NET: Day 12 Air BnB

August 28, 2018

We got an early start just after dawn and without cooking breakfast because it was so buggy at our tentsite!

We soon came to a view of our future, an overlook of the Farmington River. From our precipice, we looked down on the small town of Tarriffville. We speculated about the origins of the name, spying on a landing on the opposite side of the river. “This would be a perfect vantage point for invaders to signal each other about boats approaching the town!” And, “This must have been the place where tarriffs originated!” We add “Tarriffville” to our growing list of places inviting further research and start our descent to the river.

In thirty minutes, we came out onto Rt 189, with just a narrow shoulder. “I sure hope there’s a shoulder on the bridge across the river!” To our relief, there was, and we got a leisurely crossing of the Farmington River as the morning traffic zoomed by.

Tarriffville seems friendly enough as we follow the blue blazes through town to the city park. We’re too early to enjoy the restaurant and the bar across the street, but make note of them to recommend to other hikers. We take advantage of the water fountain in the park and have a friendly conversation with an affirming resident walking her dog past the park gazebo.

Shortly, we continue south, turning on Mountain Road. We lose the blue blazes though and at the end of the street we see a sign for a 20-acre town woods. It’s not the NET, though! We turn back and return to the last blaze we saw, a double blaze! That means the trail goes into the woods, but where? We search, and find an overgrown path with a blue blaze hidden on a post about ten feet into the vegetation. Got it! The path shoots straight up the hill, naturally, and takes us steeply up a hundred feet to a wide, rocky old dirt road. Soon, we reach a local historic landmark, Bartlett Tower, one of my favorite features so far! I look it up with Google and find out there was a lodge here! How could that be, when the old chimney is only about ten feet from a lumpy rock outcrop?!! The ridge is narrow here too!

With our curiousity piqued, we continue our day’s walk, which takes us over more ridges through the forested rocks and atop The Pinnacle with views, then down to Lake Louise, a secluded and picturesque pond, rounded by a popular network of trails. We discuss the option of walking around the next pointy-looking profile on our map, but choose to follow the blue blazes, finding the route through Penwood State Park to be pleasantly gentle! We cross paths with one northbound runner, and see her again at the base of the mountain, completing her loop to the parking lot at Rt 185, our destination for the day! It was only 3 p.m. too, one of our shorter days. We had planned it that way when John had made a reservation for the Bloomfield Air BnB last evening! We would take a break from the heat and sleep inside after a mere 7.4 miles.

The half-mile walk to Paul’s place on Rt 185 was scary! There was no shoulder, with a sloping berm covered with knee-high weeds next to it for walking. We crossed to the other side of the road at a curve so the drivers had a better chance of seeing us! Fortunately, we came to a section that had a wide, mowed lawn between the road and a subdivision wall where we could walk safely. To our delight, our host, Paul, was pulling out of his driveway just as we got to the address. He greeted us and described how to get into the house. The private, two-bedroom wing seemed like a perfect retreat! After a long, hot shower, I hopped into the big bed and took a two-hour nap!

When I woke up, John reminded me that Wade’s Farm Store, another half mile down the road, was open for another hour, so we set out again, braving the busy road. Our terror was rewarded with tantalizing food!

We followed our habit of buying something to eat immediately, choosing a miniature lemon-meringue pie to savor under the plant shade. Then, we shopped for a cucumber, red pepper, and cheese to pack out the next day plus an ear of corn, chips and a big tomato to eat for supper and banana bread for breakfast.

On our walk back, I experimented with encouraging drivers to give me space to walk and started signaling to them with a downward and outward wave meaning “Slow down and move over!” It seemed to work with all but one honking driver. Cars were slowing down and moving over!

We even got our laundry done when Paul’s girlfriend directed me to the laundry room. We chatted about hiking while she folded a big pile of laundry. “I don’t know how you can go for a whole week with a single outfit!” she marvelled. “This is what we needed for our week away!”

NET: Day 16 Diverse

September 1, 2018

Today’s 15 miles took us through a diverse tour of habitats and popular hiking areas, continuing our mostly eastward “noodling” through the green spaces near Meriden.

We got off from Johnson’s Inn by 8 a.m. and walked through the neighborhood starting on Spruce Brook Road, turning where the blue blazes seemed to guide us into someone’s backyard where men were hovering over a vehicle, talking loudly. We stayed our course, though, and followed the path behind houses, onto another street, then back onto an overgrown road beyond a guardrail. “We’ll go where the blazes lead! I guess this is it!” We remarked.

In the woods, we pass a long-abandoned car, stay in the woods, then ease our way up Lamentation Mountain. We meet a dog off a leash, it’s owners assuring us he’s friendly. We meet a father and son running in the opposite direction up the jaggedy ridge. The trail continues along the ridge of Lamentation Mountain, and we gaze down onto a subdivision of houses with big yards and pools. “From within those properties, the estate probably feels large, but from here, where one can walk for miles through woods, that half acre seems pretty small!” We feel wealthy to have this band of green forest to walk through! No lamenting here!

The trail makes another descent where we walk along a road, near a yard or two, then have to search out the blazes back into woods, onto a gravel road. I see a double blaze showing a right turn, see a path into woods, applauding myself for not missing the clearly marked turn. A short woods walk opens into a powerline. We can’t find a blaze, but cross the thorny field toward a golf course. No blazes! We retreat back to the woods to a sort road. We ask a woman walking her dog if she knows where the blue blazes trail is. “Yes! It’s down this road, then goes right along the lake!” We find the marked trail. We were thoroughly puzzled as to how that double blazed turn into the woods would get us here and go back to figure it out. This is one place that the blaze is just plain wrong! I take some pictures, resolving to report it to the trail association and we go where the helpful walker described. We’re on the bank of Crescent Lake, with over a dozen Sunday hikers!

Next, the NET continues its leisurely tour of the Metacomet Ridge by taking us on a loop almost completely around the lake, first on the low, flat west side, then on a well-done gradual 400′ climb, then reversing direction to a dramatic cliff looking down on our starting point, then steeply back down to the inlet of the lake. During the two hours we were walking this loop, we met a couple of dozen hikers making the same loop. They, however, closed their loop and returned to vehicles parked at Guifrida Park. We turned away to the east and went on. We had more touring to do!

A traverse of another woods brought us to Atkins Street, narrow, with poor visibility, and a bridge with a scant ledge for walking. The bridge crosses the inlet for Highland Pond, a preserve we skirted on our tour, crossing a picturesque red bridge, ambling on the edge of the lily pad strewn pond, then turning away past the concrete spillway.

Our scenic tour has to end, though, because we were getting close to Interstate 91. We knew we had to cross it. Hot and a little hungry, because we didn’t have any cheese today, we embarked on our next road walk, a mile on Country Club Road taking us over I-91.

We wondered where we would get water next, considering stopping in at the State Emergency Management building, even though it’s Saturday. Just at the head of the ramp to the interstate, though, we see the back of a trailer that looks like it has buckets, maybe water tanks. A smiling woman wearing an apron steps out into the parking lot. “Do you have food?” We ask.

“Yes! I have got dogs, burgers, and my special blend of lemonade and tea, all homemade! Come around the front!” This begins our forty-minute bonus break, called “trail magic” in hiker lingo.

Marilyn, the owner of the “Roadside Grill” decorated with her mascot, her dog Elvis, explains that she doesn’t usually park here in Saturday’s but nobody is out in the parks today because it’s so hot! She assembled two of her signature hand patted burgers topped with homemade Chipotle mayonaise, cole slaw, and sauteed onions served on a hoagie bun. Two Arnold Palmers, half lemonade, half tea go with them. We sit on our mat, next to the road, savoring the warm, saucy treats, listening to Marilyn tell her story of 14 years running her food cart, following in her parents’ footsteps, painting her cute dog’s portrait on the cart, filling out her income with house-painting jobs. We lick our fingers, pack up and thank her for being there today! She even fills our water bottles with water. That was some gooood trail magic!

But, it’s still early, just 3p.m. We still have plenty of time to go up and over the next mountain, scenic Mt Higby. On its ridgeline summit, we get a view back over the undulating route we’ve covered over the last three days! We can see Castle Craig to the west. And we can see way back to a few of the prominent buildings of Hartford, maybe even the communication towers of Ragged Mountain.

What a tour we walked!

Still, we walk, descending again to Rt 147 near its intersection with Rt 66, but not the famous one. The ice cream shop there, New Guida’s, however, used that theme in their decorations. Even though it was 5p.m., we weren’t hungry for dinner, so we just enjoyed ice cream and coffee, packed up again, then headed up our next mountain to find our sleeping spot.

We found a good one on the north side of Beseck Mountain. We figured we were at mile 175 in the NET. Adding that to our 20 miles in New Hampshire brought our total walk to 195 miles in 16 days. There was no way we would be able to count the rocks we had climbed and maneuvered on our way! By now, I had finally stopped noticing the steep ups and downs. They were just part of the scenery!

NET:Day 11 Connecticut Begins

August 27, 2018

Soon after we got started, we reached the bog bridging the farmer at Calabrese Farm Store had told us about. It was, indeed, a significant project, and a welcome dry crossing of the bog!

Just a short way south, we came to a small road with residences. The trail followed a wide green swath of mowed grass lined with a vegetation fence to our right. It looked to me like the landowner had created a clear easement for the trail, complete with a signed parking area at the road junction. The kiosk there displayed a map with Trail Section #1 to our north. That would mean that Connecticut was just across this road! Well, almost!

We followed the white blazes through a back yard, then stayed on the mowed pathway, confidently walking south. We passed an empty field lined with white signs declaring that this field was used to grow “industrial hemp”. We stayed on the perimeter, towards the next field, and around a pine tree, then stopped. Hmm. The path had lost its clarity and it seemed like we were headed straight for a house. “Maybe we missed it.” One of us said.

Turn around. Retrace our steps to the last blaze. Search carefully in the vegetation. Yep . There it was, a white blaze on a post just past that first yard, not past the hemp field, but to the left, through the uncut Jewelweed. Grumbling that we would have kept Section #1 well maintained, we got back on trail.

Now, we were on track to leave Massachusetts and enter our third state. In a quiet pine woods, the “Welcome to Connecticut” sign greeted us, along with a three-foot cube of concrete, a monument perhaps. We used it for a kitchen counter/seat and cooked the breakfast we had skipped to get away from mosquitos at our tentsite.

We continued south, noting one significant change in the trail’s messaging. The blazes were now blue. From this point on, we would be searching for the blue blazes of the CT trail system. I was curious how the trails would be distinguished from each other, if all the trails were blue-blazed ones.

I’m writing this after our walk and can’t actually remember details about the first 8 miles of Connecticutt. The trail followed a pretty direct southward line along the ridge, called the Metacomet Ridge, actually. We got many good views of the countryside a few hundred feet below. This was a section where we entered several conservation areas owned by various land trusts, a significant feature of this trail. My pictures of this day show four signs for different land trusts, including one for “The George L. Harmon Woodlot” which was a beautiful stand of trees. I was grateful to Mr. Harmon for his role in protecting this woods. We walked through it graciously!

Just before noon, we reached one of the eight designated overnight spots on the trail, Windsor Locks Scouts Primitive Campsite at mile 106 from the NH border. We had planned to camp there that same night, but were ahead of schedule, arriving too early in the day to stop, and feeling pretty good about “sleeping out” in the trail corridor. We felt even better about our practices after seeing what an approved campsite looks like.

Here’s what we noticed:

  • The campsite was within sight of the trail
  • A side trail had been built to it
  • The vegetation had been cleared from the 300-400ft square area
  • An insulated box filled with gallon milk jugs refilled with water offered water to campers

We prefer our style of low-impact use which we believe current NET thruhikers would generally adopt. “If this is what the trail administrators regard as ‘camping’, then we hope they never allow it on the NET!”

Just before 2 p.m. we reached Rt 20, our turnnoff for our second maildrop at East Granby. This was an easy walk into town along a paved bike path all the way to the town services center, a half mile from the trail.

The Post Office, library and other govt buildings were within the same few acres. We picked up our box and sat outside on the lawn in the shade sorting it out. We had too much food now, so we packed up a couple pounds, plus partially used ointment, completed sketches, and the Massachusetts map and guidebook and sent them “home” to my Mom’s.

With that chore accomplished, we walked over to the library for internet and charging time. The librarians welcomed us and chatted about the trail. We plugged in our phones and got logged in online. A couple hours later, we filled our water bottles in the library kitchen and set out again. Libraries and post offices are welcome community services in our long-distance walks!

Right around the corner was a strip of businesses including four eateries! We chose Wok on the Wild Side and took a seat in a booth. We were the only customers there! We did notice a sporadic stream of Take Out customers, so felt better for the restaurant. We ordered two dinners and couldn’t eat all that food! I filled my lidded bowl with extras and packed it out for later. At 5 p.m. we were back on the walkway to the trail.

At the trailhead, we read the sign indicating the ownership of the land we were entering, The Galasso Company. It makes crushed stone and paving materials. We were grateful that the company had set aside an easement for the trail along the ridge above the huge quarry we walked by. It took us an hour of climbing and walking to get past the quarry. Then, we started looking for a tenting spot. We had a little trouble because the woods was fairly open and criss-crossed with bike or ATV trails. Every time we stepped off our usual 20 feet or so, we’d hit another trail! We did eventually find a spot as it was getting dark and set up for our eleventh night on the trail. It was really hot, though, so we decided to sleep in just the net, leaving the rainfly off. It was also quite buggy, so we squeezed into the net and ate our leftover Chinese food. We couldn’t keep it over night! I wasn’t even hungry, but it tasted good, even better than in the restaurant!

This was probably our most uncomfortable night what with the heat and tight fit. Without the fly to pull out the sides of the net, our bodies touched the sides, exposing our skin to the voracious mosquitos!

NET: Day 7 Rugged

August 23, 2018

We got an early start from our hidden tentsite, soon reaching a sign that said “Queen Street”. I saw only trail, so didn’t know what Queen Street meant. We were getting near Amherst. Maybe Queen Street left town and kept going into the forest. A good question there!

The forest seemed typically New England, with lots of mushrooms, birch trees, ferns and northern flowers. I took a few “typical forest” shots.

Here’s a link to an album of mushroom photos taken today. There are so many mushrooms!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/RJKvBKXdZGeMD6g7A

Mt. Lincoln was our first summit, topped with communications towers and a firetower we couldn’t get into and no views.

Around 8 a.m. we reached a scenic spot called Scarborough Pond, complete with a picnic table, a perfect spot for our snack of rehydrated applesauce from my mom’s trees. It came out more like chunks of leather than sauce, but reminded me of being at my mom’s in Ohio watching her favorite backyard apple tree. We heard voices near the pond and soon discovered we were at Gulf Road, our next road walk! I was getting interested in noticing the many organizations who owned land along this trail! The one near the pond was Scarborough Brook Conservation Area. In the next section we saw signs for the Kestral Land Trust. Very cool name!

The rest of the morning occupied us with walking through the outskirts of Amherst. At the turn off from Bay Road back into the woods, there is literally a rope to help ascend the cliff that takes us back onto trail. Apparently, the trail corridor is too narrow to allow for a contoured ascent. I stowed my poles and grabbed onto the rope, grateful for strong arms and legs.

Now, we were at the northern end of the Holyoke Range. We could see from the elevation profile in the guidebook that the next 11 miles would be a sawtooth of ups and downs. The peaks weren’t all that high, barely breaking 1,000 ft, but the trail went up and down “every” rock outcrop along the ridge. Is there a rule in New England that one has to go straight up and down a climb, taking the shortest distance to get from the bottom to the top, then go directly back down? I kept asking that question and variations of it, “What were the designers of this trail thinking? For whom is this designed? Was this route planned or did it just get pounded out by athletic conquerors competing to top the most summits?” I was sincerely trying to come up with an answer that I could honor and respect, open to reframing my distaste for the steep, relentless ups and downs. I was feeling judgement and anger at the people who had made this trail, while ceaselessly practicing my Meet the Mountains Technique to maintain my stamina, prevent injury, and make the traverse easy. In my mind, I sincerely sought to choose an affirmative view for appreciating this style of trail. I practiced out loud with John. “Ahh. I love the challenge of this trail! It’s so great to get to another climb! Wow! So glad I didn’t miss this outcrop!” John heard my trial affirmations as complaints. So, I kept my mouth shut and kept walking, working out my frustration in silence.

A little after 1 p.m. we got our first view of Mt Norwottock, still 2 miles away, and the highpoint of today’s walk.

I was beginning to accept the jagged terrain and silently maneuvered it, focusing on taking each step safely, bending my knees, using my trekking poles consistently, and stepping accurately on each step. The ascent up Norwottock included a feature called “The Squeeze”, a slot through jagged boulders that young boys would love and old ladies like me endured. I faked a smile when John insisted on taking my picture surmounting The Squeeze.

Norwottock was indeed a worthwhile achievement where we looked over the widespread landscape to the north.

Now, we watched our time. Our next landmark was the Notch Visitor Center, described in the guidebook as having restrooms, water, and outlets for charging. It closes at 5 p.m. We diligently covered the 1.2 mile steep descent, meeting a handful of dayhikers walking in this popluar area. We reached the Visitor Center a little after 4. We found the restrooms and water fountain easily. The outside receptacle didn’t work, but the outlets in the lobby near the bathrooms worked. None of these would be available to hikers outside of open hours.

I studied the 3-D map of the Holyoke Range and discovered that we had just traversed “The Seven Sisters”. Oh yes! We definitely went up and down all seven of them!

Our next adventure of the day was to continue south, across busy MA 116 and up out of the Notch to Bare Mtn. Resuming our steady, athletic rock climbing, we joined several other hikers on the half-mile, 400-ft climb to the precipitous view of the notch and the northern Holyoke Range. In plain view was a quarry, stair-stepped with carved away earth, the negative space of the mountain on which we perched.

On our way up, we were passed twice by a man apparently using Bare Mountain for his exercise therapy. He wasn’t smiling, but he was stepping quickly both up and then down that mountain. Now, here was someone relating with the design of this trail in a significantly transformative way. I was content to be ascending Bare Mountain once.

Our sensitivity about camping out along the trail was tested when we met a couple who asked, “Are you camping here?” “No.” I answered, meaning that I was not camping right there on Bare Mountain! “Where are you camping, then?” We walked away, saying “further south.” Although we were getting more comfortable with our way of sleeping off the trail without leaving a trace, we support the rule of “No Camping” realizing that a general view of camping is to clear a large area of vegetation, build a fire ring with a fire and leave it all behind as an established campsite. We weren’t doing that.

We went up and down a couple of jags until we reached the sign for Hitchcock Mtn. Not wanting to go much further as dusk settled and this rugged day’s mileage had already topped 14, we left the trail toward the northfacing ridge and plopped down on a tiny flat spot about 30 ft off the trail, as far as we could get before going down the slope. As always, we hung our food bag, cooked on our stove, and quietly blended into the forest as darkness fell and an owl called.

NET Day 4

August 20, 2018

The nearby chuch bell chimed the hour all through the night. I heard it each hour except 2, so I must have slept soundly at least a couple of hours. At 6 bells we started to get up. The morning woods was quiet, peaceful, and tingling with life! Even though we weren’t supposed to be there, I felt that we were honoring the forest by being there reverently, protectively.

We descended gently down from Little Grace Mountain past Bass Swamp and Bass Road. A quaint, handpainted sign laid out our day. We were aiming for Farley and beyond, 15 miles south.

What a full day of landmarks, terrain changes, and a good surprise!

We reached Stratton Mountain, decorated with a stark monolith and an altar-like stack of boulders. I imagined Aslan, the great lion from the Chronicles of Narnia, lying there in sacrifice. Nearby, the 7-ft high solid rock, standing symbolically on its end, reminded us that humans like to erect monuments. These would have taken some big machines to stand up and stack!

Just a few minutes away, winding through the forest, we arrived at another landmark, the Richardson-Zlogar Cabin. Our original itinerary had put us here tonight, but now we were ahead of schedule. It was just 10 a.m.! We did enjoy a nice break here, gazing north with a perfect view of both Mount Grace and Mount Monadnock, 38 trail miles back. That was a nice feeling of accomplishment!

The cabin looked cozy and dry. It would be a good place to stay if we could be certain of our arrival date and reserve it in advance.

https://newenglandtrail.org/facilities/richardson-zlogar-cabin

Two more miles of gentle descent through Northfield State Forest took us to our first significant road walk, Gulf Road. We crossed the road and saw signs for a preserve area and wondered why the trail wouldn’t go through it. The sign and kiosk posters alerted us that the trail was closed 1.4 mile ahead after Crag Mt, so we would have to take the road walk.

Addendum, Next day, I received this email from Jim, whom we had met on Mt Grace.

At Gulf Road crossing, you’ll see a sign that says “trail deads ends” in 1.1 miles. It does not. I hiked that section on Friday. You can proceed following the white blazes, and at that 1.1 mile point there is no trail closed sign or anything, but the blazes do stop (you can see them painted over with brown). The trail is easy to follow, and in another mile or so the blazes are actually blue for a bit. Keep following the well-worn path, with a couple of nice views on Crag hill, and then you’ll come out on a dirt road, which is a driveway, and turn left, and in a couple hundred yards you’ll hit Mountain Road, and rejoin the official route. Just before the road intersection, you’ll see a sign on your right side (west) that indicates it’s private land and stay on trail, but nothing about a closure.
I suspect what happened here is a landowner closed it, and then decided to reopen it or maybe it’s a new landowner, but in any event, it saves almost three miles of road walking.

The road wasn’t bad for walking, with a shoulder and moderate traffic. We imagined a few of the houses, now boarded up right next to the road, being converted into hiker shelters. To our surprise, part way down the road, we saw signs for “Farm Store.” It was right there on the road, too! No one seemed to be there, however, and it looked like the front porch was still under construction. Was it open?

Yes. It was open for self-serve! What a nice surprise! Food on the trail! We found eclectic delectables too – kimchi, kombucha, fresh corn, cucumber, and I threw in a bag of “profits go to autistic kids” potato chips and used the iPad bolted to the counter to pay. We sat on a bench made from a board suspended between cinder blocks and snacked on kimchi and kombucha, eating it down enough that the rest could fit in our lidded bowl to pack out.

My receipt from Northwoods Store appeared in my email.

We walked the last half-mile of Gulf Road, then climbed up Mountain Road, locating the double blazes indicating the turn off into woods next to someone’s house.

The next stretch of woods was short and beautiful, emptying out onto a gravel road. Our next treasure hunt was the turn off for Hermit Mountain. This section has the mystique of a side trail to a “Hermit’s Cave”. We didn’t go there, but stayed on the white-blazed trail, winding up to a scenic overlook in Erving State Forest, with a sweeping view of Millers River below.

It was tempting to sleep out up there, but while we walked south looking for a spot we kept going all the way down to Rattlesnake Mtn, which was too close to the road and in a popular area for climbers. Soon, we were out on the road again in a residential neighborhood where people’s front yards were roped off for parking.

We carefully crossed busy Rt 2 and found the blazes on Bridge Street to cross the Millers River. No stopping here! Now we were committed to the 2-mile roadwalk on Farley Road to Wendell State Forest. This was an ok roadwalk, past homes and a woman calling from the mailbox down to the house below. Apparently, she was looking for a walking companion. She passed us where we had stopped along the road, finding a fresh-looking spring to fill our water bottles. I wonder if she enjoyed taking her evening walks on a national scenic trail!

It was a little tricky finding the blazes at the end of Farley Road, but we discovered them taking us a half mile west on Mormon Hollow Road before turning off into the woods. Soon, we discovered why. The trail designers wanted us to tour the ruins of the mill town along Mormon Hollow Brook! Fascinating!

Past the ruins, we came to a footbridge, cordoned off with “closed” signs. We studied the bridge and decided to cross it, trusting its sturdy-looking I-beams instead of fording the stream below. We made it, no problem. Later, we realized that maybe it had been closed so snow machines or big groups didn’t use it.

We walked south up the mountain on an old road, finding a flat area where the trail turned sharply. We walked into the woods about fifty yards and set up our tent, threw up our bear line, and cooked dinner on our canister stove just before dark, confident that we were invisible off the trail.

This was our longest day, so far. 18 miles.

NET: Day 18 Ocean!

September 3, 2018

Today’s walk was truly a winding down to the finish. It looked like we had finally walked ourselves out of the rock outcrops that had given us our views and our callouses. The trail skirted bouldery hills, simply following old roads between them. We were low on water and the marked stream in the guidebook was dry. At Rt 80, after walking through Cockaponset State Forest, we decided to take a chance on getting water from upcoming Upper Guliford Lake Reiter than walk a half mile down the road, off-trail, to get water from a hotel.

It was a good choice. Though Brown with tannins, the lake water was easy to get, and mostly clear. We were satisfied with it!

Our walk took us through woods and streams with quaint names – The Genesee, Cockaponset State Forest, Timberland Preserve, But Plain Woods, and East River Preserve. Finally, we came to the end of the forest – and the rock ledges. We did notice, however, that just before turning into our roadwalk into Guilford, the blue-blazed trail took a round about turn up just one more rock outcrop! It was a small one, but a rock outcrop to be sure!

Thad last roadwalk in Clapboard Hill Road was tense, with no shoulder and uncut vegetation on the side. We kept a sharp eye and eat out and made it to a side road, Tanner Marsh, safely. Soon, just after crossing over Interstate 95, we saw our hotel, Tower Inn! It was early, just 3 p.m. The proprietor said she could have a room ready in 30 minutes. Sigh. Our sweaty selves wanted to clean up now! We tried Comfort Inn next door. More than we wanted to pay. So, we went back to Tower Inn and waited.

Quick showers freshened us a bit. We still had 2.8 miles to walk to the southern terminus!

Again, the roadwalk was frustratingly bad, with narrow shoulders. There were some sidewalks.

We stopped at Dairy Queen for an ice cream sandwich for John. We especially loved seeing the Whitfield House, built in 1639! We were baffled at the Amtrak Station until we discovered that the route over the tracks is now through the station itself! Next, we met Laura who lives at 1 Seaside Avenue, the very last street before Chittenden Park and the boardwalk to the water. Laura congratulated us on our accomplishment and lamented that more people don’t get the direness of the current environmental crises in the world today.

We made our final approach, explaining to some Bocci players at the official Bocci court that we had just walked from Mt Monadnock.

The boardwalk!

The ocean!

We did it!

NET: Day 17 Makin’ Miles

September 2, 2018

We got an early start from our tent site a couple miles south of Rt. 66 on Beseck Mountain. Our first section was through Powder Ridge Ski Resort. Our first clue that we were getting close to it were two 6 ft square vinyl tumbling mats lying in the trail. One was beneath a pole lashed across the trail between two trees about 8 feet up. We had no idea what it was for! Just up ahead, though, a side trail marked with caution tape and a trailbike route sign have us our answer. The ski resort has bike routes too! It was 8 a.m. on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, so we were glad there was no bike event there that day!

We passed the empty and silent ski lift, then a gazebo decorated with a withered garland. A wedding, perhaps? Again, the only signs of a romantic event were the garland and a circle of plastic cups and wedding programs. Too bad the wedding party left these telltale bits of litter!

In an hour or so, we reached our first road of the day, Rt 68, which meant we would soon encounter one of eight designated campsites on the trail. This was the one time on our walk that we didn’t reach or exceed our preplanned destination. That’s because reaching this site, Cattails Shelter, would have given us a twenty mile day! Too far with this rocky, roller coaster terrain.

Well, here we were, at 10 a.m., visiting Cattails Shelter. Jeanie, the other southbounder who was now a half day ahead of us, had probably stayed there the night before, writing in the shelter register, “This is the cutest shelter I’ve ever seen!” We agreed that it was cute, even if it wasn’t practical. We doubted that it would be rain tight. And, we had just filled up our water containers at the last stream, a mile back, so we didn’t need the water offered in reused jugs. We wrapped up our short visit with a snack of sweet potatoes and continued south, glad we had slept in the woods instead of here.

The day’s walk unfolded in three distinct sections between roads. I’ve become accustomed, if not appreciative, of the way this trail takes short, and remarkably steep ascents and descents. This day was no exception. One section took us in view of the previous thirty miles of trail, the part that snaked west to east near Meriden. We saw Castle Craig, where we had been the day before.

We continued along this ridge through Trimountain State Park. Up and down all afternoon! We thought we had seen all the steep climbs we could until one crushed-rock slope, practically straight down! We gingerly picked our way down, happily landing uninjured at the bottom, suddenly crestfallen when we realized that the blue blazes trail had turned, following the scree (loose rock) slope to the west! We picked our way twenty feet back up the insanely steep crushed rock path and dutifully submitted our ankles to the scree. Thirty feet later, the trail turned again to the bottom, rejoining that smooth old road we had mistakenly followed ten minutes before! It had become so annoying how the route kept taking us on the most rocks, the most steep way, and not missing any rock outcrops.

Late afternoon brought us to Rt. 17 and a welcome supplemental food stop. Just 50 yards from the turn at Stage Coach Road, we reached the Country Store, well-stocked with food, deli, even miscelaneous hardware and housewares. It didn’t sell gasoline, which so many convenience stores have. The Continental Indian couple running the store graciously accommodated us in the deli with a generous tunafish salad sub, eaten at an inside table. We also found fresh produce, choosing a cucumber, a red pepper, and a peach. I also added an 8 oz block of cheese, its fat providing the slow burning fuel we had missed the day before.

Now we were ready for our evening rock scrambling. This section took us up again, this time to our last time at 750 feet of elevation in a park called the Northwoods, in the Town of Guilford. We looked down on a little pond.

From the Northwoods, we descended again to Rt 77, then kept going into an area called Broomstick Ledges. The moss covered rocks and intermittent stream created a gnome land, inviting and mythical. Our reverie, however, was jolted by the domineering sound of somebody’s amplified music coming from a nearby property. Labor Day Weekend festivities were spoiling our soundscape. Ugh!

We kept charging on, winding around on a thorough tour of Broomstick Ledges, until we were freed to reach another landmark, the split of the eastern spur of the New England Trail! This was mile 214 for us, just over 16 miles from the southern terminus!

We took the right hand path, looking for a place to slip off the trail and set up our tent. We had walked 16 miles, quite enough for a day!

NET: Day 14 Peaches and Cliffs

August 30, 2018

We enjoyed our luxurious hotel stay until 10 a.m., with breakfast, of course! I did eat a Belgian waffle, reasoning that its wheaty flouriness would be digested during my day’s exercise before it’s damage could be done, or some similar version of denial. Considering the number of cliffs we walked up and down today, there’s a good chance that actually happened!

The Metacomet Ridge, the geologic formation that the trail traverses, is composed of hard, broken up shards and columns of basalt. It’s very hard and sharp. There are miles and miles of jutting boulders of it. The trail designers are giving us a thorough tour of each knob of it! Today’s your took us up and around a popular area called Ragged Mountain. Its name suggests how we walked. The route makes short and steep ups and downs, using the basalt chunks as steps. I am getting a thorough testing of Regina’s Meet the Mountains technique for stamina and perserverance! Each step, literally each step requires focus and concentration for safe execution! One of my great achievements of this walk has been to be uninjured so far!

Anyway, before Ragged Mountain we had a nice stop right in the trail at Rogers Orchard, on Long Bottom Road. We enjoyed one of those tiny watermelons on the spot and packed out three ripe peaches, three Paula Red apples, and three pickling cucumbers. The cukes, crisp and juicy, are so refreshing on this hot day! John added a half dozen fresh donuts and two cups of fresh apple cider.

To our surprise, while eating out snack, another hiker came in. We introduced ourselves and learned that she’s also doing a southbound thruhike. She makes a quicker stop, though, and walks out before we get a chance to talk longer.

Ragged Mountain is our next challenge. The rest of the roadwalk on Long Bottom Road is on pavement with no shoulder and poison ivy. We watch for traffic and step carefully aside when it comes. At the last turn before reentering the woods, a utility crew is blocking the trail route. A deputy directing traffic gives us clearance to walk past the trucks. We sign with relief when we step back into the woods!

For the next three hours we navigate the three miles of Ragged Mountain Reserve. At 4 p.m. I contact Stephanie, an Appalachian Trail hiker who had responded to my Facebook request for local assistance. This is one of the days we would be near her! “Let me know where you are at the end of the day. I can meet you,” She texts.

We keep wondering where the “hand over hand climbing” part is that Buck30 had described in his journal. We found it! Near the southern end of the Ragged Mountain section, we come to a chute of jagged rock, probably 30 feet down and 2 feet wide. John goes first, gingerly sliding down a spot with smooth sides and a five foot drop. When I get to that spot I get stuck. My pack prevents me from being able to lean back and stretch my leg far enough to reach the next step. I decide to take off the pack and lower it down. Now, I’m really stuck! I can’t leverage it down! John drops his pack and climbs back up to rescue me. Climbing down pack free is easy!

We finish this descent, noticing a wall nearby that’s an obvious sport climbers’ location.

The trail ends at a guardrail in high weeds. We climb over the guardrail and see our blue blaze fifty yards down the road at another road. We walk by houses, then past the last house where a woman is checking the trash barrels on the street. She ignores us as we walk by. I say, “Have a good evening!” No acknowledgement. There’s the trail entering the woods twenty feet from her driveway! The politics of this trail’s juxtaposition to residential development fascinates me!

The next mile of trail literally winds around in a stream bed in the basement of the forest within a subdivision. We cross a wooden bridge then follow the beaten path up a hill, well, straight into a mowed hard behind a hauling trailer. Hmm. Maybe this isn’t the trail. We backtrack and discover that the trail actually turned. The trail is the “road less traveled” the continues in the streambottom. Next, it goes literally straight up a fifteen-foot cliff to another level of forest, still behind houses. We pass a man walking his dog. “There’s a cliff ahead.” John says. “Oh, I know. We’re very familiar with these trails.” He replies.

We reach a higher point covered with grass. Short Mountain, and probably out last chance for a sleeping spot in the woods. I call Stephanie.

“Do you feel Ok camping there?” she asks. “We’re fine here and don’t need anything, but it would be fun to see you. If it’s fun for you to come get us, that would be good.”

This is one of those spots where it would be difficult to be invisible. We are very close to homes here.

“I’ll be at the Edgewood Road trailhead in an hour.” Stephanie proposes.

We continue walking, winding again through grassy woods. People sure are lucky to have this resource right behind their houses! Now, the Timberlin Golf Course appears and we walk past a golfer doing his evening putting. One more stretch of woods takes us to Edgewood Road. It’s about two miles long and lined with big homes. Stephanie drives up in her white Explore before we reach the end where the trail goes back into the woods.

It takes us about forty minutes to get to her house in Watertown. We meet her husband and two young daughters. She offers food, including their leftiver chicken fingers and French fries. We hope about hikers devouring food, even leftovers on other peoples’ plates. We try to figure out where we met Stephanie, but we can’t! Maybe it was just on Facebook, but she seems familiar to us both. She hiked the AT in 2014, so maybe it was in Baxter State Park where we both were that year, when she completed the trail.

We say goodnight and go set up our tent in their backyard. I’m glad we came! Getting off the trail for the night honors the intent of the trail association and connects us with our “tramily”, slang for “trail family.”