NET: Day 15 Pleasant

August 31, 2018

If I had only one word to sum up today, it would be “pleasant.” Here are ways it was pleasant on my walk today:

We started the day at Stephanie’s house playing with her two young daughters and getting to know Stephanie. We had met briefly on the Appalachian Trail, probably in 2014, but none of us know exactly where. Funny, I had a “distinct memory” of meeting her at a hostel in Vermont. According to her, she never went there, and wasn’t even on the trail the year of my memory! Her offer to pick us up from the trail yesterday evening gave us the chance to meet each other in a memorable way! We pitched our tent in her back yard. See if you can find it among the yard objects in this photo!

It was pleasant on the trail today because the forests were all beautiful, we got our first glimpse of Long Island Sound, our destination under 50 trail miles away, and especially because there was a section of trail that had actually been cleared of rocks, making a smooth path on the hillside. I felt honored and welcomed by that!

It was pleasant today because I followed through on an idea from yesterday to take photos of feathers. I was delighted to find so many and of diverse types! Here’s a photo album of today’s feathers:

Album of feathers

It was pleasant because I met a local hiker who touched my heart with her willingness to share her heart. At a landmark viewpoint, Castle Craig, I offered to take a woman’s photo as she perched on the wall of the observation tower. “No, that’s ok,” she said. “I’ve got plenty of pictures because I’ve been coming up here almost every Friday since Spring.” Later, I met her again at a different view point and offered again to take her picture as she sat gazing over the reservoir below. “This time, yes!” she replied. I snapped a couple of shots with her camera, then said, “Ok. One more. Show me what’s in your heart.” She smiled, then said, “That just made my day. You see, it’s been a hard week. My aunt died.” We talked. She shared so much! She’s from Kenya, coming to the U.S. with her family 8 years ago. She’s studying to work in women’s empowerment and moving to England in two weeks to do that. She spoke of her aunt as a rebel, who had finally been released from her challenge of being kept alive longer than she had wanted to be. “I have an idea that you’re like her.” I offered. She smiled. I gave her my email address and invited her to connect later. Spontaneous and genuine interactions like that are pleasant for me!

Finally, the day’s finale was pleasant in its safe roadwalk to a hotel John had found very close to the trail at a point we reached at the pleasant hour of 7 p.m. The place is simple, the owner is pleasant, the place is adequate and easy to pay for. Pleasant. It’s just pleasant!

And I’ll add one more pleasantry. Subway sandwich shop is two doors down the street from Johnson’s Motel on the Berlin Turnpike near the trail’s turn onto Spruce Brook Rd in the Meriden, CT section. Eating Subway subs is pleasant!

NET: Day 13 Heat Advisory

August 29, 2018

We got up at 6 a.m. to get on the trail before the predicted heat sapped our energy. We didn’t set a destination because we didn’t know how we would do. Our first challenge was to navigate the half mile roadwalk on Rt 185 from Paul’s AirBnB back to the trailhead. Yesterday, on our road walk from his house to Wade’s Farm Store, I had experimented with signaling to drivers to give me space on the shoulder. I gave a downward wave, trying to communicate “Slow down” and “Move over”at the same time. It seemed to work, as fewer cars crossed over the sideline and some did slow down. That seemed to work again this morning, giving the commuters to Hartford a wake-up signal and us a way to survive the walk. Only once did I jump off the edge into the vegetation on the side! We made it! And onto the trail at 7:02.

Typical of this trail, the first thing we did was climb. That 2.1 miles up the ridge to Heublein Tower was surprisingly gentle. The trail even had switchbacks and followed the contour of the hill rather than shoot straight up the slope!

Heublein Tower was fun to see. Architecturally prominent and not gaudy. It wasn’t open, though, so we just got water, which was more valuable to us at the time than a tour. And then, back down of course!

The route today was particularly helpful for our hot day because it descended to a path next to a reservoir. We walked on a smooth cinder path for 2 miles, meeting a handful of morning walkers. We didn’t find a place to sit on the bank for our morning sweet potato snack, though. The reservoir is well protected from visitors! Dense woods on a steep slope made a buffer between the path and the water. Only when we reached the dam and veered away from the reservoir to cross the next road did we find a good resting spot.

The next section took us over another ridge in Metropolitan District Reservoir land, featuring Kilkenny Rocks. We thought that might be this big hunk of rock

but it turned out to be a plateau of rocks with a view, just before descending to a gravel road where we lost the blue blazes. “I don’t think we follow the gas pipeline,”John said. We went down a road, instead, and found a pleasant surprise. Another reservoir. This one we could sit by, eat our hummus on zucchini, and get water! So far, the dreaded heat wasn’t bothering us.

Using Google Maps and the maprika app, John got us back on the trail, ready for the approach to CT Rt 4, one possible endpoint for the day, at either an AirBnB or a hotel. All the hotels were quoting prices near $200 and sending us on wayward connections to rewards and vacation deals. We settled dejectedly on Advance Motel, 6 miles further.

In this section, the trail winds through wooded subdivisions, between big houses and in a street called Metacomet Road, literally crossing people’s driveways. It’s quite impressive that this trail has enough importance that it has stood up to development and still winds through it!

We reached Rt 4 at 2:30 p.m. with no sign of heat exhaustion. “Let’s keep going!”

We ended up walking another 6 miles all the way to Rt 372 and including the 4-mile traverse of the Rattlesnake Mtn and Pinnacle Rocks ridge. This took us up a few hundred feet and along a narrow ridge of rocks. Still undecided about where to stay for the night, we stopped at the high point of the ridge about 4:00. “We could just stay here.” I suggested. “Nobody comes here, it seems, and I’m getting less concerned about sleeping out on the trail. It is hot and buggy though.” Just at that moment, our first hiker sighting of the day occurred! Then, thirty seconds later, another hiker passed!

John responded firmly, “I think I want to celebrate that we weathered the heat and actually walked a long way, and we’re almost 2/3rds done with this trail! I’m going to splurge and get a room at Fairfield Inn. It’s four more miles ahead on Rt 372 and just a quarter mile from the trailhead. We could take the room at Advance Motel for $65, but it has a poor rating and it’s a mile from the trailhead. We’d still have to get there. I choose Fairfield Inn.”

With that decision made, we headed south. We still had that four miles of ridge walking to accomplish. Although the ups and downs of every single jut seemed interminable, the forest and views were beautiful. At Rattlesnake Cliffs we talked with the first hiker who had passed us and learned that he had some a 25-mile loop in the White Mountains last weekend. He runs up this ridge regularly! Now, that’s good exercise!

Finally, the trail did eventually descend to the road and wearrived at Fairfield Inn at 6:45. Done!

A hot bath, soft bed, and cool room made for a good reward and celebration! Not only had we managed the heat, we had walked 18 miles in rugged terrain. That’s actually our highest mileage of the trip so far!

NET: Day 10 Safe

August 26, 2018

Today, we reached an important milepoint. Well, two milepoints. The first was Little George’s restaurant on the north side of the Westfield River. It closes at 2 pm on Sundays. We got there at 1:20, just in time for breakfast – and lunch! I ordered an omelette and a Big Burger. John added a couple pieces of French toast. We split it all and felt very happy! Monica, our server, asked about our walk, so we filled her in. Most of the people we’ve talked with ask if we’re on the Appalachian Trail. They’ve heard of the Metacomet Trail, which comprises some of the NET. The AT passes through Massachusetts about 40 miles west of the NET.

The second landmark was right across the street from Little George’s. It’s the Westfield River. There’s no bridge where the trail reached it. We could see the white blaze in the other side. The trail guide says it may be possible to ford it. We looked at it and saw shallow water for most of the 60 yard crossing. It looked deeper and smoother close to the south bank. “We could probably make it. Let’s try!”

Indeed, the part that looked shallow was easy. The part that looked deeper and smoother wasn’t. At that point, I could only stand if I took one-inch steps. The slighest turn would have swept me off my feet. “Too hard! And there’s the bank, less than 20 feet away! So close, but not safe!”

We turned back.

Sitting on the patch of green near the parking lot, we saw Monica and the employees of Little George’s outside the restaurant saying their goodbyes after the restaurant closed.

“Maybe she would give us a ride around to the other side over the road bridge! Otherwise, we could either walk the four busy road miles or call for an Uber. Other hikers have recommended that way.”

“Let’s ask her!”

We did. She said yes, and fifteen minutes later we were at the trailhead on the south side of the river, safe and smart. I explained to Monica that when an unexpected helped turns up we call her a “trail angel.”

She laughed and drove off.

We decided to walk north on the trail to see the crossing from this side. It was a good half mile away and down a very steep slope! Seeing the river from that vantage point confirmed that fording it was not possible with a pack standing up!

Notice the picture below taken from the south shore. That “v” would be perfect for slipping down in a canoe. For walking, impossible!

NET:Day 9 Continuing

August 25, 2018

Breakfast at a kitchen table in an antique New England home, described by the owner as “a great place to have lots of visitors”, was a sumptuous respite from the trail. Our treat for breakfast was smoked salmon from yesterday’s Whole Foods shopping, an English muffin, a banana, and coffee brewed in our host, Mark’s, glass brewer that looked like it came from a chemistry lab.

Easing into conversation with Mark and Dianna, we started looking at Dianna’s pictures of their family of three adult daughters, two spouses, and a boyfriend. The grand finale was a video of their eldest daughter’s wedding dance, a whimsical swing dance with moves the new couple had practiced for this gracious performance. I had fallen in love with their family!

Still, we had the trail to walk so we tore ourselves away and loaded up our packs in Dianna’s car for our shuttle to the south side of the Connecticut River. “It’s always impressive to be living a day that’s been anticipated for a while. This is one of those days! For weeks we’ve been wondering how we would be negotiating this river crossing. And now, we’re actually doing it!” I mused as we drove through the neighborhoods, past the Dinosaur Tracks site, over the river bridge, to the boat launch where we could touch the water. Dianna narrated with historical and geological anecdotes and facts.

Within twenty minutes, we were walking in woods again.

This section rose gently and smoothly up 700 feet over a couple of miles to a popular Day hike site called Goat Peak. There’s a fire tower there and a 360 degree view of the CT River Valley.

On the way up, Dianna and I talked about geology and hiking and other lighthearted topics. Dianna shared some anecdotes of her own walks on 800 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Soon after starting our climb, we met Susan, a gray haired woman who walks her favorite loop in that area frequently. I loved meeting her, feeling that it was her spirit permeating the woods, welcoming us there, enhancing each vibrant aspect of that place. Dianna usually walks on the more rugged north side of river. However, when we continued in the opposite direction from Susan, she said, “I’ll be seeing you again!”

Another walker today was a woman with her dog. “She loves attention!” she called out as we approached. We thanked her for having her dog on a leash. She shared her dismay at hikers whose unleashed dogs threaten her own stability. “I’m disabled with my new hips. I finally got the ‘Keep Dogs on a Leash’ sign put up! After a dog bit someone at another park, they finally listened to my request.” We thanked her for taking action on that to help all of us.

The other people we met on our busy walk up the mountain was a group of seven from two families from Boston. They had driven two hours to get here! I was fascinated that one of the kids was minding a grasshopper on her finger, having carried it all the way up the mountain! When we reached the top of the firetower, that grasshopper was still on her finger!

After descending from the tower, Dianna announced that she was heading back. We said our goodbyes and shot another photo. “We’ll keep in touch!” we promised, as we headed south.

The trail followed the ridgeline of basalt rock for three more miles to its high point at Mt Tom. The basalt formed natural steps, and the glaciated boulders were smooth as concrete.

Today’s trail was a delightful contrast to the route of the past two and a half days over the Holyoke Range. For ten miles the trail went up and down every knob and valley in a very steep fashion, and not on basalt steps but on craggy, broken rock. I’ll have to learn more about what it’s geologic origin is. Whatever it is, the route gave us “quite a workout” as Dianna describes that stretch!

By 4:30 we had reached the end of the gentle and view laden Mt Tom traverse, reaching Rt 202 just past the Whiting Street Reservoir where we gathered a couple liters of water from an inlet stream. We were grateful to find that water until we read the sign at the gated entrance to the area. One of the prohibitions was “drawing or causing to be removed any water from any source.” Was our drinking water contraband?!

Another hour’s walk through a dry oak forest took us to our day’s destination, a “tent platform of unknown ownership.” Its placement within sight of a gravel road that ended at a gun club motivated us to keep walking up the next ridge, however, and find a spot to sleep in our tent in a secluded spot off the trail. Feeling hard to find seems more important to me now than adhering to the “no stealth camping” rule.

We supped on one of our simple dinner concoctions – pasta, chicken, rehydrated pinto beans, and habenero pepper jack cheese. The sound of crickets and other August insect singers soothes us. Starting off our second week in the New England Trail, we feel at home here.

NET: First 95 Miles

August 24, 2018

We’ve walked for a week. Our planned average of 10 miles per day grew to 12.6, putting us at a recognizable landmark – the Connecticut River. The river poses a logistical consideration because there is no trail crossing provided. The trail simply ends, and not even at the riverbank on the north side!

For us, this is where trail community comes in, and why clearing my emotional path before starting this walk helped me! Doing that (using the tools of Radical Forgiveness), opened my mind to asking for help on Facebook. And I got help! Two friends suggested getting in touch with Dianna, who lives three miles from the river crossing. She is a member of the Appalachian Trail: Women’s Group, and has been shuttling hikers across the river. It’s true that calling for a taxi also works for hikers, but Dianna provided additional benefits as well. She hosted us at her home for a half day and over night! Even more, she drove us to a shopping center where we bought a new fuel canister and food for our break. We relaxed, cleaned up, did laundry, recharged phone batteries, and had delightful conversation with her and her husband, Mark, who teaches paleontology classes at nearby Holyoke College. Her contribution to our walk elevated our experience from accomplishment to fulfillment! The thread of trail now connects pearls of friends.

Let me tell you about those pearls! I have already described Annie and her siblings from Day 5 at the Diamand Farm. The next day, during our stop at the town of Shutesbury, MA where we had a box of food held at the Post Office, we added three pearls to our thread.

After our two-hour gentle, rainy descent from our “Rockwell Hill” camp we took the half mile roadwalk into the village. “There’s the library,” I said as we summited a rise in the road. “That’s one of the three places shown on Google Maps for Shutesbury.” Indeed, the pink-trimmed porch of the quaint old house used as a library invited us in! “And there’s the Post Office across the green lawn. That big, white building over there. And whats this? A looming, white, high-steepled building. Ah, the Community Church proclaiming ‘All are welcome’ on its sign.” We do feel welcome!

The third place labeled on Google Maps, the fire department, is further down the road. We don’t visit there this time.

It’s 10 a.m. The library is open today from 11-1. The Post Office is already open. It’s still raining lightly, so after a short discussion while standing under the cover of an outside bank of mailboxes, we decide to go into the Post Office and request our box.

It’s there, of course. We’ve had good service from the Post Office with dozens of maildrops using flat-rate priority mail boxes. We can simply address then to ourselves at General Delivery, writing “Please hold for hikers ETA xx/xx/xx” and rely on them being there.

The clerk, after learning more about the New England Trail and revealing that she has thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail, invited us to sort through it right there in the lobby. “This is a pretty quiet place!” We pull out our bags of dry food one by one and realize we have too much, what with the leftovers from our first 5 days. I pack up four quart-size bags plus some journal pages and sketches and ship them off to Ohio where I can retrieve them after the walk. The US Postal Service helps us a lot on a long-distance walk!

I get the sense that we encouraged the clerk too. “I can’t go for a long walk now. My kids are too young! I walk up to a swimming hole when I get time to myself.” I reply, “Well, I walked the trail when my youngest son turned 18, so you’ve got time! Keep getting out whenever you can! Every walk is great!”

It’s almost time for the library to open, so we walk back there. We huddle on the tiny porch, noticing that it is, indeed an entrance, not just decoration. Right at 10:00, the door opens and a woman walks out carrying an “open” banner to hang on the flag holder. “How often do you have people waiting eagerly on the porch when you open?” I ask. “Well, actually” she replies, “Never!” We all chuckle and enter the small, book-lined house.

Of course, we’re not headed for books but computer and electric outlets. I settle myself at one of two computers squeezed into the room and locate the outlet strips on the floor. I’m all set for my two-hour writing session! John goes on a hunt for water. It turns out that the only potable water available in town is in jugs at the Town Hall across the road. He goes there and discovers a bathroom where he can shave and clean up.

I enjoy overhearing the two librarians’ conversations with each other and with patrons. The most fascinating is the one with a man borrowing the two kayaks on loan! “As far as we know, we are the only library in the world that loans kayaks,” relates Marian, the librarian (Are you singing along ‘Maaarian, Madaam libraaarian’ from The Music Man?) I say, “It’s amazing that your small town has both a post office and a library!” Marian says, “Yes. We New Englanders are good at going to meetings and frowning. When the administrators start talking about closing things, we all frown and say no.

It’s almost 1 p.m. Time to finish up. I ask, noticing that the sun is shining, “Would anyone frown if we set up our tent to dry in the back yard?” She answers, “No. And if they do, just tell them Marian said it was ok.”

While setting up our tiny tent next to the sandbox behind the library, a man drives up and starts hauling out the bags of recycling. I offer to help and carry out a couple of bags for him. “I don’t think anyone has ever offered to help me with this”! he quips. “It takes someone from out of town!”

John returns just in time to snatch up our drying gear as the rain starts again. We dash to cover on the handicap ramp at the back door of the library. We decide to cook some mashed potatoes there, squishing everything out of the way as much as possible. The recycling guy returns, saying, “We have a dryer at home and an outdoor shower you could use. It seems that we could do more for you visitors than offer you a backyard sandbox!” At the same time, Marian comes out the back door and offers to bring us tomatoes from her garden.

What we come up with is that the recycling guy, who we learn is Dave, the husband of the town clerk, will drive us back to the trailhead – at the woods, not on the gravel road. We still want to walk about 10 miles and it’s already 2:00. We hop into his truck with his offering of a perfect cucumber in hand and go directly to the trail. He tells us that his parents were maintainers of the trail while he grew up there, so he was quite familiar with it! When we stop, a mile and a half down the road, he had one more gift. “How about a beer?” I hesitate. John considered taking two. We open one and pour it into our Nalgene bottle. The can goes into Dave’s recycling bag and he waves goodbye. Back home on the trail again with light hearts, we find our pace again in the woods. The beer caps off the celebration just right.

NET: Day 5 Gift of Cheese

August 21, 2018

We were up without hurry and enjoyed our breakfast of Apple oatmeal, cooked gently on our butane stove. We had camped in easy reach to an old road we hoped would lead to Diamand Farm. It did! What a great thruhiker find!

It’s a family run egg and poultry farm in its second generation.

Annie, one of the dozen Diamand siblings, gave me a small block of cheese. They don’t sell cheese in the store, and that’s what I wanted! “I like cheese,” she replied to my query. “I have some at home for you.” As we enjoyed our warmed up quiche from their well-stocked refrigerator of prepared homemade foods, Annie came back with a beautiful creamy hunk of cheese. “It’s Marshetto Cheddar,” she reported. “You can have it.”

Besides Annie, we also met Diamand siblings Peter and Mary. Peter invited us to sit with him on the front porch of the farmhouse his dad had bought in 1936. Mary interrupted her loading if recycling into her car to show me a painting of the farm behind a line of 12 chicks. Each chick had the name of one of the siblings under it. “I’m the oldest girl,” she told me. “Two of the siblings have passed away, the others still live in the area.”

How different the Diamands are from my family of ten siblings who have mostly moved far away from our Ohio birthplace, except for my older brother who owns the house where my 90-year old mom lives and has his own house in the right after next door!

We were at the Diamand Farm Store just about an hour, but the visit filled my belly and my heart with a delightful trail community experience! We returned to the trail in the same easy route up an old road and resumed our trek south through the Wendell State Forest.

We came to a plaque dedicated to Dr. Arthur Cronquist, a botanist of the New York Botanical Garden. He had used the surrounding 66 acres of forest for his research camp. Now, it is one of the many privately owned properties that the trail traverses. I’m fascinated with the various partnerships that have cooperated to create this thread of greenspace!

On the southern edge of Wendell State Forest, another half mile south, we reached one of the eight designated camps in the entire 207mile length of the New England Trail. This one, the Wendell State Forest Shelter, is similar to Appalachian Trail shelters, a three-sided roofed wooden platform. It looked deep enough to keep out rain.

We ate our late morning snack of sweet potatoes as a family of three kids and a mom passed by the shelter, pointing at it with curiousity. Without a word to us, they continued north on the trail, probably to the scenic waterfalls we had just passed. Surprisingly, just a few hundred yards south of the shelter, the trail reached a parking lot, picnic area, and swimming beach! So close to the shelter!

Our afternoon walk took us through a beautiful pine forest with an easy grade following the side road called Swamp Road. We came to a sign for the COWLS Sustainable Tree Farm – Respectful visits welcome.

We were just about to enter the tree farm respectfully, when I suggested we stop there and take a lunch break. As we settled down on John’s mat, I noticed a white glazed tree off in another direction. We had been on the brink of another misdirection! Saved by lunch!

On the correct route again, we continued through another stretch of forest around the tree farm to Lake Wyola, a summer cottage haven. We decided to take a dip in our clothes, me in my sports bra and skort. The water felt good – and clean. Hot mashed potatoes felt even better after getting out chilled! On our way again, for our evening walk, we left the lake area for our next stretch, a road walk that took us to a woods road and high up a mountain on “Rockwell Hill Road” and our resting spot for the night. Ducking back into the forest out of sight of the trail, we set up our tiny tent, cooked dinner, and hung our food bag. Now, the trail feels like home!

NET: Day 3 Sense of Home

August 19, 2018

Our nice and early departure at 6:45 got nixed when we decided to make the side trip to Royalston Falls. “It’s only three tenths of a mile and it’s unlikely that we would come back here just to go to these falls. So, we should go.”  I don’t usually use should, but this is the kind of time that warrants a should!

Of course, we were glad we went. The 45-ft falls is magnificent! Its unique quality is its carmel color.  How often do you see a falls the color of root beer.  This one is complete with foam!  What’s that song about lemonade springs? Oh, the big rock candy mountain? 

With that accomplished, we set off on the official trail, at a still reasonable start time of 7:00. On the ascent to the first road crossing, we saw the work of a trail crew – gravel filled pads that made solid trail through a boggy area.  I had seen an announcement for trail work on the calendar of the New England Trail Association for August 18. The day before!  Trail work is true trail magic!

The morning walk took us through the Warwick State Forest, winding up and down hills in the moist forest. The most outstanding plant in this stretch are purple mushrooms. I mean really purple!  I’m not sure my photos even show how purple they are.

The other captivating thing we keep seeing in surprisingly great numbers are Red Efts. Are you familiar with them? They are the terrestrial phase of a salamander, the Red-Spotted Newt. These are bright orange, tiny and quite stunning.  We discovered that they eat mushrooms!  One mushroom was surrounded by maybe seven  red efts.  A few minutes later, John saw another mushroom being visited by red efts. “It’s eating it!” he cried.  I love these kinds of discoveries while walking. It’s one of those things that I would never see unless I was out on a path in woods.

By contrast, sadly, this section of the trail had been ruined, yes, I would say ruined, by a single ATV rider. I sighed. Hundreds of hikers have walked along this path, enjoying its quiet traverse in this diverse woods. Just one ATV rider followed the blazes and turned it into a churned dirt track, chewing up rotting logs and smashing the banks of streams. I hope the caretakers of this trail can keep the machines off.

We were glad to see that when we reached a powerline, the ATV track ended. We took a nice sunny gear drying break then turned back into the woods. Surprisingly, the trail didn’t cross the power line! The next section’s woods seemed drier, then curved around a swamp which cleared out into Richard’s Reservoir.  We stopped atop a pine-needle covered rock looking out into the swamp and feasted on a favorite snack of this walk – instant mashed potatoes, hot…. with cheese!

Today’s section also treated us to hand-painted, artistic maps of the trail between roads.  A bit of a whimsical touch for a helpful tool!

At 3 p.m. we reached the Mt. Grace Shelter. We took a snack break – deeelicious rehydrated mango slices as we glanced at the shelter graffiti. We noticed that the caretakers had provided chalk for graffiti artists! Actually, that’s a pretty good idea. Chalk would be easier to clean off than marker or paint.

It was way too early to stop for the day, so we continued on, ascending Mount Grace, the high point of the NET!  This was a perfect section to use my popular Meet the Mountains Technique! It’s so great that I try to teach this to other hikers, because I sure use it myself! Stepping to a count of four. Focusing on my outbreath. Making each step easy. Looking closely and rejoicing in small things rather than up ahead to the difficult ascent. It works!

(Haven’t seen Meet the Mountains Technique yet? Learn it here: www.forgivenesswalks.com/reginameetsmountains

My pacing meditation was broken by our meeting of another hiker! He turned out to be a kindred spirit. He’s been a ridgerunner for the Appalachian Trail, walked the Appalachian Trail, and has walked most of the NET in day hikes.  He understands us!

Atop Mount Grace, I climbed the fire tower and got a wide view. I could see not only back to Mt. Monadnock but west to another sentimental mountain of Massechussetts – Mt. Greylock. That’s the high point of Massechussetts and a memorable spot for me on the Appalachian Trail. I was thrilled at this connecting moment of the two trails!

We continued another couple of miles to Little Mount Grace, secluding ourselves in the woods for a night’s rest. What we’ve decided to do about camping on this trail is to choose State owned land, go out of sight from the trail, build no fires, and keep all vegetation intact.  We feel confident that we are respecting the spirit of the “no camping” rule with these practices.

When I awoke the next morning, to the sound of the local church bell chiming the hour, I felt a deep connection to the woods and to the idea of walking a long trail. Sleeping out rather than heading to a bed and breakfast or hotel seems more authentic to a thru-hike. I felt a sense of honoring this forest by being here quietly at this time of day.

 

 

NET: Day 2 Adjusting

We stayed dry all night, even though three or four thunderstorms came through during the night. The Big Agnes Fly Creek tent worked! I’m a fan of my tarp over the tent because it covers a larger area with minimal weight. This tent is a one-person size! We fit snuggly, and the raincover hangs just inches out from the inner tent, not the generous two-feet overhang of the tarp. What I like about the tent is its free-standing setup. That works well for this walk.

Our walk down Gap Mountain into Troy, NH took only an hour, winding steeply through birch trees and hammocks amid big rocks. I do enjoy the northern woods!

The map showed a roadwalk into town, our first of many on this trail. The paved back road took us past the town recycling center on a Saturday morning. It was a busy route, with plenty of local residents dropping off their deposits! We wonder what locals think of hikers, if they even know of the trail traversing their town. We get courteous waves and no interaction.

We were happy that the main road sported a sidewalk, making the entry into town safe. There’s the library, open at 10:00. It’s 8:30 a.m. We cruise around the building and discover a water faucet and a covered electric outlet, features dear to a hiker. We need both, but it’s rainy and we don’t want to sit outside. We discuss what we want to accomplish in a town visit. We don’t need food as our packs are laden with plenty for five days!

We follow the white blazes (same as in the Appalachian Trail) to the old train depot and find it’s just a museum, not a visitor center. There’s the Troy Deli and Market, however, where we land. It’s a perfect hiker spot complete with deli, bathroom, tables near outlets, T.V., and a good selection of produce and drygoods. One could resupply here easily! A restful hour gives us a partial phone recharge, a tasty fruit salad, quick cleanup, welcome reception, and the sad news that Aretha Franklin passed away.

The road out of town, Prospect Road, started out paved, that have way to a dirt road, packed with deep puddles. We managed to skirt then with dry feet. Then, it started to rain. I fumbled with my rain poncho, rigging it to cover my pack, getting wet instead of staying dry. Frustrated, I allowed myself some compassion for adjusting to being on trail again after a year’s respite! Soon after we resumed our puddle avoiding, John said, “I haven’t seen a blaze for a while. We continued, figuring this road must be the logical way. 10 minutes later, there’s still no blazes. We turn around, walk back, glad that the downpour has stopped. We do indeed find that we had missed the turn off the road about a half mile back.

A rest with a snack puts us in walking mood again. The trail ascends pleasantly to Little Monadnock, with a view to Monadnock and little else resembling its namesake. In its clearing though we dry our poncho and tent fly and eat hummus on ted pepper, a favorite lunch.

The rest of the day’s walk takes us through another boggy forest, around a swamp and over a couple of rushing creeks. One required a ford. We chose to find a safe one a hundred yards upstream!

With feet truly wet now, we picked the white blaze route to continue, through a swamp over the longer “dry-shod” route promised by a hand-painted sign. Bog puddles lined with thick moss provided some splashing fun.

Our day ended in Massachusetts at the Royleston Falls Shelter. We had reached the official northern terminus of the New England Trail, which continues to share the route with the older Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, signed as M-M.

This second day on the trail gave us a taste of the NET – wet, lush woods, steep but short ups and downs, and a well-blazed route.

We were happy for a legal place to spend the night, although we preferred to sleep in our own tent pitched nearby. In it we know what we’re getting! I find trail shelters to be unpredictably occupied with trash and mice.

NET: First Day

August 17, 2018

We woke up at 6, took a shower in the Monadnock Statr Park campground shower with just 2 quarters for three minutes! I noticed my judgements and loved myself for having them when John drove the van to the shower, then suggested I cook breakfast in the parking lot while he finished up toileting. “That’s what our campsite is for.” He thought my driving the van back to the campsite was a better idea, so I did that. I do wonder how well I can quickly shift judgments like this to peace! Yes, it seems like petty stuff and gets me huffy too! I could use the Four Step Process:

1. The situation is….

2. I notice my judgments and love myself having them.

3. I’m willing to see perfection in this situation.

4. I choose peace.

Accomplishments for the day:

Summited Mt Monadnock, NH, elevation approx 3200′, at 10:40 am. Continued safely down on the White Arrow Trail, then found the Royce Trail, the one that takes us to the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, which becomes the New England Trail at the MA state line.

Walked south past Gap Mtn to a spot in the gap where we stopped early to sleep out.

6:52 pm and we’re all tucked in, with a thunderstorm just starting! Let’s see how this tiny Big Agnes Fly Creek tent works stuffed with two people!

We are hidden from the trail, a satisfying choice that respects the no camping rule.

I feel at home in our tent and sleeping out! Connected to the Earth!