May 24th, Georgia
For the second night in a row, and the last night on trail, I awoke to my alarm. I had a good idea how long the remaining 26.2 mile “marathon” would take, and I needed to start early to arrive before my scheduled pick up time, between 4-5pm.
There were a couple nice views this morning which I welcomed and tried to savor like the last bits of something special.
I also noticed the soil has started to become more consistently a familiar orange-red, which was a nice reminder I was on the path toward home.
With my decision to push for this specific finish date, I could feel the toll of high mileage days over the past couple weeks. I was tired throughout the day but kept on schedule. Today was happy. Today was melancholy. These feelings were mixed up together and stayed with me–alongside my full-spectrum tiredness. Despite all this, or maybe because of it, the miles flew along quickly–with my mind occupied with memories of the trail behind me, the shortening trail ahead, and a growing joy and satisfaction of it all.
Nearly at the end, the trail went right through the Springer Mountain parking area. I didn’t recognize any cars there so I knew I was early. I continued past the parking area up the last mile of trail, and arrived to the summit at 4:15pm.
I was up there all alone for some time. I rested, enjoyed the warm sun on a granite outcrop, and tried to let mind and body relax while I waited. A couple other hikers arrived, milled around, took pictures, and chatted. Then my little welcoming party arrived, bearing a nice late lunch and champagne in backpacks of their own!
We hung out up top for an hour or so, took pictures, and relaxed together in the late afternoon sun. I felt exhausted, full from lunch, and so very happy to be finished and reunited with some of my people.
And then, after 2192.0 miles of the Appalachian Trail behind me, there was just one more “bonus mile” left. We headed back down the trail to the parking lot.
In the quiet moments hiking back toward the car, my mind wandered back to the very beginning of this journey—to the northern terminus in Maine, Mt. Katahdin. Though I had documented my experience from the beginning, it didn’t seem quite right to post triumphant pictures of the first day of a very long hike. Who knew what would happen? Would I even finish?
So, now that I’ve finished and it’s all done, here is the photo of a past me, brimming with pre-hike excitement, nerves, intention, anticipation. I feel that my experience on trail, with its many ups and downs (the topological, physical, and emotional) is already calling me toward other trails, both long and short. But as this experience comes to a close, I feel it is more a jumping-off point than a conclusion. And, as I seek to make sense of this amazing journey, I remain hopeful that more long-trail experiences are in my future.
Mt. Katahdin, July 11th, 2018, on the first day of my SOBO thru hike.