September 20, 2016 - Into Baxter State Park
We packed up and headed to Abol campground store and restaurant and got breakfast. We got on trail at around 8. The plan was to walk from Abol bridge to Katahdin Stream Campground and Stephen would meet us from New Brunswick and bring us to Millinocket.
The trail was relatively flat. We passed a booth where we signed into Baxter State Park. We forded two streams which we could not rock hope and the boots came off. The water was COLD and the steam was deep.
Trip (Doug) tried to rock hope and almost made it across but slipped and fell on the last boulder. He didn't get hurt just a bit banged and bruised. We passed Big and little Niagra Falls along the way and nice pond. We crossed by a day use parking area where we sat and had a break. We continued on arriving at Katahdin Stream Campground where Stephen was waiting and headed to the ranger station where we registered.
I got my green card which I was hiker 788 to reach Katahdin who had left from Georgia. We had some trail magic from a family of a thru hiker who was waiting for her to come down and finish. We got into Stephen's car and headed to Millinocket and checked into the Katahdin inn. We went and had Chinese food and then I waited for Peter and Jeff to show up.
We went to dinner and I ate again. Dinner number 2. We got back to the motel and I crashed. Tomorrow I summit Katahdin and this journey ends. Kirk who is the son of Al Cratty (smitty the walking stick) was going to meet us in the morning and summit with me. He was going to bring his walking stick and to see his dad finish the walk. It was going to be an emotional day all around.
September 21, 2016 - The End
We left at 7 and drove to Baxter State Park. My stomach was full of butterflies as was Hazels. I went in the car with Stephen and Hazel and Jeff's dad Peter, Doug and Jeff went in the other car. Jeff, Stephen and Doug were going to climb up Katahdin with Hazel and I. This would be Stephen's first time climbing a mountain.
We arrived at the park at around 8 and when we got out of the car I saw several familiar faces about to head up. Cake, Haiku, Gaia, Lt. Dan, Feather and bear bait were all in the parking area. We all started up together and reached the sign in booth where Kirk was waiting. It was a moment as we hugged and he showed me the stick his dad made for him. He had a tiny camera and was going to film as we climbed the mountain and interview me about my hike. As some of you remember Kirk's dad loved the AT and wanted to Thru hike. He passed from cancer before he got a chance to and I walked his walking stick from Georgia to Maine. Kirk wanted to do a story on my hike and his dad's stick for his work at News 6 in Portland. The interview took about a mile to do while we walked.
When we reached tree line the hike got technical. The five of us Hazel, Stephen,Doug, Jeff and I had to help each other get up the boulder climbs. It was hard and kinda scary at times. As for AT climbs this was up there as one of the hardest.
I was filled with all sorts of emotions that are too hard to explain. Once we passed the boulder climbs and almost reached the table lands we started seeing familiar faces descending. Old timer, cheeks, outlaw, beast, cake, haiku, Lt. Dan one by one passed Hazel and I. We congratulated them and hugged them not sure if we would see each other again. These people were my trail family. Even though we may not have hiked everyday with them they were out there in it heading north with me. We shared moments that were specific to a shelter, town or part of the trail.
I fought back more tears as each one passed finally giving up as the tears rolled down my face. Hazel and I reached the table lands and we could see the last mile to go and the people on the top by the sign. Kirk went ahead to summit so he could film me coming up. We pushed on. The wind was howling even though it was a perfect blue bird sky day.
I looked up to the summit and saw a raven circling. This has been a symbol all along the trail that Al Cratty was there and I couldn't believe here at 5000 feet there was a raven. I had seen them all along the trail and even on my drive south to Georgia. I climbed up the last rise and saw the Katahdin sign and was afraid to walk to it.
I pushed the strength and climbed up the that little hill reaching the sign I reached for it and put my head on it and wept. I had done it. I had just walked 2189.10 miles from Georgia to Maine.
I looked and saw Hazel at the same spot I was and she said I can't do it. I said get up here and she walked reaching for the sign hugging it and weeping. I hugged here and yelled we did it. We did it. We took pictures. I helped her up on the sign to get her picture. Then I got up to get my picture with Smitty and the Raven came back and circled me landing behind me on a rock. It then took off flying around our heads and I yelled it's AL.
We had a truly epic summit and moment at the top. We spent about 30 minutes and headed down as it got cold. We split up at Abol trail down to the campground. Stephen, Hazel, Kirk and I headed down that way while Doug and Jeff headed down the AT. We were worried about getting Stephen down the AT as it was steep and tough going up it was going to be harder going down.
Doug and Jeff went down that way as to meet Peter as that was where all the cars were. They would come pick us up at the other trail head. We got out of the woods at 6:30. It took us 10.5 hours to do 10 miles.
We met Hazels sister and nephew and some friends from home and all went to dinner in Millinocket. It hasn't sunk in yet that this is really over. Tomorrow will be another tough day when I have to say goodbye to Hazel.
For now I'm enjoying this moment.
September 22, 2016 - The Day After
After we ate we headed out and I had to say goodbye to Hazel. This was one of the hardest things Ive had to do on the trail. Our little trail family was special to me and on most of my hike I never got too attached to a group. Yes I hiked with many but we all jumped around and would see each other from time to time. Luigi, Ompi and the Royal couple I hiked with but we split with the hopes we would see each other soon. Dragon Head and Hazel were the two I hiked the most with and that was about 5 states. When dragon head got ahead we thought we would catch up so it was more of a see you later. This was a goodbye to Hazel for now and it really sucked. We had shared so much, laughed, cried and bonded. Thank god for technology and things like FaceTime.
We all got into our separate cars and drove in opposite directions. It was very sad. Jeff and I were heading to Vermont to go to Homecoming and Alumni Council Meeting which we were members of at our college. Hazel and Stephen were headed to New Brunswick to head home. It's not going to sink in that this is over till I get back home to the Catskills.
I am grateful for where I live because I can be in the woods in a matter of minutes if I miss the trail too much. I will still be connected to the trail by maintaining pieces of it in New Jersey and New York through the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. I also look forward to volunteering my time at a few hostels possibly next season to support the class of 2017.
I also hope I will be able to represent the trail conference at next years trail fest. I never fully understood the Appalachian Trail until I got on it. The trail is so much bigger than I ever imagined. The community is amazing and I have learned so much from them and it. The people out there became my family and some of them I only shared a meal, shelter or a few moments with, memories were created all along the trail in those moments. Specific locations on the trail were captured in time with those around me.
The following people will forever hold a special place in my heart. Trooper, Blue Butterfly, Olive's Human, Bug Juice, Grandma, Cinderella, Holy Diver, Ghost, Gaia, Cake, Ompi, Lightning, Timber+ Dexter, Littlefoot, OSHA, Otter, Little Joe, Karma, Luigi, Freefall, Tranquillity, Margarita, The Librarian, Luigi, The Royal Couple (slosh+scavenger), Bowjangels, Waterfall, Mudslide, Gasket, Charlie and company, Hiker John, Sleeping Bear, Smeagel, Snitzel, Crocamole, Lt. Dan, The Dude, C#, Paisley, Dragon Head, Hazel, Wallet, Eagle, Jackrabbit, Breakneck, Avalon, Gretel, Daddy long legs, David, Lazerus, Lumberjack and Ninja Geisha, Red, Crash, Old Timer, Rambler, Feather, Mayfly, Cheeks, Wolverine, Flash, Sneaky Pete, Sage, Quasibird, Spam and Sniper. You all helped create my own hike and I thank you all for that. I will never forget you.
For all of you who have read my daily journal and offered words of encouragement I thank you. Knowing that all of you were out there waiting for my next journal entry was a good motivator for me to keep going. Especially on those days where it took every thing I had to move forward. I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Part of my hike which I did not mention much before on here was to raise money for the Catskill Center. This is an organization (non profit) in the Catskill Park which I am a member of that works to preserve the natural beauty and resources of the Catskill Park. I deeply love the Catskill mountains of New York and they were instrumental in prepping me for this thru hike. I wanted to give back to what had helped me so much in training for this. Many have privately messaged me asking how they can give back for taking them on this incredible journey with me. One way is to support my Go-fund campaign to raise money that will directly go back to help preserve the park I love so much. Here is the link www.gofundme.com/moehikestheAT. Any amount you could contribute would be greatly appreciated. Please do not feel pressure to do so but I wanted to give those who wanted to an opportunity.
For those of you planning on hiking in 2017 and beyond I am an open book. Feel free to email me and pick my brain. If I can offer any assistance I will be more than happy to. If I can help others experience what I did on the AT I will be more than glad to offer assistance. The AT is truly an amazing special thing and it has forever changed my life.
October 17, 2016 - Smitty the walking stick and I were on TV!
It's now been three weeks since I've been home. It has been a weird adjustment and I miss the trail more than ever.
This weekend I got back out into the woods for a ten mile hike and it was wonderful. I met six slash here in the Catskills who Thru hiked in 2014. He was hiking with 2 friends and we chatted for a bit. I was offered an apple from a woman hiking at the summit of Hunter Mountain. I felt like I was back on the AT with dry springs and butt slides to boot. It was exactly what I needed to fill the longing for the trail.
For those of you who were following me the story about the walking stick was finally finished and aired this past Saturday on Bill Green's Maine. Here is a link to that story. It came out so well and it was an honor to do.
Storm posted regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal
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