing on the summit of Mt. Katahdin. A little unbelievable and certainly surreal. Mostly, I dread going down for I know that this is the end of an epic adventure. I feel better than I did this morning. Elation at completion has taken the edge off the fear of change. I know that "real life" will be difficult. I've been through it before -- the culture shock, feeling caged, bored, and out-of-control. I feel victorious though impartial. Katahdin is just another mountain.
I think Feel Good put it the best. I asked him how it felt standing on the summit, "It was a strange feeling because the whole time I was up there, I was waiting to be hit with this wave of intense finality or completion, but it never came. After processing this for a while, I know that that mountain wasn't the end of anything, for me. Rather, it was just another metaphoric bold white blaze on a journey that will continue for the rest of my life. Hiking that trail may have ruined me in the best way possible."
"It was a strange feeling because the whole time I was up there, I was waiting to be hit with this wave of intense finality or completion, but it never came. After processing this for a while, I know that that mountain wasn't the end of anything, for me. Rather, it was just another metaphoric bold white blaze on a journey that will continue for the rest of my life. Hiking that trail may have ruined me in the best way possible."
Leaving Katahdin Behind
If I thought standing on the mountain was weird, walking down Katahdin was as alien as flushing toilet paper after spending eight months in Mexico and Central America. Having reached the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, we had options on what to do next. We followed the blue-blazed Abol trail deciding against the Knife Edge Trail with rain about to fall. Blue-blazes and bouldering to the car waiting at the bottom. A night in a comfortable bed then a long drive to New York City. Bus to Pittsburgh and I am home. Boom! The real world hits like a tropical storm.