If you’re thru-hiking north on the Appalachian Trail, Mt. Katahdin is your destination. It was mine in 2003, and I remember how excited a bunch of us were as we summited eight years ago yesterday. For me it was an end to six months and eight days of tramping ever north from Georgia. Some days were good, some were lousy (especially when it rained), but overall it was a great experience, and I understand why some hikers do it all over again.
The night before we climbed Mt. Katahdin, none of us could sleep. I played chess with a thru-hiker who’d just finished the previous day, but was ready to hike up again with friends who had been two days behind him. He was still pumped. I did finally go into the shelter to rest, but my mind was a kaleidoscope of memories of hiking north through the forests and woodlands of fourteen states.
All of us slipped onto the trail before dawn. When I got to the top of Katahdin, after pictures, I went off to the side and tried to fathom it all. But nothing sank in, and I rejoined the group. It was only after, off the peak and on the way back to the staging area, that I took a few minutes to think about the trek. I sat by a brook and was very relaxed and content. I made some resolutions (one of which I’ve kept) and then poled on, eager to see my wife, who was on her way into Maine’s Baxter State Park to retrieve me.
I looked at the great mountain behind me for the last time, turned, and moved ahead.