Today was the last day that we would follow the Long Trail, before the Appalachian Trail turns east while the country’s first long distance trail continues north to the Canadian border. Back in the last century, years before I met Mama Bear, my first long distance trip was along that trail. Traveling alone, I met a French Canadian with whom I walked for about a week. Our conversations had a certain poetry stemming from the combination of my broken French and his broken English. He described to me how he had found himself in Vermont’s Northern Kingdom: “For my heart; it was in need of a journey, and so I am here.”
I was there because, after the United States Navy had paid my way through my first year of college, I had withdrawn from the ROTC program. I soon discovered that, through the magic of the college’s financial aid formula, I would be left with approximately none of the money I had saved, regardless of the actual amount I had.
I’d spent eight years delivering newspapers at 4am, six days a week. I’d also spent the last couple years of highschool at a company translating the archaic computer code of imbedded real time microprocessors into a more modern computer language and optimizing the assembly code of those processors for speed (my long since forgotten knowledge of the hardware efficiencies between a ‘do while’ loop and a ‘for’ loop became obsolete as the speed of microprocessors increased exponentially to the point that these coding nuances almost ceased to matter). So I decided to take some time off from school to spend some of my hard earned savings before giving the rest to an already well-endowed university. I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
After my solo hike through Vermont, I ventured down to South America to visit a friend who was studying abroad down there. We travelled south, subsisting on Chilean cherries and Argentinian chocolates. We climbed aboard a ship headed through the Chilean archipelago whose cargo hold was filled with spitting llamas. We hiked through Torres del Paine national park, and spent the last Christmas of the millennium swimming in the Straits of Magellan. Today, that friend hosts Vermont Public Radio’s, Vermont Things Considered, and she came out to meet us on a back road in Vermont, bringing along her six-month old, together with a delicious picnic spread.
After a few hours of catching up, we reluctantly packed up the picnic spread. She headed on her way to visit other college friends for the weekend, and we continued our walk north. We climbed Killington Mountain, taking the steep side trail to its scenic summit. At the shelter near the top, we had an exciting reunion with our good friend and fellow thruhiker, Kickapoo, who finally caught us from behind. She was traveling with her significant other, Pogono, who we met for the first time, as well as Twist, whom we hadn’t seen in months.
We spent a long time catching up and left the summit late, but just early enough to make it to the Inn at the Long Trail, constructed on the site of the first Green Mountain Club lodge built in 1923 and destroyed by fire in the 1960s. There we enjoyed live music and Long Trail Ale before tucking in for the night. Reflecting on the reasons we are out here as a family, I realized that it is not because We are seeking something that was missing in our normal life , but simply “pour nos coeurs; ils avaient besoin d’un voyage et nous sommes donc ici.”
What a blessing to share this journey together.