In the summer of 1974 I participated in “Boys State” in Connecticut; a week-long “camp” where we studied U.S. government and political science. While there one evening I attended a presentation by a man who had recently backpacked from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. (In fact, at the time he had just set a new record for completing the hike in the fewest number of days. I now realize – that gentleman was Warren Doyle, who has walked the entire AT more than any individual. By Doyle’s count, he has traversed the Trail seventeen times, consisting of nine “thru-hikes” and eight “section hikes” or approximately 36,000 miles!)
Having done some hiking and backpacking at the time, I was completely captivated by the presentation. I fell in love with both the romantic notion and the audacious idea of doing the same – walking over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. In fact, that night I said to myself, “I’m going to do that someday.”
During the summers of 1977 & 1978 I guided canoe trips in the North Maine Woods. Encouraged by many of my fellow guides, I considered a career in “outdoor education,” which allowed me to dream more about grand wilderness adventures. Some of our canoe trips in Maine those summers would include guiding our crew up to the summit of Mt. Katahdin as a “side trip” at the end of an expedition. Also, on our days off from lake paddling and whitewater navigation, we sometimes would climb Katahdin.
Law school won out over outdoor education. Work and family won out over long distance hiking and backpacking. Thirty years after my summers in Maine, I again climbed Katahdin (see photo above) – this time with my then 18 year-old daughter along with my old college roommate (and former, fellow Maine guide) and his daughter. (A month after our successful climb, the girls started college at our alma mater, where they roomed together for three years.)
Not only did this Connecticut Yankee go to school in the South, but I have only been a visitor to New England for almost 40 years, having met my wife at William & Mary and having then settled in Virginia after graduation.
I’m sure I didn’t think it would take more than 40 years to complete that promise I made to myself, but – God willing – I will begin my attempt to return to Mt. Katahdin on February 25, 2018. This time I’ll be traveling from the south back to New England and the “greatest mountain” by way of a foot trail known as the Appalachian Trail, or simply, the AT.
(Our father-daughter trip – the Cathedral Trail to Baxter Peak. Return by way of the Knife’s Edge.)