Appalachian Trail Mile 2184.5

Thursday October 12, 2017 (Day 163)

It had grown terribly cold in the night. The frigid air pulled me mercilessly from slumber. I shook hand warmers to activate their warmth and placed them inside my socks, under the arches of my feet. I turned and huddled, pulling my body inward, fighting for sleep.

Then, morning came. I slowly slipped my covered head from beneath my sleeping bag, as a frightened child slowly lifts a bed-skirt in anticipation of a monster. A very cold monster.

I glanced at the time: 8:30. 830!? I wanted to start much, much earlier than this!

I packed up my things in a hurry and was on my way.

I moved quickly. The next thing I knew I was at The Golden Road, then Abol Bridge. I stood at the bridge, gaping at the beauty that was Katahdin.

I stopped in at the general store to resupply. There was not much to choose from. I selected Clif Bars and Oreos and sugary oatmeal packets…a tummy ache waiting to happen. It did not matter. Nothing mattered but the mountain.

Outside the store, the “Dirty Thirty” had gathered. One of them was celebrating a birthday. They were planning to hitch in to town and drink whisky at the McDonalds. They invited me along. I kindly declined. I could not imagine leaving the trail now.

The mountain was calling. It was palpable. It was intoxicating. I had to go.

I reached the entrance to Baxter State Park, and to my relief, I was only number three to sign my name.

Yes! It was official. It was happening.

Entering the park felt like entering a magical wonderland.

It seemed like an eternity before I reached the ranger station and The Birches Campground. I registered with the ranger, paid the fee, and with great jubilance, made my way to the campground.

At the benches sat four hikers. Three flip-floppers, and one that also came through from Georgia. We chatted for a bit before retiring. There were two shelters. I had one all to myself.

After making myself cozy in one of the shelters, headlights appeared. A single hiker then approached and asked if they could join me in the shelter. I wasn’t thrilled, until I realized that it was a hiker I had met in Vermont who I was quite fond of.  Also, more body heat.

I cannot believe I am actually here.

The summit of Katahdin was just 5.3 miles away.

It was surreal. I did not need to sleep to dream. But, sleep I did, under a thick blanket of sweet anticipation.

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