I woke up around 515 again this morning. That must be when the birds really get going. I heard JD release the air in his sleeping pad and then say “it’s 44 degrees in camp.” I was surprised to hear that because I’d slept warmly enough in shorts and a tshirt. I considered going back to sleep, but I remembered that we are technically not allowed to be here:
Best to get up. I switched into hiking spandex (my backup pair since my other ones are trashed) and slowly deconstructed my tent. Then I had a silent breakfast sitting on a rock while I made a list of the food I have left and what I need to pull from the box I’m getting in sharon, CT. I have too much food coming so I will end up mailing some to my next stop in North Adams. I’m staying with a friend, so if for some crazy reason you want to send mail there (by Thursday 6/15), send me a message because I don’t want to put her address on the internet. JD left a few minutes before me because he skipped his coffee again. I gathered the various plastic bags and stuff sacks holding things like my phone charger, my toothbrush, and my contact lenses. Whenever possible, I leave my puffy coat on until I have to put everything in my bag.
I left our mossy little spot and headed north through the cool morning air. The woods felt open and the light kept distracting me from walking, but I refrained from taking 900 pictures of ferns. Lucky for you, internet. About twenty minutes into my walk, I heard a bird cawing off to my left. I happened to follow the noise and saw a woodpecker (the red cap kind) standing on a tree trunk next to a hole. I could hear the faint screeches of baby birds and realized the caw was a “get the F out of here” message for me. As I stood there gaping at the woodpecker, it swiftly tucked itself into the hole. It seemed to defy spatial reasoning. I listened to the babies screeching intensely for a second and then continued down the trail.
About 45 minutes later, while walking through rolling hills, I saw wings catch in the sunlight. I assumed it was a dragonfly, but it seemed kind of large, so I stopped and waited to spot it again. It was a hummingbird! It zipped around near the tops of the ferns about 30 yards in front of me. It was out of sight pretty quickly, but I waiting there hoping it might come back. No dice.
Onward through the moderate terrain that made me happy to be in the woods. I came to a road crossing and halfway up the stone steps on the other side I realized I’d been there before. I was approaching St. John’s ledges, a hike I’ve done a couple of times. It’s amazing how much some hikes stick in my brain. I could recall nearly every twist and turn. Here’s the view from calebs peak, which is the first view you get to after the climb up from the road:
The trail dips back down to hug the side of the hill below the ridge and then it climbs again to the view from St. John’s ledges (I took a video there but no pic to share). While I sat eating fruit leather and thinking about the last time I’d been in that same spot, a fellow named Alps (from Switzerland, of course) came down to check out the view. He noticed a black snake curled up on one of the lower ledges and began taking pictures of it.
He kept getting closer to the edge, and at one point I said dude, I’m not going to rescue you if you fall over the edge while trying to take a picture of a snake. Partially because I can’t carry him and partially because that’s a dumb reason to fall. He was a funny guy, but I doubt I will see him again. His “easy” days are 17/18 miles.
After the viewpoint, the trail takes a steep plunge that involves some boulder hopping and a few butt scooching moments for those of us who are both short and have sore feet. I would much rather go up the boulders than down, but at least it was a dry day! When I finally reached the bottom the trail passed through gangly mountain laurel that have yet to begin forming buds.
After a few minutes, the trail popped me out onto this road.
I relished the flat surface and cursed the semi paved aspect of it while trying to stick to the crushed gravel areas as best I could. I heard a noise behind me and turned to find 5 people on mountain bikes. They rode past and one of them said “going all the way??” to which I replied yep! The lone woman of the group got off her bike father up the road and started to walk it. Then the others got off their bikes. I couldn’t tell why because they were too far away, but I heard the oldest guy in the group say “where’s she going?” (Referring to me) and the guy who had asked me the question said “she’s going all the way to Maine.” The older gentleman said “I’ll go to Maine but I’m going in a car!” which made me laugh from a distance. Then they started whining about having to bike up the hill on the way back. I decided to give them a hard time about avoiding the hill, which led one of them (Frances) to walk his bike and talk to me. Yet another retired military guy who was in the army for 30 years. Special forces. He also taught welding in the New York City school system. When he asked me my name, I said “they call me checklist.” After about 5 minutes of walking together, the rest of his group had mounted their bikes again so Frances shook my hand, wished me luck and rode away.
The road eventually ended at trailhead parking where the trail continued alongside the housatonic for several miles. The water was so high that the usual rock sitting options were nonexistent. I normally don’t care for flat walks (pre-thru hiking feelings because now I need them to recover), but I’ve always loved this stretch of the trail because of the river and the wildness of the plants around the trail. I stopped for an early lunch in part because I couldn’t stop thinking about how great it would be to sit on a rock and watch the river while I ate. I also did it because I knew I would catch up to jd on the next big climb, and I just wanted to be eat in silence. When I passed the perfect sitting rock around 1130, I gave in to the urge and ate lunch. I don’t know if it counts as silent since I read a funny story from my steady while I ate, but it was definitely peaceful.
The trail continued alongside the housatonic for awhile longer and then dipped a little farther west to skirt the edge of farm fields. They’re not being used at the moment so they are full of tall grass and wildflowers. I thought I saw a flash of blue as a bird flew away, but I wasn’t sure. Then a few minutes later I caught a definite flash of blue that I assume was an indigo bunting. I stood there with my mouth hanging open while I searched the trees for it to no avail.
At the end of the fields the trail crossed a road and then takes a steep climb followed a descent that leads to guinea brook. I’d seen in my guide app that this brook can be tricky to cross in high waters or rainfall. Judging by the height of the housatonic, my chances of getting across it didn’t seem goo, but I felt resistant to a road walk. I made my way down to the brook while trying to ignore all the signs recommending the detour.
When I got to the stairs above the brook, I surveyed my options. I could see a clear and safe way across 80% of the water. This picture was taken after crossing and the arrows in the bottom right highlight the tricky spot towards the end that looked like it would involve standing on wet rocks and/or a fallen limb with water running over it. Not wise choices. But I didn’t want to walk back up the hill so I decided to just figure it out as I went. As predicted, the first 3/4 was simple. The noise of the brook was stressful and made me internally shaky. I took one step onto the wet rock in my plan and nearly fell. My left foot ended up getting wet, and I honestly don’t remember how I managed to stay upright. My next step would have to be too large to originate from the wet surface I was standing on and I couldn’t go from the wet rock to the wet log. Worse idea. So I backtracked to a large flat dry rock and gave it some thought. By this point jd had come down the hill and was watching. We couldn’t communicate over the din of the water. He walked upstream to see if he could find a better route. I turned back toward the destination bank and considered what to do. I noticed that the water just upstream from where I was standing was only about ankle deep, so I decided to wade the rest of the way. I took my shoes and socks off and tied them around my neck (after nixing the idea of throwing them to dry land because I had visions of them rolling down the hill, back into the water and floating downstream). Then I turned my body slightly upstream and made sure to keep 3 points of contact with each step (safety tips learned during obsessive google researching months ago). In 20 seconds, I was standing on the opposite bank with wet feet and the triumph of not backtracking even though I realize it would have been the prudent choice.
I decided that I should wait for jd because it seemed unwise to leave him alone when the chances of injury felt high. I really wanted him to use my strategy, but I couldn’t text him because I didn’t have a cell signal. So I waited and watched him get up after taking a spill. I later found out that he fell because his hiking pole collapsed on him. Frightening. Anyway, he finally gave up and came back to the area I had crossed. He made it through the tricky section without even having to wade because his stride is longer and he wasn’t as off balance on the wet rocks. Stupid tall people. Again.
With that excitement out of the way, we trudged up yet another big climb. The time suck of crossing the brook and climbing up all the hills pretty much clinched my inability to get to the post office today. The climb led to this view near pine knob. Then the trail flattened out and led us along a wide ridge. At one point, I heard a mid air scuffle and looked up to catch two silhouettes veering off to the right. I caught a flash of red and sure enough, one of the cranky beings was a scarlet tanager. I watched it flit from tree to tree for a few minutes and then it flew out of sight.
Then came a long descent followed by more ups and downs. By then, I just wanted to be done. The last 3 miles felt endless. It honestly felt like someone was stretching the trail as I walked and that I would never get to the road where my friend’s husband planned to pick us up. I will say that there were a lot of beautiful streams amongst the Achilles’ tendon stretching ascents. About a half mile before the end, the trail turned to a rocky mess. JD had finally caught up to me just in time to hear me whine “you’ve got to be f*ucking kidding me.”
We finally made it to west Cornwall road, but there were no cars there. We waited and I texted my friend Gail and her husband Stephen. Finally, 90 minutes later (6p aka halfway to hiker midnight and 30 minutes past hiker dinner), Stephen called and said where are you? It turns out he was waiting at Cornwall bridge road. I felt terrible, but also aggravated because I had been very clear in my text. Gail ended up picking us up around 630. I knew this would not bode well for dinner or bed time.
She took us back to their adorable house and I drooled over the light, the pond and the kitchen. I asked about dinner and she confirmed my suspicions of a post 8p start. I love my friend, but I cannot handle that kind of schedule even when I’m not hiking. But I managed with snacks and distractions. We had a lovely dinner (arugula! avocado!) complete with a variety of ice cream. Now I’m writing this from my sleeping bag on their living room couch. I gave JD the guest bedroom, which I regret doing. He’s 70 and it seemed outlandish for him to sleep on the couch and too much of a hassle to pull out the sofa bed. I’ve given up on getting an early start tomorrow because the post office doesn’t open until 930, but I did make my intentions of getting back to the trail asap clear. I’m not rigid, I swear. I also don’t want to get to camp at 7p again.
Mile 1468 to mile 1483.2 (15.2)
Total miles: 480
Creature feature: it was a big day for animals, but they’re all already in the body of the post, with the exception of another giant black snake that was laying across the path right before the ledge overlook and two unidentified bright yellow birds raced across the housatonic when I spooked them from their perch. I’m going to guess a warbler or finch of some sort. Oh, and this cat who was clearly a parrot in another life: