Canada was so close, we could see her

Cohos Trail, Day Fourteen: Deer Mountain Campground to the Canadian Border

I woke up early, shortly after 6am, and went out to sit by the dam, feet dangling, to watch for moose and soak up the last of Nature before we finished our hike.

A sudden movement at the far side of the pond suddenly caught my eye—a leggy bird, too far away to identify at this distance. I watched as it slowly stalked through the water, one slow step after another, until it suddenly jabbed its pointy face at some hapless fish. It then resumed the same stalking behavior, all along the far side of the pond.

A couple other people wandered down from the other campsites to look at the water, but nobody stayed long. Eventually, my stomach began growling and I went to fetch our food bag and stove to make coffee. I drank half the pot and delivered the rest to E, who was still asleep in the tent.

A woman I had seen on the far side of the dam, a pair of binoculars hanging from her neck, waved and approached. If I understood her correctly, she wanted to loan us her kayak so we could go out on the water, but I explained with regret that we were walking to Canada that morning to meet our ride, and unfortunately didn’t have time to kayak. She told us to look for blackberries on the trail up to 4th Connecticut Lake.

Eventually we packed up our bags for the last time on the Cohos Trail, and walked out of the campgrounds. We dropped off the gallon jug for the caretakers to reuse again on our way by the office.

The first part of the trail that morning was a winding, two-track road.

The gravel crunched underfoot, but I still tried to walk quietly, just in case there were moose around.

When the trail, now down to a narrow footpath, swung by 3rd Connecticut Lake, we popped out and bushwhacked our way over to a little sliver of rock jutting out into the water, which our guidebook said is called Toothacher Rock. All was still except for us and two boats in the distance.

It was marvelously peaceful. Canada was so close, we could see her.

We began walking again and before we knew it we were a mere 500 feet from Canada.

We made it to the interstitial space between the two countries, but our hike wasn’t over yet. The true terminus of the Cohos Trail is at 4th Connecticut Lake, the first/final source of the Connecticut River. We were tempted to leave our bags at the trailhead and slackpack this section, but worried the border guards might think they were bombs and confiscate them.

I spied the blackberry bushes our campground friend told us about and pulled berries off to eat as we walked. This trail section was the most steep and challenging we had encountered in days, and after a while we did drop our bags to move faster. The ground was littered with boundary markers and we flitted to Canada and back without a second thought.

To be frank, 4th Connecticut Lake isn’t much of a lake, but it was peaceful and picturesque. We did the pleasant forest loop around it. I walked slowly, savoring our last moments on trail, taking lots of photos.

Eventually we came to the little outlet that eventually becomes the mighty Connecticut River. Sometimes it slows to a mere trickle, but with the recent rain we had while on trail, it was going at a pretty decent clip when we crossed.

Shortly after, it began to drizzle, and then to pour. We hustled back to our bags, E rushing ahead to make sure they weren’t getting soaked while I carefully picked my way over the slick terrain. We passed a family out for a hike in casual clothing—jeans and tshirts—on their way up to the lake. They didn’t seem a bit deterred by their lack of rain gear.

It was a humbling descent in the rain. The rocks were slick and the earth was mucky. I slipped and nearly fell more than once, only just catching myself.

Out at the border marker we took a few hasty photos with E’s phone and then met his dad at the car in the little hiker parking lot. Apparently a border guard had come out after he pulled up to ask if he was waiting for two hikers and gave him an estimate for how long we’d be, so while we never saw any border personnel, they certainly saw us!

E’s dad had brought us carrots and celery and hummus, just like last year, and we ate ravenously for a bit, washing it down with sparkling mineral water, while the landscape we had laboriously traversed on foot over the past few days flew by outside the window.

This entry concludes my Cohos Trail Journal. I hope you’ve enjoyed at least a part of this saga, even—or especially—if you’re not a hiker or backpacker. And if this has been Too Much Email, don’t worry, Pinch of Dirt will come out a lot less frequently now.

Thank you, Bill, for picking us up at a far away trailhead for the second year in a row, and for always having just the right snacks on hand to bring us back to life. And thank you, Ethan, first and foremost for hiking with me, and for reading and fact-checking each and every post before it’s sent out into the world.