August 10, 2011

100 miles of wilderness, the final climb, and everything after

Folks at home!  Upstate here.  Where do I start??  Well, I reckon I'll start by saying "WE'RE DONE!!"  As a matter of fact, we've been done since Friday, August 5th at about 2pm.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your support--I can't imagine having done this without all of the help that we've received from you folks.  I've totally let the blogging slide over the past few days as we've been doing a whole lot of nothing.  Catch up time!

After spending a lovely zero day in Monson, Maine (Loop and the rest of the guys at the hostel splashed around the lake and ate the northern interpretation of Bar-B-Q while I spent the day laying around and puking up some lousy haddock-fish from the night before), Caboose slung us out at the Hwy15 parking area to take our first 29-mile chip out of the infamous "100 Miles of Wilderness."  Loop, Tiger and I paused momentarily (approx. half a mile into the woods) to read and reflect upon the sign that read something to the key of "DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE NEXT 100 MILES...CARRY 10 DAYS WORTH OF FOOD...VERY REMOTE...VERY DANGEROUS...GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL, ETC."  We took a few pictures (smiling like Cheshire Cats) shrugged and casually walked onward--not one of us carrying more than a few snack bars and about a liter of water (Loop actually elected to go completely au-natural with no pack whatsoever).  An onlooker might have thought, "wow, those guys are completely unprepared, mentally handicapped and will most likely die."  But, we knew something that other hikers whom we passed throughout the morning did not.  We had an ace in the hole (if you will)--a 4x4 vehicle and an incredibly capable support driver who could navigate logging roads, in some cases more than 30 miles from the nearest paved road, infiltrating the remotest part of the wilderness to bring us a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich.  Oh, Caboose, we salute you and your trusty, gas station $20 Maine atlas.  Your willingness to get out there and beat Edmund to a pulp is more than any mere wilderness can keep at bay.  Haha, seriously though--she was fantastic.  With her and the truck in the equation, we were able to carve the daunting 100 miles into 3 1/2 easily palatable days of walking.  The road support was an even bigger blessing when our last week of weather was stinking wet.  I may have just quit the whole trip if we'd been 5 days soaking wet with packs full of mildewy tents, sleeping bags, etc. That's only kindof a joke.  The weather is much less of a morale killer if your tents are set up and waiting for you when you roll in after dark in the rain.  So anyway, with Caboose's help, the wilderness went by as silently and peacefully as it came, and before we knew it we were emerging onto a dirt road with the whole thing behind us.  Initially, we had planned on hiking all the way to the foot of Katahdin on Thursday, leaving a short 5 mile climb up on Friday, but our hour-long break at the convenience store (after we popped out of the wilderness) provided us with more than enough time to rationalize why stopping early for the day was a good idea.  And you know, it actually ended up saving our hides.  Had we hiked the additional 10 miles into Baxter State Park to the base of Katahdin, we would have had to be dropped off at the park in the morning.  No big deal right?  WRONG!  Unbeknown to us, on an average summer morning with good weather, Baxter can easily reach capacity and start turning folks away at the gate by 7am!  We know this because our friend Kiddo had walked into the park the night before (like we had planned to) and was denied entry to the park on Friday morning.  This girl walked 2175 miles from Georgia, and was told to "come back tomorrow."  What a bummer!!  We, on the other hand, parked the truck just outside of the park, walked the ten miles into the park (Caboose included) and were able to summit Katahdin on the technicality that we didn't have a vehicle (I guess it's kindof hard to tell folks that just walked ten miles to turn around and go home).  I like to think that this blog is a fairly educational and scholarly source, so I'd like to point out the important lesson that is to be learned here:  procrastination and overall laziness CAN, just occasionally, work to your absolute advantage.  Sometimes the over-achievers get the raw deal.

So, up Katahdin we went.  True to form, we started about seven minutes before the cut off time.  Haha, most folks must start their ascent by 6:00am.  We calmly assured the ranger that we were in no danger of failing to be back down by 5:00pm with an 11:00am start.  Once again though, the day hiker clothes and absence of thru-hiker funky smell weren't helping our cause to convince the unknowing ranger of our qualifications.  "5 miles and 4,500ft," I thought, "Pffff, we can get on top of that in 2 hours."  (The signs at the park recommend allotting 5 or 6 hours one way?!?! Haha, I'm no superstar, but this estimate must have been made with the absolute worst case scenario in mind...oh, and the most arthritic and un-athletic 98-year-old hiker.)  The hike quickly turned into a rock-scrambly climb (sometimes surprisingly vertical and dangerous) and we realized with a strange satisfaction that ole Katahdin had no intentions of letting its reputation as the trail's most technical climb down.  I say that we were happy about this because when you reach the end of something so long, you almost want it to go out with a real BANG!  We weren't disappointed.  When hand and footholds weren't available, pieces of rebar had been soldered into the rock.  It reminded me of a jungle gym at times--so much fun!  Spirits were sky-high as we passed the crux of the climb.  The ground leveled-out considerably about two miles from the summit, and Loop and I enjoyed entertaining Caboose by re-enacting scenes from The Matrix as we strolled over the gradually inclining, barren rock leading to the tip-top.  I don't know why, but Keanu Reeves' acting prowess has been the mainstay of conversation (when time needs filling) for the many-month duration of this trip.  When the woods grew close around the trail, we had to simply settle for a husky-voiced, "I know Kung Fu."  But, when space permits, there's nothing quite so gratifying as role-playing the final fight scene where Neo comes back to life and pummels the agents.  Sorry, I totally geeked out there.  Geek out complete.

I can't describe the feeling that I had (I'm sure it was pretty similar for Loop and Caboose) when I caught sight of the sign sitting on top of the Mountain that I've been pursuing for the past 5 months.  I'd like to write something really poetic, but the reality is that it felt mostly like finishing a task and ending a chapter.  I could almost feel the trip and the last 5 months slide away.  Wild.  Everything we know is fleeting.  Even the most difficult, the most crooked and the seemingly-never-ending are only here for a little while.  I don't mean this to sound melancholy, because the truth is that I'm glad to be through with this adventure, but it does have a bittersweet taste.  It's just hard to imagine, when it's raining and 33 degrees and you're wet and cold and hungry and you've got 1800 miles to go, that you'll blink and be standing at the end of your journey with the sun on your face, looking back on weeks and weeks of just pushing-on.  Do I even need to point out the lesson to be learned here?  Life's awfully short folks.  And we can sure spend a lot of the time we've been given here wishing that we were in a different situation.  Be very careful though--it's only here for a little while.

We high-fived and hugged and laughed (surprisingly, no tears were shed) and took a bunch of pictures and hugged some more and called home and coated each other with the contents of an insanely cheap bottle of champagne, and then we walked down and left the mountain behind us.  It felt good and right and complete to finally be walking away from Mt. Katahdin.  Kiddo really won the gold star friend award by driving our truck around to the front gate of the park so that we could hitch an easy ride out of the park and back to Edmund after hiking down.  Thanks again Kiddo, and congrats on knocking out those 2,181 miles!

It was right around 5:00 by the time Loop, Tiger, Caboose and I made it to the truck (what with hiking down, sitting around, hitching a 5-mile ride @ 20mph out of the park, etc.), so we loaded up quickly and made a B-line to hwy 95.  We were mainly eager to pay lots of tolls, but also eager to grab some food in Bangor (approx. 70 miles south) and get on down to the Portland area to drop Tiger off and head toward Little Ossipee Lake for a few days with Loop's family.  Quick quiz:  What did the hikers choose as a celebration meal?  Was it A)Top quality seafood from a coastal region? B)Juicy Steaks at a Porterhouse? or C)Lots and lots and lots of chips and salsa and burritos and rice and beans at a Mexican joint?  If you guessed A or B, you haven't been following this blog at all!  We got in too late to hang out on Friday night, but had a blast with Loop's cousins on Saturday and Sunday, dock-sitting, steak eating, skiing, kayaking, swimming, movie-watching, rummy-playing, etc. Thank you again Ed, Jeanne, Kerry and Missy for letting us crash your place!  Every thru-hike should unwind this way!!

That catches you folks up.  Caboose and I parted ways with Loophole on Monday morning and drove back into Portland to explore the town a bit.  We got to see some friends from home, Jonathan and Nicole and Caleb Davis (JD is working out his residency at the Maine Medical Center in Portland) for a few minutes before we hit the road again to head south to Concord, Mass.  We're currently holed-up in a historic Inn, enjoying more air conditioning and a comfy bed.  We spent the day in Boston today, and will be taking our time making our way home with the remainder of the week.  What a journey this has been.  All glory to our Lord and Savior, for we know that ALL good things come straight from Him.  Have I already said "Thank You?"  Thank you, folks at home, friends and family that helped us along the way, food sponsors, and everyone else who's had a part in supporting us on our trek.  We're so blessed to have had you alongside us throughout this trip.  May God bless each of you for your generosity towards us.  Thank you, and thanks again.  You stay classy, we'll keep the adventures coming.  This is Upstate, signing out.  VIVA LA MONKEY TRIBE!

you know...road support
Road Support 

Upstate & Tiger walkin' into the woods...
Upstate & Tiger walkin' into the woods for what was supposed to be the last 27 miles...

the "cabin" we stayed in our last night
our "cabin" the last night
with Kathy, Kiddo, Upstate, Loop, Tiger & myself

just one from the photo shoot...
we're pumped to get on the trail to Katahdin (:

Me & Mike!
here we go...

Upstate, Caboose, Loop (:
Upstate, me & Loop 
The Monkey Tribe 

Loop, Tiger, Caboose, Upstate (:
The Monkey Tribe & Tiger

Can you handle that we only have 5.2 miles to the END?!
Can you believe we only have 5.2 miles to the end?! I can't!

Loop stretchin' hahahahaha
Loop gettin' his stretch on before the biggest climb ever

the Matrix ... on the way to the top
the Matrix .. if you only knew


Loop plankin' the Katahdin sign
Plankin' the sign..

Town Gut
Town Gut at it's finest

D O M I N A T E D 

Mike at the LAKE in Maine! (: He's lovin' it
loving life at the lake 

Grady, Brock & Me chillin' on the boat
Grady, Brock & Me enjoyin' the boat ride! 

1 comment:

  1. What the JUNK is this planking stuff?! I'm just finding out about it (like yesterday) and then I see it on your page. I'm confused and I'm suddenly feeling really old and out of it! Glad y'all made it back safely! See you soon!