Where we left off: we all snuggled in, I set my alarm for 4:30 AM and stuffed it under my pillow; I didn’t want to wake the whole bunk up two hours before the official wake up time.
My second night in the bunks wasn’t as pleasant as it had been the previous night. Maybe it was the slightly less fluffy mattress or not being exhausted, but I tossed and turned frequently. It was most likely the anticipation of having to wake up early and the solo journey that I sought before the sun came up. But by 4 AM I knew that I hadn’t slept enough and that the hike out would be tough. I turned off my alarm before it could ring and I tried to rest until the wake up call…
…which of course didn’t happen. I was up before six having to go to the bathroom and on my way back, I noticed that just about everyone in the hut was up moving around. My pack was ready to go from the night before so I took my time getting dressed and soaked up the view outside before breakfast.
Breakfast was again family style and this time I knew to anticipate pancakes, so I loaded up on the oatmeal. We didn’t stay long after the meal and set out before any other group; we had fifteen miles to cover!
The first ascent of the day was up South Twin Mountain. It was a short distance- less than a mile- and as a member of the Croo said, it wasn’t difficult, just steep. We were the first ones on the summit for the day and the clouds were starting to clear as the sun began to shine. We snapped a couple of photographs but didn’t stay for long because we didn’t know what was to come and wanted to have plenty of daylight ahead of us. The section of trail between South Twin and Mount Guyot was the last of Appalachian Trail that we would see on this journey and was pretty easy ground to cover. I found myself pulling away from the other two, lost in my mind. The Earth was very green in sections and my thoughts began to wander. It was a great section for reflection.
The next section of the hike was extremely difficult for me. The trail was by no means hard, but my body just didn’t want to move at the pace I had anticipated. I was thankful this early on in the trip that I hadn’t gotten up early to hike the additional miles because I don’t know if I could have physically completed the day. I remember sitting down fast to grab a snack before heading off in the direction of West Bond. This too was a short hike but by the time I reached the rocky summit, I was sweating and my ears were on fire. Doh! I thought I was going delirious but in reality, I was just getting a sunburn. Ouch!
I knew once we reached the summit of Mount Bond, we’d have views similar to day one. I kept on trekking for that last mile or so, focusing on putting one foot in front of another until the trees cleared and I could clearly see where we were headed: Bondcliff.I rarely want to cry on the trail- mostly because I’m afraid of heights and get myself in a hairy situation- but I had to hold back the tears that afternoon. I was in awe. I was so happy. I was sad that I couldn’t share this moment with any member of my family. I’ve thought about that often lately, that no one in my family hikes and will never see the breathtaking views that I have seen. The pictures don’t do it justice. I just wanted to sit down on the side of this mountain and take it in for hours. Or at least while I ate lunch. But I didn’t, I moved forward and upward until we finally reached the summit of Bondcliff.
Of course we all ran over to check out the famous cliff that everyone gets their photograph taken on. I almost passed out just looking at it. I ran over to the other side of the summit to take Jeremy’s photograph and again, couldn’t look as I clicked away because he stood up up there! Paula at first had no interest going out but quickly changed her mind and crept out. And hung her legs over the side! Let me tell you, my hands are sweaty just typing this out. I felt queasy and insisted I got the photograph so that she’d retreat from the edge. Now, it was my turn. I was sweating. I was shaking. I was staring at the ground while crawling on my hands and knees. I could barely look up to get the token shot and felt like I was going to vomit as I stepped away from the edge. Done! I did one thing that day that scared me.
We all plopped down to enjoy a bite to eat, stare off at what we had accomplished the last three days, and rest for what was about to come. But we didn’t sit for too long. We had the summit all to ourselves and did not want to leave, but we had a nine mile hike out to the car. Nine miles! With that, I said my silent goodbyes to the peaks and promised that I’d come back to see that view one day, and down we went.
The trail wasn’t nearly as steep/difficult as I had anticipated. It was rocky and there were switchbacks, but overall, it was a nine mile walk out to the car. Once we reached the old logging road, the trail was flat and a lot easier on our feet. I was in go-mode because my feet were aching, so I turned on some music and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. We all walked separately at our own speeds soaking up the last of this journey. Before I knew it, I was crossing the river to the parking lot and made the decision to soak my tired toes a little. The water was freezing but helped prevent further cramping. Within four hours we covered those nine miles and there was still daylight!