I am now sitting in a Days Inn in Bangor ME writing these words. So strange to think that this morning I completed my thru hike atop Mt Katahdin A man and his girlfriend picked me up as I held out my thumb on the edge of the park and decided to drive me over an hour to the city. Along the way I shared my story and he told me he was an ordained minister and God told him to turn around and pick me up. I knew that God would provide. He did. Tomorrow I fly to Denver to be with my wife, daughter, and grandson.
After a restful night in a shelter the Abol Bridge State Park, I hiked an enjoyable 10 miles to Katahdin State Park to stage my assault on Mt K. If the rest of the trail was this nice, everyone would do it. The park puts the thru hikers away from the general public at a shelter called the Birches. Happy Warrior, Ascot and Sasparilla, Fonz, Loon, Nurse, Capt K, Easy, and a really nice kid who I just can’t remember his name rounded out the group for the next day. I built a fire, embarrassing, the first one I started the entire trip, so it was about time, and we sat around the ring talking trail.
Today everyone was up early, like Christmas morning. Fittingly I got lost, got mad and got back to the trail-head by 630. I took my pack and headed north for one last time. The trail was only 5 miles but five miles up, way up, up above treeline. The path took me past waterfalls and over boulders bigger than a large truck. I hiked alone an found my self incredibly somber despite the happy occasion. As I climbed I reflected on just how I got here and honestly I’m not quite sure. I started on March 31st, my youngest son, Robby’s birthday. It was truly sobering. Why I didn’t quit and why I was fortunate enough to finish in one calendar year to be considered a thru hiker, I am not quite sure. An easy first mile was interrupted by a grueling 2.5 mile rock scramble. The AT really knows how to finish the 14 state 2189.2 mile trail. Eventually the trail leveled off for the last mile and a half but itseemed to take forever. Fog rolled in, the wind blew, no view to be had. It was perfect, just how I pictured it.
And then there it was, a simple sign, MOUNT KATAHDIN. I stopped in my tracks at first sight. A few day hikers, Easy, Ascot and Sasparilla were busy finishing their photo shoot. They were so happy, so excited, “Phantom, you made it!” they exclaimed at different points. I choked up, I knew I would, then I went to one knee, thanked God for me and for everyone supporting me. Around my neck I wore my and my Lori’s wooden crosses given to us in Virginia. I clutched them tightly and held onto Aaron’s Keystone lift maintenance hat. Then from out of my pocket, I took a pill bottle that I have been carrying for much of the trail. It held a few ashes, remnants from my oldest son’s lifeless body. There on this special mountain I released his dust into the wind and onto the rocks. I wept. I made myself back to the trail head. I let him go. I was done.
The day is August 30, 2015. Aaron would have been 32 today, born August 30, 1983