According to my NET maps, we had just 16 miles left to hike. After numerous days of +20 miles, that should be easy. We allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit, then drove to the trailhead.
Today called for hiking 14.6 miles southbound, shuttling the cars, then finishing the last piece of trail northbound. That’s because the last bit of the trail is a .7-mile walk into the Royalston Falls area, where the trail officially ends in the middle of the woods at the border with New Hampshire. (Another trail continues on from there, but it’s not the NET.)
As soon as we stepped onto the trail, a trail volunteer did, too. His name was Tom, and we learned two interesting things. One was that another volunteer loved to build trail, but wasn’t good at it. He often ran trails up and down steep hills without employing switchbacks. (Groan!) The other was that he liked to constantly re-route trails.
Tom was chatty, so we didn’t get started until 10 a.m. The hiking here was just lovely. The footing was largely soft pine needles and moss, so different than the rocks in Connecticut and a few other spots in Massachusetts. We passed lots of burbling brooks and enjoyed looking at the foliage, which is just starting to turn.
At one point we ran into another couple. I thought it was Keith and Karen at first, the Florida hikers we met with Parks a few days ago, but it was Dan and Ruth. They live in the Finger Lakes area (NY) and recently completed all of the North Country Trail.
Moving on, this area of the trail is well-marked, with lots of signs indicating the distance to the next road crossing. After a few hours, we saw a sign indicating that Alexander Hill Road, where our car was parked, was farther away than the map indicated. Not again! We figured from what Tom said that the other volunteer must have re-routed a lot of trail somewhat recently, and that the maps didn’t reflect this. We ended up hiking three more miles in this section than we planned on.
So that meant we got to our little .7-mile out-and-back (1.4 miles total) at 6:30 p.m. We hurried in without our packs, and much to our dismay there was no northern terminus sign – just a sign saying we were now in New Hampshire, and the distance of locations that lay ahead. Oh well. We took pix anyway and split a celebratory beer.
On our way back to the car, we took a .3-mile detour to see Royalston Falls, but the detour was poorly marked and we could only see a tiny portion of the falls (we were probably in the wrong spot). We couldn’t spend any more time looking for a better vantage point, though, because it was quickly getting dark. We reached our cars just as night fell.
We shuttled Parks’ car to a campground a few miles up the road; he’ll pick it up sometime in the next few days, when he finishes the trail.
Thus ended our thru-hike of the New England National Scenic Trail. We enjoyed the majority of our time, but we did find the hiking difficult. But it’s the difficult things in life that often prove the most rewarding, isn’t it?
Snowshoe and Stubs
Map Miles: 16
Map Miles to Date: 231.6
iPhone Miles: 18.8
iPhone Miles to Date: 237.8
Steps to Date: 600,464
Flights Walked: 159
Flights to Date: 2,093