19: Schaghticoke tent site to Hoyt Rd

I woke up early to give myself plenty of time for the last few miles. Did I ever really sleep? I’m not sure. 

Once I got moving, things were easier. I’d tried to pop and drain my blisters last night but I hadn’t really been successful. Oh well. Walk on. 
I caught the last edge of sunrise. 

I stopped for breakfast– I crammed as many wheat thins into my mouth as I could. 

Some of the walk was downright gorgeous. I knew I had a few miles of flat today, and it was nice. I cruised. 

And then I … Well, I made it up to the top of ten mile hill. It’s only 1000ft over 1 mile and I started off strong but I faded a little. I found a reserve tank and pounded out the rest though. 

And then down, and Connecticut was over. That was it. I walked to Hoyt road looking for the sign, then back to where I’d arranged for my friend Catherine to meet me. In a fortuitous turn of events, my best friend since I was 2 was now living in Connecticut, so I imposed on her for a ride from the trail head and a chance to catch up. I had needed to see her recently, and as usual, the trail provided. 

I finished a few minutes early, and had time to dry out my tent and organize my trash and such. 
I can’t believe it’s all over. My longest trip yet. I can tell a difference in my hiking ability. I’m stronger. I feel like I fit into the rhythm of trail life, and it’ll be hard to switch back. 
I found myself holding on to the generosity of the trail, though. At the train station, a man asked me for $2.50 for his train to make it to work. I pulled out a $5 and gave it to him. Usually I’d say sorry, I don’t carry cash, whether or not that’s true. On the trail, I’d offer whatever I have to anyone. Food? Insoles? Water? Fuel? Clothes? So what’s $5 to a man in a train station? 

He looked at the $5 and asked if I was sure. I shrugged and said yeah. Told him to have a good day, and good luck. I refrained from telling him happy trails, but that’s what I meant. Have a good journey, wherever you’re going. If it’s work or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I hope you get there safely. 
Miles: 8.3

Trip total: 281.7

MVP: a happy ride with Catherine 

LVP: n/a
Thanks for joining me on this trip, friends. It’s been one of the most amazing journeys of my life. The best news is: there are more hikes to come. Happy trails 🙂

18: limestone Spring Shelter to Schaghticoke Tent Site

Wilson Wilson was the first to get up, but we all three wanted to get up early.

In the night, however, I’d decided to change my plans.
“There have been complications.” I announced. “I think I’m going to do a 30 today.” I had some reasons that I won’t go into, but I was bored with Connecticut and was itching to do some big miles, too.
I said farewell to my friends, and set off.

The engineer in me loved walking by the dam and substation.

There were easy parts and boring parts and it mostly just went on forever. I had over 10 miles done by 10am. That’s always a good feeling.

I wondered if I could just…keep on going.

That’s a high school behind me.

I probably climbed that big pile of trees and dirt.

Belters Bump is a stupid name.

When you hike for 32 miles, you let your mind wander. I look at the scenery and the sky and listen to music,hoping to keep my pace up for as long as I can. You don’t think about your body, or at least you try not to. You do think about your feet- are you getting hot spots? Do you need to tape something up to prevent blisters? Unfortunately, I missed two hot spots and went straight to blisters. Oh well. I’m good at ignoring blisters.

I took a few breaks, being sure to stay hydrated but not carry much water, and trying to eat as much as I could. Both mistakes I made the last time I walked 30 miles.

I made it 21 miles to the shelter where Bent and Wilson Wilson would be stopping. I went in for a break and a snack and to leave them a note in the shelter log, and hoped they weren’t too far behind me and maybe I’d get to see them again.

As it turned out, I did. I stayed longer than I meant to, but it was so nice chatting with them that I just couldn’t leave. They told me about this band of roving NOBOs we’d all run in to (they yelled “SOBO coming! Hide your stuff!!” as I stood aside for them, and then, “hey, don’t you know you’re going the wrong way??”). Evidently when they came across Bent, they’d said, “SOBO! Hide your stuff! Oh hey, SOBO, I saw the hottest hiker I’ve ever seen today, and she was SOBO. She had a smile that could steal souls.”
They said the same thing to Wilson Wilson, and he said, “oh, you must mean Birthday Girl.” He said they seemed to like that.
I liked that I have a smile that can steal souls. It was nice to hear.
We finally said our goodbyes, with promises to hike together when they get down south. I’ll miss my friends. They’re both good souls. Gentle, caring, funny, intentional. Different, but similar. I will see them again.

I hiked on, into this mess of a rock scramble. Thanks, Connecticut.

But I got views.

I had a nice chat with Stumbleweed, a NOBO, and got drenched in a thunderstorm, and at some point I had walked 32 miles. I set up my tent and tried to sleep. It wasn’t easy. Everything hurt. Some of you have asked how you deal with pain. I asked Gonzo and Bent if they ever quit hurting. They said no. I think…I think you just live with it. Usually I can sleep through it, and only wake up when I try to turn over. Last night everything was throbbing though. Hips, feet, shins, knees. I put on icy hot and take an Aleve and hope for the best. The hike and knowing that I’ve pushed myself past what I thought was possible is worth it.

The last time I hiked 30 miles I cried when I finished. This time, I quit hiking only because the weather and terrain made it too slow to be worth it. I could have kept going. I would have paid for it, but I could have kept going.

Miles: 32

Trip total: 273.4

MVP: shelter chat with wilson wilson and bent

LVP: thunderstorm

17: the hemlocks to limestone spring shelter

A section hiker came in late last night. She insisted that we wake up to speak to her and asked a million questions. She stayed up late to cook, then, when she finally went to bed, she made a phone call. In the shelter. “Yeah, everyone’s asleep already. It’s so early! Just 9:30.” That’s past hiker midnight. 
The NOBO without a name (or a shirt) started hacking around actual midnight, coughing up a lung above me. 
Clearly, it was not the best sleep of my life. 
But Bent and I headed out early and finished the climb up Mt Everett. It was the first of several gorgeous climbs today. 

Next came Mt Race, with an incredible ridge walk. The climb up was interesting; it was pretty nice, interspersed with steep rock scrambles. We were on top before we knew it though. 

Down we went, for a few miles of gorgeous woods and Sage’s Ravine. We left Massachusetts here, too. The sign for the border is actually in the wrong place, so you think you’re in Connecticut but you’re actually still in Massachusetts. Sage’s Ravine was beautiful, with a large brook and moss covered rocks and waterfalls…and at least one deep swimming hole. Bent and I took advantage. We’d been hiking with Wilson Wilson for a while, but he hiked on while I jumped in and Bent dipped his feet in the water. 

And then up Bear Mountain, the highest peak in Connecticut. Now THIS was a boulder scramble. I felt like I was actually rock climbing as some points. It was fun and challenging and a great workout. 

Then off to Lion’s Head

And the rest of the day was pretty boring. We had a road walk, though, and just as we started getting hot and sweaty, a car rolled down the window and said, “I have cold drinks if you can cross the road!!” Well for a cold drink, we could cross the road on our hands! The driver turned out to be a section hiker with a cooler full of cokes and waters and gatorades. We chatted for a minute, took a Coke each, and hiked on, thankful for trail magic. 

The trail floor was full of needles that were all different colors. It was like confetti. 

But the last few miles to the shelter were slow and long and I wasn’t really pleased with Connecticut. I just wanted to get there. And we did, finally, meeting back up with Wilson Wilson. 

We all hiked the steep .5 down to the shelter (and I mean STEEP) and started eating. Shelter to ourselves, so far.  

They say the trail provides. I’ve needed baskets on my trekking poles for a week now. I found one in a trail register box. I found a second at the hemlocks shelter. Every time I’m miserably hot and think “wow I need some trail magic water” something appears. And somehow, I’ve found Bent and Wilson Wilson. 

Maybe I’m just forced to wait for the trail to provide instead of providing for myself. But it sure is nice, to have these moments of fortune and serendipity and great pleasure of receiving the thing you really need. 

I wonder how often that trail angel drives around with a cooler of drinks, waiting to run into hikers. He had his baby in the car. He was willing to put in the effort to create a moment of trail magic, even though SOBOs are a trickle instead of a steady stream, and the NOBOs are mostly gone. He passed us, pulled over, and waited for us to get close enough. Just to give us something cold to drink. 

Obviously, you know how much that drink means to me. But what a simple gesture. What a lot of effort to go through for a small gesture. All of the trail Angels go through a lot of effort for small gestures that mean so much. Some make huge gestures, like hiker feeds, but the little ones, like a pack of peanut butter crackers when I haven’t had breakfast, mean just as much. Even a jug of warm water *that I don’t have to filter* means a lot. 
I don’t have much else to say about it. Bent and I have just been talking about how we wish we could take the kindness and generosity and trust from the trail into our everyday lives. If you think about how I became friends with Honeybuns (found a dirty, smelly man with a pack and said “NOBO or SOBO?”) well…that’s perhaps something that requires a bit of trust. And Bent- I met him once at Peru Peak shelter but we didn’t talk. We became friends when I saw him again and we happened to be going to the same place. That’s it. And now, we know the pass codes to each others’ phones (there was one particularly frightening ridge walk that we weren’t sure we would survive). 

It’s just nice, to be able to know people and trust them and talk to them about your life and fears and hopes. 
Miles: 17.1

Trip total: 241.4
MVP: Coca Cola!

LVP: leaving mass. It was such a beautiful state!!