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As mentioned here, Ken and I are hiking the Appalachian Trail. We started in Maine at Baxter State Park where the trail officially starts at the top of Katahdin Mountain.
I anxiously started deflating my pillow and air mattress when I woke at 4am. After packing up, leaving our backpacking gear near the Ranger’s cabin, eating a quick breakfast, and hanging our food on the bear lines, we hit the trail a bit before 6am.
The hike started off reasonably enough. We were excited to get moving after a day of lounging as we waited out bad weather. When the ranger asked how comfortable I was scrambling around on high, wet rocks, I knew it was better to wait out the rain.
The hike starts off in the woods with a range of dirt, rock, and bridge trails and slowly ascends into more and more treacherous terrain. That beginning sure was nice though!
I made it past the giant rocks with metal rungs, up past the first false summit (where anxiety really started to amp up), and onto an even scarier section of rock climbing over 4000 feet high.
As I continued to climb, I got more and more anxious until I finally burst into tears. Apparently I’m very much afraid of heights! I’ve never had a hike beat me down like this and it was a humbling and slightly disappointing experience. Eventually I gave in to the anxiety and panic and had to call it quits.
After shimmying up yet another rock I couldn’t fathom going back down, I had finally had enough. I stopped to wait on a side rock as Ken continued the last mile or so to the top.
After a few minutes watching storm clouds toil in the distance, I knew I had to start making my way down. Somehow I had to get my shaking terror ridden body down rocks that seemed utterly impossible. After a few failed attempts, I finally schooched myself flat on my belly, clinging with both hands and blindly reaching for footholds below.
I made it down a few rocks solo and eventually a kind man came scurrying by and helped me down the rest of that section. I think he saw the pale terror in my face and took pity on me. Our idle chitchat did wonders to calm my nerves. It was interesting to hear his story - he is climbing the tallest mountain in every state and only had a handful left to go. Fascinating goal!
Once I got to the metal rung section, I followed a couple who had turned back at that point so it was reassuring to go down with other people having the same mental reaction to this mountain.
Ken hustled his way to the top, and worried about me, made it back down in record time. We met up again just after the metal rung section when I could finally breathe again.
I’m disappointed I didn’t get to the top or hike the official first mile+ of the Appalachian Trail. But I also loved what I did see and will never forget the experience.
Perhaps some day I’ll go back and try again, but for now over 2000 miles await with many many mountain peak and rock climbing challenges to overcome.
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