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Rankin Ledger "Rankin County's community newspaper" Rankin County, Miss.

July 16, 2005

Lovett completes trek on Appalachian Trail


Special to Rankin Ledger

Alan Lovett waves a Mississippi flag on Mt. Katahdin, the final destination on a 2,000-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail.

At 12:30 p.m. July 12, Brandon resident Alan Lovett reached the peak of Mt. Katahdin in Maine, completing his 2,000-mile journey along the Appalachian Trail.

Below are excerpts from the final entry of his trail diary, which Rankin Ledger has used to chronicle his journey that began at Springer Mountain in Georgia in March.

After 4 1/2 months of thinking day in and day out about Katahdin, standing on top of it might have been the most incredible experience of my life.

There's a sign at Katahdin's Baxter Peak marking the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. When I saw it for the first time through the clouds, it really was surreal.


Emotions take over as Lovett embraces the last marker on his hike.

When I was 12 years old on my first trip to Springer down in Georgia, it was just another mountain that I couldn't pronounce. Then later on it became a dream, something I would do some day some time whenever I got around to chasing all those other adventurous fantasies.

That dream became more of a realization when I started my through-hike on Feb. 28, and then Katahdin became an obsession, I dreamed about it at night, thought about what it would be like to trace out the word "Katahdin" in that old, wooden, weather-beaten sign that, to a lot of people, may only be a piece of wood marking the highest point on just another mountain. But to me and to every other through- hiker past and present, and even those who dream about it, that sign is much more.

It represents 4 1/2 months of my life, an incredible accomplishment of something that a whole lot of people would call crazy and others can only hope to achieve, and perhaps most sobering, an end to one of the best things I'll ever do with my life.

When I saw that sign, it was an indescribable feeling a rush of emotions pretty much all of them, too.

I made it through a lot of experiences on the trail without shedding one single tear, and there sure were times when the situation warranted them, but when I sat two feet from that sign and touched it for the first time, nothing could stop the tears.

I had a lot of expectations about how I'd feel at the end most of them were wrong. I thought I'd be ecstatic to finish an incredible goal, to be able to go home and see my friends and family, to have done something so amazing and to be able to walk away from it satisfied to go back to the old way of life.

Honestly though, I'm incredibly sad. Living on the trail has become my life, and now it's over.

No more 3000-foot climbs that kill you on the way up, only to reward you with a view taking the breath you don't have to spare.

No more sunsets to watch as you're in a hurry trying to push a long day into that next shelter, only to stop you dead in your tracks to sit an appreciate the real reason you're out here.

No more 30-mile days into town just so you can eat the biggest double bacon cheeseburger you've ever laid eyes on, only to leave you feeling so sick that you have to take a zero the next day.

No more sitting on the side of the road with your thumb out in the pouring rain and cold weather, wondering who in the world's going to pick up a soaking wet hiker with mildewing gear who's covered in mud, blood and DEET and who looks and smells like he hasn't had a bath in a month or so.

No more shelters to share with the most eclectic, craziest, friendliest and genuinely good group of people who are all out here with you, wading through the mud, fording the rivers, tripping over the roots and rocks, battling the mosquitoes and black flies, dealing with the same pain and homesickness that you are day in and day out, all without complaining.

Looking at us from the outside, you'd think it was just a motley collection of lifelong friends who just happen to be trudging their way from Georgia to Maine.

I'm finished making the memories from the best time of my life, now all that's left is to tell the stories.

The pictures don't do it justice, the stories sure won't do it justice, and even my memory won't capture how vividly alive I was for 4 1/2 months in the woods between Georgia and Maine. It's sad to go on with my life knowing that I've experienced something so amazing and incredible, only to have even my own recollection fall short of capturing its true quality, but living, knowing and regretting that the fading memories paint only the barest picture of what really happened that's a million times better than never having experienced what I did.

There were days when I hated it, there were days when I wanted to quit, there've been hard times for sure, and not a single day went by when I didn't miss home.

Thank you so much to all the folks back home and around the world that have been with me all 5 million steps from Springer to Katahdin. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers more than I can ever convey to you.

I'm done. Now I guess I'll come on back home. I'm looking forward to seeing all of you soon. Thanks again to everyone, this will be my last dispatch.


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