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A.T. Facts & Links

Current total Miles: 2,174 (2010)

Southern Terminus:
Springer Mt., GA

Northern Terminus:
Mt. Katahdin, ME

Blaze Color: white

Trail Passes Through:
14 States
8 Nat'l Forests
6 Nat'l Parks
State & Local Parks

Planning a hike on the A.T.? E-mail me at: ramkitten2000@yahoo.com, and I'll do my best to answer your questions.

Appalachian Trail Data Book (2013)

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers' Companion 2013

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Planner

Walking the Appalachian Trail (Official Guides to the Appalachian Trail)

The Appalachian Trail : How to Prepare for & Hike It (Appalachian Trail)

Appalachian Trail Books, Films, Posters, Products, and Websites

The 10-Year Anniversary of my Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Ramkitten's Gear Reviews

Ramkitten's Packing-for-Backpacking Checklist

My Journal: Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike, 2000


Me
Yyyaaayyy!

September 25 -- Day 178
Destination: KATAHDIN
Today’s miles: 5.3 (10.6 round-trip)
Trip miles: 2167.1

Each day at seven a.m., the rangers in Baxter State Park post the weather conditions and rate the day from 1 to 4, 1 being the most favorable conditions above tree line. Today was Class 1! What wonderful luck to climb this unique, incredible mountain on a day like this. We signed out on the register at the base, as you're supposed to do, and began climbing at 6:30, before the weather rating was actually posted. It was very cold, but the sky was blue and the breeze negligible. For quite a while, today felt like so many other days on the trail ... not the last.

Split P
Aaaahh

But the higher we climbed, the more the feeling changed for me. While each mountain on the trail has had its own personality, Katahdin really has a strong one. It seemed like almost no time passed before we hit tree line and stood above the world. It was breathtaking. I looked up at where I was going--another 2,000 feet--and wondered where up there among the rocks and boulders that final sign was. I felt no anxiety about the rest of the climb, although I had for many miles before today. Suddenly, that anxiety was gone and I felt very comfortable up there. Turbo Turtle made me happy with his observation that my climbing and footwork skills were much improved, and that helped me as I chimneyed up one location where house-sized boulders looked like they'd fallen from the sky into a big, jumbled pile someone had named Katahdin. A few rebar hand- and foot-holds were well-placed to give added security and crucial help in a couple tough spots. For some reason, though, the climb felt almost easy to me, despite the fact the Thru-Hiker's Companion calls it the most difficult. Not for me. Not on this day.

Gaited Mule
Yee-haaaa!

After a few miles of steep climbing, we crossed the wide-open Tableland. Just gorgeous! There was frozen mist (I think that's called hore frost. Or is it "hoar"? Or ... no, it isn't "whore") sticking out sideways on the alpine vegetation and the "Please stay on the trail" signs. I could see the sign marking Thoreau Spring--named for Henry David Thoreau, who climbed Katahdin in 1846--from nearly a mile away. Once I passed that sign, the final, moderate, half-mile ascent was in front of me. My feet flew like I was walking on air. I hardly realized I'd started to run as I reached the top. When I looked up from the rocks, I saw something that made my heart leap into my throat, and I started to cry. I shouted "YAY!!!" although it didn't feel like my own voice.

And there it was: the sign I'd seen in so many photos on so many walls for so many years with so many other people standing behind it, sitting in front of it, kissing it, sitting on it. I didn't think I'd react the way I did when I reached that point, but the culmination of almost six incredible, difficult, challenging, wonderful months hit me as I walked over to touch the big, red sign with the word "Katahdin" painted in large, white letters. "The northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail," it read, and I just continued crying as I turned around and watched Split P and Turbo approaching. I shouted again, and Split P cheered back over the sound of the wind.

Turbo Turtle
Cool. Now let's go southbound!

The only two people at the summit before I arrived were two women, who were out for the day. As I'd approached the summit, crying and cheering, one of them held out a disposable camera to me before my hand had touched the sign. I was maybe six inches from it.

"Will you please take our picture?" one of them asked without a smile.

"One second," I replied, catching my breath. My hands were shaking, and I guess I was even a little annoyed.

"It's pretty easy," she said sternly. "All you have to do is point and press the button." She was impatient.

I took the camera and snapped the photo of the two women. The one who hadn't asked me to take the picture thanked me, and that's the last I saw of them. They disappeared as I turned to see Turbo and Split P reach the sign. Split P lay against it for a long moment. Then came Gaited Mule. I'd expected him to whoop it up, but he was actually silent with a slight smile behind all that facial hair. He stopped a few feet from the sign and stood quietly watching, while Split P continued to lean against it. Finally, she stood up and said, "C'mon, Mule. Come touch the sign." It was so sweet the way he reached out his hand and walked over to it. Funny, Mule's reaction and mine were the exact opposites of what I'd expected them to be. You just never know how the emotion will manifest itself. It's an incredible feeling.

*Sigh* I really don't know what more to say. I'm now sitting in the office of my parents' home in Rhode Island, where I'll be visiting until Oct. 8th, then flying home to Pennsylvania. I'm typing this final entry myself. Yogi's fingers must be completely gnarled and twisted by now. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Yogi, for being my fingers over the last six months. I'm grateful.

Now that I'm finished with my thru-hike, I'm trying to grasp the thought that I really did it at all. I mean, it almost doesn't seem real now. After only days off the trail, I almost feel ... like it was a dream. I have no aches and my feet look like they always had before. Being "out here" feels like it always did, too. The thing is, though, I know something has changed. I'm changed. I don't think you can go through this experience without being somehow deeply affected and altered by it, even if in some subtle way you might not, at first, realize. Sure, the old jeans fall to my ankles now, but the differences go a lot deeper than that. All I can say is, whatever it is you do, if you eventually thru-hike or not, make the most of and appreciate each day, because the days pass and things end, and it's like *poof* ... it's over. The memories are wonderful. So are the pictures. But the journey is the treasure.

--Ramkitten

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Read: The Ten-Year Anniversary of my Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike


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