This has been the most difficult post to sit down and write because it signifies the end of my 2,184 mile Appalachian Trail (AT) adventure (fundraising will continue to the end of the year.) Hiking the AT was the hardest thing I ever did, but definitely one of the most gratifying. I pushed myself physically everyday for 10 – 12 hours of hiking with a backpack that weighed 40 – 45 pounds. Rock climbs and fast flowing stream crossings that I encountered while hiking alone gave me pause and sometimes the fear of injury, possibly fatal, had to be overcome before any attempt. This was never easy, but it had to be done since turning around and quitting was never an option.
So let me tell you a bit about the 100-Mile Wilderness. It was so much more than I had expected, as was Maine in general. Because of the annual snow fall and ice flows in Maine, the MATC does not build bridges to cross the streams as a rule. As a matter of fact, there were only four bridges on the AT, that I recall, in all of Maine. Two were proper wooden bridges and one of those two was in Baxter State Park, one was just a 30 inch or so wide piece of metal that was at a 35 degree angle, three-feet high, and the fourth one was really just two logs that were lopsided and dangerous looking that suspended four feet over the water (I opted to walk through the stream there.) This lack of bridges made fording sometimes multiple cold streams daily. The depth of the streams varied from mid-calf to waist high and the current always had fast and rushing areas, which sometime flowed over large slippery rocks that couldn’t be walked on, but around with difficulty. I was thankful that on a day I had five streams to ford that I wasn’t alone for the first one, the Little Wilson, as it was the widest though not the most dangerous ford of the day. It required that I borrow a hiking pole from one of my fellow hikers (thanks Stonedancer, Butch and Birdman for being there.) The most dangerous ford of the day was at Long Pond Stream and I was totally alone. The water was over waist high and the current was flowing dangerously fast. There was a nylon rope strung across the stream, tree to tree, and had submerged stepping stones that I couldn’t see as I made my way across. I held tightly to the nylon rope and inched my way across until my feet slipped out from under me and my butt hit the water. Then as I repeated to myself, “don’t let go”, I moved my hands on the rope millimeter by millimeter until I reached the far side. I would have most likely been swept away and drowned if I let go. I videoed the stream, but incorrectly called it by another name.
The evening of the day I forded Long Pond Stream I was delighted to discover Tinkerbell, Bender, Shine and some other of my hiker buddies at the Barren Ledges cowboy camping. The sunset views were amazing and truly made my day. I got my tent set up just past the ledges as it was getting dark and enjoyed a hot meal under the stars.
On October 8th I reached Baxter State Park after a short 4.5 mile hike from Abol Bridge campground. I woke to a very cold morning and could see that Katahdin had gotten snow while I slept. Mike met me with a 20-ounce Sam Adams Oktoberfest beer and a picnic lunch that we enjoyed before heading to Millinocket for the night. We returned on the 9th for my long awaited Katahdin summit. I made the summit just as the sun was hitting the noon position. Life is good!
The Appalachian Trail was my home for six months, 3 weeks and 2 days. My fellow hikers were my family and will always hold a very special place in my heart. I am glad to be home again with my dear husband and loving cats, Kimba and Little Bit. And it’s something to realize that I spent part of winter, spring, summer and fall on the AT this year. My lovely flower garden was past its prime when I got home and the leaves were falling from the trees in our yard.
I can’t just pick up where I left off when I left Denver because I am not the same person I was before this adventure. Like most of my other AT hiker friends I am experiencing a re-entry phase, which isn’t always comfortable. I realize it just takes time to integrate the changes I’ve made into the life I returned to. I know it will be slow and I’m good with that and just trying to enjoy the process.
I will be posting more pictures on Facebook at AT Jann 2012 and videos on YouTube at FitJann. And as I said, the fundraising will continue until the end of the year. Thanks to all of you who have already made a donation to support my cause, building a new Fisher House in Denver. If you haven’t made a donation yet, please make a $21.84 donation today (or $218.84 or whatever you can.)
Mt Katahdin from Abol Bridge Campground
And remember, Life is an adventure – Live it!