19 miles, 1490.5 overall (Limestone Spring shelter)
I sleep like a baby. I sleep so well that I don’t get up until almost 8. I’m surprised when I wake up and find it is this late because I never woke once during the preceding few hours. I start packing up expecting to be the last out of camp. When I do emerge from my tent I find that only Tipsy and Fetch have left and the others are just starting to pack up as well. I eat my breakfast and get on the trail just before 9.
The morning looks easy enough on paper but it consists of a series of ups and downs, all of which are a few hundred feet each, so the cumulative effect is quite tiring. I cross a stream with a sign advising hikers to ford rather than use the now unsafe stepping stones. Instead I go upstream a few yards and use the natural rocks and blowdowns to get across. Later I pass through a rock formation similar to the Lemon Squeezer, though not as tight, before reaching the first shelter.
When I get there I expect bugs because the name of the shelter is Pine Swamp Brook. Any intelligent hiker should expect bugs at any shelter with swamp in the name. Apparently other hikers aren’t so observant and the register is full of hikers complaining and warning followers of the impending bites they will receive.
In addition to the big warnings one hiker has decided that CT is the worst state on the trail. He argues that the PUDs are it’s attempt to be more like the southern and northern states with big mountains, that NY has the true Lemon Squeezer and the one we just passed through is a cheap imitation, and that the Housatonic is not a scenic river but rather a simple supplier of bugs. I’m not particularly swayed by his line of reasoning but I do understand some of his frustration. However I’m not sure that anything can convince me that any state on the trail is worse than PA.
After a brief break at the shelter I move on. I have done around 7 miles without an audiobook so I take the headphones out and put the Count of Monte Cristo on for a while. I pass a few campsites and streams before the trail heads downhill over several miles to reach a road and then crosses the Housatonic. At this point I reach a new milestone – only 700 miles left to Katahdin! It still seems so far that it doesn’t even seem worth celebrating. I decide to save the celebrations for when there are only 500 miles left.
After some road walks and a section between some roads and railroad tracks I reach the town of Falls Village but opt not to go in. The data book only lists 2 establishments in town and one is already closed for the day. Instead I turn and head up the trail to see the waterfall below the Falls Village dam. It is a pretty view even if it is not completely natural. I see wet people with life vests walking away from the area and wonder what they were up to. They all leave in a bus suggesting some sort of tubing trip or something of the sort though no tubes are evident.
I head uphill to my shelter for the night. It lies just past the crest of the mountain but a half mile off the trail. I hope that it will be a gently sloping side trail and at first it is. About halfway to the shelter though the side trail literally goes over a cliff and I walk down the cliff face to get there. I’m glad the hike out in the morning will be before it gets hot and that I have a short day into town planned.
When I arrive there is a tent already set up. As I go about setting up my tent I notice that someone is inside but they soon close the flap, indicating a desire not to socialize. I try to figure out if I have seen this tent before. It is a 2 person REI tent – common enough on the trail – and I don’t particularly recognize it. I finish setting up my tent and start my dinner. I predict that nobody else will be arriving tonight because the shelter is so far off the trail, but as I eat I’m proven wrong. Daddy-O arrives and sets up his tent and he says at least 4 more are coming including a young couple. I assume the young couple is Tipsy and Fetch, and a few minutes after I finish my dinner I’m proven right.
Although I am ready to get in my tent for the night I opt to hang out with them for a while. I enjoy talking with them and they tell me about some of the alternative names they have come up with for people. My alternative name is Hydrogen Peroxide. For some reason Fetch is worried that I might be offended but I get a huge kick out of this. While we talk they fix their dinner. One characteristic of these two is that they always seem to have some sort of liquor with them. Tonight it is whiskey, which I find perfect because I still have a couple shots of Evan Williams left from back in NJ to finish. I retrieve it from my tent and spend the remaining time until almost 9:00 socializing before I finally send myself to my tent. Before I go I give them my info so they can keep in touch since they plan to skip Salisbury and will probably remain a day ahead of me for some time.
I head to my tent, excited about my day in town tomorrow. I hope that Salisbury is as enjoyable a town as Kent was. Even if it isn’t, tomorrow is looking like it will be the beginning of another heat wave so I’m thankful to be doing only 3 short miles on the Appalachian Trail.