One of the sketchiest moments was when I had to climb up one downward tilted slab. If you slid, you would slide into the abyss, and that was gonna hurt. To say the least. I had to trust the traction in my Trail runners—that was all that stood between me and a really big slide.
I found myself wondering how 80-year-old Earl Schaffer had climbed this final mountain, or the blind hiker Bill Irwin. It was a head shaker.
There is a painted sign on a rock: “2 mi” it says, with an arrow pointing to the summit. Every single person I saw pass that sign exclaimed out loud: “TWO more MILES!” They couldn’t believe after all that effort, the summit was still so far away.
But I continued on up the mountain. The white, decomposing granite began to give way to a reddish-pink granite as I reached the final ascension. I could see The Sign up there! The end of the Trail!
So I did what I came to do. I walked up to it. As I did, I choked up for the first time.
It just hit me like a logging truck. I have just walked the entire 2,172.6 mile Appalachian Trail!
And then I whooped. Exultantly! It is done!
One step at a time, my poor battered feet took me from Springer Mt., Georgia to Katahdin, Maine.
Another thru-hiker had taken my camera and snapped a few shots for me.
It was time to go. I was reluctant to leave. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get down. Plus, this was a mountain like none other I’d been on. In every direction the views were jaw-dropping. A sheer drop here. Twin peaks over there. Over 40 lakes down there. Hard to tear the eyes away.
It was indeed a fitting mountain upon which to conclude an epic journey. I started back down Katahdin the way I had come. It took awhile, and I was alone, but I came down faster than I went up. The sun was washing over everything now, and I felt very peaceful. My depleted muscles, however, felt anything but. I was tiring fast.
With relief, I signed out at the bottom. This mountain was harder than I thought it would be, but not impossible. A mountain like none other.
So this was the journey’s end, but of course, all endings are also beginnings.
I found myself wishing I had done this A.T. hike in my early 20s. How differently my life might have turned out!
*Jan Leitschuh has recently completed a book: “The Ordinary Adventurer
More thoughts of the trail
Now that you have read sections of Jan’s journal, has your answer to the question of whether you would consider hiking theTrail changed? o Yes o No
If so, what changed your mind?
If not, was anything confirmed for you?
Do you think people need the Appalachian Trail as a national resource? Why?