I had an alarm set for 6 am, which would give me enough time to get up, get packed, and continue just under a mile down the Journey’s End Trail to get picked up by a shuttle service and taken to Burlington. However, shortly before my alarm went off, I was awoken by the sound of rain. Fortunately, the rain didn’t last very long, and it had long since stopped by 6:45, when I began the last bit of hiking of my Long Trail thru-hike.
The remainder of the Journey’s End Trail was a gentle downhill. Along the way, I passed by a random privy in the woods; I suspect this was the site of the original Journey’s End Camp, before it was dismantled in 2004 and the current one built. About eight-tenths of a mile of hiking with a rather light pack (almost empty of food, and with no water, it was the lightest pack I’ve had in a long while) brought me to the end of the trail, and another two-tenths of a mile down Journey’s End Road brought me to a second parking area.
My driver from Jay Way Jitney arrived at 7:15, right on time. I shouldn’t have been surprised that his dog was in the back seat — this was the third time this hike I’ve shared a car with a dog — but like the other two dogs I’ve ridden with, he was pretty chill and spent most of the drive lounging around on the back seat.
It was an uneventful drive to the Amtrak station at Essex Junction, and, with my train back to Maryland arriving at 9:45, we got there with plenty of time to spare. I stopped by a convenience store and grabbed something that passed for a breakfast sandwich (since my glacial pace this morning had left me with no time to actually eat breakfast at the shelter).
The weather was amazing during the wait for the train, which arrived on schedule. (Essex Junction was the train’s second stop, so it would have been surprising if the train was already late.) Being the “Vermonter”, the train made quite a few stops in Vermont (especially), Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Shortly before noon, I got a sandwich on the train for lunch, and only a few hours later, for the first time this hike, the hiker hunger struck — by mid-afternoon, I was hungrier than I had been at any point on the trail. This was pretty surprising, since I’d spent most of the day asleep, sitting in a car, or sitting on the train. I wound up getting dinner early: around 4:30!
The train made it to New York City sometime after 6 pm, and after a 20-minute layover during which most of the train’s passengers turned over, we sped off toward Washington DC. Now an express train, we finally picked up speed. Despite being “sold out”, the train car I was in never seemed more than half-full, and though I kept the seat next to me relatively open before NYC, afterwards, when it was clear no one would be likely to need the seat, I stretched out across both seats.
The rest of the ride back to Maryland was fairly uneventful, though presumably due to the rain we started to go through, the train gradually slipped behind schedule, and arrived at Union Station in DC about 15 minutes late.
My original plan had been to get off at New Carrolton, just outside of DC, where Andrew and Monica would pick me up. Unfortunately, they wound up being unavailable, so after some back and forth earlier in the day with a few friends, I arranged for a ride with Greg, who coincidentally would be in DC for an event in the evening. I met Greg and his wife, Kate, at the Union Station Metro station, and after a short ride to Silver Spring, and a short walk to a parking garage, we arrived at Greg's car. Conveniently, Greg and Kate lived near Andrew and Monica, so we took a quick detour to their house to drop Kate off, stopped by Andrew’s house so I could pick up my keys, after which Greg drove me the rest of the way to my home. (Thanks, Greg, and Kate, for the last minute ride!)
And now, a little more than twenty-six and a half days from when I left to catch a bus to Williamstown, MA, and with another 280 miles of hiking on my belt, I’m back home. Time to relax for a bit, and plan for the next hike!