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Gathering Em off the Appalachian Trail

Bangor, Maine & Salisbury, Mass.
August 9-10, 2019

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Earlier in the summer, as Em made her way up the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, I got the idea that it might be fun to fly out and spend a few days on the trail with her. Maybe surprise her, maybe on her birthday. I DM'd her trailmate, Rachel, and asked if she would help coordinate, and she liked the idea.

But as the summer wore on, it became harder to pin down exactly where they would be on August 9. They hewed pretty true to the trail across most of Virginia. Then they took to aqua-blazing, hopping into canoes on the Shenendoah River and drifting downstream to Harper's Ferry. From there, they took a bus out to Washington DC to visit Gabby.

And things got a little haphazard.

At one point, they were back on the trail, and at Gettysburg. Then they were in New York City. And then suddenly in New Hampshire's White Mountains. They were nearing Mt Katahdin, the end of the trail, and it was only early August.

You'd better hurry up and get here, Rachel texted me. The trip was winding down.

And then, just a couple days before my flight, Rachel texted from Acadia National Park: "She's really done."

Time to break the surprise. I told Em I was on my way, and I think that boosted her spirits for the last few days. I flew a redeye from SFO to Boston the night before her birthday, rented a car at Logan, and headed up to Maine.

In the end, a heavy summer rain on the day they had a permit to climb Katahdin prevented them even from that final finish.

I found them at a Dairy Queen on the outskirts of Bangor, next to the spot where they had returned the U-Haul truck they had been living in the last few days. We loaded their stinky backpacks into the back, and all clambered into the little SUV, and we headed south to Salisbury, Mass., where I'd rented a couple motel rooms for the night.

After everyone had showered and washed the trail off them, we made our way out to Brown's Lobster Pound, just over the border into New Hampshire, for Em's birthday dinner.