Welcome to New England
This morning I was rudely awakened by the sounds of a careless section hiker. Section hikers are people who are not doing the entire trail, but a portion of it. Now there is a bit of stigma that always seems to be associated with section hikers–they are either very strange or lack the understanding/etiquette of proper trail manners. Needless to say, I was not thrilled to be awakened at 6:15 this morning by the sounds of bags crashing and plastic crunching…darn section hikers!
The start of today’s trail took us along the banks of a beautiful river. It was probably the flattest 3 miles of the entire trail. The sky was gloomy with an impending storm and thick clouds of mosquitoes chased us down the trail. Eventually the rain broke and it was time to don our pack covers. As soon as we stopped moving to cover our packs, the swarm of mosquitoes began attacking us relentlessly. Finally they desisted and we were able to continue our hike until the rain came crashing down so hard that the wet rocks were impossible to navigate.
After about an hour of hiking we reached the road to Cornwall Bridge, CT. It was pouring down rain and we were freezing; I turned around and said “who wants hot breakfast in town?” I will admit that I was looking for a good excuse to get off the trail and out of the rain. We hitched a ride into town and sought shelter at a gas station.
We decided to retro-blaze, or walk the road, to the next town. This was much preferred to walking across wet slippery rocks in the rain. Eventually we reached Falls Village, CT and took refuge at the Toymaker’s Cafe. He came outside, greeting us with a smile. He took us around to the back of the cafe and said that we could stay in his shed; “it isn’t much” he said. Haha that was an understatement. So tonight, I will be sleeping amongst wheelbarrows and chainsaws. I guess it beats tenting in the rain. I will leave you with a few entries from my past nights on the trail. Please enjoy!
6/16/11 Wildcat Shelter – William Brien Memorial Shelter; 20 miles (Harriman State Park, NY)
Ahh where do I begin? Do I start with how much my feet are killing me or with the sketchiness of this junky shelter? Today we only hiked 20 miles, but for some reason Tiger Lilly and I were fighting extreme exhaustion. I am convinced that it is because of New York’s terrain. It has been rocky and rollercoastery ever since we crossed the border from New Jersey.
All I ever heard about rocks was associated with Pennsylvania–miles and miles of continuous boulder fields where all the little rocks were pointing up, ready and waiting to wreak havoc on your feet. Well, today we encountered just as many rocks! No one ever said there would be this many rocks in New York!
The trail is very poorly maintained here. There were so many sections that had been eroded and were super slippery. Oh yes, there is also the other issue with water sources. The streams are ally heavy-laden with tannin and metals, which is doing a number on my water filter! It seems like the water issue is pretty common knowledge because at every street crossing trail magic comes in the form of jugs of water. It has gotten to the point where sometimes we must hitch into town just to get a gallon of water to make it the rest of the way. I never thought we’d be going to town just to get water.
Other than the challenging terrain, today was pretty awesome. We must have had trail magic 8 times. When we crossed NY 17 there were road construction workers who gave us cold sodas. Then they gave us a lift into town to grab some more water. It was probably the funniest hitch we’ve ever had. They drove us in one of those massive work trucks–the one that has all the cones on it. It was pretty hilarious! Later that day we came across a guy that was cooking hot dogs for all the hikers. He had drinks and a bunch of goodies for us! The trail magic was so abundant.
We also realized that NY had surprisingly been one of the more friendly states to thru-hikers. Pennsylvania and New Jersey were kind of ridiculous; the people weren’t very helpful and had no clue as to what the Appalachian Trail even is. Yesterday, this very nice man gave us a ride back to the trail from Greenwood Lake, NY. At that time, we were about 35 minutes away from Manhattan. He described to us how strange and scary it was being in NY during the 9/11 attacks. He siad they could see the smoke and debris in the sky 40 miles away. It was an interesting perspective on the tragic event.
Nonetheless, today was pretty cool and I am excited to be almost done with another state! I often think about our progress on the trail. At the beginning you stay in one state for such a long time. Almost 550 miles of the whole trail are in Virginia alone. However, once you cross the Mason Dixon line, you begin to enter new states more frequently. It really feels like we are moving now! New Jersey was a complete blur and soon we will complete Connecticut and Massachusetts. It’s pretty crazy to think that we are only 5 states away from finishing this thing!
I find that as I get closer to Katahdin people want to know what my next adventure is going to be. They all ask if I will attempt the Pacific Crest Trail or the Continental Divide Trail? For a while I contemplated hiking the PCT in a year or two, but for now I will be satisfied with just completing the AT. I do know that I will be cycling the southern traverse across the United States on my road bike soon! I think I will try to stay away from hiking for a bit; :I love road biking and whitewater far more : )
I guess I will conclude this entry with a bit of brutal honesty. One of the guys we are hiking with says that he hates hiking, but is doing the AT for the greater experience of meeting people, seeing new places, and living simply. Well, I guess I feel the same! I do not regret my time out here and have enjoyed the total experience,but I think I’ll stick to whitewater sports and leave hiking to the others : )
“Skoo Skoo!” What’s that? What’s that noise? Could that be the sound of hikers cheering for progress? Aww yes– “Skoo Skoo!” is our cheer for accomplishments and these two girls are cheering because we are now in Connecticut! This makes our tenth state on the trail–only 4 more states to go!
To be honest, these last few days have been a blur, but I can give you a brief synopsis. I’ll start back in New York. The trail pretty much sucked in NY; however, the people were amazingly friendly. I will admit that I had stereotyped the state, believing that everything looked like New York City and had to be ugly and fast-paced. I was blown away that such beautiful scenery could exist just 30 miles beyond Manhattan.
The hardships of New York had to come in the terrain and the water. It seemed that the trail just went up-and-down and up-and-down. It took us over massive boulders and granite pathways. There were also several spots where we had to climb with our hands or even take our packs off.
We had some other memorable moments in NY. At Bear Mountain the trail goes directly through a zoo. If you haven’t scene a bear yet, you are guaranteed to see one there- haha. At the zoo, we ran into Reuben 2 and his amazing wife. She drove us to Peekskill to pickup mail drops and then took us to the monastery at Greymoor where we stayed for the night. We all camped out on picnic tables under an old pavilion. The next day, our buddy Josh drove up from New Jersey and hiked with us. We had such a blast, camping out at Faihern State Park. The rangers there were so friendly as they let us camp for free, brought us free firewood, and then brought us snacks. Never had we felt so well-received as a bunch of stinky hikers : )
Today was another milestone simply because we finally got to CT. The funny thing is that we will only spend about 3 days in this state before we arrive in Massachusetts. The trail in CT is absolutely beautiful! It is definitely in the running for favorite state on the trail. The scenery is quite epic; although the shelters are a bit strange. Apparently in CT they have a problem with porcupines getting into the shelter. Their solution was to create a giant gap in between the sleeping platform and the steps. This isn’t so much of an issue until you have to get up in the middle of the night– it’s dark and you practically fall into the giant gap. One of the prettiest shelters is the 10 Mile River Lean-to; it is nestled on the banks of the 10 Mile River and it makes for a lovely swim/bath spot.
Now that we are this far in the game, I can say that it is definitely starting to take a toll on my body. The human body is an amazingly resilient thing. Nonetheless 1,4o0 miles of hiking up steep mountains will begin to wear one down. Tiger Lilly and I have agreed that it’s time to take a few days off the trail. On Friday, we are going to Boston for three days to attend a wedding. I am so excited to take a shower and dress like lady. Don’t get me wrong- I love roughing it in the wilderness, but I sure do miss my high heels and putting on a little makeup. Nonetheless, our time in Boston should help to rejuvenate us enough to make it the remaining 700 miles!