With entering New England came some of the happiest times I’ve had so far. My mother picked me up from a nice woman’s yard in Salisbury, CT and stuck with me for 8 days. I love hiking with my mother, she is incredible road support and it feels like home to get to each road crossing where she waits for me. She followed along from Connecticut to southern Vermont, and it was marvelous. Seeker, who is pretty much my trail partner now, joined us for lots of comfy hotel sleeps and charming New England towns. The grand finale was a zero day in a condo with my trail family from 10 years ago, Dumbledore’s Army. For the first time in years, we were together again; eating ice cream (vegan in my case), making music, and fighting evil. Sara-Tide and Stephen both know my mom from hiking with me 10 years ago. We had a good sing along and a beautiful meal together. Stephen and I did a cover of a Tenacious D song that I could not get through very well without laughing my head off. I think it sounded good anyway.
This is multi-layered. 10 years ago, I remember the overwhelming joy I felt when my trail family was meeting my mother and two younger siblings. It was like a flood of comfort in my veins to see it all come together. Now, here we are, after a test of time, still in each other’s lives and older, meaning more to each other. Then you add in Seeker, my new trail family, and Bard, who was there in spirit, and two additions to the family to celebrate, Banner (the handsome pup) and Molly, Stephens fiancé. Sara-Tide and I fell in love with her right away and felt big-sisterly to welcome her to the family. She fits like a glove, and I knew I was going to love her, just by the sound of Stephen’s voice when he speaks of her. I didn’t know that she would out-nerd me Harry Potter style or be so poised and graceful, but I found out immediately that Stephen struck gold.
I was sad to say goodbye to my mother the next morning, but comforted to know I’ll be visiting her in a few weeks when I’m finished walking. I also had Sara-Tide, who sees me more than most and is always good to come to teary-eyed. She took Seeker and I to the trailhead where Stephen and Molly met us, and we got to goofing off some more. It was fitting, to hike that stretch with Stephen, for this was the spot where we spent our last night together in 2011, before he got off trail. I remembered how jealous I was of him, our last camp out, because it was his last meal and he would soon be burning his hiking shirt. Through the envy, I knew that I was going to make it to Katahdin, if only for my ability to resist jumping off with him then and there. I’m grateful for the memories, but mostly, I’m grateful that Stephen still rocks pink shorty shorts.
Stephen, Banner, and I went for a swim in Stratton Pond after a good hike through some of Vermont’s finest mud. Then Seeker and I bade them all farewell for now to hike to the next road crossing. We would be seeing Stephen and Molly in just a few days, walking upon their homeland, Norwich, VT. Sara-Tide would be meeting us at the next road crossing for a final campout. Of all the precious moments in my life, I found myself touched and inspired on parking lot gravel with Sara-Tide and Seeker that night. She lit a candle and laid out a spread, while we talked about music and dreams. It was beautiful.
The next morning, we had a similar scene for breakfast and a heart-felt goodbye. Sara-Tide had visited me trail-side for the last time, as she was off to work at the 2021 US Open in NYC (yeah, I know, she’s frickin’ cool). We both cried, for me it was mostly gratitude. She’s been a fierce friend and incredible to talk to. I believe in her wildness and I leave all of our encounters feeling understood. There are few people in this world that I can walk with like this incredible woman. From our matching kitty shirts to our experienced feet, I feel lucky beyond measure for this friendship.
A few short days later, Seeker and I got picked up in Woodstock, VT by Stephen to attend Molly’s beautiful yoga class. We both had moments of disbelief while looking around us at the beautiful hill side farm we were practicing on, with the confident yet soothing sound of Molly’s voice. I pinched myself a few times, but it turned out it wasn’t a dream. That was only the beginning, too. For the next 3 days, we got absolutely spoiled by the happy couple; slackpacks, family meals, Mario Cart night, dog cuddles, music, pints of Ben and Jerry’s, plant identifying endeavors, chipmunks that eat out of your hands…man! It was dreamy. More importantly, it was deep and real. These two are in my heart like family, and seeing their lives take the shape they have means a lot to me.
It’s crazy. 10 years ago, when I agreed to hike with two bright and shiny thru-hikers in Tennessee, I never would have guessed the warmth that could come with it down the road. How we’re still laughing, still stepping, and still believing in magic.
Long May We Walk.