Friday, August 13, 2010

Summiting Mt. Katahdin

Written by: Katherine 'Ringleader' Imp

"We got this, B! We got this! Katahdin!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

There are 9 miles between the AT's entry into Baxter State Park and The Birches (a campground for northbound thru-hikers at the bottom of Mt. Katahdin). I don't remember any of those miles. As soon as we set foot in the park, we saw Mt. Katahdin in the distance, and the emotions came flooding in. We made it. We did it. We are summiting Mt. Katahdin.

After spending a few hours next to a waterfall, Brandon and I put our packs on and ran to The Birches. Everything hurt, but it didn't matter. Katahdin!!! Katahdin!!! We got this!!! Katahdin!!!! We laughed, we cried, we ran. It was one of the best days of my life.


The next day, August 12th, Brandon and I summited Mt. Katahdin.

We began the hike with our parents, who drove all the way up from New Jersey to root us on. About 2 miles in, we left them to sprint up the mountain. The climb up Katahdin is only 5 miles, but it involves some serious rock climbing. It was hard to get back into that meditative hiking rhythm we had so enjoyed during the 100-mile wilderness leading up to Katahdin. There was just too much going on -- parents, boulders, and a mind-blowing number of tourists. It made us anxious. This is our day!

As we neared the summit, I tried to bring back the emotions from the day before but I felt nothing. I was tired, hungry, and annoyed with all the 'background' noise. When we got to the top, we pushed our way through 40 tourists ... and touched the sign together. Before we could finish our sighs of relief, the questions came: You came all the way from Georgia? How long did it take? How many miles do you do each day? What do you eat? What was your favorite part?

Normally I love answering these questions, but not on the summit. This is my day. Bran and I fled to a corner of the mountaintop, away from all the people and sat down. We didn't speak for a few minutes. We just sat and looked at the view. Then we looked at each other and smiled. We did it.


After we ate lunch, we went back over to the sign and began our festivities. We took pictures by the sign, we popped open champagne bottles, and we gave our congrats to fellow thru-hikers. And then we saw them.

Our parents.

I was in shock, I was in awe. This is no easy hike, and my 60-year-old, 110-lb mother was standing on top of Mt. Katahdin. Seeing her on top of that mountain, grinning from ear-to-ear, was again, one of the most memorable moments of my life. That's my mom.


After a brief celebration, and a few swigs of champagne, our parents began their descent down the mountain, and Brandon and I went back over to the sign. The crowds had begun to disperse, so the mountaintop was ours for the taking.

I looked out into the distance and recited my favorite poem, "The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost. Then I sat down on a rock and listened to Brandon recite, "Oh, The Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss. It was so well done. I felt my emotions coming back to me. What an amazing person to share this experience with. When he finished I clapped and gave him a hug. We did it. Katahdin.

After Brandon completed his Katahdin 5, it was time for me to have my last experience on the summit. I grabbed my brother's ipod and found my song from Lady Gaga. Just Dance. I sent my ipod home 3 months ago, but for the first 2 months it was Lady Gaga that got me up those mountains. Now it was time to pay tribute. I turned up the sound, closed my eyes, and ... just ... danced. I was free. I was alive. I was happy. Katahdin.


As Bran and I scrambled down our last mountain together, we realized that a new problem was on the horizon. It was 7:15pm, our parents were no where near the bottom of the mountain, and our headlamps were in the van.

We got to the van around 8:30pm, threw our stuff in the back seat, grabbed the headlamps, and then began our sprint back up the mountain. There was no time to think about the fact that we were done with our thru-hike. We had to rescue our parents.

We charged back up the mountain, screaming for them, but heard nothing. When we finally found them, they were huddled together, wrapped in a garbage bag for warmth. It was one of the most hilarious things I've ever seen. Brandon and I tried to be sympathetic but they were laughing so we started laughing right along with them.

The hike back down was long but memorable. Bran and I told stories about our thru-hike to make the time go by. Every so often we'd look up at the stars.

We made it to the car by 11:30pm, safe and sound. When we got there, Bran and I looked at each other, smiled, and touched the car simultaneously. We made it. We summited Mt. Katahdin.


  1. GREAT JOB, KATE!! I'm SO proud of you! :D Good luck with your next adventure: Big Law.


  2. I have so enjoyed following along with you. Thanks for sharing your journey and congratulations on a great accomplishment!

  3. Just think, you hiked 1000 miles by June, probably 2X more mileage than a serious backpacker will do in 10-15 years of vacations.

    Anybody can sweat, smell, and be hungry at 1000 miles, and "do time" in shelters and privies. And be totally sick of it ALL. Then it takes a special person to grit their teeth, lace 'em up, and scramble over another 1000 miles. That's the AT, and a thru-hiker! Welcome to the 2K Club.

    Thanks for letting me follow the journey. I am also excited to find out where else it takes you, and how it impacts you, where it all fits in the 100's of 5 month intervals that you have ahead.

    We're anxious to hear what happens next!

    Congrats, good luck, and thanks,

    Happy Jack

  4. Congratulations. Now you know you can do ANYTHING.

  5. CONGRATULATIONS ! It was so nice to meet you all in Bland, Va. on Brushy Mt. when you were doing one of your 'marathons' in order to get to Pearisburg on time. We've followed you on this blog ever since and have truly enjoyed the trip with you all. Here's wishing you great successes in your lives. Prosper and grow. Peace.

  6. Congratulations! Adam and I have been thinking about you guys the past few days. What an amazing thing you have accomplished!

  7. Congrats! I briefly met the high energy trio known as the 'traveling circus' at Denton Shelter Virginia late May. Happy to see you made it.

  8. Good thing you got rid of that "dead weight" so you could finish in style. You two are a class act.

  9. sour friendships can be quite a "dead weight"

  10. You started out a trio; ended a duo. It leaves questions and suppositions. Prior blog comments, preceding my own about "dead weight and sour friendships" Give pause for thought.

    Emily wrote she would continue on alone. No sour grapes. You guys made no comment at all, finished the hike and again did nothing except to crow and hog the moment. No comment that Emily traveled with you and would soon be finishing as well. Someone once told me "It doesn't cost a nickel more to act like a gentleman" (or woman in these enlightened times.).

    In correcting the entry re "sour friendships" strike the word
    "friendships". True friendships surpasses everything and all. If someone has chutzpah enough to post and sign "anonymous", anonymous just becomes a ehemism for "sniping".

  11. I've been following this blog for about 6 weeks, I think. First of all, I'd like to say:

    CONGRATULATIONS! What an amazing achievement to have visualized, planned, executed, and now COMPLETED the Appalachian f'n Trail! Wow. BTW, a bit of perspective.. the Tour de France is roughly equivalent in miles to the AT. BAM!

    I found the blog and its content magical, entertaining, and mildly addictive even before the hiker's tensions grew. And then when they did, the spoon-fed, dirty, TV-addicted American in me sort of latched onto the Ridley Scott drama that unfolded nearly publicly on this blog. Though let's be honest... said drama was almost entirely driven by the comments (read: spoon-fed, etc). I admit, also, that I'm a wee bit suspicious that that drama was generated intentionally to make the story--and eventually movie--more Hollywood cookie-cutter. Doesn't matter, actually. Hollywood eats that shite up and your avg joe doesn't give a hoot, either.

    So now you're done--again CONGRATS! Where is Emily? I deduce that she finished a day or two ahead of the Imps. Did she? Do we not deserve a post from her wrapping up her thoughts and feelings? Again.. Hollywood skepticism here suspecting it's all just to make the pending movie more "must see". I can picture the 3 of you all laughing and knee-slapping at all the comments perpetuated by slight, ambiguous declarations on the blog. Guess I'll just have to keep checking i.e. HOLLYWOOD WINS!

    In the end, though, it's all BS. One day you guys will be 35 like me. Hopefully you'll have the career and family laid out exactly as you hoped and dreamed... like me. And you'll look back on this Summer and say, "I DID THAT!" And that, my friends, is incredible.

    So I raise my glass to Kate, Bran, AND Emily (assuming you are done, girl). You've accomplished something truly amazing. You've learned about your country, your bodies, and each other. Take a week nap. You deserve it!

  12. Congrats! You've made me think a lot, laugh a lot, and be proud of all of you!. Some year in the future when I attempt the AT I'll think of you, and you'll all be my inspiration! Much love,

  13. I have been following the drama since the first blog, Congratulations all three of you. You achieved a dream that many have yet never accomplish,

  14. CONGRATS! Glad you had a great day to summit. I can't wait to go back, hopefully when it isn't miserably cold, wet and windy.

  15. To Joan...before you make any more snide remarks, you may want to remember that there are two sides to every story...and in this case, maybe even three. Try to seek the truth about what really happened between Emily, Kate, and Brandon...not what YOU want to think happened (because of what you heard). We are all guilty of that. When, and if, you find out what actually occurred during these 5 months, all of it intentionally kept off the internet, then you can make a judgement...Sincerely, Kate and Brandon's mom

    P.S. By the way, you can ask K and B's friends, relatives, and neighbors if they were spoon-fed, and you will hear an emphatic "No, they were not!".

  16. We have been amazed, amused, inspired and in awe of your journey since the spring. Congratulations Katherine, Emily and Brandon on one of the greatest accomplishments one could fathom. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  17. Dear Barb,

    Why would anyone following this journey think to look elsewhere to find the story of what really happened? Is this not a blog about the adventure of three young adults hiking the AT? Personally, I feel short-changed as a reader that neither Kate nor Brandon even mentioned Emily's departure, let alone commented or shared an opinion on it. We were invited to follow their story and there was not even an acknowledgment to their loyal readers that this significant turn of events even occurred. If there is a place to discuss it, this is it. It is a significant part of the story that has been left out and judging by the number of people asking "what became of Emily?", I am likely not alone in thinking so.

    I found Joan's comments not snide, but well-thought and most of all honest. Joan, I don't know who you are but thank you for chiming in and having the maturity to post your name.

    C. C-Ginger.

  18. P.S. Barb, i will take your advice and try to seek the truth about what really happened.

    Brandon, Kate, if you are inclined to clear the air, I would love to see a blog post on the subject of Emily's departure from either one of you. Or, email and indulge me. If you will not share the story with your readers, they might make assumptions. How can we put any stock in your film? Or the information you gave us in your blog if it is clear that big parts are being intentionally left out?

    This silence leaves much to be desired.

    It also brings to mind another question: if you wish not to be in the public eye of 119 blog subscribers (at last count), what would become of you should you ever appear on a show like Survivor or Ellen Degeneres, or even, your own film?

    C. C-Ginger

  19. hi,
    I've only been following you since connecticut, when my friend and I picked you up in her car and drove you to toymaker's for the night. but reading this made me cry. you guys are amazing.

    seriously. goosebumps.

  20. For better or worse you all cannot ignore the 600 pound gorilla in the room which is the breakup of the traveling circus trio so close to the end of your journey. It is part of the story of all of you who faced the demands of living in the wilderness.

    We all look forward to the film.

  21. Congrats on achieving something very few can ever accomplish!!! Hope you got in touch with Nature and realize how powerful a force it can be!! Alot of the blog followers are so curious about "what happened" to the Circus. Perhaps nothing happened. I believe it's none of our bees wax!!! And I'd like to finish by mentioning that what happened to your parents is very serious. Sorry to read that you couldn't refrain from laughing. I'm just glad that your final descent wasn't shattered by what could've been a real tragedy.

    Mark Ginger (Emily's Uncle)

  22. To Anonymous on August 14, 2010 11:02 PM and I believe also on August 15, 2010 12:53 AM, when you said "You two are a class act."

    I think you mean CRASS act. Pining for a role on Survivor -- ALL 20 seasons, Monkey -- and making a reality show of the AT are CRASS, not class.

    And speaking of "class" -- Monkey, a month ago you talked on this blog of your life plan, an integral part of which was "enrolling to a "top medical school in 2011." Do childrens toys -- tops -- need doctoring? Is that what you mean Monkey? You'll tend to the medical needs of tops?

    OK. Seriously. It's all fine and good that one should go to the best school possible -- even a so-called "top" school.

    But at bottom, I think one should go where one can -- based on admissions standards, location, tuition costs, etc. To think of it as one word -- "top medical school" -- as opposed to simply "medical school" smacks of no little class prejudice.

    I guess all those other doctors who went to -- what?? "bottom" medical schools?? -- are of less value than you?

    As a matter of fact, in my years, I can testify that many of those who attended "bottom" medical schools are thoughtful, insightful and caring.

    I truly hope that you will follow their example, no matter where you go -- "top" or "bottom" medical school. I'm sure (or I hope that) the AT will have brought home to you the virtues of humility.

  23. Thank you both, Mark and Anonymous (Aug. 18, 12:06 a.m.)...sincerely, Barb

  24. Congrats Kate!!!!


  25. Finishing a summit is a very big accomplishment. I am so happy for you guys. Your photos express everything you feel no need to elaborate. Good luck for next time.