Hello! This is Bandanna Ben blogging from the Embassy Suites Hotel across the street from the Portland, ME airport. Warpzilla and I are officially AT Thru-hikers!
We finished up the 100-mile wilderness on Wednesday night doing 38.6 miles and then 33.0 miles for our final two days. We met up at the Katahdin Stream Campground with Tim Harrington and our families on Wednesday night and set up camp for the final time. We got up at 5:30 and were all packed up and signed in the Katahdin Register at 7:00 sharp. The 5.2 mile climb to the summit was unreal. Huge boulders, a stream down the middle of the trail, re-bar hand holds on rock faces, and windy conditions made our ascent all the more challenging (and rewarding!). We reached the summit at 12:30 and spent 45 minutes on top taking photographs and taking in the fact that we were done with our 2,175 mile thru-hike.
Just before we left the top we opened up the bottle containing Steve's ashes for the first time since Georgia. It was extra special for us because on Tuesday I talked to my mom via cell phone and found out that Tim (Steve's dad) was trying to get up to Maine to join us for the end. Well he did and the scattering of ashes was a definite scatter with the 15-20 mph winds up there. Hiking this whole way truly is a great tribute to the man that we remember as Steve Harrington, our goofy outdoorsman friend that was always up for an adventurous hike.
We made it down the mountain 15 minutes faster than our ascent despite the fact that it was painstakingly slow due to the incline and realization that the huge boulders we had struggled to climb over now were what we were sliding down. We reached the cars at 6:30 and drove to Millinocket, ME for a real meal and then headed back to Shaw's Hostel in Monson for a final trail-type night and that scrumptious breakfast one more time.
Today we drove from Monson to Freeport and then to Portland and checked in to our hotel and went over to the coastline part of the city and met Spencer's roommate's parents for dinner. This roommate Jason is the same one that met us to deliver a food re-supply in Gorham, NH. Spence and I ate our 'Surf and Turf' celebratory dinners of Filet Mignon and lobster and finished the course off with homemade Maine blueberry cobbler a la mode.
All of our flights take off from the airport between 5:45 and 7 tomorrow morning and we will arrive in Raleigh, NC during the morning. We are having a celebration with family, friends, and our scout troop BSA Troop 215 at the Harrington's house tomorrow night and then on Sunday morning Warpzilla and I will part ways for our fall semesters. My mom and I will drive back down to Jacksonville, FL and he will head over to Charlotte, NC.
Ok so now for the BIG THANKS! area of this post. First and foremost we could not have done this trip without the support of our families which i thought of so often this summer as our "pit crew." It was quite a race (95 day thru-hike) and wouldn't have happened without their help in coordinating re-supply points, food boxes, new trail runners, etc. It really would be the longest post of all time for me to list all of the great people that showed us kindness and incredible generosity this summer. From old friends, to family friends, to friends of friends, to complete strangers; we truly have been amazed at the "Trail Magic" that goes along with the AT. If you are reading this, you know who you are, and we really are grateful for what you've done for us.
Well, time to get up the final batch of pictures and update the mileage one last time. We hope this website as Garrett originally posted will continue to be a resource for hikers doing long distance hikes on the AT, even though our posting will stop and tracking our trip will no longer be an option (though I am thinking PCT now, but in sections :-). Also, if you have specific questions about trip planning, gear, re-supply, etc. or any other question or comment send us an e-mail and we'd love to help out if we can! Thanks again for everything folks, the phrase "the people are the trail" truly is more than just a maxim.
Ben "Bandanna Ben" Burchardi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spencer "Warpzilla" McKay (email@example.com)
Garrett "Footlocker" Dixon (firstname.lastname@example.org)