After an anxious night of restless sleep, I began to hear the awakening of a new day from my tent - squirrels chattering, leaves falling, birds calling - for one last time. This would be my last day on the AT as a thru-hiker. Even typing that sentence, a year later, sounds hard to believe.
It’s incredibly difficult to explain the feeling of waking up that chilly mid-October morning. I was overwhelmed with excitement and joy for having (almost) accomplished this huge dream, yet I was so, so sad to see the trail and this way of life go. I was flooded with emotions: excitement, anxiety, confidence, weariness, energy, exhaustion, impatience, sadness, joy. Conflicted. Gin Gin would sum it up in one word: grumpy!
I packed up my things and ate breakfast quickly, excitement for tackling Katahdin overruling any other feeling. I was ready to leave our campsite, but Gin Gin wanted to stay and savor the moment. My impatience started wearing on her and reluctantly she started packing up her things.
We made our way back to Katahdin Stream Campground where we ran into Rocky, Derby, and Seth Rogan. The five of us would make up the summit crew for the day. After stalling and talking for what seemed like an hour, the Gin Gin, Seth Rogan, and I slowly made our way to the trailhead. Only 5.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail left to hike.
Lost in thought and emotion, I wanted to hike alone. I felt stronger than I have ever felt in my life. I whizzed past day hikers struggling up the mountain. After 2,184 miles of walking, my powerhouse legs left everyone else in the dust. Adrenaline added additional fuel, and I made it to treeline quickly. I stopped at an overlook to take in the view. I was practically at the cloud ceiling. The valley below glowed red with the embers of a fading fall. The trail led up into the clouds, the grey unknown.
Gin Gin and Seth Rogan caught up to me and we admired the view. Together, the three of us began the climb that remained. And it was a literal climb! Hand over hand, sometimes using rebar for assistance, the next mile was an adventure. I loved it!
Once we finished the scramble, we were totally exposed and the wind was howling at 40-50 MPH. We sought shelter from the wind in the lee of a giant rock slab. Out of the wind, we stopped for a snack break and to put on more layers. Rocky and Derby caught up to us. We all sat here for some time, not wanting to continue. Only 1.7 miles remained, and no one seemed too eager to finish. The thought of 1.7 hit me hard. The first 3 miles were so fun and invigorating. Now the end was unavoidable. I wished there were more miles to walk, more days to fill my lungs with pine-scented air, fill my ears with birds’ songs, fill my eyes with vivid colors of fall, fill my heart with life. Could I find this once I left this trail?
One by one, the group left the safety of the rock and into the wild grey. I walked alone. Clouds obscuring my view and limiting it to at most 75 feet. The mountain looked and felt otherworldly. I passed Thoreau Spring. One mile left. My pace slowed to a crawl. Looming ahead, I could faintly make out the profile of the summit sign. Less than 100 feet left. I froze.
A thick grey veil masks the threshold of a new world. Each step brings me closer to uncertainty. What strange familiarness awaits me? Everything will change. Will I lose who I've become?
Ephemeral fingers grasp at my body. Are you the ghosts of my brothers and sisters' dreams, the ones who came before, desperately attempting to impart some sense of knowing? What are you telling me? Wind calls, and strangely I'm the one who suddenly feels unreal.
Right foot forward. Now my left, slowly. I cannot see what lies ahead. I hesitate, on the precipice of no return.
But I'm ready.
I collapsed on the summit sign, crying uncontrollably. I did it. I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail!
I am a filmmaker. I am an adventurer. I believe in children. My friends are obsessed with my beard. I am obsessed with beer. I want to embrace and fully live this life I’m blessed with. I want to be known as someone who loves deeply.
On May 16, 2017 I set out on my dream, the adventure of a lifetime: a 2,189.8 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. I want to push people to live their dreams and pursue their passions.