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Sherman wakes up in the middle of the night, crawls out from under the quilt and goes to the shelter opening. He sits and lets out a very quiet guttural growl. I turn on my headlamp and shine it out into the woods. About 100 feet away, behind a bush, I see a form moving down the trail to the creek. It’s bigger than Sherman. Maybe a small bear? Can’t see it. Can’t be sure. Sherman comes back under the quilt.

I seem to be sleeping for a deep sleep cycle and then waking up. I lay awake awhile and then go for another deep dive, then wake up. Round and round it goes. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks. It happened last year on the John Muir Trail also. Odd. And interesting. I wake up at 5:45 am. We get up to pee. It’s too cold to get up. We crawl back under the quilt and warm up. About 6:30 the sky starts to lighten. We get up. The thermometer on my pack says it’s in the low 20’s. It’s definitely cold! I start to organize our gear and food. I leave the quilt out so Sherman can lay down on it. He wants to be up with us. In 10 minutes he’s shaking. I pick him up and his nose is warm. He’s belly is warm. Not sure why he’s shivering. I sit down on the quilt and wrap him up on my lap. He stops shivering. I wrap him up in the quilt and go back to organizing. He gets up to watch and he starts to shiver again. I hold him and wrap him up again. He stops shivering. I wrap him up and he stays covered this time. I offer him food and he isn’t interested. I finish organizing, put Sherman’s pack on, put the quilt in it’s stuff sack and load the pack. Then we’re on the trail. The LAST DAY!

Sherman is warm once we’re hiking. Me too. I notice that I think that the trail will be mostly downhill. I look at the elevation profile on my phone. YIKES! It’s going to be a lot of uphill, and then some downhill, then some more uphill to the end of the trail, and then downhill to the trailhead.

So, off we go with my sore knee. It feels pretty good. There are occasional large lakes on the trail in places. I don’t want Sherman to be wet in the cold, so I pick him up and carry him as I hop from rock to rock around or through the water.

As we get back up to around 2000 feet there is same snow left on the ground. There are a few steep climbs and descents, but they are pretty short. In 2 hours we reach the end of the trail.

fullsizeoutput_24ebThe sign says welcome, because over 90% of the thru-hikers go NOBO — northbound — starting here on the MA/VT border.

fullsizeoutput_24eeHere we are proving that we really were at the southern terminus sign on the border of Vermont and Massachusetts. And yes, of course, it’s on a 2400 foot peak!

There’s a sign near the terminus one that says the Pine Cobble Trail splits off the Appalachian Trail in 1.1 miles. The Long Trail has ended, and is no more.

In a mile we go right onto the Pine Cobble Trail. It’s now 3 miles to the trailhead parking lot. Then about a mile to Williamstown. We are soon in very different terrain. It’s rocky. It’s steep.

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The clim runs a ridge up to Pine Cobble. A rock outcropping with a big vista.

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Here, in Massachusetts, another type of rock has appeared. It’s very hard and smooth. Some pieces are like polished white glass. I didn’t see this new rock type until I’d slipped a few times.

fullsizeoutput_24fbAfter a slide I pushed the leaves aside to get a better look and found that about half the jumbled rocks were this new type. Sure looks and feels like marble…

Then down, down, down more steep rocky slopes.

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Eventually we reach the gradual downward slope that leads to trailhead parking. This tough downhill has stressed my knee. It is now officially… sore…!

I stop to see if I have cell signal. I do. I check the Map to see how far we are from the motel where the van is parked. Ouch. It’s a mile further than I guesstimated. Well, we can hitchhike when we get to the road. That’ll be the last 1.5 miles.

There’s not a good place to stand and hitch, so I choose to walk toward the motel and put out my thumb as cars approach. We’ve walked half way when a pickup that had already driven by and turned around, pulls up and asks where we’re going. I tell him and he open the back door for us to get in. It’s a 5 minute drive. Yet a 20-30 minute walk. Thank you!

I go into motel to thank the owner for letting me leave the van and to introduce him to Sherman, whom he hadn’t met when I checked in. Then to the van to load the gear. Then we are on the road back to Bristol.

I stop in Bennington for a cup of coffee and a burrito to eat in the van. Then we are headed back to basecamp; our dear friends, Bob Compton and Christine Homer’s home. We could not have had the hike we had without their emotional and logistical support.

When we get back there’s a sign on the door congratulating us for our accomplishment. They have invited friends over for dinner who are related to Frog Hollow, an art center nearby and who have been section hiking The Long Trail. After a lovely dinner and conversation Sherman and I go to a long sleep.