The perfect siesta

June 30

14.2 miles, 1508.1 overall (Glen Brook shelter)
I sleep incredibly well. Vanessa’s house is about 200 years old and doesn’t seem to have air-conditioning so I sleep in the bed next to the window and fan. It is a successful strategy and I actually need a sheet to stay warm. I get up just before 6 and pack my things. I settled up with Vanessa yesterday and told her I’d probably leave early. I head downstairs and walk out, making sure to shut the door behind me.

I am hoping some place will be open early for breakfast but it doesnt appear so. The coffee shop doesn’t open until 7 and I don’t bother checking the hours on the other restaurant. Instead I simply head back to the trail and eat a Clif bar on the way. Pretty soon I have finished the road walk portion and am back in the woods heading uphill.

At the top of the first climb I hear a group talking and when I reach the top I find what appears to be a Boy Scout troop. The only thing that makes me uncertain is that these boys all appear to have good gear and have their packs packed well which is surprisingly atypical based on the scouts I have seen so far. They are stopped for a break at a view and offer to move out of the way for me. The Scoutmaster offers to take a picture for me and I jump at the chance since I don’t have many pictures of myself taken by others so far. Once I’ve taken in the view I follow them down the hill toward the 2 shelters up ahead and talk with them on the way down. They are from Pleasantville, NY and their troop has been section hiking the AT for a couple years now. They have completed sections from as far south as PA all the way up to here. I’ve caught up to the older boys. The younger boys are in a separate group a bit further up the trail.

The scouts stop at the first shelter and I continue to the second for my break. At the second shelter I find the younger group still packing up and getting going. The boys are taking their time, preferring to come up with trail names for each other rather than pack up. It seems they met Manbearpig last night and are now enthralled with the idea of trail names. I don’t stay long but while I am there I finally get a great picture of a chipmunk as a brave one runs around the shelter. It seems chipmunks up north are much more brave than southern chipmunks. I have finished my break and am leaving just as the scouts are on their way out.

After the shelter comes the big climb of the day. Bear Mountain isn’t too tall but the ascent looks steep and it is getting late in the morning so the temperature is rising. I’m anxious to get over it and find a place to siesta on the other side. I’m so anxious that I forget to look to see if there is a sign marking the completion of 1500 miles. I pass this milestone just as I begin the ascent and by the time I realize it I’m halfway up the mountain with no desire to go back down for something that may or may not be there.

At the top of the mountain the data book says there is a “rock observation tower.” On the way up I wonder what that means – is it an observation tower made out of rocks or is it a tower for observing rocks? The answer disappoints me even more than I would have thought. At the top is a pile of rocks that barely resembles a runaway truck ramp, let alone a tower. A plaque designates this as the highest point in CT but a day hiker who arrives just after me informs me that this is actually only the highest peak and the highest point is on the slope of another mountain.

The series of disappointments this mountain has given me doesn’t get me down too much and I descend to find a place for a siesta. Having finished the Tour de Delis in NY and CT I am forced to find a place in the woods rather than a business establishment where I could eat all day. Desirable traits for a woodland siesta location include a cool spot, access to water, a place to lay down, and a lack of bugs. On the way down the mountain I find all of these plus a great view in Sages Ravine. The trail follows a picturesque stream downhill and I find a pool in the stream with a great rock to lay on right next to it. I set up to spend some time here, filling up on water, laying out my thermarest, and grabbing my bag of gorp to snack on. Although there are few bugs I keep the few that there are at bay by putting on my long sleeve shirt. This works out doubly well since despite the heat of the day the stream is actually making the spot rather on the chilly side.

It is around 11:00 when I make myself comfortable. For the next 4 hours I pass the time either writing or sleeping as hikers pass on the trail above. I see both groups of scouts go by as well as several groups of day hikers. I can tell they are all jealous of my spot as well as my sloth.

Around 3:00 I reluctantly get moving again. As I’m leaving I run into a group of day hikers who interview me for several minutes about my hike. They are a friendly group and I answer all the questions they want to ask before I move on. Only a few minutes downstream I cross the water and am treated to a sign welcoming me to Massachusetts. I pause to sign the register and take the requisite pictures.

At the next campsite I run into the older group of scouts again while they are taking a break and, a short time later, pass the younger group also taking a break. They all plan to camp at the next campsite which is short of my destination so I won’t see them again.

I climb another ridge and am treated to about a half mile of ridge walking with some great views, but also some pitch pine that I don’t enjoy. It is particularly prickly and despite my best efforts I keep running into it. Then I descend again only to climb another PUD called Mt Everett before finally descending to the shelter I’m aiming for.

When I arrive there are several tents already set up in a beautiful camping area amid a stand of hemlocks. I am still able to find a great spot and set up. I talk briefly to some of the other campers and quickly realize that I’m the only thru-hiker here. Most of the others are just out for the weekend but the hiker in the tent next to mine is out for a month, hiking north into Vermont. We talk for a while over dinner and I learn he is from Miami and has been taking the last year off from college to work as a tram guide in Key West. We talk a bit about hiking and I give him some of the tips I’ve picked up along the way before I turn in for the night. Tomorrow looks to be another warm one so I want to get to sleep early. I should be up and out of camp tomorrow before most of the others have stirred on the Appalachian Trail.











Categories: CT, MA | 7 Comments

The one in someone’s house

June 29

3.4 miles, 1493.9 overall (Salisbury, CT)
Around 6:30 I wake and start packing. It is supposed to be hot today and I want to get into town long before the heat arrives. I eat my breakfast and while I am eating the non-social guy in the tent from last night gets out and packs up. He is ready to go before I finish eating and, to my surprise, comes over to say hi. He is an older gentleman and introduces himself as Snag. We talk a bit and I find out he is also from Virginia (Lexington to be exact) and that is where he started hiking. He is planning a flip-flop, returning to Lexington after he summits Katahdin and hiking south to Springer. After a minute he leaves, explaining that he is slow so he’s sure I’ll pass him soon enough. He is right on that account. Once I finish eating I wave to Tipsy and Fetch who are just getting moving and I head out. I climb up the shelter side trail, along the cliff face, and just after rejoining the AT I catch Snag enjoying a view over a field.

On the way in to town today I don’t bother listening to anything. It is only 3 miles and it is almost all downhill. I do observe a few interesting things though. The first is a rock called the Giant’s Thumb. It is a huge rock sticking up out of the ground that I notice on my own but then refer to the data book for the name of. It is quite peculiar and is aptly named. Second, I am starting to notice the benefits of my beard. Besides the obvious flavor-saving feature, it also doubles as an insect bite preventative and a screen for keeping bugs out of my mouth. Sunscreen also hasn’t been necessary on the lower half of my face in quite some time. I think these may be some of the reasons thru-hikers grow their beards – at least, those who are able.

When I get to town it is still early. I plan to stay at the house of one of the two women in town who put up thru-hikers. One is named Maria and the other is named Vanessa. I chose to stay with Vanessa because of the added benefit of in-house laundry rather than a laundromat. I told her a few days ago that I planned to arrive early in the afternoon. It is still before 10. Rather than arrive early I decide to hunt for second breakfast.

Salisbury is an incredibly small town, even smaller than Kent. It only takes me a few minutes to walk around and see all of the shops. My two restaurant choices seem to be a coffee shop or a small French restaurant. I take a quick look at reviews for the restaurant online and find that it isn’t incredibly hiker-friendly so I head to the coffee shop. I put my pack down outside and head in.

On my way in I am immediately greeted by a woman who asks if I’m hiking the trail. When I answer yes she slips something into my hand and tells me to buy myself a coffee. I smile, thank her warmly, and slip it into my pocket, expecting it is a dollar or two. It feels rude to look to see how much it is and I am preoccupied with trying to maintain enough space from the other guests so they don’t have to smell me. When I finally decide on the sandwich I want and order it with a coffee I pull out the money she slipped me to find a $10 bill! I look around for the woman but she has already left. I can’t believe how generous she was, and rather than a coffee she ends up paying for my entire meal.

While I’m eating a few people come by and say hi and ask if I’m hiking. Eventually one sits down next to me. He is dressed in hiker attire and I learn that he is a section hiker named Snakeman. He is almost done with this year’s section, having only about 20 miles to go until he gets off the trail in Great Barrington. He stayed at Vanessa’s house last night and says it was nice. We wind up talking for about an hour, ordering refills on our coffee. Just before Snakeman leaves to hit the trail Snag walks in and sits down with us and I get to talk to him for a while. He had breakfast at the other place in town and says it wasn’t bad. Turns out Snag is a recently retired lawyer with two sons. He seems like a great guy to sit around a shelter and talk with so I’m disappointed he wasn’t outside his tent last night. With his slow pace I doubt I’ll get to see much more of him on this trip.

I tear myself away from the coffee shop so I can go get clean. It is just before noon so I figure I should be able to check in. I find the house easily and knock on the door. Vanessa answers and once I introduce myself she ushers me in and straight up to my room which she was just finishing preparing. It is always reassuring to see someone putting clean sheets on your bed! Once she’s done I head for the shower and wash up. Then I bundle all of my laundry and she takes it to make it magically clean again. While I’m waiting for clean clothes I inventory my food, grab my mail drop and add it to my pack, and clean up a few items. I also charge my phone and battery while I get caught up on writing and other electronic things. Vanessa offers me a beer from the fridge while I wait so I sip on a Budweiser.

By the time my clothes are ready I’m hungry again. I dress and head out to the French restaurant with the hiker-unfriendly reputation. I order a summer vegetable casserole with a coke. It is reasonably priced and I don’t notice any problems getting served, but this may be due to the fact that I’m clean. From here I head to the grocery store to grab the items I still need (bagels, peanut butter, instant mashed potatoes) as well as getting a pizza, beer, and ice cream for dinner tonight since I can use Vanessa’s kitchen. I also head to the liquor store across the street to see about a replacement for the Evan Williams. I don’t see anything appealing that I could drink straight (no mixers on the trail!) but at the last minute I consider a port and decide I’ll try it out. It may not work with the heat that’s expected this week but it’s worth a shot.

I return home with my bounty and add it to my pack. I’m not excited about my pack weight since I have almost 6 days of food now, but I know tomorrow will be a short day and at the end of the 6 days I’ll have some time off. The rest of the night is spent at Vanessa’s kitchen table doing nothing other than eating my pizza, ice cream and beer and poking around on my phone. It is nice to be able to make myself at home in a real house. The only thing Vanessa’s place lacks, besides terry cloth robes, is wifi so I’m not able to download more audiobooks. I’m in bed by 9, hoping to get up early and once again beat the heat on the Appalachian Trail.




Categories: CT | 2 Comments

The one with PUDs

June 28

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.






Categories: CT | 2 Comments

My New England town

June 27

13.6 miles, 1471.5 overall (Silver Hill campsite)
I get a great night of sleep as expected. When I wake it isn’t extremely early but the other camper is still asleep. I pack my things, break down the tent, eat my breakfast and leave before I hear him stirring. In some ways I envy the overnight hikers who have no distant objective forcing them to get moving every morning. I look forward to the days when I can plan <10 mile days again without worrying how it will affect my average miles or when I will get to the next town. At the same time, I still enjoy the feeling of getting out of camp earlier than others.

Today I plan to stop into Kent, CT. I have a maildrop there waiting for me at the outfitter and I’ve read in the blogs of other hikers that it is a cute little town. I only have 3 miles to go to reach the road crossing. On the way I run into Breezy who is hiking southbound. I’m confused by his direction since he is a NoBo (northbounder). He informs me that he has been called home to Florida for some sort of legal matter and will be off the trail for a few days. His best way home was to hike back to the Appalachian Station and catch the train into NYC this weekend. We catch up for a few minutes and I find out the fatigue and nausea he had back in Shenandoah (last time I saw him) passed in a few days so it was likely some sort of flu bug. We eventually part ways and I wonder if he’ll catch me somewhere up the trail.

I reach the road crossing to Kent and, still averse to hitchhiking, walk the 0.8 miles into town. The outfitter is on the way in and I see Jihad et al there. I pick up my mail drop and ask them about food in town. They have already eaten at a place called The Villager and they highly recommend it. Once I move the contents of the box into their appropriate places in my pack I head down the street to get second breakfast at this Villager.

Kent looks just how I would expect an upper class New England town to look. On the way into town I passed what appeared to be a boarding school with pristine sports fields. On the way to the diner I pass a bakery, an antique shop, and a coffee shop, among others. At the diner I find outside seating in the shade and it is a nice day so I take advantage with the added benefit of not imposing my smell on others. Pretty soon I have a western omelet in front of me with coffee, toast, and home fries. I shovel them all down while watching life pass by on the town’s thoroughfare.

Once I’m done I head back to the outfitter. I know I should get going but I’m lacking motivation so I head inside and buy some ice cream from the attached ice cream shop. While I eat it I plug in my backup phone battery to get some juice and I take advantage of the free wifi to download some more audiobooks. I add some full-length Sherlock Holmes novels to the short stories I already have and I get some more chapters of the Count of Monte Cristo.

Around 1:00 I finally get moving out of town. On the way out I see Tipsy and Fetch who are on their way in. I hadn’t seen them in a while and hope I’ll get to catch up with them soon. They are a nice couple of a similar age as me and I enjoy their company.

The trail out of town has some uphill climbs to it so I listen to one of the new Sherlock Holmes novels while I hike. It is so interesting that I continue to listen for the rest of the day. The trail comes down off the ridge (making the uphill pointless) on some very steep steps called St John’s Ledges and follows the Housatonic for several incredibly flat miles. The river is picturesque despite the gnats and mosquitoes and I appreciate the views of a gravel river versus the more sandy type I’m used to in the south.

Around the time the trail heads back up into the mountains I finish the novel. I’m really enjoying listening to audiobooks. They make me feel like I’m doing something somewhat productive during my hiking rather than thinking about the same things over and over day after day. However I remind myself not to get carried away and decide that in the morning I’ll have to hike without one for a while to make sure I also experience the sounds of the trail.

I head up the ridge and pass lots of recent blowdowns. They all have fresh green leaves so they can’t be from the hurricane last year, but they are already cut with chainsaws to clear the path – the wood chips are still fresh on the trail. It seems the CT trail crew is really on their game! I make my way up to another campsite for the night rather than a shelter. I’m the first to arrive so I choose what I consider the prime tent spot and set about dinner. Pretty soon Jihad, Easy Turtle, and Tittie Sprinkles all arrive with a friend who is hiking with them for a few days. A bit later Tipsy and Fetch also arrive, giving me a chance to catch up with them since the last time I saw them I fainted. I relate my hospital visit to them and they relate to me how they hiked naked for 3 hours on Hike Naked Day.

All caught up with my trail friends and fed, I head to my tent earlier than the others. I have my nightly routine and though I hate to miss out on good conversation I like to stick to it. I can hear the others though and it isn’t long before they head to bed too. Being in another campsite on a flat tent site I expect another great night of sleep on the Appalachian Trail!









Categories: CT | 2 Comments

The hiker caravan

June 26

18.2 miles, 1457.9 overall (Schaghticoke Mountain campsite)
As predicted I don’t sleep like a baby, but it isn’t so bad. It was a cold night and the bigger problem than the slope of the ground I slept on was the problem it caused with my sleeping bag. Since it was cold I had to zip up the bag. I have a mummy bag. Rolling over in a mummy bag is difficult and often results in a position in which your face is not in the hole for which it was designed. As a result I struggle more with keeping my face in a position where I can breathe than I do with keeping myself from rolling down the hill.

I take my time getting up. Although Fresh, Wonder, Squidword, and Dora all plan a 20+ day I only plan to do about 18 and they appear to be easy miles. I’m in no rush to get out this morning. I pack up and move my stuff to the shelter to find that Wonder and Fresh are the only 2 thru-hikers still here. There are 3 section hikers, all women, one of which was the source of the shelter tent. Two leave as I start eating breakfast while the third is taking longer to get ready. She strikes us as a bit weird though, responding to a discussion of honey buns with a derisive “I’m from Vermont, we don’t eat that kind of stuff up there.” As she gets her stuff together she is constantly reminding us of stuff that is still out – “Is this yours? Ok, I didn’t want you to forget it.” It would be a kind gesture and we’d think nothing of it if she only did it once or twice. Instead she seems to do it with everything that isn’t in a pack. As a result we spend the rest of the day reminding each other not to leave stuff behind.

I’m ready before Wonder and Fresh so I head out. I soon pass the Dover Oak which holds the distinction of being a very large oak tree. A couple miles later I reach the Appalachian Train Station which on weekends provides a way for thru-hikers to get into NYC. I’m amused that the “station” is really just a bench. I cross a road and head uphill into a nature preserve, then a long gradual downhill to the next shelter.

At the shelter I catch up to Dora who is eating her lunch. There is a large group of campers there who are preparing to head out. Also there are Jihad, Easy Turtle, and Tittie Sprinkles (no, I don’t know yet how he got the name), three hikers who I’ve been leapfrogging with lately. The large group leaves as Wonder and Fresh arrive. The other 3 hikers follow soon after, leaving Wonder, Fresh, Dora and myself to eat lunch. I enjoy taking a lunch break with other hikers and savor their company. As we finish lunch we discover a makeshift bow and arrow hanging on the wall of the shelter. Fresh decides this is his chance to try archery and plays with them while I catch the event on video, something I want to do more of in my last few hundred miles in order to better capture the thru-hiker experience.

We all leave together in a sort of hiker caravan and hike quickly downhill to a road crossing that is unmarked but designates our first entry into Connecticut. Over the next several miles we will briefly re-enter NY again before entering Connecticut for good, and with a lack of signage denoting the occasion we don’t bother celebrating.

The next shelter is located on Ten Mile River, a pretty gravel river that flows along the trail for about a half mile before merging with the Housatonic which we will be following for the next few days. Wonder and I stop off at the shelter for a quick break but afterward catch up to Fresh and Dora at the confluence of the rivers. They all stop for a break but it is getting late and I’m anxious to get to camp at a reasonable hour so I push on.

Today when I’m no hiking with the others I continue listening to some of the short Sherlock Holmes mysteries that I have been enjoying but I also start listening to The Count of Monte Cristo. I can’t get very far because I only have the first 3 chapters downloaded but I am engrossed and make a note to download more next time I have wifi access. When I’m not listening to books lately I find myself contemplating the end of my hike. With a full third of it left it may be too early to start thinking about this sort of thing, but increasingly I am thinking about my hike in the past tense. I have been hiking for so long now that the beginning seems like last year, complete with a soundtrack of songs that were constantly stuck in my head at the beginning but no longer. They have been replaced with either new songs or no songs at all. More often now I find that there is no song playing in the back of my mind, and I wonder whether having a song stuck in your head is a symptom of societal overload or whether the lack of background mind music is caused by listening to audiobooks.

An unfortunate result of leaving the others behind is that they are not with me when I finally cross into Connecticut for good. It occurs at the top of a ridge just after I pass Jihad, Easy Turtle and Tittie Sprinkles. There is a sign at this final border crossing and I wait for several minutes to see if the hikers I just passed will catch up but there is no sign of them and I want to get to camp. I take a few quick pictures – one serious and a few fun ones – and push on. Before long I’ve reached the campsite where I plan to stay. In CT camping is only allowed in designated areas but it seems that to encourage this there are campsites, complete with water and privy, in addition to shelters. This one couldn’t be in a better location. It is on a piece of flat land in the forest right next to a cascading mountain stream. When I arrive I have the place to myself and can pick my spot freely. I choose a spot close to the stream so I can hear it well during the night. The spot also has some flat rocks that make for easy cooking. I am thoroughly impressed with the site and decide to look for others to stay at while I’m in CT.

By 7:30 I have cooked dinner, eaten, and am ready for bed. Another hiker has arrived and sets up somewhat near me but he is quiet. We exchange greetings but not much more. I climb into my tent and catch up on some writing before I go to sleep to the sound of rushing water on the Appalachian Trail.













Categories: CT, NY | 3 Comments

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