July 14, 2018
Destination: Millinocket Today's Miles: 0
Start Location: Baxter Peak, Mt. Katahdin - AT Northern Terminus Trip Miles: 2190.90
Mainer was a great guy and actually got a video of me summiting Katahdin, which you can see here if you want to see an excited (and exhausted!) Cat: https://youtu.be/CoMsLblKr6s. I took the Abol trail down Katahdin.
I wanted to descend via a different trail to see something new, if possible. Also, Homebound’s parents were coming to meet him at The Abol trailhead and he had offered me a lift to Millinocket, so it made sense to use that trail. Homebound’s parents were incredible generous and amazing and drove Ozzie, Frank, and myself all the way into Millinocket. It was really above and beyond trail magic, and I was incredibly grateful for their kindness.
This is the trail - the kindness of strangers. It really is an amazing thing. If you’ve read my journal along the way, you’ll know that these were the most impactful moments of my trip. Whether it was the “pro” trail angels like Fresh Ground and Carl, someone who offered me a ride, or just someone out for a day hike who stopped to chat and wished me well or gave me some food, these moments really came to define my AT experience. This trail journal, as well, was a surprising source of strength. I started the journal to record my thoughts and try to document some of my adventures for family and friends. I never really thought about a lot of people I didn’t know reading it. I received so much support (and amazing tips!) from this journal, and that really meant a lot to me and became a key component of my trail experience. It was hard to keep up with the journal, but it was such a rewarding medium and I am very glad that I did. Many nights I could barely stay awake to write, upload and label photos, and often, especially through New Hampshire and Maine, I had no signal to update things. But I stuck with it and you all reading this stuck with me, and for that I am forever grateful. I didn’t always have the energy I wanted to put into my writing; in fact, I seldom did. If you at least enjoyed it a little bit, then that is a win for me. When I realized people were actually taking the time to read it and reach out to me, I made an effort to make it worthwhile, while still being true to myself and documenting my actual experiences.
If you commented in my guest book, whether it was one time or many, no matter what, I am incredibly grateful for your support. You really helped to keep my morale up when times were tough. For those of you whom I met on the trail, that was an incredibly fun aspect to the journey and the journal as well. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for your incredible support and belief in me that I could do this. It took a village and a little fairy dust from the higher power that is Mother Nature, but I got there!
Special thanks has to go to my wife, Gillian. She supported me in doing this from day one, and continued to support me through the trek. While I walked one trail, she walked another - the less fun kind of staying home, working, and holding down the fort while her husband ran around like a crazy man in the woods for 138 days. It’s always easier to be the one on the adventure than the one on the home front, even though it was still hard and I missed her fiercely always. But that’s just who she is - she supports me and my dreams and I do the same for her, and that is why she is the most wonderful wife and partner in crime. Thanks Sweetie! I have to thank my parents as well. They looked after Gillian in their own way and other things while I was gone. There are many people to thank, and I could never name everyone, but you all know who you are.
I had fun relaxing in Millinocket on Friday. I didn’t comment on my summit date being Friday the thirteenth, but there was definitely a piece of me that enjoyed that coincidence, even though I’m not superstitious. I spent Saturday winding down and catching up on my journal. I got pretty behind in the last week because I could not for the life of me stay awake to write. Tomorrow I am leaving Maine to meet my wife and in laws at the beach! They do a family trip every year and have for years. I didn’t think I would make it this year, but somehow my legs carried me through in time. I’m hoping the salt water will help my feet heal. They hurt and are numb in places - normal thru hiker things. I need to curtail my eating!!! I can’t eat like Hungry Cat anymore. I would like to keep my fit Hiker body, so I will have to work on that.
Lots of people have asked me what’s next. Well, what isn’t?! Everything comes next if it is not happening now or hasn’t happened already. I’m going to take some more time off work to figure out some stuff there. This trail journal has really rekindled my interest in pursuing some writing projects, so I’m going to think through that in the coming weeks. If you enjoyed reading this, I may need some guinea pigs later for other things! I want to spend time with my wife. I also need to win Lucy back, to make sure she favors me again (insert evil laugh).
As for the AT and this trail journal, I plan to give a post trail update in a few weeks. I took a lot of video on the trail - short snippets every day - and I want to put together a compilation. If I am successful, I will share that when I’m done. So that you don’t have to wonder when I’ll update next, I will post an update by August 4, so you can put that date in your calendars if you are interested in continuing to get updates.
It was an incredible journey, and I don’t know what getting back to normal life will look like. I guess I’ll find out and let you know! What a great adventure this was though. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done. Even though I had heard other thru hikers say the same thing, I still somehow underestimated just how hard it would be, particularly the physical challenge of hiking every day. It may have been a little easier if I had pushed fewer miles on some days or took more zeros, but thru hiking the AT is a far cry from a mere walk in the woods. I’m incredibly grateful for everything I’ve learned and experienced on this adventure. I certainly learned a ton about backpacking, pack weight reduction (actual and metaphorical!), hiking strategies for weight reduction, and how to eat enough sugar to kill a moose! I also learned a lot about myself and about living life just by taking the leap of quitting a job that wasn’t getting me jazzed every day buy was eating into a lot of my time. I let go of some fears I had around financial insecurity in a way that I wasn’t able to before, and that really helped me to feel free on the trail. I worked too much and didn’t take care of myself. I wasn’t living my life in a healthy way. I hope I don’t make that same mistake again, whatever it is I’m doing.
Lastly, I got s lot of inspiration by reading David Miller’s book, and quoted him multiple times in my writing. I’m very interested in challenging the status quo, the “norm,” and yet I found it very hard myself to shake away the chains of an average life. Go to school, get a job, make money, get married, buy a house, have kids. Where are the “whys” here? There isn’t enough questioning anymore. “School is good debt.” What?! Really? Always? There are so many social norms that have turned into dangerously universal unfounded quips. I started questioning these things, but in some cases I started too late. I hope that my AT experience has given me a better appreciation for an alternate lifestyle, other ways of living simply and more to really experience life. One life - that’s all we have! At least that’s all I have. If you have more and you’re feeling generous, I’ll take another!
It’s late - way past hiker midnight! Time for this Hungry Cat to hike the trail to dreamland. I’m not afraid to take the next step tomorrow. A Cat always lands on his feet. Besides, I’m going home. And for that, I’m grateful!
Next update will be by August 4.