Preparations began the night before, placing the rain jacket, snacks and other gear into the day pack. Batteries charged, camera ready and clothes set aside. I needed to do all of this the night before as the trailhead was two and a half hours away. I woke at 5am, and trudged down the stairs to the car, hopped in and began the journey.
In the car I ate breakfast and watched the sun rise along the side of the highway. A long while later I arrived at the trailhead. A couple of hikers just began their way down the path so I took my time getting ready, preferring to leave a little space. I extended my poles, tossed the pack on my back and walked around the car, ensuring the lights were off and the doors were locked.
The trail began extremely flat. And straight. Onwards I trudged through the woods, surrounded by birch trees. Sounds of water rose from the gully new the path and after a bit more than a mile there were a few waterfalls. A small trickle rising far above, and a more rapid moving stream of them just below. After a short break I continued and the trail began gaining elevation.
The climb continued with a reasonable grade, which very slowly increased as the trail progressed deeper into the forest. Soon the Bucklin Trail that I was hiking along came to a junction with The Long Trail, and just a few tenths of a mile further was a shelter with tent pads nearby and a fair number of hikers, some thru-hiking the entirety of the Long Trail. From here it was only a couple more tenths of a mile to the summit, but at a much steeper place.
From descriptions I was expecting to be using my hands to scramble up this part of the trail, though to my delight it was more like a crazy uneven rock stairs. Not purpose built, just up and up and up it went. I turned to look behind myself, and the view was so powerful I almost tipped over. Shortly after I was on the summit.
There were probably two dozen other hikers at the top when I arrived and I did my best to stay out of the way while I found a place to sit and rest. Munching on cookies and crackers and watching time pass with large puffy clouds swaying in the sky. For nearly an hour I sat there, taking a few pictures and even tossing earbuds in for a session of meditation. It was a little more distracting than sessions at home, but I still got a lot from the session!
The knees did ache a bit on the way down, barely getting to the lodge. I am not sure if I just push myself harder when hiking alone or perhaps my mind is less distracted so I feel the pain more? It is also possible that I put the compression sleeves on too late, still learning! That said the pain wasn’t unbearable, it was just there and I continued on down knowing the last miles are nice and flat.
As I trudged out of the woods to the car I realized my keys were not in my pocket, and I knew I locked the doors from the walk around. Though I didn’t panic as I’ve done this many times throughout my life and had a backup plan.