Long Trail – Day 22
July 5, 2016
Hazen’s Notch Camp to Journey’s End
Hangman, Slim, Woody and I were up by 6:30 am and eating breakfast. Everyone was finishing today and in a good mood. We ate heartily and I even made hot coffee, which I had stopped doing for several weeks.
Hangman asked to hike with me and we set off before the other two (and Rosie). From our camp we had bird’s eye view of the last great climb of the LT, Jay Peak. As I started hiking with Hangman, I noticed he set his watch. Hangman is a hiker, straight up 20+ mile a day hiker. I thought for sure at the first mountain he would blow by me. I was surprised that at exactly 30 minutes (per the beeping on his watch) he stopped and took off his pack. “Want to take a break?,” he asked. “Absolutely,” I responded. He then told me about his hiking philosophy: every thirty minutes, no matter where he is, going downhill or uphill, he stops for water. Every two hours he pauses for a snack. He explained that if he is especially tired or slow he may deviate slightly. But the breaks ensure that he doesn’t get burned out and that he remains hydrated and energetic. I looked at him, “I’ve been hiking 3 weeks and that is the most brilliant thing I’ve ever heard.” We hiked several smaller summits talking and laughing. Hangman is a great guy. I learned a lot about his life and family.
There’s a certain terminology in the hiker lexicon that you learn quickly. The most apropos phrase for today was “Pud” or “pointless up and down.” The Long Trail is brimming with them from start to finish. And forget about switchbacks, oh no, the LT likes to hike straight up the middle of the mountain and straight down the other side. Halfway up Domey’s Dome (the actual name of a mountain), my legs started to burn. Sure as the world, Hangman’s clock beeped and we stopped. I chugged some water and after two minutes felt like a new man with fresh legs. Brilliant. Even on the last day of a hike I learned something new.
After two hours we came to the highway at Jay Pass and started the ascent to Jay Peak. We passed quite a few day hikers, and made our way to the summit. The views were beyond gorgeous. We had lunch and soaked it in. We could see to Canada and back 50-60 miles to the peaks from whence we came.
We waited for Slim and Woody, but after 45 minutes they hadn’t shown, and we had to press on to finish and catch our ride. The downhill from Jay was tough and slick. Several more peaks came and went, and we passed the final shelter on the trail, Shooting Star. The sun was out and I really started to sweat.
In Manchester Center, towards the beginning of the hike, I had purchased a Sawyer Mini filter for $20 to supplement my water drops. I was glad I did, because the few water sources we came across were straight up sketchy. I don’t like drinking from stagnant pools, but without a choice, you have to.
The last summit quickly approached, Carleton Mountain. The adrenaline started to flow. I stated the mileage left like a sports announcer: “3 miles”, “2 miles”, “1.4 miles.” When we topped out on Carleton, Hangman threw his poles in the air. It was all downhill from there.
For the next mile we practically jogged. There were several small hills and we slowed. .5 miles away from Journey’s End, I heard a small sound to my right. I had grown so accustomed to the sound of chipmunks, that I barely looked. Chipmunks are seen on the Long Trail every 3-5 feet. They see you, scurry and are gone.
I looked back and saw a white outline of a larger animal. It looked exactly like a white tail deer and was roughly as high as a middle aged doe. I thought, “nice, a deer.” It then turned and walked quickly towards the trail, which is when I saw its face.
I’ve seen coyotes lots of times in North Carolina, and I’m also familiar with the coyote/dog mix. Staring back at me was not that. It was a large grey wolf. With quick eyes it scanned us. Then with hardly a sound, it darted back into the woods.
I looked at Hangman, “dude, that’s a wolf.” His eyes got big. “A huge wolf.”
I had just hiked nearly 300 miles and had not had my heart race in fear once. I had seen countless bear tracks, moose tracks and moose scat, yet never felt in danger. While we didn’t run, both Hangman and I kept moving along and listening. We could hear the rustling sound following us over the ridge. At the next muddy spot, our sighting was confirmed by the large print of the wolf, freshly made.
After a quarter mile the sound ceased.
The only thing that stopped thoughts of the wolf was suddenly walking up to a giant plaque. We were here! We had done it, we had walked the length of an entire state, the state of Vermont.
We let out joyous yells and catcalls. “Canadaaaaaa!!” And there before me was the border. There was the marker. For thirty minutes we just took pictures, sat and reflected and took it in.
I had done it.
The Long Trail ends, but to reach the parking lot, I had to hike the Journey’s End trail. We came across one more shelter and one more journal. We stopped and read it and I was floored by the entries. All our friends that finished before wrote the most poignant words. I made my own remarks, trying very hard to capture my emotion. The last .8 miles passed in a flash as I ran to my wife’s arms.
This was the trip of a lifetime.
Total mileage is 17.2 miles.
Total mileage for the Long Trail is 273 miles.