Day 21 – Finish!!

My day began at 5am. I ate breakfast : leftovers of a Knorr dinner I cooked last night. After packing, I walked to the ranger office and exchanged a loaner daypack for my backpack. At 5:30am, I headed uphill for 1.2 miles to Katahdin Stream Falls on an easy trail. A missing footbridge required a delicate rock-hop to cross the stream. As I climbed through the forest, the trail steepened and the size of the rocks in the trail increased from basketball sized to car sized.

Near tree line, those rocks turned into large boulders and granite slabs that sometimes involved short, steep climbs, sometimes aided by iron bars or steps drilled into the granite. Light rain began and intensified as I gained elevation. As I finished the steepest part of the climb, I gazed at the not-so-steep Tablelands, with the summit 1.5 miles away. I sat and considered my options. My cold hands and fingers were stiffening toward the point that they’d become useless for holding my hiking poles or gripping the wet and slippery granite rock on the descent.

I didn’t want to risk falling or having to be rescued. Having experienced this type of situation before, I reluctantly turned around and began my descent to the campground as clouds scudded by and the rain continued (see photo). Back at the ranger office, I changed from my wet hiking clothes to my dry sleeping clothes, picked up my backpack, and walked 100 yards to the campground parking lot. In 15 minutes I scored a ride into Millinocket with two day hikers. In an hour, I checked into the AT Lodge. The weather forecast called for unsettled weather with substantial chances of rain all week. Rather than wait around for a clear day to reach the summit of Mount Katahdin, I decided to head home. My 2,187.5 mile long hike of the Appalachian Trail hike ended.

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