I woke up to the sound of Gail cooking in the kitchen around 615. Only about 6 hours of sleep for me because I stayed up after everyone went to bed to write. The noises unheard sounded like batter being dropped in a muffin pan. I felt drained by the thought of having to social right out of bed so I stayed on the couch until I couldn’t wait for the bathroom any longer. Thus began the talking. But i felt petty habllh about the prospect of homemade banana muffins with peanut butter and Greek yogurt and granola for breakfast. It was actually the perfect breakfast. I left JD and gail at the table and organized my stuff, rounded up the dishes and loaded the dishwasher to try to payback some of the effort gail put into feeding us. JD and I borrowed their truck and went to the shopping center so I could pick up my package and he could get a few groceries. It so happens that I’ve been to this shopping center like 4 times because it’s near the hikes we do in the area. Who knew gail had a house so close. Another time warp moment.
I sat on the floor by the po boxes and rummaged through my food resupply. I’d already made a list of what I had, what I needed and what I planned to forward to North Adams. these are the things I work on while I’m eating or on a break. Lists! People periodically wandered in to get their mail and I said hello from the floor. Then I had to use a new box to mail stuff forward because the teller wouldn’t let me use their tape. Lame.
We got back to the house around 1015 and were back on trail around 1030. The morning started with a climb, of course, because that’s what roads mean. Big ups or big downs nearly every time. JD made a joke about seeing me much later because he’s so slow on the hills. I went ahead of him and came to what’s called “split boulder” for obvious reasons.
The trail continued up from there and then heads along the ridge and dropped down to the hug side of the mountain. Somewhere after the boulders I started thinking about Riga again. I couldn’t get it out of my head so I made a deal that if the terrain stayed moderate and my feet felt okay, I would just do it. It would mean a late night but if my body feels okay, what difference does it make if I get in at 830?
With the decision made, I hiked with a sense of urgency while also being extra mindful of where I put my feet so they would last longer. I imagined myself floating on the flat sections and being pulled upwards with a rope from my midsection on the hills. Small tricks that actually make me change my gait to match the feeling. The terrain was somewhat rollercoaster like (aka rolling hills), but the ground was primarily soft for quite awhile. There were long stretches of pine needle covered trail or packed dirt that felt so good on my feet.
The first 3 hours of the morning I could hear the engine revving from a nearby raceway. Quite possibly one of the last noises I feel like hearing from the woods. At one point, I could actually see the raceway from a viewpoint.
I stopped for lunch around 130. An older gentleman walked by and said hi, are you okay? I felt confused by the question. Did I look like I was in distress? I said yeah I’m good, are you okay? He replied yes and never dropped his pace on his way by. I wanted to ask him if he asks everyone that question or just the ones he reads as women (leaving room for people who don’t identify as women for those of you whoare less familiar with non binary gender identities). I saw him later down the trail but I worried that my question would come across as too pointed, and I chickened out.
After lunch, the trail dropped down to a road crossing and then, lo and behold, it did not climb again. The next 4 miles were flat or flat-ish. They also involved way more road walking in the glaring sun than I wanted on a day when I was attempting nearly 20 miles. The ball of my left foot told me I was making a bad choice. I did my best to walk on the shoulder or people’s lawns. In one section of road walking I crossed over the housatonic again. It looks so different here compared to the Kent area with boulders and rapids.
The trail winds along the housatonic for another long flat stretch that had small sections of crushed gravel, which is murder for my feet. I decided to take a break and put them up on my back for a few minutes at one of the benches alongside the path. This stretch is clearly a day walker haunt because there are benches every few hundred yards. I timed the break for 5 minutes because I felt like I couldn’t waste any time with such a late start. With that said, I definitely made sure to filter water whenever I needed it, and to take micro breaks to give me feet a rest. When you’re rushing it can be easy to blow by a stream and try to stretch your water. I knew that would be a poor decision on such a hot day. (see, I do crazy things responsibly).
The trail did a weird winding through falls village where it follows the river, dips through residential streets, and then hangs below the railroad tracks. I did not like the railroad section or being so close to town. Something about it made me feel vulnerable to the outside world. I was definitely happy when the trail climbed back out of town and up Mt Prospect. It was quite the climb. My pace slowed and my motivation started to wane, but I kept saying sunrise to myself and walked with the assumption that I was going the whole way.
I finally made it to the turnoff off for the Leonard shelter and paused to make sure I wanted to keep going. There aren’t any legal camping options between the two shelters so it was my last chance to avoid stealth camping. I moved on and said to myself, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, just keep walking. Why not at least try? So I past the turnoff and walked north. A few minutes later, I was rewarded with this view that I hadn’t been expecting at all.
The trail leveled out for awhile and made for comfortable walking. I made sure to eat with some frequency even though my appetite was low because of the heat. I paid close attention for heat exhaustion symptoms because I knew I was asking a lot from my body, especially because I was carrying a full 5 days worth of food in my bag. A NOBO hiker named lioness passed me sometime around 6. She had actually been approaching down the trail when I dropped my pants to pee. I didn’t notice her until I stood up and saw her down the long straight lane. Oops.
The descent down to the next road crossing was brutal given the circumstances. I was in the 16 mile range of my day which equates to clumsy, exhausted and tender feet. I also felt rushed because of the waning daylight, but I forced myself to slow down because I’m not going anywhere fast if I fall down a steep hill. I was also thinking about Traffic director, the gentleman who asked me if I was okay. He has 7 stitches in his forehead from falling. No thank you.
I cursed and crawled my way down the steep, root filled trail, and made it to the road that leads to salisbury. Halfway is currently in Salisbury and it was tempting to give up on my hair-brained idea to crash in his hotel room for a reunion (and a shower). But my compulsion for the sunrise won out. I also really need to get to North Adams by Friday, so the time for spur of the moment decisions will have to wait.
There was another tedious and painful roadwalk through the edge of Salisbury and past a strange looking Christian cabin development. Religious getaway area? Hard to say. The trail then took a right through tha field and back into the woods. A NOBO passed me while I rested on a rock and said, I just found out that if I get a hitch at the next road crossing I can get free pizza. Things that don’t interest me, but he was pretty happy about it. My foot rest did not last long because I was immediately swarmed by mosquitoes. There are blood spots on my legs from killing them. I took my snack and walked with it to avoid the vampires.
The next road crossing turns out to be one I’ve been to before. It’s the beginning of a day hike to lions head with fp and our dog hiking friend. There was a noticeable difference in how the hills felt today versus how I remember them. I had about 25-26 pounds on my back and didn’t feel slowed down by the hills at all. I feel like my legs can do the bigger miles, it’s my pesky feet and my right Achilles’ tendon that disagree with anything much over 15.
Anyway, the light was definitely getting lower, which made me feel anxious even though it doesn’t actually have any bearing on the safety of the woods. It’s not like all the bad people and the animals wait until dark to get me. I forced myself to stop at a steam and filter water in case the shelter stream was dry. It was unfortunately right before the climb up lions head, but the comments in my app led me to believe the stream could be dry. Having no water after such a long hot day would be a sad and dangerous state of affairs. So I carried the extra weight and thanked the stream for existing.
Then came the trudge up lions head. About halfway up, I heard a large crack and an immediate crash. I don’t know what that was, but it scared the crap out of me. I pictured a bear loping towards me, which made me nearly run up the hill for a few minutes. I also picked up the pace because I could see the glowing light of sunset off to my left. The prospect of being on top of lions head for sunset was pretty exciting. I made a plan to eat dinner and watch the sunset so that I could drop my food In the bear box on the way to the shelter. Riga is laid out in such a way that the bear box is annoyingly far from the tent site that I like.
The timing worked out nearly perfectly. I made it to the western overlook just after the sun dipped below the mountain (top picture is the western view). I rushed through a tuna pepperoni wrap and wolfed down the rest of a probar. Then I rushed the .6 of a mile to Riga as the woods got darker. Somehow I was hiking faster than I had for the last 3 hours in the near dark and not tripping. I felt like a ninja. And an idiot for going so fast when I knew the adrenaline would wear off and my feet would be incredibly sad. I finally had to turn on my headlamp at the turn off for the shelter in order to navigate the stream crossing (that was definitely not dry).
I brushed my teeth standing next to the bear box so I could put all of my smellables away at the same time. Then I set up my tent to the red light of my headlamp and crawled inside to finish setting up my bed. I was covered in a layer of grime and my clothes were soaked, but I made it. I set two alarms and decided to postpone writing for the sake of getting a little more sleep before the 445 sunrise alarm.
Mile 1483.3 to mile 1503 (19.8)
Total miles: 499.8
Creature feature: sad to say I was not paying much attention to the animals today. I know I saw woodpeckers and chipmunks but the rest escapes me right now.