Correction: Last time-only 3.5 miles to the end of the first part of the day
Further along the trail we see a marker for the Old Greenwood Mine, which we thought was a garnet mine, but find out from the guidebook was a magnetite ore mine. The ore was used during the Civil War for local furnaces to turn into pig iron to send to the West Point foundry to make the famous Parrott gun shells.
Two poles click rapidly down a short rocky decent behind us and we turn to see a hiker moving faster than anyone we’ve seen so far. We do not want to interrupt his focus and rhythm, but he obliges us with his name and state. His bright red hair and beard, not to mention vibrant energy, are obvious clues to the origin of his trail name: Neon, from Vermont.
Within minutes, a lone female hiker, also moving at a pace faster than most, slows as she passes and tells us her trail name is Rabbit. She is headed for Lake Tiorati for a swim, her second swim of the day-the first at Island Pond-to cool down in this intense heat.
Reaching a fenced in water tower signals that today’s hike is close to an end. A woman and her young son are hiking in the other direction. We learn he is eight years old and that they are hiking to the shelter we passed earlier. I overhear her remind him that last time they hiked one half mile to the shelter and today they will hike one and a half miles and next time two and a half miles. The kid size backpack he carries is full with a sleeping mat attached, but does not impede his eager energy. She is as full of life as he is! Watching them makes me wish I had done such things with my own kids, now fully grown. Then I remember the overnight hike on the AT scheduled next month with my adult son as my requested 60th birthday gift. The two of us have not spent two full days together since he was very young, but never too late to bring a new adventure into a relationship.
The trail meets the road, and it takes a minute to decide which way to go. We join several people walking along a path following the road, and we can see the lake peeking through the trees. Shortly, we see the parking lot and find our way to the car. First priority-get our sweaty feet out of these boots! Next priority- restroom! Then we move on to the lake and wade into the cool water. Ahhhh…. Only a few people are scattered across the beach since closing time is near. But enough time remains to recline and relax on the bed of soft sand. So sublime to be supine! The water calls our feet for one more dip and then we head back to the car. Next stop: our third visit to the Tuxedo Junction restaurant for a burger and sweet potato fries before the trip home. The 2 ½ hour trip home feels overwhelming and I wonder if I am too tired to make it. I will stop along the way if I get too sleepy to drive safely. But I put an audio book in the CD player and time passes quickly. We hiked 5.2 miles today with 5 hours of driving time to get there and back.
It feels good to arrive home by 10:30 PM. I am exhausted but have a hard time falling to sleep. My head aches, most likely from dehydration due to the heat and humidity today. I also have mild indigestion-again, possibly from dehydration, or maybe the fries. Next morning I hurt everywhere-calves, hips, shoulders-but am glad we did the hike. And my most worrisome body part-that sensitive foot-feels fine! But I am relieved that we did not do the planned overnight and nine-mile trip today! Some things happen for a reason.