For 4th of July this year I achieved a goal that I have been working towards. I hiked Mt. Katahdin in Millinocket, Maine. I reached the 5267 ft. summit at Baxter Peak by 2:30 in the afternoon that day. The knife edge is really amazing and beautiful but I took a good look at it and heard the stories from other hikers… and I don’t really need to do that – it is too scary.
The hike began at 6:30 am. There were 2 points on the trail up where I seriously thought about stopping and turning back. If you are familiar with the Hunt Trail – you will know about the iron bar that is meant to assist you as you climb tall boulders so that the only way up is to rely on a piece of metal that is drilled into the rock. I saw that iron bar and I didn’t think I could do it, I thought I would fall – but then someone came along and gave me a leg up. There were other hikers on the trail but they travel at different paces so I got lucky when someone happened to be there right when I needed help.
The second place was not far after that where I found myself hanging from a vine and holding on with one arm around a protruding boulder – my hiking boots were helpful to keep me braced against a flat wall of rock. I was hanging there -half way up a boulder face that was much taller than I was and I thought, “ok, what now?” The other hikers had passed me up and I was just hanging there – and for about 5 minutes I could not figure out how to get up and over this wall. I actually cried out for help – but there was no one there. I could have just made my way back down the rock at that point but I had already come so far on the trail- I was already above tree line. I told myself “keep trying, don’t give up – this is what you came for”.
So I just hung there trying every possible move my body would allow me to do. My arms were stretched from hanging onto the vine and over rock. It was up to my feet to keep me from falling until finally I was able to shimmy, nudge, inch, shift, stretch, and swing a leg up – just enough to catch a rock ledge that seemed out of reach – but it was there for me. That was the move that allowed me to pull myself up and over the rock to ground that I could better hang on to – and I made it to the next level of rock.
How on earth would I make it down later in the day? I knew I would have to figure that out later – but not right now so I kept going. Those were the most difficult parts of the hike – but it was further up when I was beginning to feel the challenge of being alone.
I was already so tired but some deep feelings of gratitude were emerging. I began to feel thankful for the climb, the rocks, the travel, my life, my friends, family, all the problems, mistakes, confusion, and craziness I have experienced. So while I was hiking I had a conversation with God and basically said thank you for all of it. I am going to call it a conversation because even though I was doing all the talking God’s spirit was talking back to me with love and in my spirit I felt a calm voice saying “I am here, I am with you.”
There was no one else around who could understand me – who I was, who I became, what my trials were -but there is something about being alone in challenging places that makes you call out for God and it doesn’t matter who you are or even what you believe because you are human and you need that kind of unconditional love in order to survive.
As I continued on I knew that this is why people climb mountains – to find something true.
The hike down was really miserable due to being tired, weak knees,gravel, and swarming black flies… but I survived all of that too. To be fair, this is a really difficult hike and is really hard on knees. My knees were not happy with me after this hike and they told me never again, but I want to do it one more time. I would like to go back in 2017 for another Independence day hike. Look for a post next year with a picture of me hiking with an American flag.