At 5:18 pm on Saturday, May 21, 2005 I walked into the bar of the Doyle Hotel in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, completing the last unfinished mile of my Appalachian Trail Hike. I am done. It's over after three--no, thirty-five years. Instead of Red and Gary, Bev Carver, Norma Job and Pat Doyle walked were with me. We shared a beer and repaired to the Purdy Motel to clean up before returning to the Doyle for more beer, cheeseburgers and fries.
My final day on the AT was a mellow one, walking with Bev, Norma and Pat. We returned to the trailhead at PA 225 and headed south on a cool, sunny day. The forest was lush with spring growth and Norma, who is well-versed in plant identification, pointed out jack-in-the-pulpit plants, columbine and mayflowers. The trail stayed on the ridge, offering occasional views of the Susquehanna and surrounding countryside which, like so much of Pennsylvania is well-populated with farms, fields and small houses.
Met two thru-hikers, College Boy (who had an impressive amount of thick brown hair and a bushy brown beard) and Sleeping Beauty. Together they call themselves The Bs. A troop of Boy Scouts was camped at Clark's Ferry Shelter when we stopped there for lunch. They seemed much more together than the troop I saw straggling out of Hertlein Campsite last Sunday.
The final miles took us down the face of Peters Mountain with views of Duncannon nestled on the Susquehanna's west bank. We crossed the river on the Clark's Ferry Bridge and walked down Market Street to the Doyle Hotel. The final mile was a quiet one for me. None of the adrenaline rush of Katahdin, just the simple recognition that I was completing a life ambition in the company of friends.