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.