Miles hiked: 608/2189 = 28%
After my lovely backroads walk to West Cornwall to check out the covered bridge, with return along the railway, I set out the next day to walk a third route which covered roughly the same mileage, this time along the Appalachian trail.
I had planned on continuing along the red line of the A.T. to a campsite further along the ridge, but came across a couple of locals at the intersection of the road into West Cornwall who told of another lovely 5 mile stretch along the Housatonic river which would lead me directly into Falls Village. So I headed down West Cornwall Rd, passing by a picturesque cemetery, and affording another opportunity to explore that beautiful bridge.
Humidity was at an all-time high, so I stopped in town for a couple of hours to avoid walking in the heat, had some dinner at the Wandering Moose, then wandered those last 5 miles of recommended riverbank to the next village, making for a 13 mile day.
Hikers can camp for free next to the power plant at Falls Village, so after arriving right on dusk, I pitched my tent and hung my bearbag in the failing light, then tumbled into bed for a fantastic night’s sleep.
Heading out of the Village the next morning, I came across some rock cairns in the river, the likes of which I’d last seen at Laurel Canyon, so I knew I was passing the way of Jah and Irie, rock artiste extraorinaires!
Walking to Salisbury, I saw the most amazing avian display. A hawk launched from the trees above me and as it took flight over an open field I saw a smaller bird drop down and catch a ride on its back. I’m not sure if it was a baby hawk getting flying lessons or a completely different species of bird. Whatever the case, it was a beautiful thing to watch.
Other scenes of interest enroute to Salisbury along Salmon Kill Rd:
Salisbury, a sweet little North-Western Connecticut town, where I spent two nights with trail legend, Maria McCabe, is home to the United States’ first public library.
Maria’s place was wonderful. She rents rooms in her private home at a rate of $35 per person, a deal which includes breakfast and a trip to the local laundromat and pizza place so guests can do their washing and get a meal.
She has a wicked sense of humour, does not suffer fools and is generous to a fault. Due to the constant humidity, I was in serious need of a wardrobe readjustment by the time I reached town, and while Salisbury is a sweet community, there is not really anywhere for the hiker to purchase gear. In a perfect display of her famous magnanimity, Maria went above and beyond, driving Nightowl and me to neighbouring Great Barrington (a town I would subsequently hike to over a three day period) to resupply. I feel honoured to have been her 110th guest for the 2016 season.
Maria is an 87 year old sweetheart who has been taking hikers in for 17 years, and from what I could see, shows no signs of slowing down.
I, on the other hand, am slowing down more and more with each passing day…
Maria dropped me at the trailhead at around 3pm and I hiked a short five miles to Brassie Brook Shelter, via the steep climb up to the Lion’s Head.
I spoke with Valerie and Rav (two Connecticut locals) at the overlook, where the views were spectacular.
My campsite at Brassie Brook:
Found this little guy as I was leaving camp the next day:
The next 8 miles were the toughest stretch I’ve done since resuming the hike, with three steep mountains to traverse: Bear Mtn, Race Mtn & Mt Everett.
On July 26, I celebrated my 40th birthday on the trail. I had a really lovely day. I watched the sunrise from the trail, then climbed down the mountainside and walked 4 miles to the nearest road crossing, called a taxi and came to town. I ate delicious food, went to a movie at the cinema (the latest Star Trek), bought a couple of new books (Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel and Spooky Massachusetts: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings and Other Local Lore retold by S. E. Schlosser) and had an early night in a kingsize bed. It was pretty much a perfect day. 😊
I have been in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, for a couple of days, debating my next move. Learning how to carry my pack again has been tough, and I am enjoying the wonderful scenery, but the experience of hiking this particular terrain has changed since I first set out in March. Although the brace is doing a great job protecting my wrist, and despite the fact that I’m doing radically fewer miles and moving at a snail’s pace (sometimes no more than a mile an hour!), I keep rolling my ankles. I fell three times in the space of a couple of hours coming down those steep rocky inclines (no injuries, thank goodness) so I am losing my confidence when it comes to the descents and am told that the terrain just gets more and more challenging the further north I go.
I love the walking aspect, but partly because I’ve been away so long and am no longer in sync with the other hikers, and partly because I’m no longer hiking the trail in an unbroken line, the fact that the climbing (down) feels so risky means that I am no longer attached to this particular trail (or at least to hiking all of it). As I was coming down an incredibly steep section of rock scramble on my birthday, I kept thinking “if I make it to the bottom without incident, I need to rethink my approach to this trail.”
Another thing that has been different is the small number of hikers on the trail in this section. Throughout Connecticut, I followed the state requirement of only camping in designated campgrounds, thinking this would make for good company at day’s end, yet in all but one location, I have been the only person tenting. Which has been fine, because I either hang my bear bag or store my food in the bearproof boxes that are sometimes provided. But it means that there is no longer that sense of trail community that I loved.
So in a radical departure from the thru hiker’s M.O. I have decided to hire a car for a while, and will be driving to trailheads and hiking in with a day pack rather than carrying the full pack. This will give me the option to choose sections that have less elevation loss and gain, and to choose campsites that are more inhabited. It also means that I can wander further afield, and check out other trails that are perhaps more my current speed. Maybe visit some national parks. And some university towns and visit their libraries. I still want to walk every day. I just want it to be an experience that fills me with wonder, not one which has me questioning every step and sleeping with one eye and ear open, constantly on the lookout for bears! My arm will fully heal in time, and at that point, taking tumbles on the trail won’t be so fraught. When that day comes, perhaps I will return and attempt another thru-hike. In the meantime, I am going to make it up as I go along. True to my dissertation topic of wandering, when have I ever reached my destination by travelling in a straight line? Each day is a new day. Life is good.