For the first part of my life, I lived in a small mill town conveniently named Millinocket. It is a small, rural town with now poor economic standing, which once thrived with the height of the mill and the amount of summer tourism. The tourism was linked directly to the fact that the town is at the mouth of Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park.
FROM WIKIPEDIA : Mount Katahdin is the highest mountain in Maine at 5,268 feet (1,606 m). Named Katahdin by the Penobscot Indians, the term means “The Greatest Mountain”. Katahdin is the centerpiece of Baxter State Park: a steep, tall mountain formed from underground magma.
Having lived in Millinocket my whole life, one would think that in a town with little to do that hiking this mountain would be an activity most locals would indulge in. This is true, but not for me. In 8th grade we took a trip to the mountain and climbed maybe 1/2 mile as part of a school trip. After I left for college at 18, I never looked back, and if you have been keeping up with my journey, you know that my physical activity declined and my weight increased, putting the words, “I should do Katahdin someday” further and further into one of those phrases that people say often, but never truly mean it.
Until last year, I never did truly mean it, just like before that “I need to lose weight” held no weight because nothing in my life was changing. Last summer, a friend and I hiked up Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park after running a 10k, and thought it was a bit challenging, had a great time. On the way there I mentioned, and for the first time, actually meaning it, that I wanted to hike Mount Katahdin someday. I had planned on doing it at the end of last summer, but plans fell through, and when some of my friends on the roller derby team invited me to a trip up there for June 1st, I knew this was my opportunity. I waited for months for the opportunity, and yesterday, this goal become a reality.
Many people hike, and many people explore nature, but the experience I had on this all day, 10 mile excursion will be hard to form into words that can convey how it really felt, but I will do my best.
3am, time to wake up
First, I woke up at 1:45am. I am not sure if it was just because I was anxious or what, but it happened. When I went back to sleep and my alarm went off at 3am, I was a little more than annoyed that I felt overtired, feeling like I should have just stayed up when I woke up before. Nevertheless, I got my pack together, which was mostly packed from the night before, got dressed, and I headed out. I met the others and we caravan’d down to Baxter State Park.
I will only mention once how fantastic the weather was – ideal in ever sense. It was warm, but clear, and no thundershowers like the projected forecast.
This was the view from the bottom of Katahdin Streams at the base of Hunt Trail. Later in the day, I would be at the top of that little point!
I would say that the trip was broken into 3 phases with a “false pre-phase”. The start of the trail was a real fake-out. Traditional nature course stuff
Next we hit a nice little rest area with a stream (last chance for outhouse!)
Then this little rock path leads up to the true deception, where the real hiking begins (but did lead to this little waterfall!)
Phase I : The woods – The woods were a lot like what I expected out of the trip. The ground was full of dirt, rocks, streams. Eventually a small amount of climbing was necessary and the rock streams tilted more and more upwards.
Phase 2: The Rocks – This is where things got real, and REAL FUN. Probably the longest jut of the journey divided into different rock paths, climbing, and ascending. I felt like it was a physical puzzle (where to put hands, feet and where to jump up). This was byfar the most challenging and my favorite part of the trip. I forgot to snap a photo of the entire thing, but one of the most difficult parts was hoisting oneself up on a handlebar attached to the rocks, which was basically one giant pull up onto the mountain. The way down was equally difficult. After a progression of rock climbs we got to a “mini knife’s edge” (Knife’s Egde is the hardest trail on the mountain where the rocks are plentiful and the path is narrow), which you will see in the photos below.
On the rocks, ascension.
Going up the edge
View from the top down
Off the edge of the top
Phase 3: The Rock Plains – I call this the rock plains because, well, that is what they were. the final foot of the trip with a nice little ascent at the end to the summit (terminus of the Appalachian trail).
This is where everything turned very real for me. As I looked down off of the summit, realizing that I just climbed an entire mountain, there were no words. Majestic, I was Mesmerized, a word I rarely used, as I don’t often feel that way in life, but it felt great. I was the first to hit the summit out of our group. I spent a good leg of the trip climbing with a friend, so we took some photos and hung out while we waited for others.
1 Mile high
This photo is a replication of a mentor who took a similar hiking photo, and it always stuck with me. The fact that I was able to do it is beyond words.
There is no photo or words to describe how it felt to see this sight. To be so high above the world below, away from everything, to look down at something so much bigger than all of us and be on top of it is no more than awe-inspiring.
The trip down was just as fun, I stayed with two friends for the entire time, and we beasted down the mountain meeting back up at the little stream.
On the way back, we waited at the stream and I took a little rock nap and saw some more awesomeness.
To see all photos of the trip, visit :
A little more than some photos
Here is the part where I delve into really what this trip means to me. I scratched the surfaced at the start of this post, but these photos are just some images of rocks, gravel, water that make up a land mass that hovers over the town in which I was born in. Like I said before, I never took advantage of what was right in my backyard, many people take it for granted that we have such life-changing images available to us, but we walk through life just passing them by; something I did for many years with so many aspects of my life. I have talked about how my weight loss was not just a physical transformation, but rather a mental and emotional one. I know I could not have done this trip before my weight loss. I may have been able to physically do it (with a great deal of help and a lot longer, timewise), but mentally I would not have appreciated it the same way I do now, and that is the difference between taking something for granted and absorbing all of life’s gifts. We are here for a limited time, and we should be enjoying the journey. Being at the summit was a magical experience, it was one where I conquered a goal I should have had and always had. Many people climb mountains, but this wasn’t just about climbing some rocks.
Coming from the small town I lived in, the only achievement I ever felt was my academic success and I had few friends, was always overweight, unpopular, and had to deal with problems at home. It wasn’t the worst life, but it wasn’t always the best life. This is where I started becoming a goal-oriented person, which I am happy for. Unfortunately, I was never healthy, and my parents and my school failed to teach me anything meaningful in the way of leading a healthy lifestyle. I left that life behind when I went to college, and over time I created a new life away from it, learning about the world, doing well in college, and working at a job where I was helping others. Despite feeling like life was good and I left the feelings of my home town behind, buried behind the fat, I was still taking so much of life for granted. It wasn’t until I lost the weight that other weights started lifting off. The fact that I could do a pushup or run a mile has turned into climbing a mountain and truly appreciating life. At the summit, I looked down into the splendor and beauty that was below me, knowing my old town, my old habbits, and my old life were down there, and I was able to conquer the fears and doubts I never even knew I had.
For some, climbing a mountain is a fun experience, a physical challenge, and a way to see nature. I experience all of those things, but while at the summit, I listened to the playlist I made because I knew it was going to be an experience I would never want to forget, and music is how I connect with the world. I listened to “Breathe You In” by Thousand Foot Krutch, and just thought about the last 2 years of my life, how much I have truly accomplished with losing the weight, trying new things, and feeling like I am truly alive. I felt happy, truly reborn. I know so many other people go through life taking the things around them for granted, and I can only hope that others can open their eyes and hearts to the world around them because having regret and negativity in your life is only going to make you unhappy. They are things we are all working on, even me, still, but it is important to take the day as brand new experience and try to appreciate the things and the people around us.
I don’t know the next time I will have such a profound experience, but for now, it is here and I felt lucky to have had it. Thank you to those who invited me and bested the mountain with me, this day will be locked in my mind for the rest of my life.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.
On the way down the mountain, we came across this man who was climbing the mountain…WITH NO LEGS. His legs were blown off in Iraq, and his goal was to do the Appalachian Trail. I can’t imagine the perseverance (even having gone through what I have), it takes to do that without any legs. He ended up turning back at a couple of miles (due to daylight), but I just thought it was such an inspirational process.
Here are just some random photos of me from the day.
GOODBYE, for now, MT. KATAHDIN