After leaving from Mount Washington on Aug. 26, Barry Dana completed the 261 miles of the Appalachian Trail between Mount Washington and Mount Katahdin in eight days, finishing on Sept. 3, in time for the ceremony held by the Penobscot Nation at the base of Katahdin.

He covered an average of 32 miles a day with a bad left ankle and shin that hurt start to finish, but his personal journey – made in honor of his late uncle – left him exalted, Dana said the week after.

The Katahdin 100 is a spiritual pilgrimage made by the Penobscot Nation every fall to honor their ancestors and heritage. For the first time, Dana this year made the journey from Mount Washington, where his uncle, Cliff Phillips, died in a plane crash during a snow storm in 1969.

Dana started after a sunrise ceremony in the Penobscot tradition at the base of Mount Washington, where a bonfire was built and prayers were said. From that fire, Dana took the ashes to carry from Mount Washington to Mount Katahdin, as a way to bring his uncle’s spirit home, since Katahdin is the Penobscot’s spiritual home.

He carried the ashes around his neck in a pouch made by Cliff’s sister, Lorraine Dana. He also carried a photo of Cliff framed with sweetgrass by his uncle, Butch Phillips, Cliff’s brother.

Dana said his foot hurt every day of the hike, but he embraced it.

“At the base of the mountain my family met us there with many hugs and tears,” Dana said. “We all agreed that Cliff’s spirit would now be at rest, because we connected the two mountains: the one he died on and the one of his homeland. In a lean-to at Katahdin Stream Campground where the finish is, Cliff carved his name in one of the logs. It’s still there. And now he is also, in some manner.”

The Katahdin 100 is intended to be a grueling journey in order to open the spirit in prayer, the Penobscots believe. Dana said his pilgrimage achieved this.

“The injury was part of the journey,” Dana explained. “Just about every step needed pure focus.

“At one point I remember holding my head in my hands and saying, ‘I have never, ever felt this level of fatigue.’ It is almost what I picture enlightenment must feel like: a happy floating.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or:

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