What is wrong with me? Today I’m exiting the 100-Mile Wilderness and I should be jubilant, but I’m not. There is a palpable air of excitement surrounding the other hikers who are camped here that I do not share or understand. I’m happy that in less than 36-hours I will be reunited with my wife, but I’m saddened that my adventure is coming to an end. Perhaps I will feel differently when I’m standing on the summit of Mount Katahdin but right now I feel numb. Is depression a normal reaction for someone who is close to realizing the finish of a lifelong dream?
After a breakfast of four Little Debbie Crème Pies and a visit to a well-hidden privy, I took off to see how the day would unfold. Yesterday, when I last had cell service, I received a message from Boo Boo that he had started to leave town, but had backed out. I would have waited a day (maybe two) for him to catch up so that we could summit together but since that scenario was now a distant dream, I continued down the trail on my own. From the shelter, the trail parallels the Rainbow Deadwaters and it was somewhat sloppy due to all the recent rain.
A couple of miles later, the trail arrives at Rainbow Lake and follows the shoreline for the next five miles. As I walked through the woods near the lake, I continued to be dazzled by the incredible beauty of the northern Maine forests. The display of unusual rock formations and the lush moss-covered forest floor is something to behold. When I arrived at the inlet of the lake, I enjoyed one last view across the water before returning to the woods.
The only climb of the day was a small 500-foot ascent to Rainbow Ledges. As a result of a major forest fire in the early part of the twentieth century, the exposed rock ledges provide several views of the surrounding mountains in addition to some nice fall colors. At one vantage point, I could see Mount Katahdin, but the summit was still obscured by clouds.
After descending from Rainbow Ledges, I took a quick lunch break at the Hurd Brook Lean-to. Most of the lean-tos (shelters) on the A.T. have floors made from wood boards, but there are a few, including this one, that still have the traditional “baseball bat” construction of the original design. I cannot attest to the comfort (or lack thereof) of sleeping on this type of surface.
A few more miles down the trail, I crossed a bog bridge over a gorgeous bog and came to a road crossing. I was somewhat surprised that I came upon a road so quickly but, just like that, I was out of the 100-Mile Wilderness. This was Golden Road and when I looked to the right, I could see cars in the distance, so I started walking towards them. As I approached the single lane Abol Bridge, I could see a walkway designed for snowmobiles and I started across. Although I had seen many pictures of this bridge on the internet, nothing had prepared me for what happened next. I looked to my left and my knees nearly buckled at the most (literally) breathtaking sight of Mount Katahdin I had ever seen. I stood there in awe of this magnificent scene for what seemed like several minutes while the moment became permanently etched into my mind.
Once I regained my composure and ability to move, I continued across the bridge to the next object of my desires. Just across the bridge is the Abol Bridge Campground & Store and attached to the store is the Northern Restaurant. After taking a seat in the restaurant, I saw that they had several craft beers on tap, so I ordered one to drink while I waited for my club sandwich to be delivered. The only thing more amazing than that beer was the fact that it was in a restaurant so remote that the entire complex was being powered by a huge generator located next to the building.
Following dinner, I went to the camp store and registered for a campsite. On the way to my assigned space, I passed another hiker that was camping there that I had seen on the trail and stopped to chat with him for a minute. I cannot remember his name for the life of me (if you ever read this, please contact me) so I will call him Brew. Brew was about my age and he told me that, as part of his A.T. thru-hike, he had visited nearly thirty microbreweries on his journey. I thought to myself, “Why is it that I’m just now meeting this guy on my last night on the trail?”
After setting up my tent, I spread my stuff out to dry on a rare picnic table and started to get settled in for the night. A couple of campsites away, there was a large group that was gathered for a cookout and they were starting to get wound up and were making a lot of noise. I hoped that they would break up soon so that I could get some rest. As I was laying there trying to go to sleep, I suddenly realized that this would the last night on the A.T. that I would sleep under my quilt in my tent. My tent had been my home for over six months and it had remarkably kept me comfortable and safe from the elements. I might have teared up a little, but there are no pictures to prove it.
Date: September 9, 2017
Starting Location: Rainbow Stream Lean-to
Ending Location: Abol Bridge Campground
AT Miles Today: 15.0
AT Miles To Date: 2,174.7