Journal Entry: May 29, 2010 – The Pre-Hike – Part 1

“Some things were meant to be.”

A plan may seem perfect but until you put it into action you’ll never really know.  The night before, the plan…packed by early evening, then relax watching the Celtics play the Magic.  At game start, I was still packing or re-packing I should say.  At half-time, I’m re-packing again.  The Celtics are playing well.  The game ends.  We’ve won.  I’m re-packing AGAIN.  At 12:30am, I stuff all the strewn items around me into the pack and call it quits.  I’m too tired to go on.  Tomorrow is an early morning and I need to get to bed.

5:33am.  I wake up.  The alarm did not go off.  I reach for my cell phone, half awake and give my friend Jeff a wake-up call.  He’s already up and heading out the door soon.  He estimated rolling into Lebanon to pick me up around 7:00am.  I decide to roll back over and go to sleep.  It is only 5:35am in the morning and that means another hour could be gotten between now and then.

6:38am.  I get out of bed.  Get dressed.  I head downstairs too focused to do anything but bring all my gear out to the side porch.  I have no interest in breakfast.  Jeff calls and says he’s made better time coming from Keene and he’ll be there shortly.  I pour myself a third of a cup of coffee, black, while talking to Barb who has just gotten out of bed and made it.  Steve has just come downstairs and is stepping into the shower.  A couple of minutes later Jeff rolls into the driveway and I gulp the hot coffee down and give Barb a hug good-bye.  I put my pack in Jeff’s car trunk while running through a mental checklist.  Jeff comes around the trunk and hands me a first aid and survival kit.  The first aid kit is a complete compact unit that could hang on the belt.  One of those $50 items I looked at and said, “Fifty dollars.  Ummm, no.”  the survival kit has a tiny compass, fishing tackle and line, fire starting materials and an emergency blanket.  He also gives me a super absorbent towel.

We get in the car and I tell Jeff we should go.  I already had said good-bye to Barb, Steve is in the shower and I’m not interested in a lengthy or emotional parting of ways.  Plus, Katahdin is almost a six-hour drive away in Maine. There is no direct route there and I had planned getting there by 2:00pm.

The drive is uneventful.  Jeff and I talk about this and that.  Maxwell is quiet as a mouse, curled up into a ball on the floor at my feet.  He has always traveled well.  He’s so quiet it’s easy to forget that he’s even there.  We reach Millinocket, the town closest to the southern entrance of Baxter State Park.  Jeff points out the paper mill he works with.  He drives up a few times a year to do work at the mill and is familiar with the area as a result.  As we head West, around a bend and on a decline, I get my first view of Katahdin.  It appears suddenly in the view, perfectly framed by tall trees on either side of the road, the blue sky above and the dark recently redone surface of the pavement and yellow lines below.  It takes my breath away.  It seems almost a mirage and wavers slightly, almost seeming to jump back as we drive towards it.

Katahdin is a 5000-footer.  A steep and jutting rocky rise.  I can see the belts of snow at the top running vertically at the top, like the claw marks of a cat.  It dominates my vision, both captivating and terrifying to behold.  I have that feeling I imagine some music performers have before going on stage for concert.  The jitters.  Nerves.  Butterflies.  My stomach churns and I have a vague yet fleeting moment of nausea.  It is the end for most thru-hikers but it is just the beginning for me.

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