Possum and Ukelady Summit Vermont!
Day 169: September 13th – 9 miles
Last night I successfully fought off throwing up in the bunk house. Fun times.
This morning we woke up at Upper Goose Pond Cabin and were looking forward to more pancakes. Unfortunately the stove stopped working at that exact moment so we packed up and hiked to my friend Chris’s car on Route 20.
He drove us to Lee, MA where we found a cute breakfast place called Rose’s and got pancakes, among many other things. He generously drove us to the grocery to resupply and then back to the trail. I feel very fortunate to have people like this in my life. Seeing how awesome Chris was, everyone at the Cabin took every opportunity to remind me.
Our eventual hike was fine in the beginning but it soon turned to rain, filling the trail with puddles and mud.
We got to our shelter pretty quickly and I went about setting up my hammock for the night. I picked up a huge tarp from a cache of treasures left on the trail after a hiker broke his hip and had to abandon all of his gear. So even though it was raining I was determined to sleep at least one night in the hammock. Hope it’s great!
Day 170: September 14th – 8.8 miles
That was not great. I never fell asleep. It was freezing and I didn’t have a bottom quilt to insulate. So after a few stubborn half hours I begrudgingly got out, blew up my sleeping pad, and slept in the shelter.
The cold temperatures continued for most of today’s hike. Both of us wore our raincoats not because it was raining, but because it was the only piece of clothing we owned with sleeves. The gray skies eventually cleared up and we got some sunshine.
Our shelter tonight is empty except for us which is a little weird after so many recent days of company, but we took full advantage by watching cartoons at full volume.
Day 171: September 15th – 7.7 miles
As the days have soldiered on, Ukelady’s grip on her dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail became less and less firm. Today, that dream is finally free to wander off and get lost. She is done with hiking. However, ever the complex person, she would rather hike to Bennington, Vermont than dip our toes over the border and hike backwards to a road crossing in Massachusetts, as was my preference. If she is to hike to Vermont, then it will not be half-assed. Or at least that was yesterday’s feeling.
We hiked through Dalton, MA today. We spent most of our time at Angeline’s Subs getting good food and wifi. We bought doughnuts and slurpees at Cumberland Farms and hiked on to our campsite.
At one point Ukelady expressed reluctant interest in the “dipping our toes” plan for Vermont. That is how much she is hating hiking right now. I wish I could make it easy. I hope that at least I am helping to make it bearable.
Day 172: September 16th – 10.1 miles
The end is near! We spent our hike today talking about what we would miss and not miss about the trail. Some of it was predictable like we wouldn’t miss sweating and always being dirty. But one thing I learned is that I will miss having a goal every day. An actual measurable goal that I can constantly chip away at. Waking up with a task you want to do is a wonderful thing. While out here in the woods, I have discovered many tasks I would like to accomplish in the near and far away future. When I get home I will organize them and physically track my progress with each one, just like I am doing out here. I have lots of dreams; I want to make sure they happen.
Our hike took us through Cheshire, MA which had a weird plaque about presenting cheese to a former President. Soft serve ice cream was purchased at Diane’s Twist and very much enjoyed by all parties involved.
We got to our shelter early. I made a fire from still burning embers and quenched my thirst with a can of ginger ale I purchased earlier. We are definitely winding down and patiently waiting for Saturday, when all of this will be over.
Day 173: September 17th – 11.5 miles
What a great day. Ukelady started out the morning by pledging to not be in a grumpy mood. It set the tone for the whole hike. And we had plenty of chances to be grumpy what with the over 3000 foot elevation change we had to climb and descend, but we kept it happy.
Our hike took us to the highest point in Massachusetts, where there was a lovely lodge that we relaxed in.
At the bottom of the mountain we walked through a residential area where one kind homeowner left a garden hose out for hikers to get water. After filling our bottles (and a short water fight) we were off to our campsite.
We met Beepa (a hiker we keep leapfrogging) there who was hammocking which left the tent platform open for us. The only problem is we don’t have a free-standing tent. We need ground to stake on. I suggested that I finally sleep in my hammock (with a sleeping pad this time) and Ukelady would cowboy (or, in this case, cowgirl) camp it on the platform. So that is how we are set up for the night, and I am toasty warm here in the hammock. I think this will work out just fine.
Day 174: September 18th – 12.5 miles
This is it. The last full day.
Both of us had a fine night in our respective sleeping arrangements. I built a fire this morning with some help from Beepa and the “Style” section.
We hiked about two or three miles until we hit the Vermont border.
We didn’t stay long. We both admitted to feeling like this was just another day, not some huge accomplishment. Since my sights were set on Bennington I didn’t really dwell on that feeling. Ukelady, however, did. She got very sad about the fact that there wasn’t going to be any fanfare, and that we weren’t ending somewhere exciting. It didn’t feel like a triumph. I tried to help, but only guided us both down a vortex of suck. Thankfully, we are who we are and it didn’t taint the entire day. We bounced back quickly.
The rest of the hike was fine except for all of the mud that Vermont dumped us in. Even the guide mentioned Vermont’s famous mud. It was tricky to navigate, but we managed not to fall in. At a road crossing we got some trail magic water.
We arrived at our final shelter of the trail just before 7 PM. At the shelter there was a hiker who recognized us. It turns out we started the trail at Amicalola on the same day (March 28th) and he remembered us. Bizarre that we should meet again on our last day.
While setting up our tent, a hiker came up to us and asked if we wanted any of her leftover pizza. Um…YEAH! Her name was Raindrop and we were so grateful. It seems, despite our efforts, the Trail wanted us to have a memorable last day.
Day 175: September 19th – 4.3 miles
We started on a wonderful note. Some of the hikers at the shelter who knew our story wished us well and congratulated us on our hike. We started the hike with some triumphant tunes which helped immensely to make us feel fantastic.
We were supposed to get to the parking lot on VT 9 to meet my sister’s family by noon. We thought this was entirely possible until we met the downhill hike which was made up entirely of rocks balanced on a 60 degree decline.
It made us 45 minutes late, but it was perfect because that’s exactly how late my sister was.
After a short hike with the family (why?!) we drove to Bennington, VT to have lunch. We ended up at Benner’s Bagels Pizza n’ Whatnosh which made fantastic pizza, yet was curiously devoid of a bagel pizza.
We stopped at a chocolate shop which reminded me that pumpkin spice is in season in the form of gelato. My niece also shared in this glorious discovery.
The drive back to New York included a stop at a diner that had the worst hot dog I’ve ever taken a bite of, but made a decent vanilla shake.
We arrived home just before 9 PM and were greeted with an empty house, but a full table of trail themed snacks and a lovely handwritten welcome note.
The trail is over. We didn’t summit Katahdin, but we did hike for six months. And we never have to go hiking again. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m sure it will in a few days or a week. It’s hard to sum it up in words what it all means, but, to make the effort, I will steal my own line which I wrote in the last log journal we were able to find: “I am somewhere different than where I started.”
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