Bruce Matson, RTK, completed his thru-hike of the Appalachian trail on September 1, 2018. Of the fourteen hikers that I followed this hiking season, RTK is only the third person to complete the journey. He left Springer Mountain, Georgia on February 25 and stood beside the big brown sign in Maine on September 1 – 189 days later. Quite a journey through mud, snow, rain, sunshine, incredible vistas, steep descents, rocks, roots, highs and lows. My heartiest congratulations to RTK who officially joins the class of 2018.
Since entering Maine, RTK had been hiking with Gbolt and Recon. Recon needed to exit the trail due to an injury on August 1, but Gbolt and RTK buddied all the way to Katahdin. I found out that Gbolt is a hiker from the Dayton area. He left for his AT adventure the middle of March, on his 58th birthday.
RKT and Gbolt left Monson, Maine, on August 25 and entered the 100-Mile Wilderness. It took them six days to traverse the wilderness and arrive at Abol Bridge. On August 31 they hiked from Abol Bridge to The Birches Campsite in Baxter State Park at the foot of Mount Katahdin. Bruce’s wife, Cheryl, met them at Katahdin Stream Campground about 7:00 in the morning on September 1 and the three of them began their summit at 7:30.
I have taken excerpts from RTK’s journal to capture his thinking on the last day of his AT thru-hike:
“The hike started on smooth trail with modest incline for a little over a mile until we reached Katahdin Falls (beautiful). The severity of the climb and the rocks increased as we hiked, but we were excited, and the climb did not seem too difficult. After about three miles the trail breaks out of the tree line just as the severity of the climb becomes intense.
For almost a mile exactly we had little other than climbing up, over, around and through rocks, boulders, ledges and every formation or type of rock – mostly granite. The climb was not technical, but vertical and difficult with some scary maneuvers. We often had to help one another.
Around noon we reached the “Gateway,” – the start of the (relatively flat) tableland. We could see a congregation of stick figures a mile away at the Katahdin sign. After a half mile we stopped for lunch on some rocks. Then we climb the remaining hill to the summit….. It was 2:00 p.m. and we had to get back down the mountain. We knew that the descent would be more difficult – and therefore would take longer.
Eventually, finally, after spending a lot of time on our backsides working down rock slabs we got below tree line. From there it was steep and rocky, but not the intensity of the rocks above the tree line.
With less than a mile to go, we lost most light and had to use headlamps and flashlights for the last 20 minutes. We were all thankful and elevated to return safely to the parking lot – having finished the toughest day, yet final day, on the trail. We gathered and gave thanks – and then Cheryl drove us to Millinocket. We dropped Gbolt at the AT Lodge and headed to our motel.
The journey was over.”
Congratulations RTK (and Gbolt) on a successful thru-hike!!!
Only 25 out of 100 make the complete journey GA/ME. Of my 14 selected hikers, three have finished the trail, with three more still plugging away. Twenty-five percent of 14 is 3.5 so my 14 brave early starters have an opportunity to be better than average in success rate.