It’s been rather frenetic at the university lately, as our students began taking a series of writing and speaking exams this last week. The tests started last Wednesday and will continue through Tuesday. The teachers have been administering the speaking exams along with several Westgate staff members. We all worked on Saturday to help with the reading and writing sessions, so I stayed home on Sunday to regroup for this next week.
Today, I’m writing another Retrospective post, a follow-up to the Boston article.
After I completed the Long Trail, I spent a few days in Williamstown, MA. The Long Trail’s southern terminus is at the Vermont-Massachusetts state line, and the trail meanders to a parking lot via the Pine Cobble Trail. I had made reservations at the Williamstown Motel a few days earlier and was told by the owners to call when I got to the parking lot and someone would come and pick me up.
Finishing a trail is always a mix of emotions. I was glad to have accomplished my goal in good time (18 days) and excellent physical shape (except for 10 blisters which, by the end, had morphed into numb calluses). I felt great and was elated to have finally hiked this venerable trail, a precursor to my beloved Appalachian Trail. It had been a wonderful, challenging experience. I love backpacking. I love walking all day in the woods, living a very simple existence with everything I need on my back. I love sleeping in my tiny tent, listening to the wind in the trees, and sometimes the rain. I love sipping my coffee in the early morning, slowly waking up as the darkness ebbs away. I love breaking camp, pulling on my shoes and continuing down the trail moving toward the goal I’ve set for the day.
But I also love the satisfaction of completing my goal, enjoying the conveniences that town offers, eating different and better food, contemplating what I just finished and dreaming about the next trail.
When I got to the parking lot, I called for my ride, then enjoyed a few minutes of reflection before I was whisked off to civilization and Williamstown, MA. I stayed here for three days because I finished my hike early and had some time to spare.
I’d been to Williamstown in 2011, during my 2nd AT thru-hike, and was looking forward to another visit. Williamstown is home to Williams College, a private liberal arts college which was established in 1793. The town and campus are beautiful, set in a bucolic valley near the Berkshire Hills. I love the architecture of the buildings campus and enjoyed taking these photographs.
I spent my few days there walking around, eating good food, reading, and recuperating. The Williamstown Motel was a great place to stay and the owners were lovely people. I’ll stay there again if I’m ever back in Williamstown.
Sometime in the last few months, I realized that I’d been to all but four states in the U.S. Of those four, Rhode Island was the only state in the East which I hadn’t been to. (The other yet-to-be-visited states are North and South Dakota and Mississippi.)
And so I decided that I would visit Providence, R.I. and Brown University. I have a couple of friends who attended Brown and have been curious about it, so was looking forward to seeing it. I was also interested to learn that the Rhode Island School of Design was in Providence. When I was a librarian, I learned about several book illustrators who had studied at RISD.
I took a bus from Williamstown to Providence (three hours), and as soon as I arrived, the skies opened up and a downpour ensued. I quickly ran for the closest cafe I could find – a cozy bakery serving homemade soup and freshly baked bread. It was a great place to wait out the storm and study my city map.
Full of soup and bread, I set off in the general direction of Brown. The rain persisted sporadically, but in between ducking in and out of shelter, I managed to get some pictures of the campuses of Brown and RISD.
Welcome to Providence!
Rhode Island has a beautiful capitol building surrounded by huge trees and impressive walkways.
Rhode Island State House.
Rhode Island State House.
When I arrived in the vicinity of Brown, there were crowds walking toward some unseen goal. I asked a couple of students what was going on and they said this was a ceremony to welcome freshmen to the college through the campus gate. The students I talked to were sophomores, but had missed this event last year and were debating whether they should join the walk. It was a festive environment and I was glad to get a glimpse of this Brown tradition.
[Edit. – One of my friends who went to Brown told me, after seeing this post, that these are the Van Wickle gates. “They are opened twice a year: to welcome the freshmen in and to usher the seniors out.” I feel so fortunate that I just happened to visit the campus when this event was in progress!]
It was a short visit to Providence, but I was satisfied. I loved the old buildings and the positive energy of the city center. It’s a beautiful, walkable city and I hope to get another chance for a longer visit sometime.
After a few hours, I walked to the Amtrak station and boarded a train for the one-hour trip back to Boston.
And so my trip to the East was over. I stayed a final night in the hostel where I met Jamie three weeks earlier, then took the shuttle bus to the airport the next morning to fly back to Denver. It had been a fantastic break, visiting with family, backpacking, traveling to new and favorite places and reconnecting with good friends. I was home for one week before I returned to my work and life in Japan.
Back where it began, end of another trip.