**This a continuation of the story of my 2017 hike**
I woke up around 4:20 this morning and mentally tossed and turned until the owner knocked on our door to announce breakfast. There’s no actual tossing when you have a freshly broken elbow and a bedfellow you don’t want to smack with your splint. We received the knock because I didn’t feel like having another breakfast spent staring at the kitchen floor so we paid for the meal offered by Caratunk House. Cotton managed to rouse herself from bed and joined us all in the dining room at a table full of freshly cooked food. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but I know there were long awkward stretches, and I continued to feel the strain of having no hiking future to discuss with people who were understandably focused on everything around the bend. After clearing our plates, we made our way through the slow process of packing up. I did as much I could without Cotton’s help, and I silently appreciated her ability to let me struggle until called upon to literally lend a hand. I’m not proud of it, but I have a distinct memory of loathing the hiker who stayed in the room adjacent to ours because she slept through breakfast (strike 1, and yes, I’m judgmental), she swooped into the bathroom to apply her makeup right as I was about to use it (strike 2, who needs makeup for hiking?), and she had the ability to keep hiking (strike 3, not her fault, but a fact I still resented).
During our checkout process, one of the caretakers called me “macho.” For whatever reason, this comment made me feel indignant, perhaps because it was delivered by a cisgendered man and said with an air of disapproval. I replied firmly with an attempt at jolliness that I would have chosen the word “stubborn,” and that I was “merely doing what I needed to do to keep from completely falling apart before it was safe to do so.” Could I have skipped the 14 miles and started the trek back to NY a day earlier? Yes. Did I want to do anything that would get me closer to leaving the trail? Nope. Did I really, really want to feel the satisfaction of all those zeros in a tally of 1,000 miles? Indeed. But that has nothing to do with hyper-masculinity. Vanity is probably more accurate.
As we took a left turn onto Highway 201 south towards Cotton’s current life and my first stop on the way to Brooklyn, I saw a little green traffic sign with the white silhouette of two hikers indicating that a trail crossing was nearby (the AT, in this case). I turned to stare at the quickly shrinking symbol, not knowing when I would see another one of those signs on foot. Thus began crying jag number one for the day! Cotton and I made the ride to Vermont in our usual manner of me asking too many questions, Cotton obligingly answering them, and both of us wandering off into our heads for comfortable stretches of silence. We decided to make a pit stop in Portland, ME for lunch. I can’t remember if the decision was made on a whim or if I posed the question the night before, but in a fit of nostalgia and wanderlust, I asked Cotton if we could take a ferry ride. She agreed with gusto, and that’s how we found ourselves on an afternoon ferry ride, to which island, I can’t quite remember. Down at the ferry docks, I immediately felt constricted by the presence of too.many.people. The culture shock was stronger than I had expected and more noticeable than any of my previous trips back to civilization through NYC and Boston. But I welcomed the open air, and I do love me a boat ride on a beautiful day, so I made the best of it without crying in public.
The rest of the ride is a blur. We got to Cotton’s modest and comfortable abode in the early evening. She settled me in to her guest futon and gave me some privacy to make a phone call that of course involved more crying. I went to bed that night feeling so lost and in a fair amount of pain from my throbbing arm. Among all of the sadness was an intense feeling of gratitude for my friend who continued to weather my mood swings with grace and made me as comfortable as she could.
Mileage: 0 trail miles.
Mileage by car: approximately 350 give or take a side trip or two.
Total miles: 1000.1
Creature feature: too many humans!