Day 220- Thursday, 10/18- Falls Village, CT- (0) (2147.4 total)
Well, if all goes according to plan, this was my last zero day on the trail. That’s kind of surreal. Did my last grocery shopping trip and resupply this morning. Last laundry on the trail last night. Crazy.
I was reading about this town and hostel today on my app, and someone wrote about slack packing options here. The owner hadn’t mentioned it, and I hadn’t thought about it, so I called him and asked him, and he does offer it. So we decided to do one day of slack packing tomorrow. It’s actually possible to slack the last 3 days, but that would cost a lot and I do still want to have one final night of camping and 2 final days of carrying my full pack. Like a last full AT experience. But one final day of getting to hike more freely without the pack weight will be nice too.
I was communicating with some friends in NYC today, making plans to meet up. I actually entered an appointment into my calendar on my phone, something I haven’t done in 7 months. It was so weird to actually be planning post-trail events. This really is almost done. Gonna try my best to be present and enjoy these last 3 days, as this whole experience will soon just be a memory.
Day 221- Friday, 10/19- Lakeville, CT- (15.5 miles) (2163.0 total)
Did our slack pack today. We decided to get dropped off 15 miles south of here and hike northbound back to this town. Chilly morning. There was frost on all the lawns and it had to be down in the mid 30s when we started hiking. So hard to dress for weather like this while hiking. You want to really bundle up, but then when you start climbing uphill you get hot. So you take off a layer, but then you summit the mountain and get some wind, or start the descent and you get cold again quickly.
While hiking today, we came upon a sign that said the rocks that to allow us to cross the next stream were no longer safe to use, and it recommended us to take a detour trail which it said was only half a mile. We did the detour just to be safe, but it was more like an extra mile. Worth it tho if it was going to be a tough crossing. I’m not up for any more cold water fords, and don’t want to get my boots wet. This section of the trail is finally dry again after all the water on the trail in Vermont and parts of Massachusetts, and my feet are very happy to stay dry.
We ran into Tadpole and Bagheera on the trail right before we had lunch. They are 2 of the people who picked me up hitchhiking in the camper out of LEE, Massachusetts. Keep bumping into them here and there on the trail. They were planning to get as far south as Bear Mountain in NY, but today they said that tomorrow might be their last day. They are just tired of the cold and wet, and worried about the slippery rocks when it rains. Bagheera is hiking in sandals and socks and has been having foot pain recently as well. So they may be done for this year and perhaps get back on next season when it’s warm again.
As we were getting close to the end today, the trail followed a road for a bit. Suddenly, the owner of our hostel drove by us and pulled over to pick us up. But I had to tell him to pick us up at the previously agreed upon spot. We were still 1.5 miles from there. It might sound ticky-tack, but when you set out to hike 2190.9 miles, you don’t want to skip any of it. Need to get every last mile in. He laughed but understood and picked us up where we asked, and dropped us off back at the hostel. Took a nice hot shower and now time to go out and get some dinner. The perks of slack packing from a hostel. Will be heading southbound again tomorrow. Only 2 days to go!
Day 222- Saturday, 10/20- Ten Mile River Shelter, CT- (18.2 miles) (2181.2 total)
Second to last day is in the books now. We had originally planned to do a shorter day today of about 13 miles, then do a 15 tomorrow on the final day. But as we were hiking, we talked it over and decided that it would be better to make a bigger push today and make tomorrow a bit shorter and easier as the last day. So we pushed an 18 today, and will have just under 10 to do tomorrow.
The first 5 miles of today were ridiculously easy. We walked along a wide dirt road that paralleled a river. We made amazing time. Makes you wish more of the trail was like this. I would have been done 2 months ago. Lol! After that tho, we had 3 pretty big hills to climb in a row, so I guess we paid the piper. Before we decided to push the longer miles today, we were going to hitchhike into Kent, CT for some lunch. There is also supposedly a great ice cream and candy shop there. But once we decided to push farther, we had to scrap that plan and just eat our usual boring trail food at a shelter in order to save time.
I do enjoy hiking the trail on weekends out here. It can be pretty quiet during the weekday, but quite a few day and weekend hikers come out on the weekends. It’s nice to meet the people hiking in the opposite direction and get to chit-chat for a bit. Makes the trail more sociable.
Hard to explain how I feel knowing that this is all coming to an end tomorrow. In a way it just feels like just another night out here, in my tent writing my blog for the 222nd time. But I also know that this is it. I guess I’m both excited and slightly apprehensive about what’s to come. A lot of unknown about what’s next, plus wondering how the body and mind are going to react to the sudden end of the daily endorphins and subsequent withdrawals. Tomorrow will be a moment I’ve been looking forward to and dreaming about for a long time, and it will be special. But there will be an adjustment period to such a sudden lifestyle change as well. I don’t know. I’m just speculating. We will see how it really goes when tomorrow and the following weeks get here. I’ll keep you posted.
Appropriately, on my last night of a hike I am doing for women in Thailand, I was sitting with a Thai woman (Bear Claw) in the shelter, eating my last freeze dried dinner of...Pad Thai.
Day 223- Sunday, 10/21- Massapequa, NY- (9.7 miles) (2190.9 total)
Damn, I’m done! Hard to believe that, even as I write it. Certainly it hasn’t sunk in yet. Just feels like another break from the trip. A zero day, or a few days off to see a friend. But no, that’s it. All done. No more miles to calculate or hike. No more sections to plan. No more trips to the supermarket to resupply. No more setting up and breaking down camp. No more hiking in the rain, cold, snow, or humidity. No more hills to climb. None of it. All in the past. All just a memory now. Hard to fathom after over 7 months of that lifestyle. This will take a while to set in.
We pushed the extra miles yesterday, so today was an easy 9.7. I went through my pack before we left and pulled out everything that I was not keeping that would be useful for another hiker. Usually that kind of stuff would be left in a hiker box in a hostel or motel, but since I won’t be stopping at any more of those, I just left all of it in the shelter where lots of hikers pass through. Shouldn’t take long for all that stuff to find new homes. The terrain was pretty smooth and the trail pretty easy, so we made good time and finished by noon. On the last mile, I found myself slowing down, stopping to take pictures several times, and sort of not wanting to get to the finish line. Yet at the same time, desperately wanting to get to the finish line and be done once and for all.
Got to the end just behind Bear Claw and walked down to the train tracks and tiny station where I got off to flip flop several weeks ago. Had my moment of celebration there while Bear Claw took photos. I just couldn’t stop smiling- it was such a happy moment. I looked over for Jack, who drove up to see me finish and pick us up. I saw his car, but he was nowhere to be found. I called him, and he had hiked a little bit south on the boardwalk to greet us on the trail, not realizing that we were coming down from the north. Lol! He came back and we celebrated together with a big bear hug. Pretty surreal moment. Called my parents and shared the moment with them as well. They have had a map of the AT on their bedroom door this whole trip, and were circling the towns as I reached them, following my progress. My Mom also re-read A Walk in the Woods to better connect to what I was going through. I called them from each town I stopped in along the way, so it was great to make that final phone call and say those words, “I’m done!” They were so ecstatic!
We drove into the neighboring town of Pauling for lunch, and then drove to a small airport where Bear Claw had rented a car. All other car rental places were closed since it was a Sunday. She is now driving south to meet back up with her family. So appreciative of her and the whole family for making that all happen. Her presence really helped to keep my spirits up and keep me going on that final leg of the trail. Grateful.
The response from people on social media has been overwhelming. Tons of congratulations messages from all kinds of people, and since last night, my donation total has risen $1000. Everyone’s support and encouragement has been above and beyond, and it really helped so much in my lowest moments. You guys reminded me why I was out there, and reminded me that I was certainly not alone, even tho it felt that way sometimes. Getting in to town and checking my Facebook, etc. on those zero days really boosted my spirits seeing everyone’s messages and comments. Those helped to recharge my battery and feel like I could definitely do another 5 day section. Thank you all so very much!
So what’s next? Well, in the immediate future, I’m going to hang out for a few days here in NYC and see a few friends. Will fly to Rapid City, South Dakota next to see family, and then head to Colorado to see my Broncos play and meet some friends. Then to Portland, OR to see my brother and his family. And finally back to Hawaii. I called and talked to the owners of Friends of Thai Daughters, Jane and Patty, to let them know I’d finished, and they surprised me with the offer of a ticket to Thailand to go see the NGO girls. Such a kind and amazing offer! That will bring everything full circle and really remind me why I did all this. I know it’s for those girls, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the hike and kind of forget. Visiting the organization and girls in person is so impactful and emotional, and will really bring all this home for me. Thank you so very much, Jane and Patty! I will certainly take them up on that offer, probably in November or December. I was already thinking of heading that way for some dental work- high quality and much cheaper over there. Then back to Hawaii. I’ve recently applied for a job in Hawaii, so fingers crossed on that one. We will see what unfolds and what life has in store next, but I would like to go home and settle in Hawaii. Inshallah.
It will take a while for all of this to settle and sink in. Will need time to process everything. It will be an interesting process of settling back into regular life after over 7 months on the trail. As I’ve talked about before, post-trail depression is a very common thing- withdrawals from the endorphins. I’m curious to see how this all affects or changes me going forward. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll get back on here and write a post-script to let you all know how it’s going. Until then, thank you all so much for reading, following along, supporting me, and donating for the girls. I hope this blog was as much fun to read as it was to write. Maybe in a year or two, when much of this has faded, I come back here and read through it all myself to reminisce. Aloha everybody.