Welcome back to my 2017 Appalachian Trail journey. My last blog entry left off at the entrance to Baxter State Park in Maine...the end of the line for the AT!
I've been section-hiking the Appalachian Trail since 2001, and 2017....brings me to the northern terminus. 17 years of hiking. This entry was emotional to type.
Headed into Baxter.
Maine's continual display of gorgeous waters.
That blue tarp is my parents' campsite! You may recall from my last entry that they drove all the way to Maine to meet me and celebrate! I was able to camp with them one night just before heading into Baxter State Park. I left there this morning and the trail wrapped back around the water on the way into Baxter. I think they were over there drinking beer without me!
Katahdin Stream flowing across the rocks.
I was able to get across dry....with some clever footwork.
This tree represents so much about the resiliency of nature. When a living thing decides it is time to thrive...nothing can stop it. I hope I can live this way.
It's not Maine....without rain! This one was fairly short-lived.
I came out to this clearing at the road to Daicey Pond. There was a kiosk here and the rain stopped, so I took an opportunity to dry out a bit and eat some lunch.
They had the weather predictions for Katahdin posted!
A lot of information here! It's always so hard to predict weather in the mountains though...especially on summits. I was headed there regardless, so in a way...it didn't matter too much.
Baxter Peak (Mt. Katahdin summit)....7.5 miles. It was so surreal to have single-digits remaining.
A peek at Daicey Pond. The clarity of the water was astounding.
These two photos of the trail meandering through the trees, illuminated by soft sunlight, are very special to me. They seem so....accurate.
Another of Maine's infamous water crossings. Those logs were bouncy, but they held strong and I remained dry again. The mosquitoes by this creek though...wow.
At the road.
The infamous Katahdin Stream Campground. Just across the stream is the ranger station and, a short walk up the gravel road, is the Birches Campsite for hikers.
Katahdin Stream Ranger Station - This is where I picked up my summit permit and the customary day-pack for going up.
Birches....my last campsite on the Appalachian Trail.
Baxter State Park is very popular and has many roads to access specific areas. There is a gravel road from the ranger station to Birches....in fact, you just walk up it to get to the campsite. As I was in my tent, I heard a truck pull up (the road is about 50 yards from the site). I heard someone approaching and call out a friendly, "Anyone home?"
"Yea...how's it going?" I replied. I wasn't sure exactly what tone to take...considering I was completely buck naked in my tent, attempting to clean up a bit before putting on my dry 'clean' clothes for the evening.
"You want some bananas?"
"Uhh...sure man...thanks. You can just set them down....I'm changing," was my ingenious response. I couldn't think of anything more witty! With that, a hand appeared just in front of my tent under my vestibule (that's like a porch....not a body part) and placed two bananas on the tent platform.
So, I had a banana. I gave the other to some girls who arrived about two hours later. I left out some of the details surrounding the acquisition. It seemed best.
The final morning, I got all packed up...and the rain began. Not too hard...just a steady mountain shower.
Headed up Katahdin!
The rain couldn't keep my spirits down! I was headed up after seventeen years! You can also kind of see the daypack I'm carrying. It is highly suggested to summit with a daypack and I took this advice. It was weird to move so swiftly and unencumbered...but I enjoyed the change, put the hammer down, and boogied up the trail.
Katahdin Stream Falls
I wish I had something to scale! this little guy was right in the trail on a rock and was barely larger than a golf ball. I'm not sure what kind of bird, and it isn't a great picture to identify, but he wasn't moving for me...so I let him be and went around. I hope he survived.
The rain was letting up as I climbed. I was fortunate to start getting some views off of the mountain behind me!
Another shot back over my shoulder on the way up Katahdin. Such vibrant greens!
Out of the treeline and into the fun stuff! (There were also no mosquitoes up here so that ruled!) I'm glad this section was dry. The rain hadn't made it up that high, so I caught a break there. These rocks wouldn't have been as enjoyable if they'd been wet. The trail follows that ridge all the way up to the point.
Infinite rocks...infinite climbing....infinite smiles. I was giddy.
The clouds were rolling back up and over the ridge. I was about to end up right in the middle of them.
But not without one more good view! I know it's a broken record...but there is SO much water in Maine!
Entering the Tablelands. This is where the really steep climbing ends and the trail levels out to some degree. It was absolutely magical walking along this section, even in the clouds. I felt like I was on the moon.
Continuing along the Tablelands. This section is similar in terrain to the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The wind was fierce! My hands and face were really getting numb, but I was so excited to get to the summit, I knew I could make it before donning my gloves and beanie (yes, I'm aware this can be dangerous....I was monitoring and paying attention. I was plenty warm otherwise).
Nothing but smiles as I near the end! There were no other hikers along the Tablelands with me....so other than the wind, it was quiet. I had it all to myself.
Thoreau Spring - this is the most clear water I ever encountered along the trail. I found myself reaching down with my trekking poles on several occasions to see if there was indeed, water on the trail (there was...as the spring trickles right into the path). It was so hard to tell! The springs mark the last mile of the Appalachian Trail. Seventeen years of sweat and stench and joy and views and pain and mud and bugs and travel and life.
One final mile.
And Thoreau had walked it.
Right in the center....faint in the clouds....shaped like an A-frame tent...
June 29, 2017 - Summited Mt. Katahdin - 9:35am.
It took me 3 1/2 hours to reach the top. I loved it.
Everyone's concern is that the summit is clear....as was mine. I waited at the top, tucked in behind a rock, out of the wind, for over an hour. It wasn't clearing up. I at tons of snacks and enjoyed the cold and the altitude and the memories. But...it wasn't clearing up.
It wasn't until I was descending that I really contemplated my summit experience. I've always associated mountains with fog, mist, clouds, cold, and wind. Whenever the weather at home is like that, I always feel like I'm in the mountains. So, in retrospect, the summit being clouded and cold was fitting. I would have certainly taken it with clear views....but mountain weather does what it does. That's part of the draw....the magic. I'm okay with that.
The clouds did drift away on my descent and I was able to get many great views, so no disappointments at all! (Those photos will show up soon on my post-hike blog....stay tuned.)
Springer Mountain, Georgia - 2,189.1 miles....the other direction.
Seventeen consecutive years of incredible experiences....and invaluable lessons.
It was worth the effort.
From the bottom of my heart....thank you for reading,
It's no secret that I love the mountains. It's also no secret that, while I like Oklahoma City and enjoy many aspects of living here....I desperately want to live closer to the mountains. Until that time comes....or if it comes...road trips will have to suffice. Never fear though....I love a good road trip!
Labor Day Weekend had my pickup pointed west, good jams on the radio, and the hammer down. I was headed for Colorado.
Interstate 40 westbound through the Texas panhandle. It's starkly remote...yet has a distinct underlying beauty that is best experienced in person.
Of course I had to hit one of my four favorite interstate rest-stops in the country! This is the westbound stop near Alanreed, TX. It has a windmill inside and the views north across the plains are fantastic. Part of the allure is what it represents as well.....heading west.
In case you're wondering....the other three rest-stops I like are:
Interstate 81 just across the VA/TN state line near Abingdon, VA.
Interstate 40 Smith County, Tenessee, on the bank of the Caney Fork River, about halfway between Nashville and Knoxville, TN.
Interstate 40 in Memphis, TN just underneath the Mississippi River Bridge.
Representing my friends at Stonecloud Brewing along the way!
Passing the Kokopelli Lodge in Clayton, NM. Another nostalgic landmark along the westward drive towards the grandeur of the Rockies.
Mt. Capulin - Northeast New Mexico. I've been up Capulin a couple of times...the first with my parents when I was 15. We had taken an epic road trip to New Mexico and Colorado in our green '72 Ford pickup....camping along the way. We took the winding road around the edge of Mt. Capulin, then hiked the loop around the rim. I'm so thankful that my parents took me so many neat places as a kid.
Arrival - Interstate 25 near Trinidad, CO
Jamming north under the clouds.
The view from my AirBNB in Colorado Springs.
After checking in with my hosts, I noodled around downtown Colorado Springs for a bit....then headed towards Manitou Springs for dinner and beer. But....I diverted into Garden of the Gods first.
Garden of the Gods provided endless photo opportunities.
Rock climbing is allowed in the park, but it is heavily regulated. This is one of the popular walls.
Practicing my modeling skills.
A tip for solo traveling...or really for any time you need a pic taken - look for someone who you think might want a pic of themselves...then kindly offer to take one for them. They almost always want you to....and will generally be willing to take one in return if you ask. In this case, I found a young couple with their baby trying to take family selfies. It was an easy trade.
Balanced Rock - I was lucky and quickly snapped a pic while there was not a car in the shot!
Sometimes there is not a nice young couple to trade photos with....so you crank out a selfie and go on your merry way.
Next stop - Manitou Brewing just up the road in Manitou Springs.
Round one was the Wine 'Em Dine 'Em - as described above, and shown below. It was VERY good!
Round two was a half-pint of the Red Rye - no pic of this one as I was busy plowing through a massive plate of nachos...but it was tasty also.
Post-dinner stroll around Manitou Springs. It was a bit early in the evening, so things were fairly quiet. It's a neat little town filled with art, restaurants, and shops.
Back into Colorado Springs for sunset...and dessert!
By know I'm sure we all can understand that dessert is just more beer. Phantom Canyon is in downtown Colorado Springs....and it is on point. I had a flight of four.
Left to right in the flight pic:
Rolling out of Springs on Saturday morning. I could get used to that view for sure. I got up and at it early so I could head up Pikes Peak.
Entrance gate to Pikes Peak. I'm glad I got here early because the line when I left was insanely long. Not only was it a Saturday...but it was Labor Day weekend. I saw that coming so planning ahead worked in my favor.
Crystal Creek Reservoir
Driving across the dam at South Catamount Reservoir
Heading up, and approaching tree line....roughly 10,000 - 11,000 feet above sea level.
It was a crystal clear day. The sun was bright but it was still cold as I headed up!
Driving into the sky.
A couple of the reservoirs from the alpine zone.
Summit! I would have loved to have hiked the mountain, but due to time constraints, I couldn't. I did enjoy the drive up though!
Summit Stats - Temperature, 37 degrees fahrenheit, wind chill 29 degrees fahrenheit.
The cog railroad. This is similar to the one on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.
Some more views coming down the mountain.
This is my favorite pic from Pikes Peak.
Pulled off for a short jaunt up into the woods!
Planning the next move...
Rather than take the obvious route up Interstate 25, I opted to go west towards Woodland Park, then up Highway 67 through Deckers. Later I picked up 285 to enter Denver from the southwest side. I was thoroughly pleased with the route! Above is the South Platte River in Deckers. The whole drive was scenic and fairly curvy. I didn't take many shots so I could focus on driving safely.
Lunch stop in Conifer, CO - Taspen's was excellent! I had the vegan burrito.
After lunch, it was a short drive into Lakewood, CO to meet up with my cousins Chris and Karyn where I'd stay the next two nights. I'm so grateful for excellent family! Chris, Karyn, their daughter Ava, and I had a wonderful time catching up! They were gracious hosts...not only opening their beautiful home to me, but also by showing me all around Denver. Much love to you all!
The cycling scene is awesome in Denver! We rode into downtown from their place....about 13 miles. It was bike lanes or separate bike paths nearly the entire way. Please forgive my goofy helmet sticker! I forgot to take it off after Hotter 'N Hell at the end of August and in my excited haste to run around Denver, I never noticed it! Chris and Karyn must have been too polite to question it....they never said a word!
Rolling into Denver.
Cherry Creek Trail in the heart of Denver.
I absolutely LOVE riding in downtown urban environments! Stoplights, traffic, pedestrians....I love all of it. I know its dangerous and I just don't care. Safety third.
The 16th Street Mall downtown. This is a pedestrian-only promenade full of shops, restaurants, etc.
Instead of 16th street though...we buzzed over to Wynkoop Brewing Company. A solid decision!
Gotta represent the Oklahoma brewing scene in Colorado and show some love for Anthem! Also...I realized later that I should have stood with the gorilla arm actually around me. I was too focused on beer.
The next morning, Chris suggested we go over to Red Rocks Park for a bit of trail-running. I believe Chris said something to the effect of, "We don't have to go for an all-out beatdown....just a nice run."
We did 8 miles.
With about 1800 feet of overall elevation gain.
But....it was great!! I hung just fine, no issues! I'd not run that high before but it didn't bother me. I know that can change...but I was pleased to know that I could hold my own up in the thinner air.
Shortly into our run, the route took us up and through the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The scope of artists who have graced this stage is unreal. It was a trip just standing there.
Chris and I after running up the amphitheatre.
Chris facilitating the beatdown.
We were treated to see four bucks with full racks! They came out at this trail junction, then made their way downhill and around us....crossing the trail again on the other side. I had to tell this poor lady about 5 times to turn around! She would've missed them entirely as she was headed towards us and they were behind her at first!
The deer as they looped back around us.
My turn to throw down the beating.
Still smiling....still feeling good....still loving it!
We went down there.
Then we went back over there.
It was an incredible run. Honestly....I thought we were going to come in between 4 and 5 miles when we finished, based on how I felt. His watch said 7.9 just as we approached the parking lot, so we quickly decided to continue down the road to make it a complete 8. I was floored that we had gone so far. I think the combination of views and good conversation took care of the hard work. What a great morning!
After a quick shower, it was off to Golden!
We picked up some sandwiches from Snarf's and headed over to Golden City Brewery for a post-run celebration. True to form....the beer was legit...as was the sandwich.
GCB bills itself as 'Golden's Second-Largest Brewery' which had me in stitches!
If you're uninformed....Golden, CO is home to a....fairly large...commercial....brewery.
Golden City Brewery is in an old house. Loved it!
Hops growing amongst the flowers.
I couldn't resist picking just one hop. I carried that thing all afternoon as we walked through Clear Creek Park...enjoying the strong piney aroma. It smelled SO GOOD!!
Clear Creek flows right through Golden and is a popular float. The water is mountain runoff....cold and clear! Perfection.
After we left Golden, Chris and I ran around south Denver, checking out the neighborhoods and parks. Denver has a lot of parks and open spaces....perfect for enjoying a beautiful day! This is looking west across City Park towards downtown and the mountains. Not bad.
All that driving made us thirsty. Denver Beer Company was a logical stop.
Holy cow....their beer was good. I mean....so good. The vibe there was great as well! Lots of folks....nice scenery....open doors....fresh air. Again...Denver did not disappoint.
More hops growing along the guy wires.
We took a stroll through the giant REI store too. I was a good boy and kept my billfold in my pocket the whole time! It was tough, but I did it.
The day capped with a sunset dinner on their back porch. The evening was cool enough for shorts and long-sleeves. You may remember from one of my WAY earlier blogs....that this is hands-down my favorite type of weather/fashion relationship. While it is tough to beat Oklahoma sunsets....this one certainly gave a strong effort.
Chris - I hope you don't mind that I posted a pic of your garage! This is the epitome of why Colorado is SO attractive to me.
As a side note - this is the cleanest garage I've ever seen in my entire life. Haha...impressive!
One more shot of Mt. Capulin on Monday's drive home. Though it would have been a tad faster to go through Kansas....I just didn't want to. I wanted to soak up as many mountains as I could before I hit west Texas.
Came home heavy with lots of tasty Colorado brews!
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this journey! A special thanks to Chris and Karyn for hosting me! You guys are the best and I look forward to seeing you again sooner rather than later!
Thanks for reading and I hope your Labor Day weekend was full of fun and adventure!
Cool weather is just around the corner!
Thanks for tuning in for another installment of my 2017 Appalachian Trail hike. If you've not read up yet, my hike this year, the final leg of my 17 year section hike, began at Monson and continued north through the Hundred Mile Wilderness in Maine.
If you're reading for the first time, please take this link to jump to the first blog entry and get all caught up!
I last left off at Rainbow Stream Lean-To, camped near the idyllic stream. After a restful night of sleep, I continued north.
An early-morning lake of glass.
The climb up to Rainbow Ledges. It was a refreshing change of pace to have these open rock slabs to hike across! It is always fun to break out of the trees too for a bit, especially when there is a bit of cloud cover to block the sun.
Closing in on Abol Bridge, the end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness, and the entrance to Baxter State Park.
Closer by the minute.
A superb view of Mt. Katahdin! I really loved the framing the trees provided. Evidently and number of others did as well! I've seen this same photo numerous times on the internet. It's a popular photo spot for sure.
This guy was really big! I couldn't really get a good scale to show it, but he was about the size of a large dinner plate. When I first walked up, I actually thought it was a snake! His head was stretched out much further and, at first glance, I didn't see his shell, mistaking him for a large snake exiting the water onto the rock I had just stepped up onto!
Back down from the ledges and into the bog again. As always, I was SO thankful for the work of the Maine Appalachian Trail Club for building the bog bridges.
The northern end of the Hundred Mile Wilderness!
I made it through! The Hundred took me six days from the day of entry until the northern end. It is considered the most remote section of the entire Appalachian Trail. Also...there are a lot of bugs in the Hundred. A LOT.
The first paved road intersection since Monson...100 miles to the south.
The infamous Abol Bridge. It's one lane and used heavily by logging trucks. The AT crosses on the small portion to the left. This pedestrian bridge also serves as a snowmobile bridge in the winter. The black strip down the center is a rubber mat for the track to drive on and keeps the wood from being chewed up. This is definitely not a feature that we have in Oklahoma!
Mt. Katahdin from Abol Bridge over the Penobscot River. Just to the right (where you can see the red canoe on the bank) is the Abol Bridge Campground....with showers! It also had two very special guests this week....Dan and Marsha Church!!
Bug suit photo with Mt. Katahdin!
A loon floating in the river. The loons have a call that is like no other bird. It's breathtaking. I've had the pleasure of hearing them on several occasions and it captivates me every time.
I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to camp with my parents in Maine! They were on an epic road trip to the northeast and Canada and made plans not only to celebrate with me in Maine, but to camp near Mt. Katahdin and shuttle me back from Baxter State Park! I can't begin to describe my elation when I strolled into their campsite.
The mountain from our camp at Abol Bridge.
Not a bad setup! You can just see my dad at the rear of the car, enjoying a local brew!
I was ecstatic to have several as well! My folks found a variety of great beers from New England, and in typical fashion, had plenty ready on ice!
Taking off the following morning towards Baxter State Park. This was the start of my last two days on the Appalachian Trail.
Approaching Baxter State Park! I was headed to Katahdin Stream Campground at the base of the mountain. I would stay the night, then summit the following day.
A wild strawberry I found just before entering the park! Yum.
Entering Baxter State Park! Only a few miles remaining. Each step through the park had me thinking of the thousands upon thousands that led me here....both on the trail....and in life. What an incredible opportunity I've had. I don't take any of those steps for granted.
Thanks for reading! The next entry should hit soon. I can say now....sitting here....that it will be an emotional one to type. I hope you enjoy.
Have you been outside recently! It's worth the effort.