Walken’

Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Archive for Connecticut

Salisbury

Day: 127

Location: Salisbury, CT

Miles hiked today: 3.4

Miles from Springer: 1,486.4

Miles to Katahdin: 689.8

Elevation: 700′

Well, I didn’t make it very far today. The problem is that this town was simply too nice to not stay in. Nearest to the trail is the White Hart Inn, where my friends Papa Sarge, Sprite and Freckles had gotten a room and invited me to stay. It is not your average hiker dive motel. It is a very fancy country inn, which is normally very expensive to stay at, but they give hikers a very affordable rate. The town itself instantly became one of my favorite trail towns. While a little bit expensive, they have a great coffee shop, grocery store and a really amazing library. I was sucked in.

Still, 3.4 miles isn’t my idea of a full day of hiking. But we didn’t know we would have to walk 2 miles to the next town to do laundry, and then 2 miles back. That at least put a few more miles on the day, though not trail miles. It was a very nice and relaxing day, and nice to be able to stop and enjoy this town.

My friend Wavepool showed up, who I had not seen in a very long time. He joined the crowd in the hotel room, and we soon had hikers sleeping on the floor, and stinky gear everywhere. The movie Dodgeball came on TV, which was cool because the guy we saw at the cafe yesterday is in it, though nobody could think of his name.

I suppose tomorrow I’ll actually do some hiking. I’ll be crossing the state line into Massachusetts, which will leave only four states. It is amazing that by tomorrow I will have been in Connecticut for six days, when there are only 51 miles of trail here.

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Great Falls

Day 126

Location: Limestone Spring Lean-to, CT

Miles hiked today: 15.7

Miles from Springer: 1,483

Miles to Katahdin: 693.2

Elevation: 980′

It was a nice short hike this morning to a cafe that was just off the trail, where we had lunch. Along the way, there was a race track visible from the mountain, and it was kind of neat to watch the cars going around the track. The drivers were pretty good, as the course looked extremely difficult.

While we were eating lunch, a white BMW pulled up, and out of it emerged none other than that guy in the Mac/PC commercials (the guy who plays Mac). You know, the “HI, I’m a Mac.” ” And I’m a PC.” He is in some movies too, including Dodgeball and Jeepers Creepers. It took us a little while to realize that his friends that were with him were celebrities too, including a girl from Saturday Night Live and two guys who looked familiar but we couldn’t quite place them. They were apparently there to get milkshakes, like ordinary people. Who knew there were celebrities on the Appalachian Trail? I was wondering if the guy from the mac commercials was carrying the new iphone or not.

Just north of the cafe is the little town of Falls Village. The trail goes right past it, so I was hoping to stop there just to check it out. However, I read my information incorrectly, and went right past the point where I was supposed to turn. The trail once again (and for the last time) follows the Housatonic River in this section, and this time the trail is actually built to be wheelchair accessable for about a mile and a half. This is just a cruel tease though, as the trail soon heads up the mountain again.

Just above Falls Village is Great Falls, which gives the village its name. It is at least 60 feet high, and since the Housatonic has a large volume of water, the falls are fairly impressive. It is a really nice place to just stop and relax.

It was a short hike up to the shelter, perhaps even shorter than the book said it was. I was planning on going all the way into Salisbury today. However, by stopping about 3 miles short, I will have a short hike in tomorrow and all the businesses will be open at that time. So, there was lots of time to set up, get water, eat, and read, however the mosquitoes were murderous. I racked up a pretty good kill score, but they got me more times than I got them. I forfieted early and went inside my tent.

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Near Miss

Day 125

Location: Ceasar Brook Campsite, CT

Miles hiked today: 7.3

Miles from Springer: 1,467.3

Miles to Katahdin: 708.9

Elevation: 760′

I was careful to try to avoid getting into poison ivy this morning, but as I was camped in it, it was very difficult. I have to handle my tent, and I suspect that the oil from the plant is all over the tent, so I am just praying that it doesn’t spread. I really enjoyed the walk along the river, and know that these are some of those rare, flat miles. Soon enough the trail turned to go up yet another steep mountain.

I planned a stop at the town of Cornwall Bridge, simply because they have a deli there, and I would like to drop some weight at the post office.

When I got there, the post office was closed for lunch but the deli was worth the walk. I ran into Freestyle, a fellow hiker who said he had just rented a hotel room, and I was welcome to use the shower if I needed to. That sounded like a great idea, so I headed over. There was also cable TV and ice cream, and before long a few more hikers showed up. We ended up watching Comedy Central for about 4 hours, awed by the contraption that delivered moving pictures to a hotel room. It was a rare sensation to vegetate in front of a TV.

By the time I left it was after 5 p.m., and yet again my plans for big miles had been foiled. I wanted to get into camp before dark, and I realized that I would not make it to the next shelter by that time. So I stopped at Ceasar Brook Campsite, and after contemplating my options, I decided to put up camp there. It was a large campsite with lots of tent sites, and you could walk back quite a ways to the rear for the sites too. I chose one of these, well hidden from the trail.

A little while later I heard voices, and I was pretty sure I could recognize Sprite and Freckle’s voices. To my amazement, they chose the same campsite I did, coming out of Kent earlier in the day. As they did not know I was there, it was fun to surprise them by appearing out of the woods. Pretty soon Papa Sarge arrived, along with Kick-It, Castaway, and Dal-wa-he. I guess I wouldn’t have to camp alone after all.

There are so many accidents you can have out here, and a thousand ways to end your hike by injuring yourself. Many of these you have absolutely no control over, and things can happen to anybody at any time.

Later that evening, I was reading in my tent when I heard the last sound I ever want to hear in the woods. Directly above me, high above came a very loud pop, followed by a hundred snaps, cracks and splintering sounds, quickly accelerating. It was the sound of a falling tree, coming from directly above me. I had plenty of time to cover my head and curl in a ball, but no time to do anything else. A strangely calm thought passed that I could very possibly die. It seemed like forever until the tree actually hit, and it took me a split second to process that it hadn’t landed on me. My tent was unscathed, but from the sound of the crash, it had landed mere feet away. Praising God, I scurried out of my tent to investigate as others shouted to see if I was all right. There was no great scene of splinters and branches everywhere, so it took me a second to realize what was different outside my tent. There, lying no more than 3 feet away from my tent and perfectly parallel to it, was a log that was not there before. There was another huge limb that had landed about 12 feet away, so rotten that it had shattered when it hit the rocks. The limb right next to my tent was about 12 feet long, and plenty heavy enough to do real damage had it hit me. It had fallen from the very top of the tree above me, which otherwise looked to be very healthy.

I praise Jesus that I am still alive, and unscathed. I am also very thankful that my friends had shown up in camp, as had that thing hit me, they could have gotten help. I will definitely be a little more careful from now on about where I set up my tent!

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St. John’s Ledges

Day 124

Location: Red Pine Plantation, CT

Miles hiked today: 6.3

Miles from Springer: 1,460

Miles to Katahdin: 716.2

Elevation: 425′

Did I mention how nice Kent is? It has several great places to eat, and no less than two book stores plus a book sale at the library. However, stuff here is very expensive, and you get the impression that they do not like hikers here.

Y2K was planning to go to get his foot checked out today, and I was hiking on. But first, there are the many distractions of town. We ate at a cafe that took way too long, and it was around 10 a.m. before we got out of there. There was a lady at the church who offered to drive Y2K to the hospital in the next town. After he left, I was sitting outside the outfitter store talking with two people who run a film festival in town. There was a man and his son who just came out of the church yard sale with a portable playstation they paid .20 cents for, and a Nintendo 64 they had paid $5.00 for. The kid seemed really happy.

I was all packed and ready to go when Papa Sarge, Sprite and Freckles arrived. I decided to wait so I could eat with them, which turned out to be several hours. So that is how I found myself leaving town around 5 p.m., my plans for big miles gone.

As I reached the top of the mountain, I came across a woman named Baggins, who seemed to be camped under a log. I had met Baggins yesterday in town, and she is one of the more fascinating people I have met on the trail. I would guess her age to be approaching 70, and she is very small. She says she can only hike about 5 miles a day, yet she has done over 1200 miles of the trail. She took the name Baggins because she feels like Bilbo on his journey. I am amazed because I am not sure I would still be hiking if I could only do 5 miles a day. She has been doing this a lot longer than I have, that is for sure. I was also amazed at her campsite, which was no more than a tiny space under a leaning log. She was in her sleeping bag, leaning against her pack as a pillow. The spot seemed like a prime place for slugs, centipedes, ants, and other critters. As we were only a mile from the shelter, I asked her why she didn’t continue on, as it was still light.

She said she would never make it off the ledges before dark. I did not know what the ledges were nor had I looked at the profile for this section closely. I figured she knew what she was doing though and pushed on. I soon found out that she was very wise not to push on.

St. John’s Ledges are some rocks that form a nice lookout, but it is the descent from there that is so tricky. Several times I had to toss my poles below and slide down some big rock on my rear. It took me so much longer to get down than I thought it would, that it was dark when I reached the bottom. I was glad that Baggins had stopped where she did.

The next section was a five mile river walk along the Housatonic, which is one of the few river walks along the entire trail. Prefering to enjoy it during the day time, I spotted a nice level field right next to the trail and set up camp. It was only after I had my tent set up that I noticed the entire field was one huge bed of poison ivy. It would now be all over the bottom of my tent, and anything else that touched it. Figuring this was a problem for later, I soon fell fast asleep.

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New England At Last

 

Day 123

Location: Kent, CT

Miles hiked today: 12.7

Miles from Springer: 1,453.7

Miles to Katahdin: 722.5

Elevation: 350′

Dawn came early today, and we had a long ways to go to make it to Kent before the post office closed. Thankfully, this one closes at 12:30 instead of 11:30, as some of them do. Still, there was not much time to be wasted. We made it to the Ten Mile River Lean-to by 8:30 a.m., which was pretty good time. This is where I would have preferred to be starting from this morning.

Crossing the state line felt pretty good, as it marked the official arrival in New England. I have been looking forward to New England the most of all the trail, and Maine is getting oh so close. It is beautiful too, as the trail immediately started following the Housatonic River, which is the first river walk I can remember on the entire trail. It is a beautiful river, with lots of rapids. I wish I had my kayak.

However, New York wasn’t done with us yet. Instead of following the beautiful river all the way into Kent, the trail takes a left turn up a big hill, and then even dips back into New York to climb a big mountain. New York should have let things be, as it had left such a good impression on me. But this last climb was a rude reappearance, as if the state wanted to spoil its good impressions with a surprise kick in the rear as I left it. The climb was pretty tough, and even the terrain after that. You could tell that there are a lot of places where the trail is purposely routed over steeper terrain when it is not really necessary. Where it could have just stuck to the river below, it instead took us over climb after climb.

All of this was really taking its toll, both on our time and on Y2K’s foot. He had been complaining about his foot hurting for a couple of days now, and in the final push, he was really slowing down. If we missed the post office, we would have to wait until Monday, wasting valuable time.

It was with only about an hour left that we were still a couple of miles from the road, and from there it was about a mile and half to the post office. We would be lucky to make it. I left Y2K behind and flew up the last mountain, and nearly ran down it. As I was descending, thunder could be heard and clouds were forming. By the time I got to the road, the rain was coming in a downpour. I asked the time from a few hikers who were there, and they said it was 12:15. I was too late. Defeated, I started walking towards town. All of that trouble over the last few days, and we were going to miss the post office by 15 minutes.

It was then that the unbelievable happened. A car pulled over and stopped, and a window rolled down. The girl inside asked if I needed a ride. Did I ever! This was trail magic at its finest! Just in my moment of greatest need, this trail delivers.

The driver was a young gal named Sadie, and there was a backpack in the back seat. She didn’t mind that I was drenched with rain and sweat, but simply said to hop in. I explained that I was trying to make the p.o., which closed in 5 minutes. She drove me straight there, and I made it in tiime. I told her about Y2K, who should have made it to the road by then. She happily drove back to get him. I was opening my package when Y2K stumbled in, looking like crap, but laughing uncontrollably. The chain of events was really unbelievable. He made it in time as well, and Sadie was waiting outside in the car to take us wherever we needed to go next. The day was saved, thanks to Sadie. Trail angels really do exist!

Y2K was convinced now that he had a stress fracture in his foot, which was not a good thing. It meant very slow miles for him at the best, and a significant amount of time off trail, if not the end of his hike at the worst. This was a sad turn of events, as he had been held back by another stress fracture back in Damascus, and had battled poison ivy for the last 3 weeks or so. He is having terrible luck on this trail.

Sadie dropped us off at the outfitter, but we would probably see her again as she was hitting the trail with her mom for a short section hike between here and Salisbury. We spent the rest of the day eating, doing laundry, and finding a good tent site behind city hall. Y2K was not planning on seeing a doctor until he was talked into it by the lady who owns the laundromat, who is also an E.M.T. I am really glad he’s going to go get it looked at. This trail is not worth risking permanent injury, and it will always be there waiting once he is better.

I should mention how much I liked Kent, CT. It is a little snobish, and people here are extremely rich. But it is unmistakably a New England town, right down to the architecture and shops. New England is one of my favorite parts of the country, so I was right at home. I was even able to find a nice pair of shoes to replace my worn out ones, and it was generally a productive stop. It certainly will last as one of the more memorable stops as well.

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