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Bad knees and kind souls

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I woke up to a chilly, chilly morning. My idea to throw my tarp over the sleeping bag had allowed the humidity from my bag to condense and freeze into a layer of ice, and my water bottle was frozen near solid. I hobbled out of the shelter, muscles stiff and achy from the overexertion of the previous day. The sun was bright and my breath looked like a steam locomotive. I stumbled down to the stream to collect a bottle of liquid water for my coffee and oatmeal and looked out across the frozen Beaver pond. The splashes from the stream had collected on the grasses. logs and rocks and everything was encased in a shimmering layer of ice. So beautiful.
As I boiled up my water back at the shelter, Steve announced his bad news.
"I don't think my knee is going to make it the rest of the way."
Steve's knee problem had gone from bad to worse, and he could barely bend it at all. Our trip was over. The big issue now was how the hell do we get him off the trail and back to the world?
We talked about just holing up at the shelter another day to see if it got a little better, and I started to imagine the ruckus if we had to get some rescue team in here to haul him out.
We ate our breakfast, drank our coffee and he decided that he would try and endure the hike out to the nearest road. I was a solid mile either way, back to the muddy, gravel road we'd crossed yesterday, or ahead to West Cornwall road. We packed up and slowly headed on.
Steve had gotten his knee moving a little more than earlier and now his trekking poles were more like crutches. We slowly made our way up over the ridge, stopping frequently, and his range of motion improved. Back down the other side of the ridge we came to Rogers Ramp, a very steep, rocky descent that squeezes between two house sized boulders. It was a tough climb down for me, but it was downright demoralizing for Steve and his bad knee. He finally lowered his pack down to me and slowly slid down unburdened. A huge Turkey Vulture lit in a tree very close to us. he squawked loudly and then simply watched us as we clambered down the rocks. He flew off, disappointed that neither of us fell to our deaths. The rest of the trail to the road was easy and routine. it was a freshly paved side road and we slowly hiked towards town, thumb out to the few passing cars. After about an hour and maybe a mile, a little Honda wagon with a Mom and two kids stopped. I explained our abbreviated hike and Steve's injury and she offered to squeeze us in and give us a ride to the main road.
She told us she was a hiker too, and she sympathized with our lost hike. When we reached the main road, she stopped to let us out, then changed her mind.
"Change of plans, kids. We're taking these guys to their car!" she announced.
She drove us the twenty miles back to Undermountain Road in Salisbury talking with us about our favorite hikes. Our Trail Angel saved the day, and we were both home before dark.

on the long drive back to Rhode Island I had time to reflect on the past days adventures. I was struck with a euphoria, and I grinned thinking about the challenges and sights of this two day hike, and the heartwarming kindness of a complete stranger.

I just can't wait to get back out there!

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