Sunday, September 12, 2010
As my flight descended to the runway at the Indianapolis airport, I could pick out from my window familiar high school football fields, the Pepsi Coliseum, the intersection of 38th and Meridian and even the red roof and front lawn of home. The whole family met me at the arrival gate--Dad, Sally, Grace and Grant! Wasting no time, we piled into Dad's new Lincoln and drove straight to Judy's, a family favorite and the best place in town to get the Hoosier classic: a breaded tenderloin. (They don't even know what these are on the east coast!)
It's great to be home and even better to be able to say I've hiked the AT (*in past tense :) I can't begin to describe accurately what an experience like this has meant but its been one of the coolest things that I've ever been a part of. I've met countless wonderful and unique individuals; friends that will last a lifetime. I've seen beautiful parts of the country that I'd never considered visiting. I've found appreciation for some of everyday-life's smallest conveniences; fresh-brewed coffee, toilet paper, a text message from a friend 1000 miles away.
This was the view from the top of Katahdin--the final climb.
It's not the highest peak on the AT, but its the biggest elevation change we've seen and definitely one of the more rugged climbs on the trail. It was partly cloudy and 60 degrees on the ground (elev. 1200) that morning, dense fog and 50 mph sustained winds on top (elev. 5200). For the last mile leading up to the summit, we were walking the ridgeline, they call it "Tableland." With visibility at ~25 feet, the sign marking the summit just appears in front of you without warning. It's breathtaking. It's what you've been hiking towards for the last 6 months. One by one, a small crowd of hikers form at the top and we gather around it like its some sacred icon that marks the end of a religious pilgrimage. For many, it kind of is I guess. Pigpen and I took our pictures and drank a celebratory 16oz Budweiser, then decided to head back down so we could get the blood circulating again in our frozen fingers.
The fog faded as quickly as it had appeared, as we descended below treeline and out of the dream.
It was a pretty perfect ending to a pretty incredible trip.
More of a denouement than a climax, Katahdin was as breathtaking and satisfying as i could have hoped for.
I need to extend an especial thank you to my good friend and hiking buddy "Pigpen," and his family, for their generosity and accommodation in the last month or so of this hike. Couldn't have done it without you. Literally.
I also want to congratulate Malorie aka 'NotBad' on the completion of her thru-hike! She summited successfully on Saturday. Its a very impressive feat, something to be very proud of. I'm very proud of you :)
I can't begin to thank everyone who is reading this. You're interest alone has been a major driving force in finishing this thing off.
I'm not sure the best way to end this final entry, but i found this quote that surmises part of what i think I've learned & a lesson that i consider worth passing on:
"Long distance hiking is not a vacation, it’s too long for that. It’s not recreation, too much toil and pain involved. It is, we decide, a way of life, a very simplified Spartan way of living … life on the move … heavy packs, sweating brow; they make you appreciate warm sunshine, companionship, cool water. The best way to appreciate these things that are precious and important in life it is take them away." – CINDY ROSS, Journey on the Crest, 1997
w/ love, Jess