Nose Dive (PCT Days 104 -110)

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I shouldn’t have insulted the lake, especially since this lake was known for being prickly (Porcupine Lake)! It probably didn’t help that it was a full moon, and a super moon at that. For my insolence, the lake demanded a blood sacrifice, which it took immediately, my bright red blood spattering across the cold grey rock.

It had all started innocently enough, doesn’t it always? I just wanted a campsite with a nice view, preferably of either the sunrise or the sunset. I’d hiked a quarter mile up a steep, rocky side trail to porcupine lake, hoping to find myself a nice campsite. When I got to the purported sites by the side of the lake I was sorely disappointed… They were all clustered together and the only views were of tents, rocks, and trees. Not my favorite kinds of views, so I decided to go explore down by the lakeshore… If I wasn’t going to get a sunrise or sunset view, maybe I could at least get a view of the lake?

It didn’t seem like it was too much too ask, and from a distance it even looked like there might be a couple of flat spots down by the shore at the far side of a small boulder field… Definitely worth checking out. I got over there with no problem, but once I got up close, I discovered that the spots were far from flat… My standards for flat are pretty low, but these spots definitely weren’t campable.

I grumbled some unflattering things about the stupid lake, and turned to go back up to the dark, viewless campsites where everyone else was camped when… Wham!!!!! The lakeshore jumped up and punched me in the nose with a giant grey rock!

The boulder I’d stepped down onto didn’t hold my weight… The footing must have eroded out from underneath one side of it so that when I stepped down, it immediately flipped me over and onto my nose. It happened so incredibly fast that I didn’t get a chance to break my fall with my shoulder, my pack, or my arm… I broke my fall with my nose… Thwack!!!

All thoughts were immediately erased from my head and replaced with pain… It felt like a combination of getting hit in the nose with a basketball and doing a bad backflip into a chlorinated pool, the kind that forces you to snarf chlorinated water up your nose…

I tried to stand up, but at the weird angle I was at, and with my pack still on, I couldn’t. Instead I managed to roll onto my back, but as I did I felt something wet spurt out from my face… Not a good sign. I tried to stand again, but with my pack still on I couldn’t. I lay there for a minute… Tears streaming down my face… Trying to collect myself. I was incredibly thankful that I hadn’t been knocked unconscious with that fall, and I still had all of my teeth… It could have been much worse… But it was still far from ideal.

Eventually I unclipped my pack, slipped out of it, and stood up. Man, oh man, did my nose hurt!! As soon as I stood up blood rocketed from my nose and splattered across the rocks a few feet away… A brilliant red splatter on the cold grey rocks…

Sh**!!! I grabbed my bandana and gingerly held it up to the fountain. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the bloody nose stopped, especially since my nose was so tender I couldn’t apply any pressure to it… The slight metallic tang in my throat suggested that it had found another route, but that didn’t last long either. I tried to think… Breaking my fall with my nose… Broken nose? I’d never broken my nose before. What was the biggest thing I needed to worry about? My airway… Had I screwed up the alignment of my nose or deviated the septum? If yes, I’d be hiking out to the nearest road and heading to the ER… I reached up and gingerly probed my poor nose… It hurt like heck, but it still seemed straight, and I could draw at least some air through each nostril, but I applied slight traction to the septum just in case… The alignments seemed like they were still ok… “Phew!” No forced march to the ER for tonight.

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I blinked back the tears that had come unbidden to my eyes… I was definitely a mess… My face and bandana were covered in blood, and now that the initial shock was wearing off, I noticed that my right arm was scratched up and oozing blood and my right shin had a big egg on it, which was also oozing blood.

It was suddenly convenient that I was by the shore of a lake. I walked down to the shore (about 20 feet away), rinsed the bandana out, and then used it to try to wash the blood off… I wished that the water was colder… Ice, what I really wanted was some ice to put on my poor nose… I could feel it swelling up already… Unfortunately, ice in the backcountry is rarely an option…

Once I’d cleaned myself off I decided that I’d better head back up to the main camping area… Even though I’d eaten 600 calories in the last hour, I still needed to make dinner and set up camp for the night, which meant I still needed to find a campsite… There was nothing to do, but do it, so I hoisted my pack up onto my back and set off, rather gingerly.

Da Vinci must have sensed that something was wrong as I hiked painstakingly from the rocky lakeshore back up to the area where everyone else was setting up their tents. “Hey Patches, are you ok?”

I blinked back tears and tried to control the waver in my voice, “I will be,” I said as I continued my slow plod to one of the remaining clearish spots tucked into the trees. I thought that I had pulled myself together before I left the lakeshore, but I was wrong. I was having trouble keeping full-fledged sobs from erupting from my body as I walked. Each heal strike felt like a new blow to my nose… This wasn’t fun at all!

I was far enough away from Da Vinci, and it was close enough to dusk, that he didn’t get a good look at me as I walked by. GearSlut, however, was closer. “Are you ok?”

Reflexively I went to nod my head yes (I didn’t trust my voice anymore), but I can assure you that that was a very bad idea… My attempt to nod yes caused massive pressure shifts in my nose and made me burst into tears as I plunked down to the ground. I don’t know whether GearSlut heard me crying, or saw me wince, but he was close enough to know that something definitely wasn’t right. Also, I must not have done as good a job cleaning myself up as I thought because as he approached he yelled out to the others, “first aid kits, we’re going to need some first aid kits over here!”

Before long GearSlut, Da Vinci, and DirtWolf were all sitting around me and the contents of all of our first aid kits were strewn around the campsite. “What happened?” They asked as I gingerly dabbed at my bleeding bits with disinfectant. “We didn’t hear you scream,” someone else interjected. “That’s because I didn’t scream,” I said, wincing as I dabbed at my leg. As I continued cleaning up I told them the story of what happened.

“Do you want a bandaid for your nose?” Hmmm… I wasn’t sure… I knew my nose hurt like heck, but I couldn’t see it, so I had no idea how bad it looked. There aren’t very many mirrors in the backcountry! Da Vinci, however, had a plan and handed me his cellphone… The wonders of modern technology, there was my nose!!

Damn! Instead of skinning my knees, I’d skinned my nose! Amazingly, my nose was the only thing that looked battered and bruised. The bridge of my nose was definitely still bleeding, I had to admit, it could use a bandaid. I tried to put the bandaid on my nose, but it went on crooked. I pulled it off (ouch!) and tried to replace it. Doh! Even more crooked. Trying to put a bandaid on my nose using a “mirror” and without my glasses on proved far more challenging than I would have thought! After three tries I finally gave up and asked for help (I am willing to ask for help when I need it).

Once I was all patched up, everyone went off to finish setting up camp and to make dinner, including me… The spot I’d plunked down in was a horrible site… Too small, rocky, and buggy… I was clearly a little out of it, and was just going to set up there anyway, but GearSlut insisted that I take the site he was partially setup in.

I told him that I would be fine, but my weak protests were ineffective and he had moved elsewhere before I had gotten around to unpacking. I looked around my site, it really was awful… The spot GearSlut had just vacated was much much nicer… The best that Porcupine Lake had to offer… so I picked my stuff up one last time and settled in for the night.

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My nose throbbed, it hurt to chew my food, and I was exhausted, but I was lucky and I knew it. You can be the most experienced hiker in the world, but sh** still sometimes happens… It’s a side effect of living… And I’ve been living an amazing life.

Tomorrow would be a rough day, but I would get up in the morning and hike… It’s what I do, it’s what I love… I may not hike far tomorrow, and I may not hike fast, but this too would pass… Eventually.

If the shoe fits… (PCT Days 84-90)

My little toes longed to be free. They had been fighting against the newest oppressive regime (my Oboz trail shoes) in silence for some unknown period of time but they would be silent no more. No More!!!

“Ow!” I frowned… I recognized the sharp pain radiating from the two littlest toes of my right foot and I couldn’t help but hope that they would just give up and go numb… That would happen eventually, but it wasn’t a good thing.

In the silent war between my toes and my shoes, my toes were making slow and steady progress… They were ripping out the seams and wearing through the fabric on both sides of both shoes as the little toes and big toes of each foot tried to break free. The shoes retaliated, causing blisters and callouses to form on the outside edges of my big toes, which I mostly ignored. My little toes, however, had a much more effective strategy for getting my attention… No blisters for them… They went straight for the nerve, “just try to ignore this!” they shouted.

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It was a Morton’s neuroma… It had happened on the Appalachian Trail as well (after just 300 miles) but I didn’t know what it was then… I only knew that it hurt so much that it made me want to curl up and cry on the side of the trail. After I finished the AT, the neuroma on the left-side had gotten even worse, perhaps aggravated by running the Marine Corps Marathon. It didn’t stop screaming until I got custom orthotics and three cortisone shots.

I was lucky that I’d gotten through the first 1000 miles of the PCT without any real foot issues, but now, “owwww!” I tried to think, why now? What had changed?

Suddenly it dawned on me, I switched to the Oboz at Kennedy Meadows (~ mile 700), right before I headed into the high Sierra and submerged my feet in snow and icy creeks all day, every day. Now, as I neared 1100 miles, summer was beginning, the temperatures were going up, and my feet were swelling. My shoes weren’t wide enough for my poor feet anymore, and despite my toes efforts to the contrary, the boots were squeezing my feet and pinching/rubbing a nerve.

Should I enter the war and come to the aid of my little toes? I could just reach down with my knife and finish what my toes had started… I could cut my boots open and free my toes, but would my boots disintegrate if I did that? I wasn’t sure, so I just kept on walking. Besides, the pain wasn’t excruciating… Yet.

Was there another solution? The only one I could think of was to get new boots… I kicked myself for not having thought about that back when I was in South Lake Tahoe… It would have been easy to find boots there. Now it wasn’t so easy… Where was the next place I could get boots to save my toes, or to replace these if they disintegrated? Truckee? Sierra City? Belden? All of the upcoming towns seemed small and unlikely to have outfitters with great shoe selections.

Trail Magic to the rescue!!! My friend Peru, who I’d met back in the desert, said she didn’t live far from Truckee and could help me with anything I needed. It’s always nice to see a friend, and as it turned out I did need something… a new pair of boots! I excitedly hiked out to the rest area at I-80 to meet her… The fact that she was bringing ice cream and sodas my have accelerated my pace too… And the idea of *real* food for lunch… I skipped my normal lunch and made it to the rest area full of smiles.

Unfortunately, my friend wasn’t there. I called her and we had the “I’m here, but you’re not here,” conversation. Turns out the halfmile app sends you down a 0.25 mile trail to the rest area on the north side of I-80, and she was at the south side rest area. I was getting tired, but figured the was 0.75 mile walk back under the highway to the I-80 PCT Trailhead parking area was no big deal, so I started hiking to the other side. I hadn’t realized that the trail to the south side then added yet another 3/4 mile… Aargh, this was taking longer than I thought!

When I finally got there I called my friend and we had the “I’m here, but you’re not here” conversation yet again. I was hot, and tired, and on the verge of tears. Clearly I shouldn’t have waited for lunch or I should have stopped for more snacks. My friend and I were both a bit bewildered because at this point neither of us had any idea where the other person was.

Luckily a couple of dayhikers at the trailhead parking had seen me on both sides of the highway and knew my story… They chimed in, “don’t cry, we know exactly where your friend is and we’ll take you there.” I piled all of my stuff into their car and 10 seconds later we were at the south side rest area. How come it wasn’t obvious how to get there from the PCT? I didn’t know, but it didn’t matter anymore, Peru and I were reunited and we were headed to the Diner in Truckee for food.

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With our bellies full of food we set off for our next adventure… The hunt for a new pair of shoes. It turned out there was an Outfitters in Truckee, so that seemed like a good place to start. “I’m hiking the PCT, and I’d like to try on the widest pair of shoes that you have in a Men’s size 10.” They didn’t have a huge selection, but he brought out a couple different trail shoes and trail runners for me to try on. They were all way too narrow.

I thanked him for his time, but our search was going to have to continue elsewhere. He suggested that we check out a store in Tahoe City called, “Alpenglow Sports” since they had the best shoe selection of any store around there… Especially when it came to trail runners.

In a car, the 10 miles to Tahoe City went by in a flash, and before I knew it I was starting the same conversation again, “I’d like to try on the widest shoes you have in a men’s size 10.” They asked me a few questions about what I wanted them for and if I had preferences about their weight and then came back with half a dozen different shoes for me to try on.

I felt like a dirty, smelly version of Goldilocks and Cinderella all rolled into one, “Are you sure it’s ok for me to put my dirty thru-hiker feet into these shoes?” I asked more than a little self consciously. I’d essentially come straight from the trail, dirty socks and all, and the shoes I was going to try on were pristinely beautiful and clean… nothing that came near my feet was ever going to be pristine again. They reassured me that it wasn’t a problem and I tried on the first pair. “This one’s too big!” and then the next pair, “this one’s too small!” I was having trouble finding anything that was “just right.”

The three most popular kinds of hiking shoes on the PCT this year seem to be: Merrill Moab Ventillators, Brook’s Cascadias, and Altras. I’d hiked the first 700 miles in Moabs and I knew the men’s size 10 wides would work, but I was hoping to find a lighter weight shoe that was even wider for the rest of the PCT. I tried on the Cascadias, and they were pretty comfortable, but definitely not quite wide enough for my feet (interestingly the Cascadias have a disclaimer specifically about thru-hiking).

Just when I thought that I was never going to find a pair of shoes that were wide enough I tried on the Altra Lone Peak’s. They were a little looser in the heel than was ideal, but the toebox was nice and wide… This shoe might actually work!

There was just one pair of shoes left to try on, the Patagonia EVERlongs. My first though when I picked them up was that they were incredibly lightweight… They’re only 8.4 ounces. They also felt comfortable and wide enough, but the heel was much looser than the Altra’s heel. I went back and forth between the Altra’s and the Everlongs for a long time trying to decide which ones I liked the best.

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After almost two hours of trying on shoes at Alpenglow Sports, I eventually settled on the Lone Peak Altra’s. They were wide, they were lightweight, and they were comfortable. The only potential issue was that they were zero drop shoes, which meant that they would be harder on my Achilles’ tendons… Since I’ve had trouble with Achilles tendonitis before I was going to have to be very careful for the first couple of days as my body got used to my new shoes!

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With any luck my little toes will be happy with the new, more accommodating regime… Since I tend to break-in my new shoes with 20 mile days I’ll find out very quickly whether or not the new shoes will live up to their campaign promises!!!

Summary of Shoes for the PCT so far:

1. Merrill Moab Ventillators
Size: Men’s 10 Wide
Miles: 0 – 702.21
Weight: 1 lb, 8 oz
MSRP: $90
Quick review (4/5): a good, very stable shoe, good traction, and they showed almost no wear and tear after 700 miles of desert walking. I thought these shoes were perfect on the AT, but they felt like overkill on the PCT. For the desert section of the trail I wished I had something lighter weight and more breathable. I also discovered that the giant blisters on my heels were from the way the Moab’s pad just the upper portion of the heel cup and not the lower portion. I repeatably get blisters from the Moab’s at that junction. Switching to the Oboz eliminated that blistering issue.

2. Oboz Traverse Low
Size: Men’s 10
Miles: 702.21 – 1155.61
Weight: 16.6 ounces
MSRP: $125
Quick Review (4/5): these are the shoes that I wore through the high Sierra, and they performed well. They were constantly wet (they went for weeks without completely drying), occasionally frozen solid and dealt with both rocky and icy terrain and help up very well. I also used them with microspikes with no problem. They were definitely showing wear and tear across the toebox when I finished with them and it felt like the padding in the sole was shot by the end. Despite all the wetness, they had no delamination issues and held up well. I generally think the traction isn’t as good as the Moab’s, but these shoes gripped the granite of half dome admirably as I went up the cables, so no real complaint there. Their thru-hiker policy remains awesome! My main complaint is that they felt impossibly heavy when wet and were too narrow when my feet swelled.

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3. Altra Lone Peak 1.5
Size: Men’s 10
Miles: 1155.61 – ?
Weight: 9.9 oz
MSRP: $115
Quick Review (pending): I’ve been hiking in these shoes for 100 miles now, and will give a full review when I trade them out but so far I am loving them. My toes feel free and happy with these shoes (perhaps for the first time in their lives). I’ve been doing extra Achilles stretches and excersizes, but haven’t had any issues with the zero-drop nature of the shoes. Also, I love that thy have a built in gaitor trap. They have much more ventilation than the previous shoes (the downside to that is that my toes get dirtier, even when wearing gaitors). At this point I would consider getting these shoes again when these wear out, which is the highest praise that I can give a pair is shoes. We’ll see what the next 200-300 miles brings!

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On top of the world (Days 148 & 149)

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Katahdin. The first time I climbed Mt. Katahdin was in 1991 (the year many of my thru-hiking peers were born) and it was a little bit surreal. We hiked out of 100 mile wilderness and were told that there had been a coup in Russia, and that Hurricane Bob was on track to hit New England that night. We didn’t believe the rumors at first, a coup in Russia? They must have been kidding. A hurricane hitting Maine? I didn’t even know that that was possible. Sure enough, the news was all true and we were the only people in the campground that night. My dad battened down the tent trailer and we spent a nerve wracking night listening to the ping of bungee cords as the high winds tried to undo all of my dad’s hard work. The next morning we set off to climb the rivers that all of the trails had turned into overnight. One thing was for sure, climbing Mt. Katahdin is always a memorable experience and I’ll never forget my first ascent of that mountain. Coming out of the 100 mile wilderness this time I was also met with bizarre news: the US Government had shutdown. At first I didn’t believe it, the US government shut down… What did that even mean? Many of my friends had left messages wondering if the shutdown was going to effect my hike. Luckily, Mt. Katahdin is in Baxter State Park in Maine, so the feds weren’t involved and the shutdown wasn’t going to get in the way of my final summit attempt.

In the northern part of the 100 mile wilderness we got our first glimpses of Mt. Katahdin in the distance. It was hard to believe that the end of this incredible journey was in sight. I’m pretty sure that I would have delayed and stayed in the 100 mile wilderness until all of my food ran out to make the trip last longer if it weren’t for the pesky weather forecast that I saw before entering the wilderness. We were incredibly lucky to be getting gorgeous fall weather with temperatures in the 70s during the days and 40s at night, but all of that was going to change. The forecasts were predicting rain, combined with colder temperatures, for the coming weekend (highs in the 40s, rain showers, and gusty winds). If I had a choice, I definitely didn’t want to climb Mt. Katahdin in nasty weather, so I planned my ascent for Friday October 4 (the day before the weather was supposed to turn bad).

The night before I summitted Mt. Katahdin felt a little bit like Christmas Eve, a little bit like the night before my Ph.D. thesis defense, and a little bit like the last time I walked through my first house before handing the keys over to the new owners. Like Christmas Eve, the air was full of excitement and expectations. I was finally sleeping at the base of Mt. Katahdin and the weather forecast for the next day was perfect! Sunny and in the 60s, who could ask for better weather in October in Maine? Like the eve of my thesis defense, I knew that I had already done all of the hard work and, if anything, I was over prepared for the final test ahead of me, yet I was still full of trepidation. For me, hiking the AT was really about the journey. Getting to the summit of Katahdin was just the crowning moment: symbolic of the tremendous work, experience, and joy that went into getting there. Yet even though I’d hiked over 2100 miles and countless mountains to get there, I couldn’t help but worry that something (like breaking a leg) might happen in the final five miles and prevent me from reaching the summit the next day. Like leaving a home, I was mourning the passing of an era, and was both looking forward to, and slightly nervous about, the uncertainty of my next steps. I set up camp for one last time. I went down and got my drinking water from the beautiful burbling brook one last time. I filled my alcohol stove and lit it one last time. I ate one last Mountain House meal. Suddenly all of the mundane tasks that I had done every day for the last five months became loaded with meaning because I was doing them for the last time on this trip. At hiker midnight (7 pm) I crawled into my cozy sleeping bag for one last time. I was going to miss this crazy adventure and this crazy life.

As I lay there I chatted with Eli and Rachel (two thru-hikers that had started at Springer Mountain the day before I did, and that I’d known since Damascus, VA). We talked about our excitement, our trepidation, and how much we were going to miss this life. I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow thru-hikers. Even though we hadn’t hiked that many miles together, we’d spent the entire trip within days of each other, and we were all going through the same crazy mix of emotions sitting there on Katahdin eve. The friendships and camaraderie were yet another thing that we were both grateful for, and mourning the loss of. Rachel and Eli would be climbing Mt Katahdin for the first time, and were excited about the unknown beauty of the mountain in addition to being excited about the culmination of their adventure. Rachel figured that she would be overwhelmed with emotion and cry at the summit. Eli was convinced that he would not. I’d hiked Mt. Katahdin at least three times before and didn’t think that climbing Katahdin itself would be that big of a deal for me, but I was still excited about the culmination of my epic adventure and I was fairly sure that I wasn’t going to cry at the summit; I hate crying.

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We woke at dawn the next morning and, as promised, the skies were clear. It was a gorgeous day, though still a bit chilly, as we set out. Eli, Rachel, and I decided to hike together. My friend Hotshot had headed out about half an hour before we did, and Twigs, Homeward Bound, Shady, Green Blaze, and Wyoming were all awake and packing up. I was glad that I was going to be able to summit with an amazing group of old (by trail standards) and new friends. The fall foliage was at it’s peak and we were rewarded with spectacular views after just a short amount of hiking. Though the trail was initially smooth and easy, it quickly turned steep and rocky as we climbed up the ridge towards the headwall (the gateway), the tablelands (the plateau right below the summit), and ultimately the summit itself. As we got above treeline the winds picked up, and in the early morning shade it felt chillingly cold. The stretch of trail approaching the tablelands provided us with a challenge and was probably the steepest and most exposed trail we’d encountered on the entire AT. It was an exhilarating climb up to the gateway and the tablelands, and from the tablelands, you got a spectacular view of the lakes and foliage below and of Mt. Katahdin looming up above us. Even though I’d climbed Katahdin before, it felt entirely different this time. This mountain was impressive and has a majesty that I doubt could be diminished even if you climbed it 1000 times. I walked ahead of Eli and Rachel a little bit, wanting some time alone to take it all in.

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As I walked across the tablelands towards the summit of Mt. Katahdin I was overcome by emotion and tears dampened the corner of my eyes. I gave up on trying to squeeze back them back, and just let them come. Why on earth was I crying? I wasn’t even at the summit yet! But I was there, so close that I could touch it, that I could crawl to it if I sprained my ankle or broke my leg… so close that I no longer had to protect myself from the fear that I might not make it. I was going to make it. Though I’d never really doubted that I’d make it to Katahdin, I’d never really allowed myself to believe it either. As that wall came crashing down and I finally allowed myself to believe, to know, that I was going to reach the summit, the tears came. There had been so many things going against me from the start, so many people that had told me that I wasn’t going to make it, but here I was, finally within reach of the summit of Katahdin. I was going to make it. I thought about my asthma and how when I left Boston I’d had trouble just climbing my stairs, how I’d had to sit on the floor of the bathtub because I couldn’t stand to take my showers, how I couldn’t even walk across Boston Common, yet here I was, 2000 miles later, conquering mountains. I thought about the labral tear in my hip and the constant pain it caused me at the beginning of the trip, and about the orthopedists saying that they didn’t think I would make it. I thought about how I got a late start (May), and how I had to have faith that even though I couldn’t hike far or fast at the beginning of the trip, that I would speed up and that I would beat the clock, catch up to the rest of the thru-hikers, and summit before Katahdin closed. Now that I knew that I was *really* going to make it, I could also admit that I was not just doing this hike for myself, but also for all of the people that I love/d that couldn’t/can’t do it. I cried and grieved for the dreams and the people that I’d lost, and I cried for the dreams and the people that I have. I cried with the sheer intensity and immensity of it all.

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After a few minutes I turned around and saw that Rachel was crying as she hiked up the trail too. We gave each other permission to cry, and we stood there hugging and crying on the tablelands. We were here, we were on Katahdin, we’d made it, and we’d proved all of the naysayers wrong. All of the thru-hikers that start in May (the other thru-hikers call us Mayflies, May because we start in May, and flies because we fly up the trail the so fast) know that they are in a race against the clock because Baxter State Park closes on October 15. Day hikers up and down the trail seem to know about the deadline for Katahdin and feel the need to inform us that we can’t possible get to there in time given where and when they see us. It is incredibly annoying and, even when you know that they are wrong and that you can make it, it still hurts and can be demoralizing. It is especially hard since we get these kinds of comments not just from a couple of people, but from lots and lots of people. I didn’t count the number of people that told me that I was late, that I was going to have to pick up the pace, or that I just plain wasn’t going to make it, but the number was probably between 50 and 100. Even though the number of people saying that decreased as I headed into New England, even in New Hampshire I was still running into naysayers. I tried to downplay their doubts and reassure myself that they were wrong, but sometimes it did get to me. I think that after we summit, the mayflies all have a part of ourselves that screams, “I told you so!,” and celebrates the fact that we proved all of the idiot naysayers wrong. (Congrats to the Mayflies that summitted with me: Hotshot, Eli, and Rachel and to those that summitted that same week, especially Chuckwagon, Indy, the Voice, Rabbit, and Sir Stooge).

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By the time I got across the tablelands and up to the summit my tears were all gone, and I was ready to celebrate the amazing accomplishment of being there, at the summit, with my friends. I got to the summit just in time to join in on a group summit photo with Hotshot, Twigs, Homeward Bound, Greenblaze, Shady, Wyoming, and Bojangles. After the group photo Eli and Rachel joined us and we all sat in the sun on the summit relaxing and taking turns posing with the sign. Everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying the incredible weather, the incredible views, and the culmination of an incredible journey. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by so many people brimming over with such positive emotions. We’d made it. We were on top of Katahdin. We were thru-hikers. The day hikers cheered for us, and we cheered for each other. This had been a dream for all of us, and this is what happens when dreams come true: a moment of true bliss, frozen in time, captured in our photographs and in our minds, on the top of a mountain and on top of the world.

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