The first couple miles of the trail was a nice gravel path that meandered along and over Katahdin Stream. It was really easy hiking and we were practically running it just from excitement. We made a pit stop at the last privy on trail and continued onward. From here, the trail started to climb. The nice gravel path was replaced by perfectly placed stone steps and views of Katahdin Stream cascading down the mountain side. Then suddenly, the nice and easy terrain was replaced by boulders the size of minivans. Turns out, bringing the day pack was a great idea. For the next mile or so we navigated through the boulders by using trees, re-bar, and whatever else we could possibly grab onto to aid us. At times, I was literally forced to lay on my stomach as I tried to shimmy up a rock face. This section of the trail was actually extremely fun for me, especially since I knew what waited at the top. The trail eventually leveled off a bit allowing us to take a snack break and enjoy the views. However, right in front of us was another steep boulder climb up a ridge to The Tablelands of Katahdin.
We decided to hiker-train our last ascent. From what we could see we would be some of the first thru-hikers up that day. Every now and then we would just stop and just look at the sign as it grew closer and closer. We were ready to reach our final goal, but at the same time we wanted to keep the adventure going. 100 feet left, 50 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet, 5 feet... the anticipation and emotions flooded the group. Easy-Go, Squeeze, and Cyclops were the first ones to reach the sign. Yells of excitement and tears of pure joy erupted. I waited for a day hiker to finish taking their picture before approaching the sign. When they were finished, I approached the sign and collapsed on top of it and kissed it. All the years of dreaming and planning finally culminated into this one moment. A moment of pure ecstasy and accomplishment. The realization of anything in this world is obtainable if you want it badly enough, and that happiness isn't derived from material things. It comes from within and the interactions that you have with the people around you. You can travel through this world with nothing but what is on your back, and still be the richest person in the world. What I had first imagined as just a walk through nature up the east coast had evolved into so much more than I could possibly have previously conceived.
As the celebration continued, having cell for the first time in a long while, I stepped down to a more secluded area. As the phone rang to call home, the emotions built up inside me even more. I hadn't actually cried yet; until, I heard my Mom's voice on the other end. The waterworks opened up and all I could get out of my mouth was a soft "I did it." I spent the next few minutes calling my Dad, Pop, and brother and sister. I then rejoined the rest of the group to celebrate. It was amazing seeing other thru-hikers climb up to the sign.
After an hour or so of basking in the sun on a perfect summit day, we headed back down the mountain to catch our shuttle out of Baxter State Park. The hike down the mountain was weird, but not as somber as I was expecting. Everyone was still riding the high of finishing and was ready to celebrate in town. When we reached the bottom of the mountain, we received our last bit of trail magic from Right-Clicks wife. Orange Juice and a Coke! From there we caught our shuttle out of the park to Millinocket where we celebrated becoming official Applachian Trail Thru Hikers!!