Month: September 2012

There Are No White Blazes in Life. 

I’ve been back from the trail for over two weeks now and I’m slowly adjusting to life back in what hikers call “the real world.”  It’s been so helpful to have Facebook (never did I ever think those words would escape my mouth) to be able to talk to my trail friends and see that I’m not the only one having trouble adjusting.  Now that all my NOBO friends have finished, I only have a few connections still left on trail going south and I feel further and further away from the life I lead for the last six months.  

Some things have been easy to adjust to, running water (HOT AND COLD!), air conditioning, being back around my pets, cooking.  All the things I enjoyed before I left I’m finding have been an easy adjustment.  It’s so great having fresh fruit and vegetables in all of my meals.  It’s been amazing to just head over to the store and have my choice of anything in there as I have no restrictions on what I can and cannot eat.  It’s really all the simple things like cooking and seeing my friends again that have really made me happy. 

Some other things, however, have been a really tough adjustment.  Rush hour traffic has been my least favorite so far.  Listening to people complain in restaurants, having to witness everything going on in the election campaigns, having too much idle time on my hands, and just missing being on the trail in general have all been major downers.  I’m afraid I’ll start gaining a lot of weight soon since my metabolism is still pretty high and the thought that I’ll balloon up to the weight I was years ago is always in the back of my head.  Is it a rational thought? Of course not.  I exercise a lot more now that my knee is in good shape again, so it’s not really feasible.  Missing all my trail friends is the hardest part of all.  Sure, we can all call, text, and Facebook chat, but it isn’t nearly the same thing.  My best friend is 14 hours away from me instead of less than 100 feet away from me and so far, that’s been the hardest adjustment of all.  

While I’m sure that one day things will get back to normal for me, I fear that I’ll have a white blaze-sized hole in my heart.  I’m already itching for a new adventure and looking for some other goal to focus on, which has been a big surprise to me.  When I finished my thru hike I announced on Katahdin I never wanted to hike again! Yet, here I am, yearning for more time with the trail and the community that accompanies it.  I’m so glad I had the experience of my thru hike and that I got to meet so many wonderful people who I will consider friends for so many years.  I’m thankful I had the time and knowledge to make it the entire 2,184 miles.  I’m grateful that I found someone to hike with me and share the journey, as well as open my eyes to new ideas and test my patience by working with me as a team.  

I had a dream last night that I was hiking (every single night since I’ve been home I have a dream about being on the trail, and that’s starting to really get to me!) and that we came to a trail intersection with both trails being blazed white.  There were no signs and we had no idea which way to go.  It occured to me that it isn’t always about following the blazes.  Sometimes, you have to blaze your own trail.  When I woke up I was deeply affected by this and I am going to try to remember that and apply it to the rest of my life.  We don’t always have to choose the path laid out in front of us. Sometimes, you just go with the flow and do your own thing. The trail taught me that things always have a way of working themselves out. 

The Final Day

I’ve officially been finished with the Appalachian Trail for one week and it seems like the entire experience is another world away.  I’ll be writing a series of blogs over the next few weeks about my adjusting back to home life again, as well as some reflections on the trail and how it impacted my life in both the good and bad ways.  

I suppose first I should talk about the emotional last day on the trail.  Nokey and I wanted to get up as early as possible to get up and down Katahdin in a reasonable amount of time as our plan was to do the Knife’s Edge Trail down.  We wanted to make sure David could pick us up in a reasonable amount of time to get us out to Abol Bridge Campground for showers, as well as for us to have enough time for dinner and to get the car packed.  We woke up at 6 a.m. and hoped to get started by 7:15.  In true Nokey and Sprinkles fashion, we of course didn’t start until half an hour after that!  We started up the Hunt Trail (AT) at 7:40 a.m. on Tuesday, 9-11-12, with David hiking with us for the first mile.  David left us at Katahdin Streams Falls about 1.25 miles up.  From here, the climb got a little more steep for a mile before turning into a shear granite climb.  We climbed up with the assistance of rebar in two places.  Nokey had to stop and turn around to give me a helping hand several times as I just wasn’t tall enough to reach the hand grips.  At 10:15 a.m., we reached an area of the mountain called The Tableland.  This area had a nice gentle slope up to the peak, which by now we could actually see the outline of the sign up top and people gathering.  We had a 45-minute hike from here to the peak.  When we got close and the sign came into view from the final ascent the emotion I felt was completely overwhelming.  We both walked over and touched the sign at 11 a.m.  

There were a lot of people on the summit, including several other thru hikers, Comanche, B-1, Tree Hugger, Sonic… several others came up while we were there as well.  We took an array of funny and celebratory photos, shot videos, took in the scenery, and reflected on our journey.  After sitting up top until 12:15 p.m., we decided that the wind hadn’t died enough for us to feel comfortable with hiking Knife’s Edge Trail.  We still didn’t want to hike back down the way we’d come up, so we decided to hike the Saddle Trail to Chimney Pond, where the trailhead actually met up with the Helon Taylor Trail, which was the original place David was going to pick us up.  We said goodbye to Lighthouse, Catnap, and Santa’s Helper for the last time. 

We hiked down the back side of The Tableland and took in the beautiful scenery.  After a mile and a half, we began the rapid descent down a rock slide to Chimney Pond. We had views back up to the top the entire time and it was just a gorgeous trail.  When we reached the bottom at 4 p.m., we were elated to have just completed such an epic journey together.  We hugged and I got a little teared up, but mostly we were just exhausted.

We drove to Abol Bridge and David went into the camp store while Nokey and I slipped into the campground with our $0.50 so we could take a hot 6-minute shower.  We ran into Trog at the campground and he congratulated us on our summit.  That was it.  Our trip had officially ended.  I was now clean and dressed in cotton clothes.  I never had to put on that stinky purple shirt or those black spandex shorts that gave me pack rash ever again.  We drove down Golden Road and showed David the AT and the 100-mile wilderness.  We took in our last view of Katahdin before heading back to the lean-to we’d rented for the night and cooking a big dinner together.  We sat around the campfire and recounted the details of the day and cherished our last night in the woods together.  

Finally!  The view from Katahdin on 9-11-12.  This video shows you just how many people were on the summit with us.  A lot of people wanted to go up for 9-11 to make it a good day in history for themselves.  We went up for Nokey’s birthday so he could have a good birthday memory for the first time in 11 years.  It was a gorgeous Class I day!

Here we are canoeing across the Kennebec River in Maine. The canoe is the official blazed route of the trail as the river is dam-released, unpredictable, and has a strong current. Tom, our canoe guide, talks about the current while he and Nokey paddle us across the river.  My apologies if you’ve seen this video on my Facebook page already!

This was shot in Maine, outside of Stratton, in the Bigelow Mountain Range.  I say in the video it’s called West Avery Peak, but it’s actually West Bigelow Peak.  Avery Peak is the next one.  I’ve been over a lot of mountains, so give me a break!  This video was posted on Facebook a few weeks ago, so some of you may have already seen it.  Anyway, it stars Chucky the Fish and Nokey.  

Here we are! We summited Mt. Katahdin on 9-11-12 at 11:00 a.m. after waiting for six days.  The 11th is Nokey’s birthday and we wanted to wait for that day.  After taking about 45 zeros on the trail, we finished the trail in 5.5 months for me and six months, 1 day for Nokey.  I’ve been working on getting my videos posted, but the formatting issues are giving me problems.  I’ll be doing some blogging and photo updates in the next several days.  

I wanted to thank everyone who supported me on my thru hike, friends, family, and co-workers alike.  It meant a lot to me to get into town and have emails, texts, and voicemails from so many of you consistently throughout my trip.  There were times on the trail when I wanted nothing more than to just quit and come home.  There were other times I’d be angry with myself for ever doubting my abilities.  I’ve grown and changed a lot as a person in the past few months and I’m already looking forward to my next adventure, wherever it may take me!