Day mileage: 16
AT total mileage: 1,904
Time: 9 hours
Sleeping next to railroad tracks is an interesting thing. Luckily it was a Sunday night so there were no locomotives passing, but with an early morning dusting of rain and the full moon above, it felt like I was living in a Johnny Cash song. We woke up around 6:30 AM to a bit of a heavier rain and quickly packed up our gear to avoid the repercussions of it all getting soaked. Despite our actions to avoid getting drenched, the rain ended not ten minutes later as the clouds parted and left us with a gorgeously sunny blue sky. We laid out a piece of Tyvek ground cloth from a tent and sat on it while eating breakfast and talking about the day ahead.
Hiking out of Mr. Cash's song and up into the mountains above was a bit more of a task than we had hoped for, a combination of a somewhat lazy day prior, the steep incline, and the stifling humidity that was present in the mid-July air. Sweating, cursing, and hiking on, we reached the bald summit of the unnamed mountain and followed where the Appalachian Trail joins along with the Mahoosuc Trail for the next 30 or so miles. We stopped at the split in the trail to have a second breakfast, lingering for a bit longer than anticipated and were joined by Joules, Canary, Violet, and another NOBO named West. The next few hours included a half dozen separate climbs and descents of a few hundred feet each, during which time we would leapfrog with the other group of hikers as we went along. They keep a bit of a slower pace so we were often ahead of them, reuniting as a large group when someone would stop for water or a snack. The day passed by quickly this way, and we all shared a bit of excitement as we began the steep 1,500' climb of Mt. Success, the final peak of New Hampshire and the marking point of mile 1,900 on the Appalachian Trail. It began raining steadily during the climb so I stopped to store my camera, not wanting to drown another dSLR in the same fashion as last time. Legs and I hiked the mountain relatively quickly together despite the rocky faces that made ascents exceptionally difficult at times. Upon reaching the top we met up with Santa and Joules, both equally excited to have crossed another hundred miles of the trail, and decided we would take a group shot to mark the occasion. The others came along shortly after, though our body temperatures dropped as we waited on the breezy and rainy bald-topped mountain. Once everyone was present we set up my camera and tripod and took a few photos, making out the numbers '1-9-0-0' with our hands to signify the mileage.
Hiking on, we had just 2 more miles until the most important state line crossing on the entire trail. It's silly to say but I actually have chills typing this... We made it to Maine. At mile 1,903.6 of the 2014 Appalachian Trail, I crossed from New Hampshire into the final state of the trail: Maine. It's absolutely indescribably unbelievable to try and put to words the feeling of having walked here, spending days and weeks dreaming of this arbitrary goal of 'Maine' while still needing to chip away at miles daily that barely seem to affect my total. As we crossed the state line as a group we took another photo with nearly a dozen of us by the border sign. I was thinking about this as the day went on, and I'm not sure I've ever taken a photo with that many people at a state line. You'd think that further north the likelihood would be even less that it would be possible with a group but sure enough here we all are. The immeasurable pride in knowing that this is the goal, here and now, making it to Maine from Georgia by (I hesitate to say simply, given the excessive challenge that has been out in front of me) hiking, has been attained. I have now only 282 miles to go before I arrive at Katahdin, a horrifying and thrilling thought all at the same time. I'm not sure what members of this group, if any, I'll make it there with, but I do know that in the end it was absolutely the right decision to slow and hike with these friends. I do wish that Rocket, Dorothy, and Deep Blue would have been here for this moment, but they'll have their time soon enough.
We all piled into a medium sized bunk shelter for the night to stay out of the rain. Tomorrow we'll head into the single most difficult section of the trail, Mahoosuc's Notch. I'm not sure what kind of mileage we will be able to attain given the immense level of challenge it will present us with, but I'll hope for the best. I certainly haven't been hiking the mileage I'd like to be hiking in order to arrive at Katahdin without rushing, but it's simply impossible over the terrain lately to maintain low to mid 20s every day. Luckily there should be a few sections of terrain coming up that might allow me to make up for shorter days.
I'm in Maine. Onwards and upwards, the end is near.