After over 2,000 miles on the Appalachian Trail, I finally reach Katahdin. But first, the trail had a few more challenges to throw at me! Enjoy reading my latest journal entry as I complete the Appalachian Trail. If you missed it, here are my previous entries and videos from the trail.
I recommend reading this blog post first before watching. But here it is, my final video from the trail. I continue through Maine and finally reach Katahdinn after hiking 2,200 miles!
All seven of us, Relentless, Honey Bear, No Shoes, Trademark, 2-Clicks, Myagi, and I, woke up and hiked an easy three miles to Abol Bridge. This was our first encounter with civilization after the 100-mile wilderness. Crossing the bridge over the river we were treated with an amazing view of Katahdin.
At the Abol Bridge Campground we stopped at their restaurant for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet and very overpriced and dismal resupply. I just needed snacks for the next day and bought some pop-tarts and chips. The seven of us hiked together into Baxter State Park. We hiked together over very easy terrain through the park. We were all excited to finally be at the foot of Katahdin after almost 2,200 miles. There was an electric energy in the air and we were all glad to be together as a group. We stuck together; no one hiked ahead or fell behind. It started to rain and we figured, oh well, one last hurdle before the end.
We stopped at a river and decided to go for a swim since we were already wet. It was brisk yet refreshing. The mosquitoes started attacking us afterward and our hiker train split up. I was the driver and pushed ahead at full speed through the swarm while half of our party stopped and put on bug spray. Over the last few weeks I’ve killed and been bitten by so many mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, and who knows what. My body is covered in crazy bug bites as well as scrapes and bruises from rocks and my trekking poles. I look like complete hiker trash.
Finally we reached the Birches campsite which is reserved for NOBO hikers. I set up my tent for the last time. Honey Bear’s mom and uncle showed up with cookies, ice cream, fruit, and nuts. It was the perfect trail magic. It wasn’t raining anymore so we hung our clothes out to dry and I started a fire. Eagle came by after summiting and told us all about the mountain and gifted us with more trail magic. Landfill and Transformer had also finished that day, he told us. We hung around the fire until a second down pour forced us to seek shelter. After 30 minutes or so, the rain ended and Honey Bear’s mom and uncle returned with eight pizzas for us! We were extremely grateful and devoured six of them in short time. We spent the rest of the afternoon swapping trail stories and enjoying the fire.
Eventually the ranger stopped by and gave us our summit permits. I was number 106 for NOBO hikers. That meant just over 100 northbound hikers had summited Katahdin (and likely completed the AT) for the year ahead of me. I started the trail in Amicalola Falls, GA, on February 28th as number 419. On May 3rd in Harpers Ferry, WV, I was number 76 just before the halfway point. Now I’m number 106 to climb Katahdin and complete my thru-hike.
It is crazy to think back on all I’ve been through to get here, and how fortunate I am for good weather for my summit, for all the amazing hikers I’ve met, the trail magic I’ve received, for the support from family, friends, strangers, and new friends. What a ride this has been and what a life-changing experience. It has been great spending the last week with six awesome hikers. No one else will understand the bond we have from this shared experience. We thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. Back in the real world I’ll just be Danny, but secretly, unbeknownst to everyone else, I will have gone on this incredible journey and Crazy Horse will live on.
At last, I got into my tent one last time. I tended to my infected toe, rolled out my sleeping bag, wrote this journal entry, hung my socks to dry, breathed in their pungent smell, got a whiff of my sweat-laden t-shirt, and crawled into bed. One day more…another day, another destiny.
Day’s Mileage: 13.4
Total Miles Hiked: 2,194.5
Remaining Miles: 5.2
I woke up at 1am and wished it was time to get up. I went back to sleep until 5:30am. We all left and headed to the parking lot near the trailhead. Myagi and Trademark went on ahead while the rest of us waited for 2-Clicks’ parents. They showed up with tons of trail magic to start our hike off right. Honey Bear, Relentless, No Shoes, and I began hiking together. 2-Clicks was behind to hike with his brother. It didn’t take long before I pushed ahead, wanting to hike on my own and reflect on my journey.
The trail became steep and rocky as I ascended through the woods. I was on a mission and nothing could stop me. The weather was great: cool temperatures and mostly sunny. I was hiking past a group of day hikers when tragedy struck. I was climbing over a large, tall rock, bending my arm backwards while pushing down on my trekking pole to lift my body up. And then I felt it roll; my shoulder dislocated. It didn’t hurt but I was not happy. This was the sixth or seventh time I’ve dislocated my shoulder in the past ten years, but the last time was over a year ago. I’d come this far with no major injuries until now. It was as if the AT had one more obstacle for me to overcome. It couldn’t just let me summit without one last challenge! I took my pack off and within 30 seconds my shoulder rolled back into place. There was nothing else to do but throw my pack on and keep climbing.
Soon after, the trail headed into the alpine zone above tree line. The rocks were huge and I was basically rock climbing. It was a tad scary and I was trying to go slow and baby my shoulder as best I could while still reaching, pulling, pushing, and stretching myself over the boulders. This was one of the hardest sections for me on the entire trail.
I climbed and climbed in the sun, up higher and higher. I lost the trail for a moment but found my way. At last I could see the end across an incline of boulders. The views of my surroundings were amazing. I climbed to the top of the rock pile I thought to be the summit. I was wrong. Apparently I wasn’t at the summit. I had passed a crude marking on the ground earlier that said I had two miles to go. I thought it had to be wrong; it looked like I was so close, there was no way I still had two more miles. But alas, the real summit was in sight.
I saw the Tablelands before me. They are a large flatland at 4,000 feet. The summit was just above them, a mile away. The Tablelands were a beautiful and nice reprieve from climbing. When I finally had to ascend the final climb, it wasn’t that bad. It had taken me less than three hours to summit. At the top stood Myagi and Trademark who congratulated me and took my picture.
On July 16th, 2018, after 139 days, I completed my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I had hiked 2,190.9 miles of the Appalachian Trail, plus 8.8 miles of the approach trail back at Springer Mountain, GA, plus who knows how many countless miles walking through towns and to and from shelters. Let’s just make it a round 2,200 miles! It was an incredible moment. I was 5,288 feet high, smiling, and looking down on the wilderness of Maine. I don’t know how I got this far. The perseverance, the trials, the highs, the lows, everything had all come together and in this moment, I, Crazy Horse, had succeeded.
I relaxed and hung out with Trademark and Myagi until Honey Bear finished. A hiker I’d met named Hawk summited as well. 2-Clicks, his brother, No Shoes, and Relentless were not far behind. We celebrated and took group photos. We were ecstatic. Day hikers and some SOBOs came along but we were our own crew.
Instead of going down the way we came, after an hour of revelry, we all hiked across the Knife’s Edge. It is a steep and rocky traverse to one of the other peaks of Katahdin. It was an epic mile but also treacherous and technical. My knees were not happy with me. Slowly but surely we made it to Pamola Peak where we descended down the rest of Katahdin. It was a long and tedious descent. I slipped off a large rock and a tree branch gouged into my thigh. It left a nice, bloody scrape. Oh, the challenges of the trail!
We arrived at the base by 2pm. Honey Bear’s mom and uncle were there and 2-Click’s parents arrived shortly thereafter. We had a feast of snacks to celebrate our incredible feat. We then piled into different cars and headed 45 minutes into Millinocket, ME, 26 miles away. No Shoes, Myagi, Hawk, and I stopped at the AT Hiker Lodge to shower and drop our stuff off. Then we headed to the Scootic In for dinner with everyone else. It was awesome having everyone together, drinking, eating, laughing, and telling stories. One by one we split off and went our separate ways. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone. I’ll never forget the experience we shared together.
Trademark’s family gave us some beers so Hawk, No Shoes, Myagi, and I drank in the park across from the hostel. We were the last ones left, staying the night at the hostel. It was surreal and hadn’t sunk in what I’d accomplished. I couldn’t believe it all happened. Now the rest of my life was ahead of me. When I was little I read that Dr. Seuss book “Oh the Places You’ll Go,” but I never realized until now how far I would really go!
Day’s Mileage: 5.2 of AT + 3.9 to climb down the mountain
Total Miles Hiked: 2,190.9 miles on the AT + 12.7 to and from the trailheads for a total over 2,200
Remaining Miles: 0.0
Daily Average: 15.8
MY NEXT THRU-HIKE
This isn’t the end of my AT experience! Stay tuned for my finale video and a blog post detailing my travels home, reintegrating back into civilian life, and my reflections of the trail!
Dolly Parton is one of my favorite artists and her song “Try,” can’t sum up my incredible journey any better:
The first step is the one that’s always hardest
But you won’t amount to much if you don’t try
So spread your wings and let the magic happen
‘Cause you’ll never really know if you don’t try