Sleep did not come easily to me, or stay very long at a time this night! I didn’t expect it to. I was roused, by previous request, by Baltimore Bob as he and G-man left at 4:45 am. It was still very dark out, but I packed up, by headlight, then went to try to find my bear bag in the dark. Failed at that – I think I need to replace the batteries in my headlamp! Fortunately Slow and Steady and her hiking partner were also up, and his light was bright enough!
I left at 5:40, before sunrise, while the sky was still a deep, dark indigo. I knew by the time I dropped off my pack at the ranger station (I was slackpacking and only took a day pack), and crossed the park, it would be light enough to hike. It was very cold out though – Maine is definitely signaling a season change.
And so it came to pass. The first 1.3 miles were pretty easy hiking, even wearing gloves (less grip on the poles). The last privy on the trail was at this point, Katahdin Stream Falls; I took advantage, then filled the water bottles and ate breakfast. Thus fortified, I headed on.
Gradually the trail filled with small, then larger boulders, and finally, rock scrambles over huge chunks of rock. Also gradually, and I don’t know why, my perception of the trail changed from eager wanting to do, to something I had to do, but wasn’t enjoying much at all. Even the rock scrambles which I would normally have enjoyed, I had no enthusiasm for.
Maybe the lack of sleep was starting to tell. I don’t know. I do know that the return trip was weighing heavily on my mind. Always before, in situations where my fear of heights kicked in, I was able to psych myself up and keep going because I had to, to continue the hike north, but also because once done, it was past me; I would not be returning that way. On Katahdin, neither of those reasons applied anymore.
Perhaps that was why, when I reached the treeline 3.1 miles up, I simply stopped and spent about twenty minutes alternately sitting and staring up above me. A small, curved piece of rebar was embedded in the rock about my head height; above that, a rebar ‘ladder’ stretched up a bare, extremely high-reaching spire of rock. The head high curved piece of rebar was supposed to serve as a foothold.
Maybe if I hadn’t been on my own, I could have brought myself to go on. I could not rid myself of the probability of getting stuck up there and not being able to get back down. (This actually did happen to two others summitting that day.)
So, I declared that I had treelined Katahdin, got a picture, and turned back. And on the way down? A pure, complete feeling of utter relief and no regret at all. I climbed Katahdin for 3.5 hours and 3.1 miles. Good enough for me!
I caught a ride into Millinocket 38th thruhiker Dragonhead and his parents (with a happy detour for ice cream), and spent the rest of the day hanging around the hostel – they were almost full, but I got a cot. So very tired, but triumphant. Finito!