Back in August, myself and two guys that I know from school headed up to Maine to start hiking SOBO on the AT. While they planned on going all the way, I knew that I couldn't afford it, and I didnt think we would make it all the way before the weather prevented us from safely continuing on, but I was excited to go as far as my money would take me. Unfortunately, money didnt end up being the determining factor when it came to ending my hike, one of my hiking companions was.... a hiker's nightmare. In the end, I spent ONE day hiking the Appalachian Trail, and went home very disappointed.
Trouble began the day my parents drove us the 5 hours from where we live in New Hampshire, all the way up to Baxter State Park. Upon arriving at the South Gate to the park, a very nice Ranger informed us that we should consider booking another night at the Katahdin Falls Campground because we wouldn't be able to hike Katahdin, summit, return that same day and then make it out of the park before nightfall. The companion whom I mentioned before and I shall refer to as "Jerkwad" began muttering things under his breath like 'That dumb b**** doesnt know what she's talking about" & "what a fat f***, look at her legs..they're HUGE... I say we just hike up tonight, and walk out of the park tomorrow" (personally, I found that this was an AWESOME idea, seeing as how none of us were familiar with the mountain... NOT). I was very put off by this, because I thought the lady was just doing her job, but Jerkwad ignored me when I asked him to please stop picking on her for stupid reasons.
After receiving our reservation we drove the 8 miles down the dirt road and arrived at Katahdin Falls Campground where we checked in with the ranger there, Bruce, who was very helpful and let us know that we could pick up day packs in the morning and leave our gear at the Rangers' cabin. The second we walked out the screen door and began down the steps on the cabin porch, Jerkwad began going on about how Bruce was 'shady' and would probably 'go through our packs and steal our gear' and how '[jerkwad] didnt trust him and [was] going to carry [his] gear up Katahdin' (might I add his pack weighed about 45lbs..). Jerkwad continued on as we headed to our campsite, calling Bruce an Ass-h*** (for absolutely NO REASON!).. and insulting the man over and over.
As we set up our tents Jerkwad was yelling very loudly, employing many choice swears and slurs, despite the fact that a family was camped next to us and I asked him to please keep his voice down (it was after 8 and beginning to get dark). I told him to be considerate and he basically ignored me, singing loudly "Bitches aint *****, Bitches aint *****, Bitches aint ***** but hoes and tricks" at which time I was completely mortified to see a taller man who looked like he might be Native American walking past with his daughter who couldnt have been older than 10. The man was clearly offended by the harsh language and lack of consideration coming from Jerkwad. The night concluded with Jerkwad eating dinner INSIDE of his tent...and much more foul language.
The morning of our hike began with Jerkwad setting a caterpillar on fire 'to see if it was alive' (SERIOUSLY?).. and us unloading our gear at the Rangers' Cabin. I carried.. maybe 10-15 lbs up the mountain including lots of water (it was about 100 degrees that day!) while my companions carried nearly 40lbs, leaving only their tents and sleeping bags behind. We began hiking at a much too fast pace, I kept up, but I knew that with the loads that Jerkwad and the other guy were carrying, we would soon have to stop.
Every five to ten minutes we stopped, the other two out of breath, Jerkwad inquiring of me 'why aren't you out of breath!?' and then adding 'it's okay..we have all day'. At our little pit stops, Jerkwad took the liberty of retrieving his buck knife from his bag and using it to stab trees while grunting loudly. After a few stops, Jerkwad decided to throw his knife at a dead stump near Katahdin Falls, at this point I was overjoyed to find that the dead stump had defeated the buck knife, and that the blade had broken from the handle. To my horror, Jerkwad shrugged and informed us 'It's okay..I've still got Henry VII here' as he pulled a two foot MACHETE out of his pack. I cringed. It was going to be a long day.
I enjoyed climbing over all the rocks and making my way up Katahdin, so long as I was a ways ahead of Jerkwad. Whenever we met up I was so put off by his shouts of 'F*** Maine!' and his complaints like "I hate Mormons' after a bunch of Mormon hikers passed us, and were still in EARSHOT.. that I was nearly wishing to lose my balance and tumble over the side of the mountain. I was even more embarrassed when I found Jerkwad taking stones from trail markers and chucking them back down the trail. After seven HOURS ('oh, but we have ALL DAY!') and many "F*** Maine"s and "I HATE Canadians" and one exclamation of 'guys, I dont think I can make it" with 2 miles to the top we reached the summit of Katahdin.
After trying to tell us that we didnt have time to eat (um.. I just hiked seven hours.. I'm sure as hell going to have some ramen and power bar and tons of water!) Jerkwad headed down without myself and the other guy. Eventually we caught up.. but I was terrified heading down the boulders. I'm deathly afraid of heights, and didnt realize how close to the edge I would be while hiking.. I basically scooted down the mountain on my butt for fear that I would lose my balance and fall. The other guy was nice enough to help me pick safe routes through the boulders, and make sure I wasnt left behind after Jerkwad led me to a place where I had to jump down nearly 6 feet.
Jerkwad eventually stopped waiting for us and zoomed ahead. After a total of 13 hours on the mountain (oh yeah.. we HAD ALL DAY..and we took ALL DAY) we made it to the bottom.. by this time my hips and knees were destroyed... a mile from the bottom (& the only place with cell phone reception) I called home. I was crying because I didnt want to leave, but I knew that I was NOT going to enjoy a second of hiking with Jerkwad as part of the group..and after hearing him talk about swimming across rivers if we couldn't find a ferry.. I decided his rudeness, recklessness, and lack of respect for the trail and other hikers were just more than I wanted to deal with.
The next morning I heard Jerkwad trying to tell the other guy that he wanted to do at LEAST 13 miles that day (this coming from mr. we've hiked 2 miles and guys..I dont think I'm going to make it)... I knew that going home was the right choice at that point.
I feel pretty lame that I spent 8 months planning and buying gear and getting all excited and ready to go, and all desire to hike was lost in one day. Now of course all I want is another go at it. While I waited the 5 hours that day for my parents to pick me up, I met a very nice lady who sounded like she was from Australia or maybe New Zealand.. and she insisted that I didnt quit 'just because Katahdin was a bitch!' She was very nice, and I think that someday.. with better companions, I'll definitely attempt it again. Until then, I look forward to many shorter hikes, and trips into the woods, and I hope that I (and all other hikers!) never EVER come across anyone like Jerkwad while on the trail!