Comfortable, Calming, Connecticut – But The Climbing Starts
Connecticut makes me think of the Pink Floyd song “Comfortably Numb”. This is the mental state you will be experiencing some of the “ledges” climbs in the state. At first, Connecticut settles you into a nice calming New England vibe. Nice town squares. Lot’s of colonial style history. Town “green’s” where the layout is the more singular “butcher, baker and candlestick maker” versus the strip malls of other areas. Lot’s of trees. Lot’s of very nice folks. But don’t let it fool you. The climbs become painfully steep. The downhills become down climbs. Bring your bouldering and scrambling skills. And I would think twice about down climbing some of the ledges in the rain.
Looking over the expanse of tree canopy from the ridges upon which the trail passes, you can not help but notice acres and acres of defoliated trees. Comparing it to and having my frame of reference being back in my winter home in California, I grew concerned. In California, when you see this much swath of defoliated trees, it usually means that a forest fire recently ripped through the area destroying everything in its path. Here in Connecticut the locals tell me that the defoliation is due to the gypsy moth larvae or caterpillars. They strip many species of trees of all spring leaves. Some years are worse than others. 2022 happens to be a very bad year. Many trees will recover. Many will not. It’s part of the way the eastern forests are naturally cleansed. Fire is the way western forests are cleansed, but the eastern moths at least leave structures standing whereas the western fires do not. The fires also add to the carbon in the atmosphere where the caterpillars just rain down on tents and tarps and whatever else is left uncovered while they are active. So much for cowboy camping and not getting a mouthful of caterpillars by morning.
Into Town for Lunch
It turns out that the shelters and towns in Connecticut are spaced such that you can drop into town for lunch. This happened everyday we were in Connecticut. You get spoiled. The spots to stop have been excellent. They welcome hikers. Many hikers gather and share fellowship and camaraderie as we all climb up and down the Connecticut “ledges”. The trick is to not over buy food that ends up staying in your pack and adding to your load. It does take some planning, but the pork sandwiches, tossed salads and various other near gourmet lunch items we had all through Connecticut sure was a nice reprieve from the usual gourmet peanut butter tortilla charcuterie.
The Housatonic River
Some of the best features on the CT (Connecticut) AT (Appalachian Trail) is its paralleling the Housatonic River. This is a beautiful waterway. In the early 20ieth century it was polluted with the waste of many early electrical manufacturing plants, but the focus on environmental recovery has brought the river back to life. Minus the care that must be taken in disturbing some sediment in a small part of the river, according to some locals, the river is healthy, vibrant, and supports all kinds of kayak, canoe, swimming and fishing activity. There are the warning signs about pregnant women limiting the number of fish they eat out of the river, but those are common in bays and tributaries of many bodies of water. It is too bad previous generations did not understand how to care for the environment a little better, but hopefully we do better in our generation’s stewardship of the earth. Anyway, the AT runs along the bank of the river for a few sections. One is a five mile flat and smooth trail which has one of the shelters just on the banks of the river. This is a great spot for a snack stop, or an overnight.
The Housatonic Falls
Towards the northern part of the CT AT, the trail once again runs along the river. Another beautiful section. After stopping at what I thought was the best restaurant that I had yet encountered since Harpers Ferry, you hike up into the falls. Just after the “Iron Bridge” which unlike the “Iron Bridge” that was down in Pine Grove, PA (not Pine Grove Forest, but Pine Grove itself) this “Iron Bridge” is a 2016 replacement of the original. Anyway, just after the bridge, the trail goes right by what has been the best swimming spot in the 500 miles since Harpers Ferry. The day was hot and the water cold and clear. It made for the iconic swim along the trail. Definitely take advantage of the timing here as you plan your Connecticut adventure.
Why is Connecticut “CT” Anyway
As a bunch of us gathered and splashed around in the water, this topic came up. Of course it started with “hey, name the other two states that start with “C”. That was no big deal, but then the question of why did the US Postal Service pick CT for Connecticut when they determined the abbreviations for the states. California, gets CA, kind of obvious. Colorado gets CO, why ? Why didn’t Connecticut get the “CO” ? Probably Colorado is more populous at the time. Then why not CN versus CT ? N is the next unused letter in the name ? Anyway….this made for a great afternoon swimming and cooling off discussion. Lots of things like this happen on the trail. It’s part of the fun and camaraderie. Maybe we ought to take on some of the tougher things to work our for society while splashing in a beautiful waterfall swimming hole ? Maybe some really good solutions would come out of that type of fun ?
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