Monday, August 19, 2013

Long Trail Field Notes #8

On The Custodial Spirit, and the Excellence of Eric St. Jean and Eva Malone

Several days into my Long Trail trek, I met two 23 year old hikers who had a similar pace to my own: a lovely couple from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Eric St. Jean and Eva Malone. I was hiking up Bromley Mountain, a pretty ski mountain covered in a meadow of wildflowers, and at the top, near the ski lift, sat Eric and Eva, with a pizza (!) they'd carried to the top. When they offered me a slice I yawped with joy. Fast friends.

(Eva, Eric, and Bruce, an Appalachian Trail hiker and fellow pizza lover.)

Eva and Eric and I managed to hike in synch with one another throughout many of the days, sometimes chatting as we hiked, sometimes simply hiking near one another in mellow silence. When The Long Trail split with the Appalachian Trail, after 104 miles, Eva had to get off, due to a foot injury. She's a great hiker and a bright spirit, but the intensity of her injury required her to make the wise decision to finish the remaining undone section of The Long Trail at a future time, when she's healed.

So, a little bummed, Eric and I moseyed forward, into the mud and rain. We set our tents up alongside each other and spurred each other onward through some gnarly weather, tough terrain, and achy legs. Eric is a quicker hiker and would usually get to a peak several minutes before me. I'd yell to him to "reel me up!" He'd yell "You got it, Matty!" We'd often walk within eyesight or earshot of each other for hours in quiet, just appreciating the sounds of streams and thrushes and the feeling of cool breezes on our necks.

A few days ago, in high winds and damp weather, we came to the top of another ski mountain area, called Smuggler's Notch. At the mountaintop sat a nice looking warming hut and we decided to see if it was open, even though it was summer and there was no ski snow to be found. Wouldn't you know...the door was unlocked and we went right in. 

(Eric in front of our happy warming hut.)

But to our dismay, we found the place utterly trashed inside. A large group of hooligans had very recently driven up a Jeep trail and had a clandestine party in the hut. Garbage, spilled beer, and broken bottles were strewn everywhere inside. It made us both sad. So we decided we'd do what we could to tidy it up. There was a large garbage pail and a broom and we got to work. After an hour or so we had the place looking pretty spiffy. We'd thrown out all the refuse that was strewn around and as we cleaned we found 1/2 a chocolate bar, 1/2 a bag of marshmallows, a package of hotdogs, some buns, and a bottle of ketchup. We considered this booty our reward for a good cleanup job and we proceeded to make hot chocolate and cook the hotdogs on our camping stoves. I dried the slightly soggy buns over the stove flames while the dogs cooked, which made Eric laugh like hell. Very tasty cookout! Our bellies full and our good deed done, we slept soundly in the windproof mountaintop hut.

Two days before the end of The Long Trail we ran into a southbound Long Trailer who was having some aches and pains and asked if we had any ibuprofen, since she'd run out. Eric gave her a nice pile of Advil and in return she told us about a secret camping spot up ahead next to a pretty pond that was great for swimming. This was pure trail magic. We hiked the rest of the day, found the nice little spot, called Ritterbush Pond, and swam to our hearts' delight.

(Ritterbush Pond, great for swimming.)

(Eric feasts using his new "woodland chopsticks.")

We had a great sunset meal and camped on a little covered dock looking out over the water. When it rained through the night we stayed dry and happy.

Yesterday, as I approached the northern end of The Long Trail, Eric, who had arrived there a few minutes before me, yelled, "Run it, Matty!" And I charged to the end, bellowing with glee. It was great to share the joy of completion with a new friend.

(Northern Terminus of The Long Trail.)

(Eric sings "Oh, Canada!" at the wilderness border between the U.S.A. and Canada, just a few feet away from the northern end of The Long Trail.)

Eva drove for hours from New Hampshire and met us at the trail terminus. We jumped in her car and proceeded to the lovely town of Stowe, Vermont, where there was a warm inn Eva had booked for us. Much feasting and laughter ensued. This morning they drove me to the Amtrak station in Waterbury, Vermont, where I hopped on the Vermonter train, to ride back to New York. Goodbye for now, Eric and Eva. Thanks for everything and I'll see y'all soon.

(Eric and Eva at the railway station.)

1 comment:

Mary B said...

Wish I could have seen you :-(
We live 18 miles from the Notch..So you have to do the trail again...I'm glad you enjoyed your adventure and the beauty Vermont has to offer. We went up to the nose of Mt. Mansfield yesterday and it amazes me that Underhill State Park is three miles away from my house. I just love it up here! Come again!