One year ago – July 4th 2013 – we climbed Mount Katahdin in Maine. Despite our training, it was a rigorous 5 mile, 5 hour ascent to the Northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Once at the top, we surveyed an endless ocean of trees and cascading horizons surrounding us, and began a 5-month southbound thru-hike of the AT, ending Thanksgiving Day, November 28 2013.
Today represents one year of embracing freedom: of loosing ourselves from our expectations; of looking for authentic, unmediated experience; of believing in ourselves and the infinite possibilities emergent in every life and at every moment; of one year of saying YES.
We have a confession to make… perhaps to assuage our own fears, and certainly to ease those of our families, we have totally downplayed the rigor and possible danger of this journey. Now that we are safely out of the two most challenging states (and by most people’s accounts the most dangerous) we breathe a sigh of relief. The elevation gain and terrain of the AT are among the most difficult of any trail in the world; the technical bouldering, mountain climbing, scrambling, tripping over roots, and sliding down bare, wet rock faces can really get to a person. But… we’re still alive!
To commemorate our victory, we now present you two lists:
Things we did:
We hiked 442.2 Appalachian trail miles in 37 days (and probably more like 470 miles with non-AT side trails)
We walked/climbed/scrambled/sweated uphill 122,133.2 feet
We walked/slid/fell/scooted downhill 122,733.8 feet
Our highest mileage day was 24.4 miles (to get to Hanover before the bars closed)
We summited Katahdin – the most mythological (and highest) peak in Maine
We traversed the 100 mile wilderness with no support – carried all our belongings and food with no resupply – for 9 days
We had a blast going through Mahoosuc Notch, ME – the “Most difficult mile on the trail”
We summited Mt Washington in NH – the most feared (and highest) peak in the Northeast
Groucho strained a muscle in his back, broke a toe, broke a toe nail and fell down 5-8 times
Harpo got a bloody knee, and a bruised elbow/thigh/knee and fell down 3-6 times
We forded rivers (all gentle, no more than calf high)
We saw bear, salamanders, toads, frogs, grouse, hawks, crows, eagles, a large hare, red squirrels, chipmunks, mice and many many song birds – but no moose
Groucho learned minimist shoes are not the maximus for Maine
We had wet socks for days on end
We stepped in mud up to our and thighs, and were happy our shoes stayed on
We descended Mt Washington with zero visibility in freezing sleet, arriving at the one shelter we stayed at in NH, Lake of the Clouds Hut. We were greeted by 10 northbounders who had been waiting out the weather since 4pm, and were sent to ‘the Dungeon’ instead of getting work-for-stay. We paid $10 each for the privilege of staying w/out heat or light or a mattress for the plywood bunk (but believe you me, we were grateful for even this)
Things that did NOT happen to us, but DID happened to others within days of our traversing the same terrain:
We did not have bears steal our packs for food
We did not injure our knee in the 100 mile wilderness and have to wait at the hostel for 5 days hoping it got better (hope you’re back on the trail Ben!)
We did not have a boulder dislodge and dislocate our shoulder/shatter our foot on Katahdin
We did not have to leave trail because of blisters getting infected / blood poisoning
We did not get lost… we stayed close to the same shelter as a camper who then dissapeared. Our thoughts are still with hiker Inchworm who has been missing for two weeks in Maine… we hope every day for her safe recovery.
We hear the rest of the journey is much more relaxed; lower elevation, nicer trail and fair weather. But we pay our highest respects to mother nature, who has schooled us through both fear and awe in the last month… And so we bid farewell to New Hampshire, and Maine, as we complete our first month on trail.
The “Hundred Mile Wilderness” is one of the largest wilderness areas left in America, and doesn’t offer any services for hikers – not to mention no motorized traffic and absolutely no development beyond crude lean-to shelters. After packing in 10 days of food, we made it out in 7 with our spirits high and our feet relatively dry.
Including Katahdin (Maine’s dignified 5267′ slab of granite), we climbed 16500 feet and lost 17000 feet of elevation, summiting 12 peaks along the way.
Our journey began with an auspicious start – a beautiful 4th of July on Katahdin and good weather throughout the wilderness. Now in the lovely town of Monson, we’re looking forward to a day of rest and a few cold ones…