Day 13 Canterbury to Concord
Each night when we unpacked our gear in our hotel I was very careful to lean both of my trekking poles, into a corner of the room so that neither of us would trip on them if we got up during the night. Usually I leaned them with the handles facing up. Last night, however, I set them with the tips up against the walls.
In the morning when I went to grab my poles I realized that the tips had worn through to the metal bases. Using these poles for every single step of almost 180 miles had done a job on the hard plastic knobs. I had used them on level ground for balance, on inclines to help pull me up, and had leaned on them during descents as a way to off load some weight from my legs. You could see how the tips had been worn unevenly. Tilted, like the steep bank of the roads we had been walking.
I was lucky that I had thought to pack an extra pair of tips at the beginning of our walk and I was even luckier that those tips had survived the multiple purges we had made along the way. I switched the tips while Griffin applied ointment, bandages, and what seemed like miles and miles of hiking tape to his feet. I’d have to remember to get some more of that tape when I could.
Griffin and I made our way to the hotels breakfast room. Knowing that we were close enough to spend nights (and presumably breakfasts) at home going forward, we had our last breakfast of pre-made batter waffles and watered down orange juice. Each of us grabbed an apple from the bowl in the lobby for later and returned to our room to once again put on our packs and start the day.
We were just at the outskirts of Concord, the capital of New Hampshire. We began seeing houses, businesses, car dealerships. We smelled exhaust, breakfast sandwiches, and coffee in the air. Instead of walking on the road, as we had previously done, we walked on the sidewalk and stopped waving at cars when we realized no one was waving back. Horns honked in agitation of fellow drivers – no longer in motivation of us.
The traffic was loud, there were too many things to see, and an anticipation of being in a place where we actually knew the streets kept us busy looking for well-known landscapes.
And we had internet – sweet, sweet consistent internet. Griffin checked his favorite discussion boards. He played Pokemon Go, catching virtual creatures along the way.
We didn’t talk much.
I checked my voice mail. There was a message from the New Hampshire Governor’s office and one from U.S. Senator Ayotte’s office. They had heard about our walk, was there a time when we would be able to meet with each of them?
We came across a pharmacy and were going to go in when I spotted the easily recognizable blue and white Walmart sign up the street. “Let’s go there instead,” I told Griffin thinking that there might be a better selection of ankle braces and tape.
Griffin had made liberal use of gum during the days when we went miles (and hours) between meals. Yesterday he had told me that his gum supply was getting low. “If you see any, can you pick it up?”
Sure, enough inside the Walmart I picked up an ankle brace, tape, and Griffin got his container of gum.
Ask and you shall receive.
It was almost too easy.
On a black metal bench outside of Walmart, I put the brace on. I didn’t know if it would help, but I figured it would probably ease the swelling. This little baby made for three braces on my body. I looked like the proverbial train wreck. Three more braces than when I had started this walk. Three elasticized pieces of fabric holding my body together.
My body had gotten stronger and more broken at the same time.
Just before we entered Concord, we stopped at a local playground for a break. We made our way through the gated entrance into the play area – swings, slides, and climbing structures. Graffiti tags covered the rock walls surrounding the park -an effort by the planners to keep kids safe while they played.
We sat down at a picnic table and got out some granola bars. No sooner did Griffin open his bar and take a bite when a very friendly grey squirrel popped out from behind a tree and started to walk toward us.
“Poor little guy’s hungry” said Griffin as he broke off a bite and threw it to the squirrel. I marveled at how just a few days ago, we would have never wasted food like that, but now that food and resources were so close, it was an easy option.
I looked at the fat squirrel, his belly rolling from side to side. “I think that squirrel is smarter than he is hungry.” I said. I pulled out my apple and took a bite.
While Griffin continued to feed the squirrel, I decided that it was time for me to gather all the coins we had found on the roads during our trip (and on one red letter day even a crumpled dollar bill!) We had talked about the money, what we would do with it, and had decided to give it to the first performing artist that we saw in Concord. Digging into my packs tiny belt pockets, I gathered all the coins, pennies, a few nickels (some Canadian) and a few rare quarters, the bill and placed them in a Ziploc bag- ready to go.
It would be that much less weight for us to carry. It would be a way to share the wealth of this walk with others.
It was yet another acknowledgement that soon, our adventure would be coming to an end.
We entered the city proper. There was the glittering Capital building the crown covered in scaffolding as genuine gold leaf was being reapplied. There was the Capital front lawn where many a time we had taken the kids to political events – candidates registering for the primaries, protests against a company that had proposed a pipeline threatening to rip an ugly scar destroying public and private across 75 miles of southern New Hampshire, Farmer’s markets, street festivals, tours of the state house – Concord was a part of our family’s life.
Instead of stopping at a known restaurant we had eaten in before, we decided to try and new one and entered a Mediterranean restaurant. It was past noon and hardly anyone was there. Our waitress greeted us and led us to our table.
She asked us about our packs, why we had them, where were we going. I told her about our walk, that we had started at the Canadian border and planned to finish at the Massachusetts border.
She was amazed and wanted to hear more of our story each time she came to our table to refill our lemon-water. (Eventually when she saw how much we were drinking, she brought over a pitcher.) She kept asingk more questions. Where did we stay? Was the weather okay? A bear??? Really?
She told us that she had relatives in Pittsburg, but because she had recently moved back to the state, she hadn’t had time to visit them yet.
“You must, go and visit” I told her remembering Pittsburg’s beauty, it’s lakes, it’s scenery. “You must find the time.”
“Take your time,” said Griffin as he adjusted his body taking pressure off of his heavily blistered feet.
“Congrats! Way to Go!” She wrote on our check when it was time to pay the bill.
I paid and we left to continue our walk down Main Street. We passed a bakery. “Do you want something?” I asked Griffin. We had just had lunch and we were full, but the pastries looked so good. ‘
It was far too easy to take advantage of the availability of food. Even though we weren’t’ hungry we were still thinking about eating more food, simply because we saw it, right there in front of us. It’s how you become wasteful, it’s how you become ungrateful for what you have.
We decided not to get any bakery goods, although they looked incredible, we truly were not hungry and beside if we did get hungry we knew there would be plenty of opportunities ahead. Once again, availability creates such a different mindset from that of scarcity.
We passed Gibson’s bookstore, easily one of the more well-known bookstores in New Hampshire. “I have to stop here,” I told Griffin. It was the first bookstore I had seen since the paperback book section in Rite Aid up in Colebrook. Books to me are life blood.
I entered the store, feeling the way I felt when I entered any bookstore – full of unlimited possibilities. I picked up a recent release, felt the heft in my hands, inhaled the smell of publication. Wondered at the stories told within.
There were so many books and stories that I wanted to give a home to, but even knowing that Marc would be picking us up that evening, which meant I would only have to carry them for a few hours and then I could empty my backpack at home wasn’t worth the true price to buy a book or two.
I knew what extra weight, extra belongings felt like and I didn’t want it.
Instead I bought a tiny paperback book on Zen Peace. Declining a bag, I tucked it inside of my pack hoping that at some point in the future, it would remind me of the strength and balance I had gained by walking in New Hampshire.
(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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