Even though Jan and I were the ones hiking, we had help from a host of truly divine Trail Angels on the Long Trail.
Before we even left, we had help. Back in July, three members of my family with lots of backpacking experience took me on a shake-down hike in the White Mountains. Ruth and Ian, both Long Trail end-to-enders, were also able to give me good, specific, advice, like laying down the miles in the relatively flat, southern end of the trail so we could hike fewer miles in the steeper, more challenging, north.
When my friend Mark, a two-time AT thru-hiker, found out our tent weighed in at a chubby six pounds; he lent us a svelte two-and-a-half-pounder which sheltered us about a quarter of our nights on the trail.
Just before we left, three of our college housemates traveled to Vermont for a fabulous reunion and send-off. If only our packs didn’t weigh so much, we could have walked on air from this weekend of renewed friendships.
And while they thought they were doing the devil’s work, Laura & Mark were the trail angels who dropped us off at the start.
We each enjoyed a night off the trail, where we had a chance to wash, dine, and visit: Jan with her friend Peter from Knoll Farm and me with Fran and Mick, who live “at the end of a long driveway off a dead end road.”
To say that Lynn and Ken “picked us up” at Journey’s End would be a gross understatement. These trail angels came directly from work with a trunk full of snacks, including strawberries and champagne. Back at their house, Lynn washed our clothes while we showered and scrubbed, ate and drank, and fell into clean, soft, beds. The next morning, Ken put us on the train home.
But the archangel of the whole enterprise was my husband Tim, our re-supplier. Every weekend, he met us at a road crossing with clean clothes, our next installment of dehydrated meals, and our week’s ration of dark chocolate and bourbon. He
also brought treats, like brewed coffee, sticky buns, fresh sandwiches, and garden tomatoes, and he carried these feasts uphill when joined us on the trail. Off the trail, he was also tending the homestead (poultry, garden, dog, cats) and caring for himself (meals, laundry) and going to work. In some ways, what he did was harder than the hike, and certainly we couldn’t have done it without him.
Between us, Jan and I have five daughters, all of whom cheered us on; one weekend, a daughter joined us on the trail. We also received encouragement from friends far and wide. Knowing that others were rooting for us helped us up the steeper hills and down the slippery rocks.
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
We also benefited from the kindness of strangers.
At the end of the long day we hiked over Mansfield, we easily hitched down the road to the state campground, thanks to Dawn, who picked us up, and to Albert and Katie, who brought us back the next morning.
Hikers made room for us at every shelter, where we were always offered lower bunks. I’m not sure I could have climbed a ladder after climbing mountains all day.
Southbound hikers always told us about hazards ahead and views not to miss. It was from a pair of Sobos (as Southbounders are called; we’re Nobos – heading north) that we learned of a grassy, level spot to sleep under the stars; we told them of a good campsite we’d passed near a stream.
Toward the end of the trip this information became critical as water sources became scarce.
Then there was Alex, one of the Three Musketeers at Spruce Ledge Lodge, who gave me fresh batteries when my headlamp went dead.
In addition to Trail Angels, there’s Trail Magic: food and drink left at trailheads for thru-hikers. The potato chips just after Clarendon Gorge were the perfect combination of calories and salt before ascending steeply to our night’s shelter at the end of a long, hot day.
Kindness abounds on the Long Trail, where Trail Angels take on human form.
Thanks to you all.
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Till next Wednesday: Happy Trails!