|Looking down the steep rocky spine the AT follows|
After The Gateway, The AT goes steeply up the rocky spine of a ridge at about a 70º angle. Brutal. I needed to eat some food but there was no shelter from the 40mph winds so we just pushed on, trying to get out of harms way. Fortunately the Trail levels out after that into an other-worldy area known as Tableland. It's a high elevation Alpine zone filled with granite boulders that lead to the final ascent.
Because of the fog and the wind we couldn't really get our bearings but knew we had to be near the top. We had been making good time, but my troublesome knee started aching a couple miles from the summit and slowed us down. Prior to that we had been leading the pack but several thru-hikers passed us. We could hear the jubilant screams of hikers as the wooden sign at the top of Katahdin finally came into view through the fog. It took us four hours to hike the five miles up. But it was over: I'd hiked the length of the AT.
|Sept 18, 2014|
Not surprisingly, there were quite a few hikers--maybe 15 that day--finishing the AT, about half section-hikers like myself, and half thru-hikers. Some day hikers were also on top. Even though the weather was crappy, the celebrations at top were in full swing. A few hikers had a toast, many dreamed of things they would eat and drink when safely off the mountain. I think I felt both satisfied to have completed such a long journey but also a little sad that the adventure was ending.
Occasionally the clouds would break and we would get a hint of the spectacular view one might get from Katahdin on a clear day. But the persistent clouds/fog, wind, and chilly upper 30s temps made lingering on the summit for very long unappealing.
|Looking toward Pamola and down into the South Basin|
|The Kinfe Edge Trail|
Plus, somewhat anticlimactically, we had to get DOWN off this beast, a task at least as difficult as climbing it. Four more hours of knee-pounding downhill hiking/climbing/butt sliding/praying and we were back at Katahdin Stream Campground like it was all a crazy dream.