Scrambling from boulder to boulder, using rebar to hoist myself up, I summited Mount Katahdin on the 5th of September over five months after setting out on foot from Georgia. Though Penobscot folklore warns against climbing the 5,269-foot peak, this was the second time I walked across its otherworldly terrain.
Legend has it that the summit is guarded by an evil god named Pomola (also spelled Pamola) with the wings and talons of a bird and the head of a moose. The mythical beast was known for creating harsh winds, booming thunder and cold weather on top of the mountain. Citing fear and respect for Pomola, natives avoided climbing the mountain. The peak wasn’t officially summited until 1804, when Charles Turner Jr., a U.S. representative from Massachusetts, ventured up the mountain. Henry David Thoreau summited in the 1840s.
Standing on top of the highest peak in Maine as the clouds whipped through the alpine landscape dotted with scrubby bushes and resilient lichen, I was in awe. I had spent the last five and a half months walking through tunnels of rhododendrons and mountain laurel, hail and snow. I had gotten used to hitching rides with strangers and not having to plan anything beyond how much food I needed to get to the next town. I crossed through 14 states to be standing in front of that summit sign. This was the end destination. The chapter was quickly closing and there was no slowing the momentum of the pages turning.
The group I was hiking with pushed a 25-mile day to the base of the mountain on the 4th of September in order to summit a day early and avoid nasty weather on the 6th. Three of the…
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