Woke up to the sound of birk coughing from her tent about 30 yards away. I asked her about it later, and she apparently has reflux that isn’t treatable because it deals with pepsin and not acid. It makes her cough often, and she usually avoids shelters because people always ask if she’s okay. I knew the reason she was coughing, and I still felt the impulse to ask her when I headd her coughing later. Bet that gets old for her.
I had a silent breakfast at the picnic table with intrepid. She’s unpredictable when it comes to how much she might talk and what in the world might come out of her mouth. Then I broke down my tent and sluggishly made my way up the trail. The air was still and humid and the sun felt hot despite being 645 in the morning. My bag felt heavier today even though its technically just getting lighter by the day.
The trail felt like walking in a recessed dry stream bed for the first couple of miles. I was descending, which felt unexpected and even stranger when I ended up on Mt Bushnell with views of the valley below.
The trail followed ridge and vacillated between full sun on the eastern side of the ridge and dappled shade when it turned westward. Somewhere in there, I heard a large rustling. I had been expecting a squirrel or maybe even a bear, so when I saw this cutie, it took my brain a minute to compute that I was looking at a dog:
His name is Everett. With a wary tone, I asked his owner if he wouldn’t happen to have any relation to Mt Everett, and his owner responded yes with a sheepish tone. I told him that Everett had kicked my ass yesterday, and he said oh well it’s clear sailing for the next 10 miles. I thought to myself, yeah minus having to get down from this damn mountain. The descent wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but my knees and feet were still aching by the time I reached the bottom. I took a break there to eat a snack and rest, but I couldn’t stick around long because of the incessant mosquitoes.
I don’t remember the exact transition (because I’m writing this two days later), but the trail eventually led me through a series of fields and flattish pine forests that made up the valley I had seen from the top of bushnell. I enjoyed the flatness and the variation from open fields to shady pines. Here are a pictures from the middle miles.
When I hit the crossing for route 7, I felt exhausted and hungry. My feet were sore, steamy pancakes. I sat in the shade, by the side of the road and considered my options: stay by the loud road or walk on and hope for something shady by the river ahead of me. I wasn’t in the mood for road noise, so I pushed on. The trail led through an overgrown corridor that crossed a stream and opened into a series of fields.
(That’s a southbound view because the light was better) After about a mile, the trail made a right onto a dirt pull off from a paved road. It was shady and quiet, so I gave up on something picturesque and plopped down in the dirt to make my tuna pepperoni wrap. As I sat there crunching on the dregs of my frito bag (serious frito famine in effect), intrepid walked around the corner with her sodden shorts sitting crooked around her waist. She had seen the ladder leading down the bank of the housatonic and decided to go for a dip. Apparently the current was so strong that she immediately got out for fear of being swept down the river. I laughed as she walked away because she looked a fright with her sagging shorts and crooked knee braces on her spindly legs.
After lunch, I returned to the sweatfest of open fields and road crossings, which eventually led to a climb. Thankfully, it was a climb that involved your basic rock, dirt, pine needle situation. My feet felt bruised and angry, yet I still had the idea of pushing another 5 miles to the second shelter ahead. This would give me two longish days getting to upper goose pond cabin by Tuesday evening instead of one medium day (14 miles) and one crazy long day (21.1 miles).
I kept considering and dismissing the idea over the next few miles. I eventually caught up with intrepid and five year plan, who looked wilted and done with his day. I found them at a stream that sat atop a hefty climb. Intrepid poured water over her head off to the side of the stream, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t considered that sooner. I filtered water and then dumped some on the back of my neck. It was so satisfying, and it made me want to soak my feet even more, but the stream was an awkward one that was sadly not conducive to sitting.
I told intrepid not to worry if I didn’t show up at the next shelter because I was considering moving on and she shared similar thoughts. We both felt ambivalent about being able to do it, but she said, well I don’t have to decide now, which I always forget because I like to know what’s happening as soon as possible. This isn’t the best strategy when the terrain is really what should be making my decisions.
Intrepid and I walked near each other for a bit and then she pulled ahead. I saw her again .2 miles from Tom Leonard shelter (the first possible destination). She was taking a break with five year plan and a NOBO who had cut himself on his hiking pole. He had blood pouring from a small gash on his knee that he kept trying to staunch with baby wipes. FYP asked about bandaids and the NOBO said he didn’t have any. Then he said “yeah I don’t carry much.” I know “the trail provides” as they say and this is a community effort, but you can’t carry 10 bandaids that weigh less than an ounce? Really? I kept my judgments to myself while he figured out a solution for getting a bandaid to stick to his sweaty, hairy leg with the supplies FYP gave him.
When I got to the shelter turn off, I barely hesitated before walking past it, thus signing on for a 19 mile day (after calculating the mileage for this lost I realized it was actually 19.6. Must use decimal points. Must stop eyeballing mileage). This was a terrible choice. The terrain was forgiving enough until the last half mile (of course), but my feet were already battered and showing signs of nerve pain. Nerve pain is my threshold for when things are going terribly wrong. Muscle pain is expected. Nerve pain equals impending doom. My Friday deadline loomed large in my head, and I let it dictate something that should really be answered by my body. Immediately following the Leonard shelter, I passed what my guidebook describes as an ice gulch (top picture). It consisted of a wide fern/tree filled gorge between giant boulders and was just about the last hung I paid attention to until I considered stealth camping near this view.
I decided against it because it smelled of manure and was horribly buggy. It also abutted private property and I didn’t fancy someone seeing my tent and being angry with me. I also really wanted access to more water and a bear box, so I trudged onward.
By the time I got to this view, I was inconsolable, worried about my feet, and angry with myself for pushing too far. As I went down a pebbly descent lined by gangly mountain laurel, a shirtless man in running shorts flew past me. I said out loud after he was out of ear shot “crazy f*cker” and felt thoroughly perturbed by his existence. I cursed and whined my way up the final rocky, steep climb to the turn off for the shelter. Note to self: if the shelter sits in the middle of the steep climb, you can pretty much guarantee you will also have to climb up or down to get to the shelter. My hopes for a stream in which to soak my feet were dashed when I saw the water source, which was a spring fed pool in this boulder.
I can’t soak my feet in a pool where other people will get their water (don’t worry mom, there were no visible spiders or snakes). I swatted mosquitoes and filled up my sawyer bag for later to avoid having to come back down. Then I dumped a cup of water on my arms and my neck. I felt like I was covered in an inch of sunscreen and bug spray and the splash of water did little to make that feeling go away. I stumbled up to the shelter to find traffic director, a shitload of mosquitoes, and a very uninviting tent spot directly behind the shelter. I didn’t have the energy to explore my options farther down the path, so I dumped my stuff, sprayed more deet on my legs and set up my tent. Then I forced myself to cook dinner even though it was 730p. I knew after such a long day I needed more calories than a cold dinner could provide.
I sat on a rock in front of the shelter and talked to traffic director while he lay on his sleeping pad. How people can sleep with bugs attacking them all night is beyond me. I’d rather expend the energy and the 10 minutes it takes to set up/break down a tent. As I ate, a pair of women flopped into camp, dropped their stuff at their feet and crumpled onto the edge of the shelter. They are a mother daughter duo named boss (daughter) and goddess (mother). Boss talks a mile a minute and has a decent sense of humor. Her mother is grumpy and whiny, so we got along just fine.
After dinner, I retired to my bug free zone and wrote the entry for yesterday. I intended to write the same day’s entry, but I had little battery (I’m allowing myself one phone charge a day) and even less energy, so I gave up and went to sleep. Or so I thought…
Mile 1512.7 to mile 1532.3 (19.6)
Total miles: 529.1
Creature feature: more of those cute black and white warblers, red winged blackbirds and a yellow warbler that caught my eye in the last marshy area