Twenty six: Ascending for the last time
October 2nd, 1983
I didn't get a wink of sleep last night, and I can tell that I have
Katahdin on the brain. I'm almost done!!! Only roughly five
more miles up, and then the return.
We all began our ascent up the mountain by 7:30am - by this I mean
my whole family and friends! Although it was a dismal morning, mom
and dad hiked up about a mile before returning. Of course they were
physically holding me back, but how could it be any other way? I
had been practicing for this continually for six months. The other
thru hikers flew past us while I, Dia, my uncle Harold, and Sonny
slowly continued upward. I wasnt interested in showing off.
I already knew my abilities quite well. I had also learned back
in New Hampshire that this wasnt about ego, but was about
sharing the end of the journey with the people that meant the most
was all forest for the first couple of miles, but a stiff climb
none-the-less. Once above tree line, the going got really tough,
and Dia had a hard time navigating over the huge boulders littering
the mountainside just as she did with the blowdowns in the south.
The trail builders had installed iron bar handholds to facilitate
climbing some of the larger boulders near the gateway.
After much negotiating Dia, Harry, Sonny and I eventually (seven
hours later) set foot on the summit at about 2:30pm. On top we were
showered with a bit of rain, but even this could not dampen our
spirits. I went up with my pack nearly empty save for food for the
four of us, raingear, and wine of course. The rain shower was short
in duration. No views were to be taken in other than the sea of
clouds, and the final summit sign indicating the end of the trail
(or the start of the trail if going south). We all celebrated with
a chug of red wine and a portion of "Dynamite" which I
had carried up.
taking the obligatory summit photos, I donned a dress and hat donated
by my girlfriends mother (an old Easter dress and hat that
she had worn years ago) and took alternative summit photos. It was
a tribute to Fuzzy Jim and Im sure that it will be one of
those firsts that is an insignificant memory lost in time. There
were a few others on the summit, but they were hunkered down in
the rocks so our party was probably the only ones to see me in drag.
While dressed, I toasted Fuzzy Jim.
down was much easier for my novice friends, and we returned in about
half the time - by 7:00pm - which was good timing because it gets
dark earlier this time of the year. Due to this, that it had become
dark in the woods surrounding the trail, and I had the only flashlight
so it was slow going. My brother was having difficulty seeing in
the dark, and my cousin Sonny had worn crappy boots that came to
a point and he had to walk down the last of the trail to the bottom
backwards. Nightfall was quickly approaching, and Mom and dad had
begun to worry as they sensed it was taking us a great deal of time
to complete the round trip. In reality the delay was due, of course,
to my entourage of flat-landers with sensitive feet and shortness
parents had gone back to the cabin until late afternoon, and my
mom stayed at the cabin to prepare dinner for us while my father
drove back to the trail head to wait for us. They were worried when
it took so long for us to get back - especially since they were
able to gauge our turtle pace by the other group that had already
made it back to the cabin hours before us.
parents and Damiens mother had rented the cabin for the weekend
so my dad drove us back to the cabin. Once at the cabin, we all
congratulated each other and the party began. Damiens mom
had brought a bottle of champagne and a bunch of plastic wine glasses.
Damiens brother stacked them into a mountain shape and poured
the champagne into the top glass. The drink then cascaded into the
lower tiers until all glasses were filled and we drank and ate until
we couldnt any more. At that time we were probably unaware
that we had just become probably a few of the first 1000 hikers
to have thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in one season.
was the culmination of a six month 2000 mile adventure up the eastern
seaboard, and I felt elation. I had accomplished a feat that few
could say that they did. For the first time in my life I had completed
something extraordinary and did it under my own power. Through the
cold rains of spring, the searing heat of summer, the seemingly
endless elevation changes, the lack of water I was able to tough
it out. The rewards were many though and that helped me through.
I had been on a wondrous journey living in the open, the wild, and
being free to do as I pleased. I had given myself the power of self-determination.
It was me and only me that coloured my world. This trip made me
appreciate the family that loved me without reserve. The hikers
that came in and out of my life became lifelong and deep friends.
We were all from various backgrounds yet we all shared a commonality
of purpose and that made all of the difference. Thru-hikers are
lone wolves that by happenstance gather into a pack for the purpose
of self-discovery. No one leaves this endeavor and is unchanged.
(Marcel on the summit of Katahdin)
(Marcel and Dia on the summit)
(Marcel, Harold Montville and Sonny Barube on the summit)
Montville, the first thru-hiker to summit Katahdin - in Tribute
to Fuzzy Jim Berlstein)
you taught me spontaneity and a zest for life. Rolling with the
punches that life throws at me and coming up smiling. You showed
me not to take myself too seriously. Determination was one of your
traits that we both shared. In times when I needed distraction from
a daunting task you provided that for me, and without that I may
have quit. I guess that you could call me a student, and a colleague
for we shared both connections. You helped many with your whit and
humor, and we all thank you for that. During our time together in
the class of '83 we spoke of how we would finish with class. Mr.
Berlstein decided that he would complete this self appointed task
by finishing in a truly unusual way. Unfortunately he suffered from
an injury and was not able to complete, but some months later I
honored that craziness in memory of my friend.)
(Fuzzy Jim entertaining the troops in Kent, CT)
I hiked 2,145.3 miles along the Appalachian Trail (not including
off trail hikes) - involving 176 days living and hiking in unfamiliar
a time, and what an end!!!
(Sonny shows that
this is the end!)