Last Day on the Road

Last Day on the RoadAfter seven hot hours, I made it from Pittsburg village to Sportman’s Lodge. It was much more comfortable, not to mention faster, to be walking without a tent or pad or several days’ worth of food.

I slept like a baby last night. No matter how I try, there’s just no way I feel as secure in a tent as I do in a place like a cabin with a lock on the door.

I decided to spend some of my fast-dwindling cash supply on a really, really good breakfast. I went to Dube’s Pittstop (yes, an extra T), where the lone waitress was cheerfully attending to a nearly-full house. I ordered my plateful of food along with coffee & OJ, and then heard a cheerful greeting from the next table. I looked over and there was Armand, sitting with 5 or 6 buddies over coffee. A small town, indeed.

When I finished up, I bought a couple of bottles of some kind of flavored non-carbonated water-type stuff (couldn’t they just carry Gatorade??). Armand called out “May it all be downhill.” Surely, there’s no finer farewell for a hiker! We were laughing as I stepped outside for the last leg of the trip.

I took Rt. 145, & when I got to Clarksville Pond Rd., I took one look down Old County Road & decided to stay on 145 until Creampoke Road. When I got to the 45th Parallel marker, I hung my hat on its corner and propped my pack & trekking pole against the sign’s support pole & then took a picture. It occurred to me then that I should have been using that hat as a photographic prop throughout the trip.

145 climbs a bit leaving Pittsburg and heading through Clarksville. I cheered when I got to the little signs warning trucks to use low gear, knowing that meant a downhill stretch was coming up. On Creampoke Road’s long eastward run, a truck slowed down beside me & the driver said “Didn’t I see you in Pittsburg this morning?” Darned if it wasn’t one of Armand’s breakfast companions! We went our separate ways after a brief cheerful chat.

I packed 40 ounces of drinks & should have packed more. I packed 3 energy bars, & I could have done with one. Solid food seemed an unnecessary distraction.

After turning from Creampoke to Haines Hill Road which becomes McAllaster, I came to a fork that puzzled me. There was a logging cut on the left with a path through it, and a path like a snowmobile trail off to the right. I remembered going past a logged area when I came up here, but I hadn’t seen the fork from that direction. I used the 10-minute rule that has served me well on the trip, and I didn’t even need the full 10. About 3 minutes of walking into the log yard showed me a dead end on a little knoll.

Suddenly, I heard my phone buzzing. That little hill brought me into cell range, probably pinging off a Canadian tower. I was receiving a text my daughter had sent the night before. I texted her back with an update on my location.

Out of the logging yard, onto the other path, out of cell range: right back where I belonged. My compass confirmed I was heading SSW, close enough to south to be reassuring. The path gradually widened. I came around a curve and saw a massive tree down across the road. Suddenly, I remembered the tree from my northbound walk, and I knew where I was. The tree had been leaning over the road quite precariously when I last saw it. Once past the tree, I recognized the farm ahead, and soon I reached Bear Rock Road. The route was a piece of cake from there, with nothing ahead but signed town roads. By the time I got to Diamond Pond Road, I was dragging, but I knew I was almost done.

Coleman State Park at last! It was just a mile away from my goal, and I was more than ready for water when I got there. The park was deserted except for me and a lone motorcyclist. I dropped my pack & trekking pole on a picnic table & made a beeline for the nearest faucet. I filled my bottle & drank it straight down, savoring shade & water. A faint cell signal let me text my family that I was nearly done. My daughter sent a joyous message back a few moments later. In the patchy world of cell phone service in Coos County, there’s a faint signal at Coleman and no signal at all at the lodge a mile away.

Twenty minutes later, I was at Sportsman’s Lodge. I let Roger know I was back, told him I needed no dinner service, and went straight upstairs for a shower, clean clothes, and some rest. I felt utterly exhilarated.

We’ve had a good evening here, watching the Sox game. Linda and Roger treated me like an honored guest. Corey, a neighbor whom I met at last year’s CT gathering, greeted me like an old friend & wanted to hear about the hike. We all chatted, criticized our pitcher (Buchholz tonight), & put up with dogs & cats vying for attention. I called it a night after 5 or 6 innings, as did Corey.

My inventory of bodily damage from this escapade actually amounts to a short list.
Blisters: healing.
Toes: A few discolored toenails. Nothing I haven’t seen before.
Sunburn: during one stop along the way today, I was alarmed to see little blisters in patches on my shins. I’ve got sunburn over sunburn. I didn’t bother with sunscreen today because I figured I’d only sweat it off within the hour. I now have a painful reminder to USE it hourly, if necessary. I intend to lecture my kids about this. (They’ll ignore me. At their age, I didn’t want to hear it, either.)
Left knee: An arthritic joint, to be sure, now sore to the point where I need a pillow under it when I lie down. Nothing new. Naproxen & rest will help.

Tomorrow: laundry, reading, review my photos, and maybe do some kayaking (with lots of sunscreen) on Big Diamond Pond. The day after that, my husband will be here to pick me up and get his first look at the area.

Let’s see: 17 to 19 miles for today, depending on the relative accuracy of Google Maps & my own calculations. Actual one-way CT mileage from lodge to border, including spurs to lodging, & including 2 miles between Coleman SP & Tumble Dick Notch, comes to 51 miles. That excludes the work on the trails with Lainie, since it was road walking on US 3 that got me to the border. These calculations are for the benefit of all those people in my life who will only want to know how far – how many – how long. It all amounts to 85 miles altogether in 8 days of walking, if anyone asks.

It’s been three years from idea to fruition for this trip. From here, right now, it seems that it all went by in a flash.

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