I woke at 6:00 for what I knew would be the second to last time waking up in my tent, and I was pumped for what the shorter and easier hiking day would bring me. The first stop at 3.5 miles would be the Abol Bridge Store and The Northern Restaurant. I was packed and ready to hike by 6:30, while Big Spoon and Toast had already left to go straight to The Birches Lean-tos & Campground.
I said goodbye to Tandem and the others and headed down the trail, knowing that each mile that I hiked was one off the final 18.9 miles to the summit of Mount Katahdin. I reached the Abol bridge, crossing it on a pedestrian lane where I was surprised at the most clear shot of Mount Katahdin we had seen.
I went on to the Abol Bridge Store just after it opened at 8:00 to shop for a few snack and lunch items that I forgot I needed the next day while summiting and hanging out on Mount Katahdin. Tandem arrived next, followed by Mio, Ginger, and Gilligan. The Northern Restaurant opened at 11:00, but it was only 9:00. We decided to wait and plugged our phones and batteries into the store’s power strip.
We busied ourselves on the store’s front concrete sidewalk reminiscing about hikers we had met on the trail and trying to read the driver’s names from the cabs of the big lumber trucks going by. We were there long enough that trucks started repeating. I dried my wet shoes out on the warm sunny concrete.
We were the first customers when The Northern Restaurant opened. We ordered burgers and barbecue, which came with delicious hand-cut fries. While we ate, Ragnar came in without a shirt on and came straight over to say hello. I jumped up and gave him a handshake and chest bump. That is when he told us that he had fallen behind Scout due to differences of opinion and getting sick, which is when I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and arms.
Ragnar also told us that he was not continuing to Katahdin. We were surprised by that and tried to get him to finish, but he declined our urges, putting on a shirt and going to another table to order lunch.
We paid and headed out to get some ice cream next to the store. It was local and delicious! Ragnar came out and informed us that his uncle had offered him $1,000 and challenged him to get to Las Vegas without flying on an airline. He said that he was going to hitch, take a bus, ride a train, walk, and change it up to get there. He grabbed his pack and went across the gravel road to hitch. We told him good luck and bet that the first passing car would pick him up. He yelled over to a guy just leaving the store to see if he would give him a ride “as far as he was going”, and he was gone.
I loaded up after the ice cream was done and everyone else followed suit. We got water from the spigot and sink and headed out on the 10.1 mile hike to the Katahdin Stream Campground. After about a mile, we signed in for one of the twelve limited and cherished thru-hiker-only spots in The Birches Lean-tos & Campground. We were numbers four through eight for that night.
Even though the hiking looked flat on AWOL’s Trail Guide, much of it followed waterways that resulted in a lot of up and down hiking over roots and rocks. We also had to ford both of the forks of the Nesowadnehunk Streams.
The first one, across the Lower Fork, was the most difficult. After Ginger and I crossed and got our feet wet, Gilligan laid a long, dead pine across the hardest rocks to step across. At one point, Mio dropped one of his hiking poles, which floated quickly downstream toward the upper ford. Luckily, it got hung up at the stream intersection, so I dropped my pack and waded out up to the bottom of my shorts to retrieve the pole. Mio called me “his hero”.
The fording of the upper fork was easier, and after 6.6 miles we reached the Big Niagara Falls. We took a break there for a while, enjoying the sound of the falls and the bright sunshine and taking pictures
That caused me to fall behind, and when I caught up with Tandem she was at a perfectly framed view of Mount Katahdin.
We hiked on and arrived at the Katahdin Stream Campground picnic pavilion closest to the AT where we found Bacon Dog, Scout, Go Far, Spruce, and Fiver all still celebrating their summit. Bacon Dog’s mother was there and had Rice Krispy treats and many bottles of cold water.
We hung out with them until we realized that it was 17:00. The ranger station was closing, and we still needed to check in as completing our thru hikes and to pay the $10 fee for our campsite. The five of us got our finishing numbers; mine was 277 and Tandem’s was 276, about 200 below what they were at Springer, but not everyone registered at Amicalola State Park. After registering, we signed the hiker logbook on the porch.
We hiked up to the Birches where Big Spoon and Toast were already set up on the tent platform, and we set up our tents and hammock. The five of us ate dinner at a picnic table, something we hadn’t seen at any lean-to in Maine.
While we were eating, Chamomile and Coolie hiked in. Deep Blue also hiked in, but from Mount Katahdin, where he had just completed his “test” summit with his buddy Handsome Dan. We learned also that One A Day was in the state park camping with his girlfriend.
That makes the Mount Katahdin thru hiker first summit list look like this:
– Big Spoon
– One A Day
We closed our last night of camping around a campfire with Big Spoon and Toast, the Philmont guys, playing blue grass songs for us until dark. Big Spoon played the fiddle and Toast played the banjo.
We were all excited for our summit the next morning. We all felt good being a part of this unique but familiar group of ten, and we knew that it is an accomplishment that so few humans do. . I felt special having completed it with my daughter Tandem. The music and fire was the perfect closure for what had been our last day of “real hiking”. I said goodnight and shuffled off in the dark to slip into my tent for the last time on the AT.
For the first time on the trip, I had set up my tent in the wrong direction, with my feet above my head. I felt that it was meant to be. Besides, it was dark and I was too tired to switch it.
It had been a 13.7 mile day to mile 2,180.3. The hike in the morning will be five miles to the top of Mount Katahdin then give miles back to the campground that afternoon. As Mio reminded me, we are summitting on “hump daaaay!”