AT Journal, 6/05

AT Journal, Bear Mountain Bridge to Lee, MA, 6/18 to 6/27/2005

6/18/05, 9PM

Bob Reardon – GMC maintaining trail on Anthony’s Nose.

Beautiful day, weather-wise. Some sun, some clouds, never hot, never cold, no rain.

Camped alone somewhere north of Canopus Hill summit, about 11 miles from where Mitko dropped me off – at east end of Bear Mountain Bridge.

Not too many great views today – once I got out of sight of the Hudson.

Pack is comfy. Shoes are so-so (maybe it’s the socks – I’ll have another pair on tomorrow.) Menthol Eucalyptus cream seems to work, though I had to reapply several times. (Alternative to DEET.)

I was hearing loud motorbike (?) noises in the valley below, a moment ago. But they’ve died off for the moment. [This written in the dark, sitting outside tent.]

Very scary unpleasant experience right at summit of Canopus Hill – about 2 miles back (south) maybe, and a couple hours ago.

Something just went wrong with my left foot and every step hurt. I thought for a moment it might be a stress fracture or that I’d have to hobble off the mountain. Whatever – I sat down, took the boot off, took two ibuprofen.

Walked around the site a bit, thinking about making camp. It wasn’t looking good. [Uneven ground, and a trashy fire pit dominating the scene. Too exposed.]

While doing that, got stung by some nasty flying insect, maybe a wasp. It hurt like hell for a couple of minutes. Popped a Benadryl. It helped.

Had to move on, left foot be damned. I had to nurse it for a while, but seems mostly back to normal now, knock wood.

[Bear Mtn Bridge, Graymoor Monastery]

6/19/05, Sunday (stealth site to RPH.) Last night, slept at stealth site somewhere below and north of Canopus Hill. Up at 5:30, walking by 6:30 AM. Don’t remember many details of Sunday’s hiking except up around Canopus Lake, and a long break, later in the day, at “Shenandoah” Campsite, another municipal-lawn affair, just like RPH. I figured I had the time and energy to make it to RPH, and so I did. RPH was just another mile or two northbound.

Canopus Lake, south end – during a long smoke break, chatted with Richard, a section hiker, SOBO. He talked up Kent. North end of lake – from a bluff on the trail, could see and hear people on beach, but no easy way down. Trail passed far from and high above the lake, nearly its whole length. Bummer. I like water views.

6/20/05, Monday (RPH to Tel. Pioneers)

Leaving RPH shelter, three hard climbs (650’, 500’, 250’) before reaching I-84 via a short roadwalk around 1 or 2 PM. Threw away the pizza box and a small Ziploc full of trash in a waste receptacle that just happened to be parked at the bottom of a driveway, 100 feet from the trail head on Rte. 52. Most of the young-uns went to the Mountain Top Deli on Rte. 52.

There was road noise all morning from two major roads (highways) that boxed in this morning’s walk: Taconic State Parkway to the west, and I-84 to the north. For some reason, the AT first hugs one and then the other before finally passing over I-84 on Stormville Mountain Road. The highway is largely invisible from the trail, and the trail is hundreds of feet above it, but the shape of the mountain seems to carry the road noises (eg., semis and air brakes) up to the trail with amazing clarity. Bummer.

Afternoon’s walk was long and boring. I got to Morgan Stewart shelter much too early. Nuclear Lake seemed beautiful, peaceful, and had it not been named that, I surely would have had a swim.

Whatever – I musta felt good that day, put in 16 miles and it didn’t even seem that hard.

6/21/05, Tuesday (Tel. Pioneers to 10-Mile)

Lots of walking in meadows, and some of it was hot and steep. I longed for the shade and the cool of the woods – even though meadows and pastures are a nice change from infinite woods.

There were some sections of trail that were closed in by overgrown vegetation on both sides, occasionally with pogue (sometimes rotten) as the only sign that this was indeed the AT.

It was all I could do to walk 13 miles today. That last slog over 10-Mile hill was a real ball buster, but seeing the river by late afternoon light – and dousing myself in it – was a nice finish. Senator Daniel and Opa both at the site, one in tent and one in shelter. Wed. AM is probably the last I saw/will see of these two. [Wrong!]

Mid-day: AT “train station,” hot dog and sprite from lady-in-trailer parked near Rte. 22 trail head. Hot meadow walk just after that.

Thought I’d sleep in shelter, but the bugs got to me. I set up my tent in the grass in front of the shelter, fly up. Soon to sleep.

Highlights: AT railroad station, hot dog and sprite on Rte 22., NY/CT line, Ten-Mile Hill, quick splash in 10-Mile River.

6/19: stealth camp in woods N. of Canopus Hill to RPH Shelter. At RPH, ordered pizza, had to carry out carton the next day.

6/20: RPH Shelter to Telephone Pioneers Shelter. 16 miles. I slept on an uneven tent site above and behind shelter. Huge blowdown on approach trail to shelter.

6/21: Telephone Pioneers Shelter to Ten-Mile Shelter. 13 miles. Hot walks and steep climbs in meadows today. Hotter than last two days, some relief in the afternoon. [AT Railway station. Hot dog and soda lady by trailhead on Rte. 22. NY/CT state line – 50 mile point.]

Saw snakes on 6/20. Saw deer on 6/19, 6/20.

6/22, Wednesday, 7:30 AM (10-Mile to Kent)

On ascent of Schagticoke Mountain – last ridge before Kent.

Last night again with Senator Daniel and Opa and a new cast I’d not met yet. Ate well, slept well. It’s summer solstice. Fireflies in meadow in front of [10-Mile] shelter.

(written later…)

That was a really tough seven miles this morning, and took nearly seven hours. Started out nice – big steel bridge over 10-Mile River, then walk along river for a while, then a quarter-mile roadwalk, then a tough slog up Schaghticoke Mtn. Ridge walk was never easy. Rained for about half an hour. Ridge walk “ends” with two humps; the first unnamed one a 400 foot climb, and the 2nd, Mt. Algo, a 250 foot climb. Hot half-hour road walk to Kent. Hikers seen mid-day but appear to have vanished, most likely back on the trail.

Chatted for a while and played leapfrog with “Shades of Blue” – seen briefly at last night’s [10-Mile] Shelter.

6/23/05, Thursday (Kent to stealth site in woods; written ~9 AM, 6/24, during long morning break at Pine Brook Swamp Lean To)

Cappuccino and muffin for b’fast in Kent. Walked half way out to trail head, got a hitch from Dad plus two sons in an old Burgundy-colored Subaru, goin’ fishin’. Dad warning me about snakes on the ridge.

Easy climb to ridge, easy walk along ridge, somewhere along there I ran into Opa and Senator Daniel. Short but tough rock scramble coming down off the ridge, then a 4 or 5 mile beautiful walk along west bank of the Hoosatonic River. This ends with some meadow walking, then 500’ up and back down Silver Hill. For a while, at the start of the river walk, I was walking along with (but behind) Opa and Sen. Daniel.

From the bottom of Silver Hill, it’s a 1 mile road walk (CT Rte. 4) to Cornwall Bridge, where I got a cold Dr. Pepper at a gas station, walked across the “bridge” to town, picked up my mail drop, packed about 2/3 of it, and left the rest with the folks at the post office.

A bit undecided at that moment. Back to trail? I was ready to call it a day, mile-wise, but it was too early in the day and the town too sleepy for me. Stay at State Park campground? I moseyed back in that direction – but not very far.

Ended up walking “Bread Mountain Trail” back up to the AT, 0.6 miles but very steep. This is a blue blaze that roughly parallels CT Rte. 4. It incorporates the climb from Cornwall Bridge to the Rte. 4 trailhead, plus the NOBO climb from trail head back to ridge. So it misses a tiny bit of AT. Will I still get to heaven?

There was a campsite [Caesar Brook] ~3 miles up the trail but I never found it. Somewhere on this stretch I discovered my MSR water filter wasn’t working. Oh well, I’ve got iodine tablets, but that put me in a bad mood. Next shelter (where I’m writing this) was another 3-4 miles, with some steep climbs and daylight waning.

Eventually I found a half decent stealth site, with water – even managed to cook a dinner and tea – but didn’t sleep very well. At 2 AM I was still tossing and turning. Took an ibuprofen and finally got a few hours’ sleep.

Up at 6:30 AM, walking by 6:50, made it here (Pine Brook Swamp Lean To) around 8:15 or 8:30. Opa and Sen. Daniel caught up with me on this AM’s pre-breakfast climb, met me again at this shelter, and then they took off. Said they were heading for Limestone Spring Shelter, 12 miles up the trail.

Discovered a few moments ago that my cell phone is showing “Low Battery.” WTF? It was fully charged in Kent and has been off the whole time since! So maybe I’ll stop in Falls Village this PM and see if I can make a call and maybe deal with the filter.

6/25 Saturday AM. I’m at Holly’s Place for breakfast in Salisbury, CT. Spent last night at Limestone Spring campsite, a steep 0.5 mile hike and at least 300’ down from the A.T. on Mt. Prospect. It took me less than two hours to get to the road (CT Rte. 44) though, once I’d climbed back to the A.T. this morning.

I’d expected to find Opa and Sen. Daniel at Limestone but nothing doing. Instead there was a scout troop – two adults, about eight or ten young kids, and the father-son duo (Bud and Luke) who I’d seen earlier in the day, setting out on their section hike from the back of a small station wagon, just below Falls Village.

Beautiful spring at the campsite, and a shelter and fine, large camping area. Very pleasant all around. Happy to be here. Set up tent with fly up. Wise move. It was a hot night. No extra warmth needed.

Yesterday’s hike was tough but I traveled farther than I’d hoped to. From Pine Swamp Brook Lean-To, down to Rte. 7/112, took longer than expected… or at least it felt that way. When I got there… took that ridiculous march around the corn field, which took me back to the same intersection, but this time from a different angle, and this time there was another one of those “hot dog & cold soda” ladies, so I sat down in a lawn chair, talking to Theresa, sipping first on a can of Coke, then on a can of Sprite. Visited for maybe half an hour, then as I left, Theresa gave me a bottle of spring water “on the house” and filled one of my water bottles half way with water from a gallon jug.

OK, so now it’s 2, maybe 3 PM. Sun is beating down, it’s 90 degrees in the shade. Trail bears right and east, follows a bridge to the east bank of the Hoosatonic, then another road heading N, then loses the road – but instead I lost the trail and followed the road. (Which, by evidence of the painted-over blazes, was clearly the “old AT.”) Whatever. Another piece of trail missed. I suppose heaven is out of the question.

This was another one of those rare three-mile dead-flat sections where the trail probably beats through reeds, marsh, tall grass, and flat swampy stuff. So instead I was on a shady residential lane, leading to the same place: Falls Village.

I walked a bit up the hill to the Village proper… such as it was. Short walk. There’s an inn (they were booked) next to the firehouse, and across from both of these, a garage and a package store. They sold singles of Bud, so I availed myself to one, on a bench in front of the packy. Then I moseyed across the street to the inn.

A woman eventually appeared at the desk. I inquired about a room – sorry, full up. The woman (proprietor, I think) made a call to some other place nearby – a place with cabins – but they couldn’t offer me any laundry service. That was the clincher for me. No point at all hanging out. So back down the hill, to the AT. Passed Bud and Mrs. Bud and son Luke embarking on their hike.

By now it was 3:30 or 4 PM. Maybe later. Opa and Daniel said they’d be at Limestone Springs Campsite, some 800’ uphill, across the Hoosatonic again.

No way around it. Down to the river, past the power plant. Over the “famous” iron bridge. Playing footsie with the river gorge for a few minutes and then a decent, nicely graded hike up the mountain, with far less effort and grunting than I’d expected. Leapfrogged Bud and Luke a couple of times on the way up.

Limestone Springs was a beautiful site, though its situation and relation to the trail is a bit too reminiscent of Guyot Shelter or The Perch. An extra 300’ of descent and ascent isn’t really what thru-hikers wanna deal with.

6/25 (Saturday) AM: Easy hike down to CT Rte. 44, walked to Salisbury (a mile, no problem.) Heat and humidity. Sun forming godbeams in the mists in the woods. Didn’t get a hitch, but easy walk to town… maybe a mile or so on flat road.

Excellent breakfast at “Holly’s Place”. After b’fast, while moseying through town, an elderly fellow named George leaned out his Subaru asking if I needed help finding anything. Yeah, I said. Laundry. Hop in, he says. Offered to take me to Lakeville, but I declined, ‘cuz I’d have to hitch back. We ended up at Maria McCabe’s place. I can stay for $30, get a shower, and do laundry in a pail. Sigh. After much “deliberation” that’s what I ended up doing. Most of Saturday was spent hanging around Maria’s place, being lazy. She was gracious and generous to a fault, though there was that unpleasant incident where I returned from dinner at the White Hart to find her back door locked… and Maria not responding to the door bell or loud knocks at the door.

6/27/05 (Monday) 3 PM. Stinking baking hot again, reporting from Great Barrington, after a night inna tent near Glen Brook Lean To. Stick and Flying Turtle were in the lean-to. In tents. Another relatively sleepless night. Even that summer-weight down bag is useless. A thunderstorm would have been nice. Great Barrington is about 5 miles up the road (Rte. 7.) from the AT. From last night’s campsite to Rte. 7 was about eight miles.

Yesterday: 15 miles from Maria’s place in Salisbury. Lots of vertical. 1500 feet to summit of Bear Mtn (CT). 1000’ down to Sages Ravine. No problem. Sages is beautiful, took long breaks. Then, 1000’ back up to summit of Race Mtn. – tough. Those rocky ledges at the summit were infernally hot. SPF 30 sun block literally saved my hide. Normally, I love those ledges. Views were mediocre due to the haze. (Views most eastward, at least below the very summit.)

Did I mention Sages Ravine was beautiful? Dawdled there as long as I could, and even soaked both feet for several minutes. Somewhere down there is the CT/MA line. Trail map shows it south of the ravine, but signs on the trail put it at the very end, at the beginning of the ascent up to Race Mtn. Whatever. There was no guard at the border.

Coming down off Race Mtn., I took the 0.4 mile (and 200’ down) side trail to check out Race Brook Trail Campsite. Waste of time. Ugly place – a clear-cut on a steep hillside. So now one more push for the day – 700’ up Mt. Everett and back down, to Glen Brook Lean To/camping area. Well, it’s a lot more friendly than that ugly clear-cut.

Today (6/27, Mon.) – approx 8 miles relatively easy but VERY HOT hiking. Heat stroke and heart attack weather. First part of the walk was on the ridge, then a steep descent off the ridge, then meadows/forests/meadows/swamps/forests/road crossings… leading eventually to US Rte. 7, about 5 miles due south of Great Barrington, MA. Barring a large, sudden change in weather, I’m ready to call it a hike. This is not proper weather for heavy exertion in the outdoors.

6/27 PM: Hanging out at the Super-8 in Lee, with Shades of Blue (Michael Tyson) whom I met as I was leaving Friendly’s. Didn’t like the desk clerk at the Days’ Inn at Great Barrington – so, in addition to 2 or 3 miles road walking from trail to town, I walked clear through town and another mile or two north on Rte. 7, looking either for a hitch to Lee or a nice motel with a pool. The hitch came first. Some nice guy in a van full of tools – a handyman.

Coming off the trail at around 1:30 or 2:00 PM, I was utterly dehydrated. There had been no water at all on the trail. I’d left camp with 1 ½ quarts and had been conserving it.

Just N. of the Rte. 7 trail crossing is the Corn Crib, a garden store. Near the office/checkout counter was a cooler full of cold drinks. I downed three 16-oz. bottles of fruit drinks in about three minutes. Started walking towards GB with thumb out. No takers. Sun’s beating down. Another mile or two of this and I came to an ice cream place. New girl tending shop. First day on the job. Clueless. Hot fudge sundae and a soda It took 20 minutes to get my sundae. Ah, what’s the hurry… Eventually I did get a hitch for the last couple miles into town.

In town, I inquired at the Days’ Inn ($90), had an ice coffee and wrote in diary, stopped at ATM, met and talked to that skirted through hiker (never did get his name) who showed me his pack-repair and soda-can-stove projects. I sensed I wasn’t the only hiker in town taking a break from the heat.

Checked on bus fares and schedule. $41, but next bus was tomorrow, Tues, at 1 PM (and took 5 hours to get to Boston.) It was relatively interesting and vibrant, as trail towns go.


The good news is that I walked most of the miles I intended to, and made good daily mileage. 6/26 was a 15 mile day with 3000 feet of vertical, in very hot weather. The third day out (6/20) was a 16 mile day. Of course these were long days (summer solstice) and I used most of the daylight I was given. But I took lots of breaks.

Bad news is that my body was not in shape for this hike. I had problems with both feet, and my back ached for much of the hike. Keeping cool and hydrated was a chore. Ending the hike in Great Barrington, I had sores/welts all over my lower back and a mildly injured right foot (appears to be nearly healed/normal as of July 9, 2005.)

Lack of laundry facilities really irked me. First at Kent and then again at Salisbury. Twice I had to wash my stuff by hand, in a sink or a pail. Stupid. Got better things to do.

My MSR water filter messed up. I think at one point, after a disassembly to clean the filter element, I put it back together with some grit or sand in the threads. In any case, after that it would not draw water and I could not get it apart. Eventually in Salisbury we (me and another adult male, working together) did get it apart. Later, I thought I had it working, but it failed again a day or two later, in the woods. Must order rebuild kit and report this to MSR. I think that small rubber flapper valve is kaput.

I was using a new pack I’d bought from EMS two nights before the start of the hike. It’s a low-end internal-frame pack, lightweight (4 lbs) like the old Camp Trails. It had a nice pocket system, and I had no issue with its “ergonomics” in that sense. It held closely to my body, didn’t creak, but my lower back was in some pain through most of the trip. Was that just my poor condition at play, or some flaw with the pack? This new pack has a fairly simplistic suspension, nothing like that big green MountainSmith FrostFire. It’s also a lot less expensive and much lighter than the MountainSmith.

This new pack sits right up against the back, while that old Camp Trails just puts air behind it (mesh band against the back.) For all its disadvantages, the Camp Trails was cooler. It was impetuous of me to go with a new, untested pack and leave the trusty Camp Trails behind.

The Sierra Zip stove finally exhausted its original battery, and then seemed to have exhausted another one just a couple of nights later. I’m starting to see the Zip as just too messy. Soot everywhere. The JetBoil system strikes me as elegant, even though I’ve discounted canister systems from day one. Good news is that in all but one case, I started the Zip with birch bark kindling and exactly one match.

Cell phone. Suffice to say it was a challenge keeping it turned off. At one point it apparently phoned Marion in Hawaii, and she listened to footsteps for a few minutes. (This I discovered from Marion, a few days after the hike.) Eventually I figured out that carrying it in one of the outer mesh pockets was the safest bet (in terms of making sure the phone stayed off.) When it had juice, the cell phone proved handy, except in towns where it could not find a signal (like Great Barrington and Salisbury.)

My camera on this trip was a 3.2 Mpixel Konica/Minolta digicam that I borrowed from Oasis. My G2 weighed in at 19 oz, as I recall, versus the KM at 7 oz. No doubt the G2 is a much better camera.

Overall I think the pack topped out at around 38 lbs fully loaded with five days’ food and two quarts of water. I was probably overloaded with food at the start of the trip. At Cornwall Bridge and in the day or two after, I think I made the reverse error and gave away too much food, both the cookable and snackable kind.

Useless items? Didn’t get much use out of the polypro or rain gear or gators. Probably could have left that Annie Proulx book at home. Only used a tiny bit of the alcohol I was carrying.