I wake before 7 AM and the lodge is silent and completely empty, except for the caretaker quietly putting clean linens on the bunks for new arrivals later today. I was sleeping fantastically and never heard a thing as the full house of hikers woke, packed, and left on the shuttle for Baxter State Park. I shower before heading to the Appalachian Trail Café for breakfast.
As I sit in the café, a couple guys sit at the booth next to me. We start talking. They are rafting guides and offer me a ride to Bangor International Airport since they are headed that way. Awesome, saves me several bucks not taking the lodge shuttle.
After eating and getting a coffee and homemade doughnut to go, we jump in the rafting van and they drive me back to the lodge so I can grab my pack and pay for my stay, then we are off. It’s a good 40-minute drive or so to the airport, but first we stop at the Post Office so I can mail my knife home. Soon we arrive at the airport, I thank them, and we part ways.
I find my seat next to the last window of the plane. When the flight attendant, serving drinks and snacks, gets to the back of the plane, she asks me if I was hiking. We, and the guy next to me, start conversation and she’s amazed. Then she offers me the full soda can.
Once we land at Reagan National Airport, she gets on the intercom for the general announcements and then proceeds to explain that “a gentleman in the back of the plane has just finished hiking the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, over 2,100 miles.” I acknowledge her extended arm and hand motion toward me, and the cabin erupts in applause. It’s pretty cool. As I exit the plane, the pilot shakes my hand and the flight attendant congratulates me again and compliments my legs. Thank you, thank you.
I make my way to the metro, bound for Shady Grove. I arrive at Shady Grove and I’m greeted inside the station by Lindsay and the boys. Lindsay is so beautiful, Ryder looks so grown, his hair sun-bleached blonde, and tan skin; Beckett is so big and plump. It is so great to be back with them. I throw Ryder on my shoulders as we walk to the car. We stop for lunch on the way home.
We pull into the driveway; our home, green grass, blooming trees, and Spring flowers look amazing. We enter the front door, I drop my pack in the foyer, and notice the newly framed AT map hanging on the wall. We go straight to the backyard to play. It feels good to be home…for a long time.