The first time I hiked Katahdin I hated it. I was in the sixth grade and I complained the whole way up. I would imagine my father would tell you that I complained the whole way down as well but I can’t remember. In fact, all I really remember from the climb was taking a break on a big rock and eating from a box of CheezIts.
In the summer of 2010 my friend Aimee got me to hike the highest mountain in Maine again and I told myself I would do it once every summer from then on.
I went up for the third summer in a row on Thursday and it was much more memorable than a box of CheezIts. We hiked three miles up to Chimney Pond and then finished the five miles via Cathedral Ledge. Every year I go I forget which trail is which but I will not forget the Cathedral difficulty again. The boulders are big and confusing. My 5’4” friend, Toby, needed help a couple times to scramble up them.
After you conquer the boulders there is about a mile of loose stones and a few small step-like slabs. There are so many moments during that last mile that you think you are almost there. But you come up a ledge or around a corner and realize you still have a ways to go.
Once at the top, however, you forget about the struggle it was to get there. You forget about how bad your quads hurt or how many times you weren’t sure you could keep going. It’s beautiful at the top. And, what’s more, just knowing what you went through to get there makes it all that much sweeter.
Katahdin is one of those things that is so difficult you curse yourself most of the way up for even agreeing to do it. Just like with a hangover, you tell yourself you will NEVER do that again. And for some people, that’s not a lie.
I’m glad that when I said that as a sixth grader it was a lie. Hiking the mile high mountain as an adult is a great feeling; I just don’t think you can fully understand it when you are twelve. I think you have to grow up and appreciate real struggles before you can fully enjoy any kind of successes. Every year I bring some CheezIts to the top to remind myself of that.