Brian's Hike on the Appalachian Trail (19)
February 20, 2000 until July 31, 2000

brianshike18 : July 21 to July 31

Brian's Journal

Mist and Mtns.
The Mist on the Mtns.
July 22, 2000 17.5 miles today to West Carry Pond Lean-To with 165.2 till Katahdin

I guess the word of the day is "luck", as in "Boy---I'm a lucky bastard!" After the beauty of Horns Pond last night, I woke this morning from a solid night's sleep to a surprise sunrise. I jumped out of bed, packed up, and ran up to the horn where I watched the fog roll up the mountains from the lakes and valleys as the clouds clamped down from above. By the time I got to the Bigelow peaks, I was lost in a surreal void. Clouds above, clouds below, nothing in the middle. Time seemed to stop. The wind didn't even consider blowing. Everything just stopped. It was more beautiful than had it been a sunny, clear day.

Glints of sunlight crept through the top clouds, causing soft pasted colors to show up on the clouds below. It was quite a juxtaposition, standing on a time-beaten, gnarly, rocky, scraggly peak---amid alpine plants used to the harshest conditions Mother Nature can create---and being surrounded by complete softness. It really was unearthly.

It felt like if you were to fall off the mountain you would neither fall nor fly, just sort of float, suspended in the void. And to make the moment that more special, I had the mountain all to myself. From there I took a last look up at the peaks I'd come across, jutting out of the cloud blanket, and then dropped down to the lowlands. I actually walked down into a rain cloud. Pretty cool.
Me Ponds
Maine Ponds

From there I rambled along some huge, trailer sized boulders covered with moss and trees, caught up to a mountain stream, and followed it down Little Bigelow all the way to the swamps, where I spent the rest of the day. I got to the shelter 5 minutes before the skies opened up with a mad thunderstorm.

I'm on the shore of West Carry Pond, though a pond by Maine standards is bigger than Lake Owassa. It's a nice change, the last 5 miles here were virtually flat. It's a good way to end a trip, 150 miles of flat lake walking, where you can take it easy, go swimming, listen to wildlife...ending with a 5 mile/4000 foot climb up Katahdin.

I was checking my body out today when I got here, and figure it's probably a good think I'm almost done. My feet have evolved from comfortably numb to continuous shooting pain. My knees creak when I get up after any rest. My legs feel like lead. My stomach's in knots from the continuous trauma I put it thru---long bouts of starvation intermitten with short, gluttonous binges. In short, I'm tired. If I were any place else I'd be miserable, but Maine is just so incredibly amazing, nothing else matters. In the words of Tom Horn, "It's First Class!"

No Worries. BG GAME 2000

July 23, 2000 25.9 miles today to Shaw's in Monson with 139.3 till Katahdin

I'm actually writing this the morning of the 24th, looking back on yesterday's crazy adventures. I ran into Zorro, Doc, Gypsy, Camel, and Dreamer, and got sucked into their plan of getting picked up by Shaw's (in Monson, Maine) 20 trail miles south of Monson. You would think 20 trail miles equals 30 or so road miles, but we're in Maine, so it ended up being an hour and a half adventure in the back of a beat-up pickup driven by a crazy, senile old man. I actually feared for my life as we flew down backwoods logging roads (being tossed around the back like a rag doll) where you could run off the road and another car wouldn't pass by for 3 months. But in the end, it all worked out.
Friends at Shaw's

We got to town late on a Sunday after everything had closed, so like typical hiker trash we made a picnic at the Mobil Station, consisting of a 30 pack, 2 pizzas, 2 bottles of wine, 2 calzones, and random buys of chips, pretzels, and lil' Debie pastry products. It was quite a sight. Six dirty, tired hikers sitting around like vagrants in a rail-yard.

As we were there, we heard a roar coming out of the woods. "Sounds like a motorcycle." Even better. A quad with a teenage couple comes flying out of the woods, fills up at the pump, then roars away back into the woods. I guess I'm in Maine.

Shaw's is an old style boarding house. It can probably sleep 30 people, hikers, fisherman, vacationers, travelers, anyone who needs a place to stay. Old Man Shaw and his wife are classic Mainards. No other way to describe them.

I got a real good view of Katahdin yesterday from Pleasant Pond Mountain. So many unexpected mixed emotions. As much as I'm eager to finish up, it is pretty sad to see the actual end. But as I say looking out for half an hour, the sadness turned into exultation to joy, to disbelief, to awe, then back to sadness.

I guess my feelings towards finishing are representative of my trip. I've had higher highs than ever, along with lower lows than ever. You need both to appreciate the other, and not weep out. so looking at that massive mountain I've been hiking towards for 5 months brings back all the memories I've had on this amazing journey.

Starting with Raphael, Nate and Shaman, and Tom Horn; the camaraderie we had and the time we enjoyed together. Then that whole section to NJ where Katahdin seemed light-years ahead. Weeks of rain...Virginia. Sore feet Great views. Time off at home. Resting up. Flying thru New England, New Hampshire, and the Whites. Complete hikers bliss. More rain. Maine. And now Katahdin just a week away. What a crazy world. Well, I'm off to get back in the truck of death. Hope to semi-slack 25 miles to get back here tonight. I guess I have to. No Worries. BG GAME 2000

July 24, 2000 24.8 miles today back Shaw's in Monson with 114.5 till Katahdin

Just got off the phone with Mom. Trying to arrange a place/time to meet at Katahdin. Too much planning .....give me a headache. After a big day, now I'm really in Monson. Don't know what to think. When I'm actually hiking I want to be finished. When I stop at night and think, I wonder why. I still just can't believe I'm here, 114.5 miles from Mt. Katahdin. Anyway, had a nice dinner with the hiking crew, weird to think I'll never see these people again. It was a nice last supper, but tomorrow I'm moving on ahead. Too many thoughts, I think I'll go to bed.

No (maybe some) Worries. Billy Goat GAME 2000

July 25, 2000 15.1. miles today to Long Pond Stream Lean-To with 99.4 till Katahdin

Well it's my first night in the wilderness, and I'm here with about 23 kids from age 8 to 16. Not exactly the peace and quiet I was expecting. But I am less than 100 miles from the Big K, so nothing else really matters. I woke up late this morning, then rambled around Main Street Monson getting stuff done. Nice lazy morning. Good breakfast at the Appalachian Cafe, nice visit with the postmaster, got some groceries, dot, dot, dot. If it weren't for the fact that this was my last town, I probably would be tired of doing the town routine yet again, but as things were, I was just walking around high without a care in the world. I said good-bye to the Zoro crew. Surprisingly sad. I'll never see these guys again, and even if I did, we don't have anything in common except for the trail.
Me Woods
Maine Woods

Anyway, young Keith Shaw dropped me off at Route 15, and I headed into the 100-mile wilderness. Not much different than any other part of the trail in Maine, but pretty cool none-the-less. Right before getting to camp, I saw the butt of my first moose running away from me!

Oh yeah, Grandad and Floater stopped by Shaw's this morning. They summited yesterday, and came by to see who was around. I'm glad I got to see Grandad again, and glad he made it to Katahdin, even if he did look 7 years older than he did in Virginia. Floater had been chasing me from the Friday in NY to Vermont, missing me by 1/2 a day when I went home. He's from Long Valley, and wants to get together in Califon some time. Small world.

OK. The crazy kids went to bed, so I think I can too. No Worries. BG GAME 2000

July 26, 2000 15.3. miles today to West Branch of the Pleasant River---tenting with 84.1 till Katahdin

Today was my last real physical day in the mountains. It actually ended up being a lot tougher than I expected. After a tedious morning with the weirdest camp group I have ever met, I climbed up Barren Mtn., then spent the day going up and down, and up and down, and up and down.....over the Chairback Mtn. Range. It got up to 800today, surprisingly hot. Anyway, I took my time and had plenty of well deserved breaks, and ended up here by 6:00 PM. I camped out right in the Pleasant River. It actually is a very pleasant river. I'm here with a nice woman hiking from Monson to Abol Bridge.

I set up camp thinking I was deep in the wilderness, but apparently there's a good logging road that a lot of people take to day hike the Gulf Hagas trail. So as I ate dinner about 15 people walked by. I felt like the troll in the fairly tale about 3 goats and the bridge. Very entertaining to see how different people ford a river. Some storm thru as if they normally walk thru rivers. Most stop to take off their shoes, and cross with extreme, unnecessary caution. My favorite was a guy that went 15 minutes upstream looking for a place to cross without taking his shoes off, then came back, took off his shoes, and crossed in his socks. then put his shoes on over his wet socks on the other side. Pretty entertaining!

The wilderness is pretty awesome, though it's pretty sad to get to views and see all the clear-cut sections. When you're on the trail you assume the dense forests go on forever, but that would be lost dollars. Oh well. Five days left, down to one hand. No Worries. BG GAME 2000

Katahdin Mtn
Katahdin Mtn from the Wilderness
July 27, 2000 16.3. miles today to East Branch Lean-To with 67.8 till Katahdin

"Times are strange. Times are changed.
Here I am but I ain't the same.
Momma I'm coming home.
I could be right, I could be wrong.
It hurts so bad, it's been so long.
Momma, I'm comin home." Ozzy

Not really an Ozzy fan, but I read this in a register, and it really does fit the occasion. I'm over the last speed bumps and down to the last 3 day straight away. I got a nice view of Katahdin from Gulf Hogas Mtn. (before the clouds rolled in as I climbed up White Cap) and was amazed at how close it was. Probably only 30 air miles. Such an amazing mountain though.

Anyway, I woke up at the river, then walked all day. I passed a group of 10 8th grade girls, one of which was from Oldwick. Small world. I got here early, and to my surprise the Zorro crew walked in a couple of hours later. So we had a nice fire for a good evening.

The last 3 1/2 miles to here were how I imagined the wilderness to be. Flat, bonny trail through beautiful how-land pine forests. The forest floor is just huge, moss covered boulders and wild mushrooms. I realized tonight that I'm the same distance to Katahdin that I was from Springer when I crossed into North Carolina. Such a crazy thought. That was such a milestone for me, now it's a dozen steps till the end. What a trip!

I read in the last register that Swamee was part of a rescue mission for an older man who had a heart attack. He and another guy left @ 9:30 at night, got to help by 3, and there was a helicopter and EMT's there by 6:00 the next morning. Unfortunately the guy passed away when he got to the hospital. Sort of puts things in perspective. While I'm celebrating reaching Katahdin and the end of this journey, I should also just be grateful I'm alive and well!! 67 miles to go, then momma, I'm coming home!

No worries. BG GAME 2000

July 28, 2000 19.5 miles today to Potaywadjo Spring Lean-To with 483 till Katahdin

ME Wilderness Pond
A Pond in the Wilderness
After a nice, gentle, cool day of hiking, complete with sandy beaches (and a fair amount of bugs) I lay my head down with less than 50 miles to Katahdin. A good feeling. Today started with a drizzly morning, which made for some beautiful lake views. There was no breeze at all, so you had mirror-like lakes reflecting mist shrouded pine trees, interrupted only by wisps of fog skating across the surface. Very peaceful. I had a long afternoon break on the sandy beach at JMary Lake, complete with 3 southbounders trying to build a log raft so they could float across the lake, thus cutting 2 1/2 miles off their day. Quite a spectacle. Words cannot describe the pure bliss achieved by rubbing tired hiker feet into a sandy beach. I left the Zoros at the beach, and ran 3 miles (easy miles) to be greeted by an odd mix of women at the shelter. There's a bluegrass band on vacation, and a crazy Sobo. One woman had a tin flute which sounded incredible filling up the forest's silence. Well, 2 1/2 days left. Me oh my.

No worries. BG GAME 2000

July 29, 2000 22.0 miles today to Rainbow Spring Campsite with 26.3 till Katahdin

Here I am in the shadow of Katahdin, a day and a half away from finishing, and all I can think about is ice cream and lunch from Abol Bridge Campground tomorrow. I guess the body rules the mind.

Anyway, today was a long day made bearable by long swimming breaks. I love Maine. I ran into Lady Leaper and the New Hampshire boys today, all planning to summit on the 31st. Met two of Becky's friends, Hilary and Jason, they say hello Beck. I guess that was pretty much my day, and since I'm so tired I think I'll go pass out.

Funny to think Mom and Dad are en-route to Maine tonight, and when they head back to Jersey on Monday, they'll have the smelly, tired, remains of a finished thru-hiker with them. OK. Good-night, have to rest up for my LAST full day of hiking. No Worries. BG GAME 2000

July 30, 2000 18.7 miles today to Daicey Pond Campsite (Baxter State Park!) with 7.6 till Katahdin

Well here I am, this is it, last night on the trail. So many mixed emotions.

When I started this hike, I used to tell everyone I was going to hike till Katahdin or as long as it was still fun. Looking back I have to laugh. "Fun" is such a soft, flaky adjective. Like "swell" or "neat" or "good".

Hiking the Appalachian Trail has been so much more than just fun. It has been excruciating, tiring, repetitive, humbling, extraordinary, incredible, rewarding, intense, simply awesome.
Daicey Pond
Daicey Pond in Baxter State Park

Looking out at Katahdin over Daicey Pond tonight blew my mind. I'm here. I'm finished. The same mountain that has all these emotions wrapped up in the noble name "Katahdin" is just another mountain for so many other people. But for me it is this entire adventure, coming to a final point, Baxter Peak, Mt. Katahdin. Katahdin, Katahdin, Katahdin.......the name says it all.

All the people I've met, all the memories I've made, all the pain, all the fatigue, all the bliss, all the highs, all the lows....everything. And it's right at my fingertips. 7 1/2 miles away, then it's over. No more bugs, no more filtering water, no more Ramen noodles, but also no more of the good stuff. No more days where your only worry is how far to go and what to eat. No more peaks bringing you closer to the sky than you've ever been .No more meeting strangers who share such a strong bond with you that common introductions are absurd. No more trail magic. No more trail.

It's over. Tomorrow I'll be in some forgettable motel room, watching some forgettable television show, in some forgettable town. As I was walking yesterday, I went thru my entire trip in my mind. Where I started, who I met, what I saw, how I felt, where I slept, and everything was as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. This trip is not forgetable. It has made me become a unique person, and when I'm thrown back into a world of needless worries and artificial emotions, I know I'll always have these past 5 months with me. Who would have thought that something as basic as walking from Georgia to Maine would have been the best thing I have ever done? But all good things must come to an end, so tomorrow I summit Katahdin, and tonight I enjoy one more sound sleep on the soft forest floor in my teeny-tiny tent.


July 31, 2000 7.6 miles today to Baxter Peak--- Mt Katahdin---the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
2,160.2 miles from Springer.

I did it.

On July 31st, I climbed Mt. Katahdin, stood on Baxter Peak, touched a sign, and ended my hike. That was already a week and a half ago, but I remember it now (like I'll remember it forever) as if it were this morning.

My last night on the trail was pointless. I was just too excited to ever fall asleep, so I spent the night rolling around with butterflies in my stomach. Would the weather be OK? What would the trial be like? How would I feel when I finished? What would the weather be like? This circle of questions just raced thru my head over and over, faster and faster, until I couldn't take it anymore, and got out of bed at 4:00.
Daicey Pond
Daicey Pond in in the morning

I grabbed my breakfast and walked up to Daicey Pond (through cool, crisp, cloudless air) where I watched the sun creep up and over Katahdin, bringing daylight along with it.

It was an ideal day. The campground had a little nature library, and in it I found the February 1987 National Geographic article about the trail. So I sat out on the porch, alone except for the loons, and read, in the shadows of Katahdin, one of the best written accounts of trail life. And before I knew it, I had tears blurring my vision. The magnitude of what I had accomplished hit me for the first time, along with the knowledge that it would all be done in 7.6 more miles. So I just say there and cried with a magazine, looking at beautiful pictures and remembering when I was in them; reading about trail magic and the simple realness of trail life, knowing that it's real and true.
Katahdin Falls
Katahdin Falls

Then I got up, wiped the tears from my eyes, got packed up for the last time, and climbed Katahdin. What a mountain. I all but sprinted the 2 miles to the Ranger Station at Katahdin Stream, stopping only to admire the mountains looking over the ponds and swamps and forests below. I dumped most of my gear out of my pack at the Station, then bolted up the trail after my folks who had left an hour earlier.

The first mile was a nice walk along Katahdin Stream on a soft path up to Katahdin Falls. From there it was a mile of bouldering up a moderate incline, still under tree cover. I caught my parents at the end of this section, before you pop above treeline and literally rock climb (hands and knees and whatever other body parts keep you from slipping) for another mile up to the gateway, where the climb levels off onto a huge alpine plateau.

At this point I was too close to wait, so I blew ahead of Mom and Dad, walking faster and faster and faster, gliding on weightless legs, before literally running up the last 100 yards with Dan and Brian. And then I was done---on top of the very mountain I had been pulled towards for half a year; and I've never felt higher.
Brian at the Terminus
Brian at the Terminus
The Terminus Sign
The Terminus Sign

I was on Baxter Peak, Mt. Katahdin, and I had gotten there all by myself.

So after celebrating with the NH boys and Dirk, I sat by myself and basically just enjoyed the moment.

A thru-hike is:
5,000,000 steps
714,000 calories
2,160 miles,
833 quarts of water,
520 falls, slips, and spills
357 Snickers Bars
119 days of walking
103 pounds of GORP
95.2 lbs. of granola,
31 hitches,
21 showers
18.15 miles per day
16 pints of Ben&Jerry's
10 days of rest
9 pairs of socks
3 pairs of boots
2 tired feet
1 tired body
One Crazy-Ass Trip!
The Katahdin Marker
The Katahdin Marker
Mom and Dad Going Down
Mom and Dad on the Way Down

And now I was done. I had been a "thru-hiker", now I was simply through hiking. So I turned away and walked down the mountain of all mountains. I had spent all my adrenaline charged energy going up, so going down I took my time, and walked down to the car with Mom and Dad. I picked up my gear at the Station, packed it away in an industrial strength, odor blocking, double lined plastic garbage bag (courtesy of Mom and Dad's olfactory sense), got in the car, and drove away. We got to Millinocket, went to the motel, and that was that.

I stared at my distorted reflection in the bathtub faucet as the water got warm; looking at my crazy, dirty hair, my sunburned face, my awkward whiskers, the white salt film along my hairline, the crow's feet wrinkles, and the eyes that saw and took in everything. Then the water got warm, I said one last farewell to my hiker's reflection, then washed the last of the dirt, grim, sweat, and blood from the trail off of my body and down the drain. And I was done. I did it. So I went home.

No Worries

Billy Goat GAME 2000

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