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.”