How is it that we are in Maine? What is going on? The loon laughs and cries on Sabbath Day Pond, the mosquitoes hum hungrily outside the tent, and I lay here pondering, somewhere near mile number 1956.
We have begun to sense the journey’s approaching end. We have plans for afterward, but still, it will be a leap. I’m getting pre-nostalgia: an odd phenomenon that happens when I know something’s going to end. Once it does, I am usually accepting, and present in the next moment. But while it lasts, I get sentimental and savor the beauty. I may be better able to appreciate the joys of the trail now that it has an impending end date. And there’s a lot of Maine to savor… for example, the scramble across Mahoosuc Notch, known in our guidebook as “the AT’s most difficult/fun mile.”
It was far from the most difficult–the miles descending into its narrow gap, and rising out to climb Mahoosuc Arm, the mountain after, were far harder–but it was among the most fun. We swung, crawled, and hopped across boulders jumbled into a narrow notch, kept cool by chunks of ice below, even in July. We realized later that the day we monkeyed our way through the Notch was the sixth anniversary of our commitment ceremony. A great, though unintentional, way to celebrate.
At the same time, I am so ready to live inside and not hike every day. I am ready for the trail’s suffering to take a long walk off a short dock. Every time the path becomes a long, slick slab of wet rock tipped at a 45 degree angle, which I inch down nervously, I yearn for Katahdin.
Also, we are finally crossing paths with the southbound crowd, most of whom started June 1 or later. We exchange tips and compare attitudes: they are fresh, enthusiastic, and still breaking themselves in. We northbounders are a bit jaded perhaps, accomplished, and excited to be near the grand finale. But each time a NOBO and a SOBO meet, they comprise one thru-hike. Each has what the other needs. May we all reach our destinations.
PS. My brother is back in civilization, and has posted some great photos of our time together on Facebook, which you can see if you are his friend.