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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Katahdin!!!

The end has arrived. How surreal it was for us to reach the summit of Katahdin on September 29, 2013 after 193 days of hiking. This was our goal: 2185.9 miles to reach this summit.  We made it.

We could not have asked for a better day. We had clear blue skies and 75 degree weather. We could see for miles. The views of the mountains, the fall colors, and the myriad of lakes and ponds below was dazzling.  As we reached the summit, we were greeted with cheers and applause from about two dozen of our fellow thru hikers who had already reached the top. Our friend Henry, who provided us with such amazing trail magic in New York, had joined us for the last fifteen miles. Trouble's boyfriend, Michael, also joined us for the hike to the summit and proposed to her at the top (she said yes). What a fitting finish to our long journey.

Our first view of Katahdin

 
 





 



It is with mixed emotion that I write this post. As we hiked our last miles, I contemplated the parting words I should write that might adequately close the chapter. I don't think I have them. We were ready for the journey to end. We are ready to start a new adventure, like finding a new place to call home. And yet, it is with trepidation that we venture back into the non-trail world. I won't call it the real world, because life on the trail was real in a way I wish more people would embrace. Our community of hikers accepted one another unconditionally, offered friendship freely, and showed genuine warmth, kindness, and generosity. We laughed heartily every day, even those days when the weather was miserable and our moods were sullen.

We didn't love every step, but we loved the whole adventure. It feels strange to trade in our tent and sleeping bags for a bed indoors. It feels strange to spend hours in a car instead of walking to our next destination. We have spent the last thousand miles and almost three months hiking with our friend Trouble and her dog Melkie. We have started every morning and ended every day with them. It was strange and sad to say our goodbyes and head to our separate non-trail lives.

I hope we can retain the life lessons we learned. I hope we will all continue to be more accepting and understanding. I hope we will focus on the good and offer others around us a taste of hiker goodness.

To those who supported us and helped us, we thank you. Thank you to those who kept us fed and sent our food packages. We are ever grateful to those who offered us rides and opened their homes to us, complete strangers who were stinky and dirty. To all who left trail magic, you cannot know how much our spirits were lifted by coming across something as simple as an apple, a candy bar, or can of soda at a trailhead, and sometimes so much more. Many thanks. To my fellow hikers, you are all awesome! We love you all and will miss you. Thank you for your friendship. We have memories that will last a lifetime.

I will sign off with these words: If you encounter mountains in your world, climb over them, one step at a time. And if life gets overwhelming, just head out for a walk in the woods. You just might see us there.

Canadian Bacon a/k/a Dina
p.s.  in the coming weeks, I hope to put together a slide show of pics.

Thoughts from Zen Master a/k/a Keith:

This is it, I thought as we made our way along the trail toward our summit of Mt Katahdin. This was the final day of our journey, and as Dina said we could not have ordered up a more perfect day. I have so many thoughts and feelings about this day and the rest of the journey that Dina has already expressed that this may seem that it is coming from the same mind. For those of you that know us best it comes as no surprise, we are so much in sync with each other.
For the past 193 days we have lived in the woods so to speak, basically reducing our needs to their simplest level. All we really needed was shelter, food, and water. While we carried our shelter, a tent, there was always the need to find a location to pitch it. The food part, ditto, we pretty much had that covered thanks to months of cooking and dehydrating our meals. A special thanks to all of you who mailed boxes to us, keeping us fed along the way. That only leaves the need for water which I kind of took to a different level. So much so that Dina often said I was a water freak, as I often carried more than what was needed. I’m getting off on a tangent here, so I’ll get back to what the people and the trip meant to me. Going into to the hike I did not really expect to become part of a group or think that so many bonds would be formed so easily out here. How wonderful it would be if the rest of society could be so readily accepting, and trusting of each other. While for the most part the days would be spent hiking solo due to different hiking speeds, it was always the breaks, or end of the day gatherings where you realized just how much in common you each had with one another. You compared feelings of how you thought the day was going or went, what were the high and low points etc. or just shared time and space with someone out on the same adventure. Everyone is quick to offer, or share with each other what they have that might fill a need. To those of you that I have shared those moments with, I will miss you all. How special it was to me to see so many of you gathered at the summit, cheering us on for those final steps. Hugs were abundant. What a great feeling of camaraderie and accomplishment shared by us all.

For me this journey has been the fulfillment of a dream. One shared by Dina, so yes how special it was to me to be able to share the journey together. As I have told some of you it also goes deeper than that for me. My dad often said in his later years that he wanted to live on a houseboat, but he passed at a young age without fulfilling that dream. My daughter Stephanie, whom I lost to cancer at the much too young age of twenty six, I’m sure must have had dreams of things she would do someday, but never got the chance. We all say it, one day I’m going to do this or do that, go here, or there. How sorry and sad it makes me that they never got their chance. So in part this journey was not only me fulfilling one of my dreams it was also for them. For all of you reading this, as Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams”. Find a way to make your dreams come true. Take or make the time. Don’t be the one later in life saying I wish I had done this or that. If only if I had not worked so much I would have done…..
It truly is the little things or gestures that were so very meaningful and uplifting to us along the way. How enlightened our day was when we came upon trail magic left for us. To those of you, I thank you so much. To the other trail angels that seemed to go above and beyond, opening your homes to us, picking us up road or trailside and taking us where we needed to go, giving us free lodging or zero days when they were so truly needed, for you words will not adequately express my feelings of gratitude. To all our trail angels I can only promise that I will find a way to pay it forward. Again, what a wonderful world it would be if everyone just did one random act of kindness for another each day.

 I had such a great time through it all. I love all of you that shared this journey with me making it that much more special. I hope to see many of you again, who knows, maybe in the woods, yes, I still love to hike. So as we parted so many times along the journey I will close with the often heard “see you down the trail”.

               

 


6 comments:

  1. you are both such an inspiration. xo

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  2. Zen Man and Canadian Bacon -- WELL DONE ! I met you way back at Double Springs Shelter in the Smokeys. I injured my right foot (tear in plantar fascia) and left the trail on May 13th and I followed your journey through your blog. I am so happy for you. You were determined when we met and I thought you would complete the journey. All the best for your future.

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    1. Thanks Prayer Walker. We both remember you well and were sad to learn you had to get off the trail. Thank you for following our journey and we hope that your foot has healed and you are able to enjoy the trail on future hikes. All the best to you.

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  3. congrats and well done! followed your trip since the beginning, and have been amazed, inspired, saddened, uplifted, and humbled by your efforts. truly an awesome journey. thank you for sharing. all the best to you both, wherever your next path takes you...maybe will see you 'round the 'cottage' again sometime soon. ;)

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  4. congrats & a very well done to you both, Your photos were awesome just as the entire trail experience must have been. All the best to you both as you continue your adventures. I'm an OLD friend of Keith's from his days in LA. My name is Rick Cagle, & I'm on FB. Hope to hear from y'all.

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    1. Rick, we tried to find you on FB, but there are ALOT of Rick Cagles. Please email Keith at ktholen1@gmail.com. Thanks!

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