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It didn’t stop raining. It was constant all night into the morning. I woke up around 1am and it was still pouring and the whole bottom of my tent was flooded. There’s a hole in the bottom and I definitely didn’t pitch the tent for rain like this. When I got out, I found the area I had to put my tent turned into a pool and I was right in the middle of it. I had to put my rain gear and shoes on INSIDE the tent just to keep my clothes dry. This is it though. The last day and what a way to start it out. Absolutely soaked! Nothing was going to ruin this day though. This is what it’s all come down to. This day. I packed up, got a fist bump from Sparkle and we headed up the mountain. It felt like final exam. The AT climbs up Mount Katahdin via the Hunt Trail. It started with an easy sloped trail of rocks, roots and some muddy spots. The hike up today was only 5.3 miles but it was an incredibly serious climb. After passing by the beautiful Katahdin Stream Falls, the hike turned into a boulder scramble. We quickly had to put our trekking poles away and start using our hands to balance ourselves or pull ourselves up using roots, trees or rock edges. Once we cleared tree line, it was down right rock climbing. We were ascending a few thousand feet in a very short distance. I was able to get some nice views on the way up but we were quickly deep in the clouds so the final push up the Great Mountain, which is what Katahdin actually means in the local native tribe’s language, was pretty much gray everywhere. It took us a little over 4 hours but finally I could see ahead of me in the gray mist the shape of an A-frame sign and I knew it was finally over. It took me 196 days to complete my goal of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail northbound but I did it. It was a proud moment as I approached that sign. Other thru hikers already up there were clapping and saying their congrats. I just kept my eyes on that sign until I was standing in front of it, reached out, and placed my hand on its surface. That was it! On February 25th I touched the first white blaze on top of Springer Mountain in Georgia. On September 6th I touched that famous sign on top of Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park in Maine; both separated by a mere 2,194.3 miles of trail over the Appalachian mountain range. To say I felt like I was on top of the world as I climbed the back of that sign and threw my hands in the air would be an understatement. I will remember and cherish that moment for the rest of my life. I will always remember the amazing people I met on and off the trail along the way. I will always remember the ups and the downs, both literally and figuratively. After resting on top of Katahdin and getting my picture taken by the massive cairn that marks the actual summit, Baxter Peak, we started our hike down via the Abol Trail, which was much steeper but shorter than the Hunt Trail. It felt like a completely different hike. I was no longer following white blazes but following blue blazes down the mountain. My legs were working on autopilot and I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world. It was a crazy climb down and it took almost as long to get down the mountain as it did going up even though it was something like a mile or more shorter. Once below tree line though, the trail was extremely smooth and it was a great ending to an amazing trip. I hung around by the main road in Baxter State Park with Sparkle and Rodney who with his wife, Robyn, is known as R & R. It was a happy moment when I saw Jason pull up driving my car. He gave me a clean shirt and some wet wipes as well as pulled out a can of lysol and sprayed all of our packs. LOL! Jason then gave us a ride back to the ranger station where Sparkle met up with her sister and mom after such a long trip of her own and we also picked up Robyn. We offered to take R & R to Millinocket so they didn’t have to pay for a shuttle. On the way there, they mentioned they planned on being near Portland in a couple days. They would have to bus hop over a couple days to get near Portland where they then wanted to head to Amtrak and would take the train back down to North Carolina. Well, since we were driving to Portland anyway to go home, of course we said they should just stay with us and we were able to cut their travel short by a couple days and save them from having to pay for multiple busses. They found a hotel to stay for the night a short distance from our apartment so that made it super easy. I’m sure Jason just enjoyed having not one but three stinky hikers in the car. Remember that we had to hike through the 100-mile wilderness and not go into any town before entering Baxter State Park to get our free hiker permits to climb Katahdin. I know I hadn’t had a shower in 10 days from then and I’m sure they were close to the same. Let’s just say we were pretty ripe. I mean, we could wash off in streams but the real stink is in your clothes and gear since that’s not as easy to really clean every day while you are actively sweating in them. Anyway, R & R are an amazing couple and I’m so happy to have met and hiked around them. They’re bee keepers and I’m looking forward to getting a jar of their honey in the mail. (I gave them my favorite cocktail recipe using honey in exchange.)
Okay, let’s wrap this up. It’s a long entry but it’s most likely my last. Jason and I got home to our new apartment after 9pm. I was exhausted but I tried to focus as he showed me the place. It really was strange being in an apartment with some recognizable furniture and some not in a new place. It felt like I was in an AirBnB and I didn’t want to touch anything. After a shower, our friends Pete & Pam came over and we had some celebratory drinks and they gifted me with a T-Shirt. Many times I’ve said I wanted to get a shirt made that said, “Powered By Cheese” because I said that many times as I would eat a cheese stick before climbing a steep mountain. Well, that’s what the shirt said. I’ll smile every time I see that shirt because it will have a deeper meaning than what most will understand when they see me wearing it. So here we are. At the end. Time to readjust to civilization again. I have to get to know my new home. I have a massive list of things to do from getting my dental emergency dealt with, a much needed haircut and beard trim, go through my boxes of clothes and help go through our stuff to really make this place home and to send the rest to storage until we get our house built. Then there’s also getting a new driver’s license and registering my motorcycle and car. Ultimately, I’ll also have to figure out what I’ll be doing for work as well. It’s all a big undertaking but it’s my next big adventure. For now, I’m mostly excited to head back to Florida to throw a celebration party and to see everyone and thank many of you in person. Thank you all who have followed my rambling journals. I appreciate you all and you’re all part of this successful adventure. Again, thank you all!
Signing out… -Last Call