Restful Days at Home, Recharging Body and Soul

I am standing in the field behind my parents’ house, watching their small, brown pup race in wide, looping arcs through late afternoon sunlight. A rescue from some unknown southern origin, I call her breed Alabama Mystery Dog and joke that she’s been assembled from spare parts with greyhound legs, hound nose, and whippet tail. Off the leash, she runs in great bounding leaps. Her sleight, 30-pound frame floats over the grass like a gazelle. Her ears flop back and jaws open in a toothy smile as she flies from a stonewall to the dirt road at the top of the hill and back again, white paws flashing.

I call to her and she comes to a scrambling halt at my feet. She takes a biscuit with as much patience as she can muster before she is gone again like a shot.

This is one of the happiest images I can hold in my mind and one of the best expressions of what I call home – a place to run wild, grow, explore, or simply stand still.

I was still in Connecticut when I realized the kind of pace I was making; how with a few days of  averaging between 15 and 20 miles, I could be in here Southern Vermont in time for Mother’s Day. Over the course of one rainy evening, I double-checked the mileage and the elevation changes. I noted the shelters and campsites I’d sleep in, made sure I was carrying enough food for hiking seven to ten hours each day, jettisoned some excess ounces from the pack, and set an alarm for 5 a.m. Then I got to work.

And one week later, as I made my way over a low hill overlooking Bennington and nearby Mt. Anthony through a light, misting rain, I arrived at Route 9 in Woodford, Vt. My parents met me a half-mile from the trailhead and after big hugs, we walked out to the parking lot together.

I’ve had my fair share of arrivals and departures from the “home base” over the years, but there is a very unique feeling that comes from walking 586.9 miles and finding yourself in the gravel driveway where it all started in late March. It’s a visceral, emotional reaction that resonates in my chest and buzzes in my head. The snow has melted, the trees have leafed-out and the black flies are out and biting with a vengeance. I have walked so far and found myself right here. Again.

I am spending a week here, letting my joints rest while I take care of a long punch-list of projects. I’ve been busy. In the past three days, I’ve repaired sod on the lawn and given the grass the equivalent of a bad haircut; planted hosta and lilacs; moved the collection of yard furniture from the basement to their usual summertime spots; stained the porch; wheeled barrows full of rich compost to the vegetable garden; and used a tractor with my neighbor to fix a sagging deck.

It is satisfying to do these kinds of things. I’ve also been to the chiropractor to have a few aches and pains examined and finally had the snow tires removed from my car. My boots have officially given up the ghost and have been replaced. I’ll return to trail with new rain gear, socks, maps, and other creature comforts.

This break comes at roughly the halfway point of my trek. By my calculation, there are some 579.2 miles until the summit of Katahdin. I have set a goal to finish by mid-July.

But until then there is no rush. I drink coffee on the breezeway in the mornings and in the evenings my hockey-fan neighbor comes over to watch the playoffs on TV. At bedtime, the pup curls into the smallest ball she can manage and positions herself squarely in the middle of my bed. Time moves at its usual pace, unhurried as a river, from night to morning.

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