If I'd stayed with my friends—with the Nature Train—I could've been partying at Nature's family's house in Massachusetts. Instead, I'm jogging across the Metro North tracks and past the Wiley Webatuck Shelter on my way to the Connecticut border. It's still early. I got out of camp before Pixie and her friends even woke up. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But I'm excited to be going home, and I'm letting the adrenaline carry me.
I see Little John at the Wiley Webatuck Shelter, and slow down to chat with him briefly. He asks me if I've seen his friends, Pixie et alia. I nod, and give him the good news. He smiles and thanks me, telling me that I get a unfairly bad rap on the trail, and that I'm a genuinely nice guy who doesn't get the respect or attention he deserves. Shucks.
I cross the border into Connecticut. I know this because the boundary is clearly marked with a sign. The trail and surrounding forest on the Connecticut side looks exactly the same as on the New York side. Although I fully realize the inherent stupidity of it, I can't help but feel strangely disappointed by this.
Breathless, I continue on, and finally reach the road. Well, a road. Without my guidebook, I have no idea if it's the right road or not. I drop my pack and scout around, looking for a sign. Like, a road sign. Anything, really. But I find none, since I apparently search in utterly the wrong direction.
My mother is late. I am completely unsurprised. However, as I check the time on my cell phone, I note with some worry that I have no signal. Which means my mom wouldn't have reception either. I hope I'm in the right place, and that she's not waiting for me at a different road crossing, and trying to call me on the phone when neither of us has coverage. But then I see the familiar silver Honda Civic, with its drab black replacement bumper proudly announcing her imminent arrival.
She pulls over, and steps out of the car. She seems to have aged two years since I saw her last. Struck by this sudden change, I falter momentarily. Until I remember that I must look like I've aged 30 years in the same amount of time. And then died. And rotted a little. But then we embrace. Quickly. No need to impose upon her my stench. And I throw my pack in the backseat, grab a half-gallon of lemonade from the cooler, and settle in for the ride home.
My return is less than triumphant. I see my friends Giovanni, Steve, and Jon. Steve doesn't believe me when I tell him what I've been doing. I immediately start looking forward to getting back on the trail.
I spend most of my time eating and drinking, and utterly failing to do anything especially social. None of my friends have parties for the Fourth of July. My dad is still recovering from his surgery, and the atmosphere in ny house is thus somewhat subdued. I go with my mom to watch the fireworks from a vantage point near my aunt's new apartment.
I end up spending a week at home. Both my parents make the drive up when they drop me back off. I'm happy and anxious to return. I've already made plans to see my parents again. We're to meet in just over two weeks in Hanover, New Hampshire.
I've brought a journal with me.
To document the last third of my journey. And the ultimate fulfillment of my not-so-secret plan. Which I still haven't forgotten about.
Pass the kumquats.