WEEK 18: KATAHDIN

Well, this is it. By this time next week I will have summited Mount Katahdin and be on a plane back to Virginia. The goal I’ve been working at for a year and a half is only 115 miles away.
This morning we head into what’s known as the “100 Mile Wilderness”, which I have always thought is a funny name, since I’d pretty much say the whole trail is a 2,189.4 mile wilderness, but I guess I’m not the one who gets to make the decisions around here. It’s the last stretch of this trail, known for having no towns, roads, outside communication, or civilization of any sort. It’s just us and the trail for 100 miles, then we submerge from the forest to Katahdin in our sights. I’ve heard it’s rocky, “rooty”, and muddy (like the rest of Maine), but other than that, it’s an easy section of Maine. This is all relative, of course, since Maine is the only state rated 10/10 for difficulty, but still exciting to hear. I’m just a few rocks and roots away.
It doesn’t feel real that I’m here. This is a dream I’ve had for such a long time and I’ve seen myself up on top of Katahdin countless times, but now it’s actually going to happen…and soon! To be honest, I don’t feel like I deserve it. This whole trip I’ve felt a little bit like the kid that’s just tagging along, it hasn’t actually done the stuff the big kids have. And this is true. I started in Damascus and have close to 500 miles less than everyone else under my belt. Katahdin is not the end for me. While I’ve been very happy with my “flip-flop” trip and know I had to do it this way because of graduation, I do kind of feel like a cheater. This may seem like I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill (lol), but I can’t shake the feeling that I know is there. I’ve been trying to change my mindset. I’m attempting to think of Katahdin as my big finale and the rest as 500 bonus miles. That’s dumb, I know. I’ll get back to you on how that goes.
It’s scary that we’re at the end (my fake end, their real end). This whole week we’ve been very real with each other and revealed things we don’t tell the rest of the world. I’m in awe of their bravery and ability to face and overcome their obstacles. Between Yaeger, The Law, Wildcat, and me, we’ve been through a lot. They’re able to talk about these events and how they’re affected them and how they’ve used the trail to overcome. I usually sit there in silence for these talks, because I can’t say the same for myself. Not only have I not overcome my biggest obstacle, but I’m not even brave enough to talk to them about it yet, nor you guys. There’s an event that I’ve had trapping me in a cage of fear for many years now and I can’t even say with certainty that I’ve faced it at all. I’ve dealt with a lot, learned a ton about myself, and gained confidence I didn’t know I had, but the journey is far from over. That scares me. I’m jealous of their honesty. This week I hope I can get enough courage to be honest with them, even if it means crying (something that I hate to do and that scares me more than just about anything). Maybe it’ll take the last 500 miles that I’m walking solo to face myself and not use others to distract from what I know is most important. Maybe this won’t be overcome in 500 miles, or 2189.4 for that matter. I guess only time will tell.
This week we will try to be present 100% of the time. I want to notice every flower, bug, tree, and root that I trip on. I also want to actively listen to everything and everyone around me. It reminds me of a line that I often think about from “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder. The character Emily is saying goodbye to the world and in desperation asks the stage manager, “do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?-every, every minute?”. The answer is no, we don’t. We can’t. But this week I’m going to try to anyway.
The past two days we’ve spent at a lake house near Monson, Maine. We water skied, gone tubing, kayaking, canoeing, and watched someagical sunsets. Most importantly, we’ve been actively enjoying our time left together. Once again, our hosts have been wonderful, giving, beautiful people. This was the perfect way to spontaneously spend our last zero day. I feel ready and hungry to take on The 100 Mile Wilderness and Katahdin.
There’s only a few hundred miles left and we are unbelievably close to the fundraising goal for Heart For Africa. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and gotten involved and interested in their mission. Raising money for them and getting others interested is probably the most important thing I’ve ever done. I encourage everyone to read Janine’s blog posts (links below) from the past few weeks, as there have been some important and heartbreaking things going on at the orphanage. Also, I’d like to ask for you to share my blog and donation page on your social media sites to help me make the final push to my goal.
Thanks again for all the support through my whole journey! Next week I will have summited the greatest mountain- Mt Katahdin.
Love,
Hollywood

http://www.gofundme.com/st984k

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com

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WEEK 15, 16 and 17:

It has been a while since I wrote on here. I can’t even begin to describe everything that has happened, but I’ll do my best. At the time of my last post I had just finish Moosilauke and was ready to take on the rest of the Whites. And we did. We have also entered into Maine and currently have 183 miles left until Katahdin. Things are quickly wrapping up. It’s a weird experience. I feel physically and mentally stronger than I ever have and want to bust out miles, but also want to slow down and make every moment last.
Honestly these past three weeks have probably been my happiest on the trail. I love every minute I’m out here. I hope I can hold onto this happiness.
After Moosilauke The Law, Yaeger, and I decided to spend the night at a hostel, then slack pack over Kinsman, a 16.5 miles section of the Whites that goes straight up and down. As soon as we began it started pouring rain and that continued for the rest of the day. It seemed odd to me that they would put the trail straight up a cascading waterfall, but I sucked it up and did what I had to do. It actually ended up being a blast. It wasn’t until we got back to the hostel that night that we found out that the trail isn’t usually a waterfall. It was a memorable experience nonetheless.
A few days later Yaeger’s friend picked us up from the trail and we went to Indian Acres, the boys’ camp Yaeger was a counselor at for ten years. We relaxed on the river, played a little basketball, then The Law and I got some inner tubes and went lazy river tubing for a couple hours. The next day we were stopped for lunch on our way back to the trail and made a split second decision to turn the car around and drive two hours to Portland, Maine. May as well experience it all while we’re here! After a night of fun and a good bit of drinking we eventually returned to the trail. I don’t regret anything, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to hike the Whites after a night of drinking. Maybe not our best decision.
Our craziest story came the next day when we make the push up Mount Washington, the big kahuna. Despite a clear forecast, the weather quickly turned south when we passed the tree line. Everywhere we turned there were signs warning us to turn back due to Mount Washington having the worst weather in the United States. Every step up to the summit was a struggle and visibility got as low as about ten feet. At the time of our summit the weather station registered gale force winds of 75 miles per hour. However the battle had just begun. The next nine miles were ridge walking as well and the wind just continued to get stronger with wind gusts reaching 90 miles per hour. I now understand how someone can be blown off a mountain. It took every muscle in my body to not fall off the ridge and even so, I was being thrown around like a rag doll.
Shortly after that, we finished the Whites and entered Maine. It was odd, because almost immediately after entering the state the forest got denser, the rocks got bigger, and the terrain got significantly more rugged. Maine is no joke, man! I thought the Whites were tough, but that was nothing compared to the first fifty miles of Maine. I don’t think I’ve ever been this worn out in my life. But my, is it rewarding. It seems like around every corner is a breathtaking view. We sometimes just sit for hours and stare at the beauty in front of us. It feels a bit surreal that this is my everyday life right now. I’m so lucky. I wish there was a way to sufficiently experience everything around me or if I could just bottle up these memories and pull them out on a bad day in the future. Gosh, please don’t make me leave. Being out here feels like this well kept secret that only us lucky few get to experience. When we get to towns I look around and just think that these people don’t even know what they’re missing and a selfish part of me doesn’t want to tell them. I like that it’s my trail.
In the past (almost) four months I’ve become more confident than I’ve ever been. And I thank God for every opportunity I’ve been given. As you can probably imagine, I have a lot of time to think out here. Recently I’ve noticed that many of my thoughts have been about how strong, intelligent, and important women are and how few know it. Since coming on the trail I’ve learned that I’m awesome and I hope everyone, man and woman alike, know that. But I think, unfortunately, a lot of women in particular don’t. I’m here to tell you that you are. I can’t count the number of times I’ve talked to day hikers, locals, and vacationers who, when finding out that I’m hiking the trail by myself as a single young woman, will turn to their daughters, wives, or girlfriends and say, “she could never do that”. It breaks my heart every time. I want to turn to those girls and beg them not to listen, then turn back around and smack the guy they’re with. (Not really. I don’t want to hit anyone.) I know I say this in almost every post, but I want everyone who reads this to know that they can do anything. Absolutely anything. I’m realizing how fortunate I am to have grown up in a home where I was never once told I couldn’t do something because of my gender. It took until I was much older to realize that most people aren’t that lucky. I want to thank every teacher, director, mentor, and friend who has encouraged me in my wild pursuits and let me know my strength. You’re the reason I have the courage to be out here today. When I get back to real life I hope I can do some mentoring myself to let other little girls know how strong they are.
Katahdin is near and by this time next week I’ll only be a few days from the summit. It’s unlikely that I’ll have service, since it seems that the entire state of Maine is without cell service, but I’ll try to be better about posting. Less than 200 miles left, then it’s back to Virginia to finish the 450 miles back to Georgia. I’ve still got quite a ways to go, but this chapter is almost done. Til next time!
Love,
Hollywood

http://www.gofundme.com/st984k

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com