AT 2022: Day 1 – 10.4 miles

Will everything be this much harder than I remember? 

The 4,000′ 5-mile trip up Katadhin took us a solid 10 hours to hike up and down…this mountain is made of granite boulders, and this trail makes you climb up and over them like we were ants looking for the honey trail. 

Sometimes we would find help in rebar holds that were drilled into the rock, sometimes the help came from a friend pushing your behind up a ledge, or leaning down to give you a hand and pull you up.


On a trail like this you and your fellow hikers are all in this together. You start to make friends- giving little encouragements, laughing with them when their shoe falls apart or they make a funny little sound when preforming their own style of acrobatics to scale the next feature, because this is a full contact hike, and it becomes a community triumph when you all make it to the top and offer to help take each other’s summit photos.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

As expected, I don’t sleep well. It’s probably the heady combination of starting my hike, that extra beer I should have forgone, and the thermarest that I’m convinced has a broken valve. No matter, I’ve been here before…on the CDT I didn’t sleep for the first week and somehow managed to move my body through space and time for over 100 miles. Determination and excitement alone can be a powerful fuel source.

Hilary whips up a tasty spread of steak and egg tortillas (homemade tortillas I might add, how did I get so lucky with this one?) and deep, dark coffee.

We ready our day packs as more and more hikers walk past our campsite to the start of the trail…the first ones having started just after 4am (and folks: start early for this one…the earlier the better!). When we were fed and caffeinated it was go time.

Aren’t we cute in our matching Hikertrash hats?

The Hunt Trail can be broken up into three parts: trees, boulders, and summit (all three sections have boulder gauntlets though).

We made good time on the first mile of the trees, and when the stair stepping rocks started going straight up, when the trail turned into a creek bed for a time and the next step required larger and larger steps to proceed, we became much more intentional with each footfall. If you tried to walk and look around at the same time you risked a faceplant, so we kept our eyes on the task in front of us. We started cracking jokes as the sweat soaked our shirts…then we reached the boulders.

One little boy refused to go any further, the exposure and sheer physical challenge of the section was painted on his red tear-streaked little face. As we passed his group by, all astonished at the task in front of us, he did get the courage to continue, and we would leapfrog with that group the rest of the day…he was in much better spirits after that.

When we could look up the rocky ridgeline and see the boulder section stretching up, up, and away into the sky, we sighed and worked on each boulder problem as it came. Each one required a handhold we weren’t sure would hold, and a leg stretch just beyond our comfort level (In 2002 this climb was a blur…the memory of this grand finale of the 2,175-mile hike was the people: Average Joe, Banjo, and Noodle and I were a tramily (trail-family), and I just remember laughing and dancing with them at the top of the mountain).

The day was clear and blue as promised, but there were some puffy clouds casting large shadows across the forest below. We could see lakes, so many lakes! And at one point, rain. We started to get a little worried about what rain would do to these vertical granite surfaces, and sighed with relief when we saw the wind blow the squall away from Katahdin. I would not climb this mountain in the rain.

Our old lady noises were getting getting louder and more frequent with each hour of the ascent, and finally we topped out of the boulder section to see over a mile of clear trail (trail still meaning boulders here…just smaller ones) to the summit.

Ok, but first lunch. We hadn’t had a proper break yet and we were starving. PB and J bagels never tasted so good.

After a quick feeding time we continued on. With eyes on the prize we worked our way to the summit…throngs of our new mountain friends coming and going. We celebrated with the ones already on their way down, and encouraged the ones still stumbling their way up (all of our legs were shaky regardless of the direction and speed with which we hiked).

And finally, the sign.

Now my hike could start! The Appalachian Trail officially starts (or ends) up here, but I’m going to count each mile I hiked today. One gentleman shared his story of finally finishing his 20+ year AT section hike at the sign today, he looked a little choked up….hiking all 2,175 miles can be a herculean effort, especially if you can only hike in the weeks between raising children, taking work vacations, and the march of time that 20 years brings to your body.

I met a few flip floppers: folks who hiked from Georgia to the halfway point at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and then hopped up to Katadhin to have a more leisurely hike south back to WV, so I’ll probably be seeing quite a lot of them as we head south together.

Hilary and I took our turns posing with the sign, marveled at the gorgeous day we had in front of us, and murmured astonishments at the even more difficult looking descent of the Knifes Edge trail (no thank you!) going down the north side of the mountain. Then we turned around for the 5-hour descent.

I’m going to breeze through the efforts it took to climb, slide, and inch down that boulder section, but it is worth knowing our knees were screaming, and a fair amount of skin was left scraped on the unforgiving granite rock faces.

We had a quick (and relieved) snack break when we reached treeline, but remembered our celebration was premature when the rocks continued to elicit grunts and groans as we hiked around down and through them.

The last mile took forever, and we were convinced there had been a rip in space and time. Surely this trail was longer now….someone or something had stretched out this section into an unbearable last few miles.

Then: chairs, beer, splashing off the sweat and fatigue in the cold water of Katadhin Stream, and snacks.

Oh the bliss of food and drink after a day like that was amazing. I broke out goat cheese and crackers and cut out pieces of cork from the chilled bottle of white wine we had (oops, no corkscrew). Hilary prepped our dinner of fresh salad, corn on the cob, and pork chops, and we merilly passed the evening hours until the comfort of tent and sleeping bag called to us:

“Come rest your weary heads. Close your eyes. Good job my friends.”

2 thoughts on “AT 2022: Day 1 – 10.4 miles

  1. Wow. Thinking back to my younger self when I backpacked the 100 mile wilderness from Monson to Katahdin with my Dad I think now…did I really do that? Out in the West, we think we are so tough, but the A.T.? It’s a challenge! And a beauty, too. And you two in your hiker trash hats are adorable.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s