I did not manage to wake up early or get myself moving very quickly, and despite my desire to add a two-mile round-trip to Big Jay to the day's hike, did not actually leave Jay Camp until after 8 am. My bonus miles for the day would ultimately be limited to completing the Jay Loop Trail, a roughly three-quarter mile loop trail formed by the two entrances to Jay Camp and the Long Trail. I passed by Moe and Mugs as I closed the loop on the Long Trail.
The day began with the last long, steep climb of the trail, up to Jay Peak. Despite the warning of ruggedness from the southbounder yesterday, the trail up to the peak was no more rugged than any other steep climb with some small rock scrambling thrown in. About halfway up, I took a short side trail to a ski slope with a view, and then resumed the climb up to the highest point for the rest of the trail.
As I reached the summit (flanked by two memorial benches, one of them conveniently placed in the middle of a tiny swamp), I met Andrew, head of social media for the Jay Peak Ski Resort, who took a quick video of me at the summit. Also there were a group setting up for youth rock climbing lessons. Given the terrain and the time so far, I decided to forego peak-bagging Big Jay. I can always come back and get it later.
I took advantage of the restroom and trash can in the ski lodge (and contemplated buying a celebratory bottle of soda for the end of the hike, but the $2.75/bottle made that not happen). From the peak, the trail continued down a steep ski slope, before reentering the woods, going through the Jay State Forest, and making a steep, slick, rocky, and rooty descent down the mountain towards the Laura Woodward Shelter.
Already there were Moe and Mugs, as well as two other hikers (I later learned were named Hansel and Gretel). The sun came out for a short while, allowing my boots and socks to slightly dry out. While I was there, Zippy hiked up. While she had been ahead of me since Birch Glen over a week ago, she got off the trail for a few days, and was back today to finish the trail, and by slackpacking, no less! Sometime Never and I concluded that the southbounder we talked to yesterday must have just been out of trail shape, since the climb up and down Jay Peak wasn't out of the ordinary for the Long Trail.
Gradually, everyone else in our group of five showed up at the shelter, and then left, roughly in the order they arrived, and the second steep climb of the day began, up to Doll Peak and then down to Shooting Star Shelter. With the end of the trail nearly in sight, I didn't really remember too much about this section, except that for a few rough patches, it was fairly easy hiking.
I was hoping a bit more from Shooting Star. It was just an ordinary shelter, and didn't have any views — not even of the sky — so I felt it didn't really live up to its name. As at Laura Woodward, I got my boots a tiny bit drier, and people showed up and left, and we headed towards the final climb: Carleton Mountain.
After crossing the trail's last road crossing, VT 105, I passed Sometime Never, who had met up with his dad and brother, and the trail became much steeper than the elevation profile seemed to indicate. Still, it was a relatively short climb, up to the mountain with little in the way of views. From there, it was pretty much smooth sailing to the northern terminus.
I reached Line Post 592, an obelisk mounted on a concrete base, on the border demarcation cleaning between the United States and Canada, at 4:12 pm, on the 25th day since I left Williamstown, Massachusetts, completing my thru-hike of the Long Trail. Zippy was already there, and over the next half hour, everyone else showed up: Moe and Mugs; Sometime Never and his father and brother; and Anne.
Apparently, I packed the perfect amount of water for today's hike: I ran out right as I reached the clearing around the terminus. Other people were in a similar situation. Zippy discovered, in the last of her water, a live salamander that she apparently picked up when she got water at Shooting Star!
While I didn't have celebratory soda like I'd had desired, I did have celebratory chocolate: I picked up a bar of chocolate in Johnson that was supposed to be extra snacks, which turned out to be not necessary. So I spread the chocolate around so I wouldn't have to eat the whole bar myself.
After posing for a group photo, Zippy, Moe, Mugs, and I headed off down the (well hidden) Journey's End Trail, which leads to the Journey's End Camp, and eventually, to the trailhead. Zippy rushed off to the water source, hoping to reunite the salamander with a body of water, but, sadly, it didn't make it.
I stayed in the shelter at Journey's End, a nice four-sided structure with an actual latching door (rather than using hooks to secure the door from either side), and Sometime Never and his family tented in the woods. I sat around the campfire the made and chatted with them for awhile — they were also nice enough to share a beer with me, so, I did at last get a celebratory carbonated drink of one kind or another.
Off to bed early. Tomorrow: the short hike down the remainder of the Journey's End Trail to the trail, where a shuttle will take me to Essex Junction. From there, a twelve hour train ride back home.