Over the last couple Thursdays, I’ve recounted the beginning of a hitchhiking voyage across New England. By being willing to change our plans and experience whatever came our way, my partner and I ended up at a commune in eastern Massachusetts before we resumed our northward journey.
Before setting out on our adventure, Quiver and I had decided that we wanted to spend some time in the White Mountains again, and the best time to make that happen was after leaving the commune. Therefore, we pointed our thumbs toward Gorham, NH, and headed to Pinkham Notch and Mount Washington.
We ascended Mount Washington via Huntington Ravine, the infamous trail that I love too much. On the way down the mountain, we saw a moose trailside — the first (and, thus far, only) moose I’d seen in my life! If that wasn’t enough, as I was coming out of the restroom at the trailhead, I ran into Sunbeam, a woman who tends to spend as much time in these woods as I do. Quiver and I had hiked near her for several days in 2012, and we’d all stayed at Kincora (arguably the best hostel on the trail) together. It was so fun to see her again!
Sunbeam informed us that she was working in one of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s High Huts and that, in keeping with the theme of serendipity, none other than Gluten Puff, one of Quiver and my favorite 2012 thru-hikers, was working in Greenleaf Hut that summer. And, with that and hugs goodbye, we headed to Franconia Notch.
The most direct route to Greenleaf Hut is the Old Bridle Path, a trail that climbs from the Franconia Notch Parkway (where US-3 and I-93 coexist). In getting there, Quiver and I hitched a ride in a police car. Seriously. (But, that’s a story for another day.)
Walking into Greenleaf Hut and completely surprising Gluten Puff was a blast. Quiver and I had had these grand hopes of hiking our beloved Franconia Ridge after a short chat with Gluten Puff, but the conversation was so enjoyable that neither of us wanted to leave. Besides, one of the most important take-aways from all the traveling I’ve done is that (apart from the Old Man in the Mountain) beautiful places are much more stationary and long-lasting than people; while seeing beautiful places is exciting and worthwhile, it’s also important to take advantage of the time we have with friends and family. And so, Quiver and I spent a gorgeous summer day inside a hut on the shoulder of Mount Lafayette, talking with a special trail friend until lengthening shadows forced us back down the mountain.
From Franconia Notch, we hitchhiked to Burlington, VT, where (after swimming/bathing in Lake Champlain) I caught up with and introduced Quiver to Monica, a friend of mine from college. After a wonderful night near a vineyard somewhere south of Burlington, we headed down Route 7 to Williamstown, MA (where we’d been just a few weeks earlier to hike Greylock), and then back to central Massachusetts along the Mohawk Trail (a highway).
As dusk was fading on the night before the day of Quiver’s flight out of Portland, ME, we seemed to be stuck 12 miles or so from my car. Just as we were on the verge of making camp, a petite Asian American woman pulled up beside us and, in broken English, invited us into her car. While her home was on the way to mine, she decided to take us all the way back to my place, and we arrived home just as darkness fell in earnest.
(One year later, I had the opportunity to thank that final driver when her name appeared on a sign-in sheet/mailing list from a project another AmeriCorps member had hosted. She seemed as astonished as I was at our reconnecting. Talk about a small world!)
The next day’s drive to the airport was uneventful but bittersweet. The weeks of intentional spontaneity, of mountains, of community, of old friends and new, had come to an end. I worked to cherish the memories and not cry because it was over but, rather, smile because it had happened.