Dasek vs. Appalachian Trail: Dasek, 2178 miles; AT, one giant goose egg.
I’m sure I kept all of you in suspense as it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted anything…eeek! You’ll be glad to know I summited Katahdin on Sept 5th at 5:52am just in time to catch the sun crack the horizon and see a glorious sunrise. My goodness, was this a spectacular moment!
A few days before we got to Katahdin, Rocket and I met a section hiker in the “Hundred Mile Wilderness” named Hopper. Hopper and his brother were the only lucky ones who hooked up a campsite next to the AT on the base Katahdin on Sept 4th. Without a campsite, we would have had to camp at a designated long-distance hiker shelter about .5mi off the trail. We relaxed with a campfire and a few refreshments before heading to bed around 8pm so we could wake up by 2am to begin our 5.2 mile trip to the summit. Wait, did I say 2am… what was I thinking?! We knew there would be a full moon that night and we thought it would be very cool to have moonlit path to the top. I’ve tried night-hiking with a full moon in the past months and it’s generally not real exciting due to the heavy tree cover. However, the top half of Katahdin is alpine zone meaning we would have no tree cover and no obstructions. In addition, the weather was some of the clearest and most comfortable weather of the entire hike. How could we not take advantage of this?
Rocket and I eagerly hit the trailhead at 3:15am with the full moon illuminating the horizon and treetops. The first mile was very gradual and quite nice for a warm up before getting into the more technical and difficult terrain. After the first mile, we began to hit large boulders that required scrambling or grabbing thin trees to pull ourselves up; our trekking poles were rendered useless. 2.5 miles through and about 2800ft of elevation later we hit the alpine zone and we had a spectacular view of the surrounding horizon filled with coniferous forest and lakes illuminated by the full moon. The next mile consisted of boulders ranging from the size of washing machines to railroad cars for us to climb, scramble, boulder, and squeeze through. I’m not sure if it was the adrenaline but the climb was fun and much easier than the significantly smaller scrambles I had through the White Mountains.
It was 4:30am when I took a breather and Rocket had pushed past me about 200meters. I was looking back at the landscape and realized the moon lit the trail and barren rocks much better than my fading headlamp. I turned off my headlamp and let my eyes adjust before continuing my ascent. I think the next hour of hiking and climbing – in my mind – is the coolest thing I’ve done. I wish I had a picture to do this memory justice, because being completely alone and silent I was looking off at the soft moon lit glow of hundreds of square miles of wilderness and lakes without obstruction. At 5am, I saw the silhouette of Katahdin darken as dawn approached lighting up the sky behind the mountain. Above the crest of the mountain to the east of me, the sky began to fill with light blues, magenta, reds and oranges; behind me, the sky was a washed-out purple and grey. I hit Thoreau Springs, about one mile from the summit, around 5:20am and I had a great view of the tundra on top of Katahdin, treeless and rocky with many different types of shrubs, grasses and moss. I enjoyed my time taking pictures and eventually seeing the summit in the near distance. Finally, at 5:52am I reached the summit and found Rocket, Chance and Union Break in high spirits and congratulating each other. Rocket and I had both packed up a beer and enjoyed a cold one at 6am atop a cold windy mountain. We did the traditional pictures with the Katahdin sign and enjoyed an hour of joyful shivering before we headed back down to the base. We had completed the entire Appalachian Trail.