Woman and man holding beer by sign marking northern terminus of New England Trail, near Royalston, Mass.Today’s hike – our NET finale – was convoluted, as we started out from the Royalston Falls trailhead. Technically, as this hike consists of us moving northbound every day, but hiking southbound, we should have started from the northern terminus. And that terminus is just .7 miles up the path from Royalston Falls trailhead. But we didn’t want to do that, since we wanted to end the day triumphantly marching to the northern terminus. So we started our southbound hike at this trailhead near Royalston Falls.

I suppose it was fitting that this day turned out to be another long, harder-than-expected day. Because this trail seems to have fought with us the entire time. So, according to my NET maps, we had just 16 miles left to hike. After numerous days of +20 miles, we figured that would be easy. So we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit, then drove to the trailhead.

Heading out from Royalston Falls

According to the maps, we’d be hiking 14.6 miles southbound, shuttling the cars, then finishing the last .7-mile piece of trail northbound. That sounded good.

Well, 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 in this area of the NET loved to build trail, but unfortunately he 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.

While Tom gave us good intel, he was chatty, so we didn’t get started until 10 a.m. That would come back to haunt us later. Anyway, 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 beautiful golds, reds and oranges.

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.

Maps Not Accurate

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 had planned on.

So that meant we got to our little .7-mile out-and-back (1.4 miles total) at Royalston Falls 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.

Concluding Our NET Hike

One last duty remained: shuttling Parks’ car to a campground a few miles up the road. The plan is for him to pick it up sometime in the next few days, when he finishes the trail. Once we dropped it off, we returned for our final night at the Hampton Inn Hadley-Amherst.

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. However, 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: 46,785
Steps to Date: 600,464
Flights Walked: 159
Flights to Date: 2,093


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©2018 Melanie McManus – All Rights Reserved

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