Words cannot express HOW GOOD IT FEELS TO BE BACK IN NEW ENGLAND!!!
Today, I meant to make an extra early start and cover 16 miles, but it was not to be. Through the kindness of thru-hiker Alice, I was able to perform emergency surgery on the backpack with a needle and strong thread – this took a major load off my mind, as it ensured the pack would last the day. Even with that delay, I still was on the trail by 7:30.
Oh… Well, see above. The first part of the hike was so perfect. The trees were so familiar, and took me back to childhood memories of walking in the woods. Birches, oaks, ferns, dirt paths. Some rolling hills; a wonderful hike, with sun and breeze in equal parts.
The trail eventually wound it’s way up to a formation of rocks named St. John’s Ledges, which apparently are just on the other side of the border between Florin and Guilder, because I suddenly found myself descending the Cliffs of Insanity. Without a rope. The guide describes it as “steep stone steps descending to the Housatonic River”. I describe it as utterly terrifying, and the hardest section of trail yet. Sometimes there were steps. Most often not. Incredibly steep, and overlaid with dry, slippery autumn leaves from last year. One misstep, and you could easily fall a very long way. It took me forever to get down, with many fervent prayers. (And then there was the punk teenager climbing up, freehand, who smirked at me “No one ever promised it would be easy.”, and easily went on his way before I could slug him.) Finally, I made it down below rockline, onto a safer dirt trail. If I hadn’t stitched up the pack this morning, I doubt it would have survived this section. There was a lot of butt-scooting; no, Ziptie is not too proud for that – I will sit on my derriere and lower myself down if it seems the prudent option. Often, it was!
Then a lot of road walking to get to the river itself. The problem with stashing my two big Nalgenes in the big pouch is that they are out of my reach unless I take the pack off. Which, given the strap issues, I was leery of. So I ran out of water in the Camelbak water bottle I keep in easy reach, but could not refill it from the others until I reached the next shelter. I was very thirsty… I hope the new pack will have a better arrangement.
After the road walk came a very beautiful, level, and frankly, boring 5 mile walk along the Housatonic River. From one extreme to the other! The shelter was along this stretch, and I was able to stop, water uo, rest, and eat a snack, before moving on. This section of trail felt like it would never end!
I was supposed to meet my ride to the hostel at 4:30 at CT 4, and at 3:30, I was 1.7 miles out, with a 500ft hill climb and descent yet to go. Fortunately, neither were very difficult, and I pushed myself, making it to the road at 4:30 on the dot. 🙂 My knees may never be the same again though!
This hostel – the Bearded Woods Bunk and Dine – is amazing! It even beats the Rock and Sole, and that is saying a lot! They have fixed up the basement with two leather couches, a bathroom with two showers, two separate bunkrooms with 4 bunks in each, with real mattresses, and a TV and DVD with a shelf of movies. The only problem with this place is that it has stairs! Hikers don’t do well with stairs, particularly at the end of the day – where normal people can step from stair to stair easily, we tend to have to take it one step at a time, after a long day of hiking.
The price also includes dinner and breakfast – tonight’s dinner was BBQ chicken, cornbread, baked beans, and corn on the cob. See above about New England. I ate so much, but I was so hungry. Even though I didn’t get my 16 mile day in, I still did 11 miles – and it had been 12 hours since that blueberry coffee cake.
Other hikers here include Nova, who I have run into several times, a hiker from Ireland, another I forget the trail,and of, and Wingnut, who actually is at the hospital right now, with Lyme disease symptoms. I am always careful about checking for ticks, but I was double careful tonight – reflex. If that is what he has, he probably got infected back somewhere around Palmerton, PA, given the usual incubation period of two weeks. They are out there.
I am definitely zeroing here tomorrow. My only planned excursion is going to the post office to get my new backpack, if it is in. I want to give my feet a rest, my knees a reprieve. I will sleep in; I will read the book Lori sent me; I will hang out with other hikers. I may nap. I was planning to resupply, but the trail cuts through a town in about two days travel, so I will wait. I am going to ZERO.
It’s almost 10pm here. The other hikers are all in the other bunkroom and have crashed for the night. I will flip off the light in this one soon and join them in dreamland.