Day 152 - ??? to East Branch
A little trail magic right at the end of the day, an early finish with daylight to spare, and a relaxing evening not at a shelter was fantastic. Slept well and was feeling good today. The trail morphed into a less treacherous version of untamed wilds – there were many fewer rocks and the roots were much more manageable. The day began with another water crossing and then we slowly gained elevation as we approached the last climb before Katahdin. The big one was White Cap Mountain, but first came a series of three smaller associated peaks. The climbs were pretty steep but all short and we made quick work of them.
On top of White Cap the trail turns North and descends that side of the peak. Katahdin becomes visible for the first time. Today only semi-visible. The top obscured by clouds, only the eastern edge visible as a faint wisp of a gray form emerging through the haze. Still incredible. Over 2100 miles done and now to finally be able to see the mountain that has been driving the whole adventure. Still three long days hiking until we are ready to climb it, but that’s 62 miles of essentially flat ground.
So close to the end and we are still meeting new thru-hikers almost daily, well “thru-hikers” anyway. Mostly more yellow-blazers. Today while taking a break at a midday shelter one asked where we had started the day, we told her, and she said we were making good time. Landon agreed, telling her we were with the exception of yesterday where the trail was so rough and rugged. She said she had heard that that was the case and had skipped that section. I almost asked her if she had heard Katahdin was five miles of intense vertical climbing… it sounds taxing to me, maybe she should skip it. So apparently even with nothing but scarcely used dirt roads hikers are able to find people to carry them around in cars. We did meet one new guy, Ketchup, who is a fellow purist. We all found it remarkable that out of the whole group of 15-20 people about a day behind us there are maybe 2 who haven’t skipped significant sections.