Last day on the trail, and Hopeton Lewis is correct -- there's no need to hurry. I permitted myself to have a lie-in, and slept til the daylight arrived around 7:30 am.
"The next toilet I use will flush!" I told myself, latching the privy shut. My face flushed with excitement and joy at this thought.
I packed up and hung around the shelter for a little while, so I was last to leave. My last trail breakfast: a packet of dry Ramen and a Fiber One bar. Luscious.
|The flattest and comfiest campsite yet.|
I was sort of spinning out the last few miles to the Massachusetts line. Moving around 1.5 mph, I found myself thinking of Nikki Kimball, who RAN the Long Trail southbound. I wonder how Nikki was feeling in these last few miles. I can't wait to watch the film about her journey.
My quad muscles are burning, and both big toes feel broken. But I'm content.
|The last white blaze in Vermont.|
|Feathers from the first happy northern day, and the sunny south.|
I sit and eat peanuts, and hear a woodpecker hammering away high in a tree. I decide to capture this magical moment on video. Turns out you can neither see nor hear the bird:
Now, of course, I don't want the LT to be over. I go back into Vermont briefly, to find a commemorative rock. I pick up a small bit of quartz that matches the trail's white blazes. It's a precious thing to me already.
And on into Massachusetts. Snakes and frogs and chipmunks all over the trail; it's hot and bouldery. I go over East Mountain, down over rockslides careful careful of my teetering fragile ankles.
|Welcome to Massachusetts. We call this wobbly mess a "trail".|
I stop and eat more dry ramen. Down, down beside a broad river -- I'm almost to the road where I'll get picked up. Mosquitoes start up, and I emerge from the AT into the town of Greylock swatting my own ears and swearing loudly at the bugs.
It's very weird to walk through backyards and see the AT blazes on telegraph poles rather than trees. I have some time to kill -- I've arranged a ride from a carpark a little up the road from the AT crossing. I turn left, walk, fail to find the carpark. A bus of schoolkids passes and the kids yell "HEY HIKER!" I wave back regally, like a fetid empress.
Turns out I made the same mistake as I did the first time I crossed an actual road in the LT's northern section -- the first road I come to is not the main road where I'm getting picked up. I pole my way through town, boots rocky against the pavement. Over a footbridge, it's hot today but I'll keep my hat on to hide the slick cowpat of my hair.
I find the appointed dusty carpark -- I'm early, so I toddle on looking for a petrol station. Food, toilet, perhaps some perfunctory attempt at washing before getting into the closed quarters of my friend's car. I cross a river, there are wine and liquor stores both sides of the road before I hit the first gas station. It's kiosk-sized; I have to drop my backpack to browse the shelves. They have no toilet. It's OK. I buy strawberry-kiwi juice concoction, a Heath bar, a carrot cake square and an icecream bar, displacing the young clerk who's leaning on the freezer with a broken ankle in an air cast. He asked where I'd walked from; I told him Canada to Massachusetts (with a silent disclaimer about the bit I missed in the middle when my boots gave up on Mount Mansfield -- I WILL go back to finish that gap). He was incredulous: "You walked all that way? On your own?" I confirm. "Well! That sounds Lonely And Boring!" he states with certainty. I don't really have a rejoinder to this, so I pay for my actually-surprisingly-disappointing snack stack and pole back to the carpark slurping my ice-cream.
It was lonely. It was boring. It was painful and difficult and cold and wet and scary and slippery and easily one of the toughest things I've ever attempted. It was also one of the best months of my life. Long Trail, I love you.