Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Signs

Written by: Brandon "Monkey" Imp

There were many signs to indicate that our hike was coming to a close.

First, Ringleader broke her toe but continued hiking since we were "almost done." How she managed to hike the 250+ miles on a broken toe, while keeping up with Lightning, Snickers, and I, I cannot quite explain. Determination? Gritted teeth? Ibuprofen?

Later, Lightning separated from Ringleader and I. She chose to hike behind us and finished the trail on her own. With so little of the trail left, I suspect there was enough time to enjoy the solitary hike without feeling aftershock from group separation.

Finally, our gear began to fail. Within the last ten days of the trip, our shoes fell apart, the water filter virtually disintegrated, and the tent broke. Granted our shoes were near the end of their lifespan, Ringleader and I both noticed our shoes retained no tread and were useless on slippery rocks and roots. The water filter (grrr!!) met an awful end. The ceramic core (the part that purifies the water) looked uncharacteristically skinny one day when I was cleaning it; upon size inspection, it fell way below the "safe" standards. With only a few days left, we decided the cost of a new ceramic core was not worth the hassle - we would pump and push the water through this core until it could take the force no more! Then, that day, I lost the Brillo to clean the ceramic core. The core must be scrubbed frequently or else the water will not pump through - I resorted to using my fingernails for the remainder of the trip. The tent took its last straw in a hurricane of a thunderstorm - the tent began to leak and the zipper began unzipping. Every night we could zip less and less of the tent. One night, the entire bottom did not zip, so we barricaded ourselves inside with shoes and gear. Still, in the morning we found a large brown spider hiding in the tent and Ringleader suffered a large bite to the leg. On our final night at the Birches, we opted to sleep in the shelter because the tent did not zip at all. It was as if our gear was saying, "We know you are done, so leave us alone!!"

Although we experienced all of these signs (and believe me, we noticed them), there was only one I was looking for - the large wooden sign on Mt. Katahdin's Baxter Peak. Every other sign could only give a false hope that we were done. That one was the real deal.

We spent a few hours up on the peak. On the climb up and while lounging around the peak, I was waiting, and hoping, for a wave of emotions to hit me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream! I wanted to feel euphoric! All I felt was a chill. It ran up and down my spine for hours. You are done. You thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. You are done. What, please tell me, WHAT were you thinking? What are you thinking? Where are you going? - Down the mountain. That's where I am going. The minivan is what I am thinking of. The wild roller coaster is what I thought about.

And it was good. Thanks Ringleader and Lightning. I could not have done it without you! And to our parents, family, friends, thru-hikers, new acquaintances, and you all out in cyber space - you rock!

Oh, and my fifth Katahdin 5 was...making a Survivor application video. A kickin' one at that. Thank you for the suggestions - I still payed a tribute to Sunny and even gave a wave to you, Young One!

Until next time...


  1. Congrats to all thru hikers of the class of 2010. Signed JackRabbit.

  2. Class act man.. you're awesome. Such an honor to follow the three of you on your journey. I will be attempting next year!

  3. Congratulations, one of many achievements completed, Very few will be able to call themselves Thru Hiker 2010


  4. What a great summit post, Brandon! I had wondered what activities would make up your final Katahdin 5. You and Kate would both be great on Survivor, and I think brother/sister competitors would be really new and different, too. They've never had anything like that on the show. I'm so glad you got to pay tribute to Sunny from your spot at the top of Maine.

  5. Hey guys! Glad to see y'all made it. It was one hell of a trip! Good luck in life!

  6. Awesome post, Brandon. You guys hiked the shit out of the AT. I find it weird to be proud of you three--seeing as I don't know you--but I totally am.


  7. Congratulations to you all - an inspirational story - hope to do it soon!

  8. This is amazing. Just want to say what a great blog you got here.Thumbs up, and keep it going! Congratulations on your successful hiking trip.