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[at-l] Trip report: CT/NY



Off work at 4:00 on Wednesday, with the radio tuned to the traffic
station.  I fought my way slowly around the Capitol Beltway across the
Potomac and headed way north above the inner Maryland 'burbs to avoid an
accident on the freeway.  I took over an hour and a half to travel 39
miles.

Ron was waiting for me and we piled all our combined packs, boots,
hiking sticks and other assorted gear into his vehicle to start our
drive to mid New York.  We got to RPH Shelter at seventy minutes before
midnight and some $12 poorer from tolls.

The shelter was still awake.  This is one of the most unique shelters on
the AT, a cinderblock cabin with one end removed to conform to NPS
standards, with a dining porch, a mowed lawn, bunk beds, a writing desk,
a pump (with somewhat rusty water), picnic tables, the works. The
shelter occupants, all early Thru's (some had started in late February
snow) had yogied a pizza run and were sitting around empty boxes replete
and happy.  We introduced ourselves, grabbed two empty top bunks, and
watched the resident shelter raccoon try to get some of the leftover
pizza crusts while the hikers tried in turn to get photos.

Thursday
--------

Thursday we were up at 5:30 and off by 5:45.  The plan was to drive on
to Cornwall Bridge, CT, park, and spend three days hiking the 50 miles
south back to RPH, where we would meet our shuttle who would get us back
to the car.

I had prepared a cache with my final night's dinner in a duct taped
metal can, and the first order of business was to stash it behind an
out-of-the-way rock wall.  I had taped an explanatory note with a
drop-dead date on it.  I hoped the raccoon wasn't good with duct tape.
We stopped along the way for a breakfast bagel and coffee.

We parked at the Breadloaf Mountain trailhead on Route 7 and were on the
trail at 7:33.  It was still very foggy when we hopped over the stepping
stones across Guinea Brook.  Silver Hill Campsite had a swing, a
pavilion with a sink, picnic tables, a deck with seats, and a great
pump.  It was a shame the shelter had burned down some years before -
too close to the road, I guess.

The first Housatonic River stretch made for a change from normal AT
ridge walking, and Ron went in for a dip across from an island just
before Stony Brook Campsite.  The current was swift but the river bed
shallow and he thought he could have made it at least across to the
island.  We had GORP at Stewart Hollow Shelter.

We proceeded up Saint John's Ledges - VERY steep, more rugged than
Albert Mountain in NC.  There was what looked like a technical climbing
class working out on the rocks and learning their knots.

It got hot, and VERY humid.  No wind, all dead air.  At several points I
wrung out my socks.  I drank liter after liter of water.  It got to be a
struggle for me to climb - quite a change from my hike in the Nantahalas
two weeks ago.  We both went for a dip in Macedonia Brook near Kent.  It
was deliciously cold, with a small channel you could swim through for 50
yards.  We ate lunch on top of Caleb's Peak.

We went up Mount Algo in two stages.  We stopped at the shelter and took
an hour nap, which helped my fatigue and also got us past the hottest
part of the day.  We met two recent AF Academy grads there, one of whom
was wearing a headless rattlesnake on the back of his pack(!) - said he
had killed it earlier that day.

Next came the final late afternoon push on to Rattlesnake Den Campsite
(I don't love that name) on Shaghticoke Mountain.  We had some grand
views across the river and back into Kent from a half mile before the
campsite.  The water source was good cold water sheeting over rocks in a
small waterfall, pretty and convenient for dipping.  All four campsites
ended up full; two were doubled up with a Thru family and a weekender
party.  We set up, ate, but turned in early at dusk with little
socializing.

We had done 14.5 AT miles, and at least 15.4 hiking miles.  Scaling from
the map, it was probably more like 16+, but I can't find consistent
published distances on Breadloaf Mountain Trail.  A long, humid day.

Friday
------

Friday morning we were up at 5:30, and off before 6:45.  The privy was
wide open - just a commode set up on top of the ground with no walls. It
was a real commune with nature.  I was glad it wasn't raining!

We made the first of three state line crossings as we crisscrossed
between CT and NY through the Shaghticoke Indian Reservation.  The trail
went back down to the Housatonic River along side of several islands.
We skipped the side trip to Bulls Bridge, but stopped after the Tenmile
River bridge, and got water at the pump at the campsite. We inspected
the shelter and signed the register.

We made fairly good progress over Tenmile Hill despite the heat, and
made the final crossing into NY.  The heat and humidity were so bad by
Hoyt Road I was nauseous and actually thinking of bailing, but a map
inspection showed no good opportunity, so I persevered (and perspired)
on.

The pump at the cistern just before Wetabuck/Wiley Shelter was a
tripsaver - I drenched my head and clothes while Ron pumped.  We ate
lunch there, and then had conversation at the Shelter with northbound
hikers we had last seen at RPH shelter.

We made GREAT progress over Hammersly Ridge and through the long level
stretch of Pawling Nature Reserve.  We made up much lost time despite it
being the hottest part of the day.  But the sun was fierce across the
open field walk leading to the Appalachian Trail Railroad Station and I
started chafing badly between my legs despite copious applications of
powder.

A landscaping business had left a running hose out for hikers just
before the station platform so I tanked up.  We went over puncheon
across Swamp River (love that name), and up over Corbin Hill to the
Dover Oak - a HUGE oak! We sat and praised it for 15 minutes.

The last climb for the day was up West Mountain.  There was plenty of
water in the run at the turnoff to Telephone Pioneers Shelter, where we
met the last two of the RPH hikers we had watched raccoon with.  It was
good to have only four in the roomy shelter, which faced east and had a
view.  Walking in sweat soaked socks all day had given both of us
blisters.  Ron applied duct tape to his toes, and I doctored my chafing
with Neosporin.  We had covered 18.9 miles hiked, 18.5 of it new AT.

Saturday
--------

Saturday found us up at 5:30 as usual.  We spooned down oatmeal (grits
for Ron), drank lots of coffee, and ascended the last of West Mountain
starting at 6:37, but with too much haze for any views.  We went past
the old Nuclear Lake bypass at Penny Road and then took the new trail
relo down to the lake.  Nothing seemed to glow so I guess Superfund had
cleaned it up okay.  We didn't drink from the lake, though.

We had a GORP break under the power lines before Route 55, and then
started slogging up Depot Hill to Morgan Stewart shelter with its
excellent pump.  The flies were pretty bad and wouldn't leave you alone
despite DEET.  I studied the map and then loaded up with an extra 2
liters of water for the dry stretch ahead.  We waved to cars while
crossing over I-84 - several honked back.

Coming down the second peak of Stormville Mountain I met Ralph.  I
recognized him from his picture and he had just been talking with Ron
who was a half hour ahead of me.  Ralph is the maintainer of that
section and the founder of Ralph's Peak Hikers, which RPH shelter is
named for.  Ralph's section was manicured, with perfect crisp blazing,
frequent sidehill switchbacks, wooden routed AT signs and plaques, and
even artistic rock cairns at the corners of the switchbacks.  His house
is just out of sight of the trail and his section of trail LOOKS like it
has a maintainer who lives next to it.  Ralph was to be our shuttler the
next day.

I had both freeway interchange and 'Gunks views from Hosner Mountain,
but I was glad when the trail started descending towards the Taconic
State Parkway and RPH Shelter.  I recovered my cache, and a good thing
too, as I was down to a small candy bar and some cheese crackers.
Instead, I had lovely mashed potatoes that I hadn't had to carry the
last 3 days! Glad the 'coon hadn't found it.  Ron took a shower in the
waterfall from the stream culvert under the TSP.  I mopped off at the
pump.  We had a full shelter with 2 tenting.  We made 16.9 miles hiked,
16.6 new AT.

Sunday
------

Sunday morning the rain started at 4:00 AM with thunder and lightning.
One bolt hit 200 yards south of the shelter at 6:30 and woke everybody
VERY up.  Ralph showed up earlier than the 8:00 he had promised and
drove us over to his house where we got a tour and met his cat and then
a couple from Northern Virginia (we're everywhere!) that were sharing
our shuttle back to Cornwall bridge and then beyond to Great
Barrington.  We went over Bulls Bridge and through beautiful Kent, and
were back to the car at 9:30.  We had celebratory fried egg and cheese
bagels to start the drive home on.

Postmortem
----------

No gear problems.  Esbit fuel burned in a stove made from a cut off soda
can worked well with my coffee can pot stand.  Neosporin worked fairly
well on the chafing burns.  I may need to start taking another pair of
clothes (shorts, socks) in heat.  The sweat band was priceless!

For critters we saw garter snakes, a few deer, chipmunks, one shy
rabbit, squirrels, lots of fat brown toads, woodchucks and the raccoon
of course.  I have since found one deer tick on me :(

We averaged 17 miles per day in heat and humidity - pretty good for
section hikers, I dare say.  CT/NY is rougher than it looks - 51 miles
there were much harder for me than 72 miles in the Nantahalas 2 weeks
ago.  Don't let people put down Connecticut just because it has some
river walking.

It was strange for me to hike with someone else for so far, as most of
my hiking is solitary, but it worked fairly well, and I plan to do it
again.  Ron is a much stronger hiker than I am (wave to the people, Ron,
and stop lurking) and I'm afraid I must have held him back, just as he
probably sped me up a bit.  But is was very good to have someone to camp
and eat with, and great to share the driving and discuss trail on the
ride back. Ron is good company.

This was my 10th longest trip of 96 trips over the last 7 years.  I now
have 1551.8 miles of the AT or 72%, with 608 miles still to go.

Next the Whites.

- Gary from Fairfax