Day 108: A River Walk

Type II Boondocking

We boondocked in a one-car pullout along Schaghticoke Road where the AT leaves the river and heads back into the hills. Unlike many of our parking spots, this one stayed quiet and dark all night, though the mosquitos swarms near the river were voracious. Ravenous mosquitos turn a simple midnight or early morning visit to the woods into a Type II adventure.

Northstar’s Plan

Northstar was studying the FarOut map before bed, reading all the user comments for each waypoint along tomorrow’s route. I heard her make that “I’m thinking” sound and then she asked if I knew about the unmarked blue blaze. I did not.

Someone had commented that you could save a few miles and 1,800 feet of climbing by walking Schaghticoke Road instead following the AT into the hills. After climbing some hills through the woods, the AT returned to Schaghticoke Road at Macedonia Brook. From our parking spot, we’d noticed that about half of the thru-hikers who passed by skipped the official AT in favor of the river walk down the road.

I didn’t really care about shortening the miles or missing climbs, but I loved the idea of walking along the Housatonic River again.  When I looked at FarOut myself, I noticed I could take another road from the end of Schaghticoke Road all the way to Cornwall Bridge, where I planned to finish.

River Walking

Rivers are my jam. They have been my career, my hobby, and my passion. I’ve done river studies on well over 500 rivers in the western United States and I’ve boated just over a hundred of them. As a kid, I spent my Saturdays playing in the creek up the road. My mother was constantly telling me to get out of the highway ditch in front of our house, but the lure of building little dams and floating tiny boats was too tempting to obey her.

I prefer rivers to mountains and woods. I love the sound of running water and can stare into rapids the way some people stare at fires. And boating rivers? When I’m boating, the landed world simply does not exist. To me, piloting a boat downriver is art, beauty, and adventure all rolled into one.

I’ve walked almost 1,500 miles through the Appalachian’s woods this summer and only a few along its streams. I had no question that I’d be river blue blazing along the Housatonic all day tomorrow.

Schaghticoke Road

I set out in a crisp 51F morning. Perfect walking weather. Schaghticoke Road offers a few river views. Instead, it mostly lies at the edge of the floodplain buffered from open water by thick vegetation. Along the road, I passed a sign that announced the entrance to the Schaghticoke Indian Reservation and warned us to “Beware of the Dog.” Interesting combination, but I’ve travelled enough tribal land to know that reservation dogs can be a handful, so I kept my eyes open.

I also passed the tribal cemetery, where I stopped to read the names and dates. The number of cross-shaped headstones and American flags and Veterans designations marking graves surprised me. I grew up next to the Onondaga Tribe, part of the Iroquois Nation, but I’d never visited one of their cemeteries. I’d never heard of the Schaghticoke Tribe.

River Road

I snuck through the Kent School’s posh grounds to cut off a half-mile road walk. I’d planned to walk over the bridge into the Town of Kent, but I’d made such good time so far that I hardly needed the break. After walking nearly a half-mile through the Kent School’s dorms, academic buildings, and athletic facilities, I found myself back along the Housatonic River. This time, the road followed the river closely with excellent open water views.

In general, I’m not a big fan of road walking. As a teen, I read Peter Jenkin’s A Walk Across America, the story of his coast to coast walk on America’s rural byways. I think the book inspired my love of epic journeys, but I’ve found my own road walks to be hot, painful, and somewhat boring. Today, I wasn’t hot, but I definitely got a little bored whenever the river was blocked from sight.

So, I started reading emails and sending texts as I walked. I checked in with Yogi, Survivor, and Wheels to see whether they were still hiking and where they were. Survivor responded immediately that he was gearing up to head north to finish the last 300 miles of the AT. I didn’t hear back from Yogi or Wheels.

Back on the AT

A few miles down River Road, the AT came back down out of the hills and followed the road, ending my blue blaze adventure. After another mile, the gravel road ended at a locked gate and turned into a hard packed sand path. The hard packed sand made for the best walking conditions of the entire AT so far. If feet can smile, mine were grinning toe to toe.

I passed several southbounders (AT thru-hikers going from Maine to Georgia), who I’ve found to be much friendlier than my fellow northbounders. At a narrow point in the trail, I pulled aside to let a southbound hiker pass, but he stopped and said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you.” Huh? That confused me a little. I looked around for someone behind me he might be speaking to, but we were the only two hikers in sight.

Then he introduced himself as Jim, which triggered my memory enough that I recognized him as someone who clicks on some of my Facebook posts. He lives in Connecticut and had guessed I’d be walking this section of trail today and walked south to intercept me. I’m so glad we didn’t miss each while I hiked one of my blue blazes! We stood on the trail and talked for about 30 minutes. What a nice surprise!

Got Questions?

Jim asked a bunch of questions, which I happily answered. Which reminds me, if you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section (which is why I defined “earworm” yesterday). Or drive to Connecticut and try to find me. Just remember that my posts are delayed a few days, so factor that into your guess about where I’m hiking.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Schaghticoke Rd (1,467.0)
  • End: Cornwall Bridge (Mile 1,485.5)
  • Weather: Chilly. No really, it was 51F when I woke up. Sunny with a breeze. Ahhhh.
  • Earworm: Go Where You Want to Go (Mamas and Papas) – Blue blaze theme song
  • Meditation: Lk. 11:9
  • Today’s Goal: Mileage
  • Plant of the Day: White Wood Aster
  • Best Thing: Housatonic River
  • Worst Thing: Parking lot “police” in Kent


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Comments 13

  • thetentman : Aug 4th

    Thank you. Nice post.

    • Jon : Aug 9th


  • Jim : Aug 4th

    Jon – it was a pleasure meeting you the other day. Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your hike to chat with me. Much appreciated.

    • Jon : Aug 9th

      Likewise. I wish I’d insisted you walk out with me. Enjoy.

  • Doug Whittaker : Aug 4th

    Hey Jon — PAAD crew sends greetings and felicitations. We spent the day yesterday measuring drafts of canoes with 20, 500, 750, and 1000 lbs of people children and rocks in Mirror Lake. Science in action. Your name and trip were a topic of discussion; people remain interested and are now pretty invested in your eventual success. But we’ll still miss you next week as we start swatting even more skeeters on Birch Creek.

    By the way, we cancelled Mulchatna trip due to anticipated high water, but had paid for the flights anyway so we took them to look at the river. We would have been fine, but seeing higher than median has less value so no harm done, I suppose. Maribou Landing looked about the same..still blood on the rocks from the mosquitoes we slapped and the losses you incurred to me in various card games.

    I was on a study on the Housatonic a couple of years ago and know the routes you described above. Surprised to hear they are rousting sly campers like yourselves — placed seemed to have too-fragmented bureaucracies to be actively managing such things.

    Your intuition about the Schaghticoke Tribes size and fame is pretty good. I don’t remember the details well, but I think they are down to a few feuding families, with lots of mutual cousins, which have hampered their ability to get or keep federal status and whatever benefits come with that. Has been an issue in trying to get that river federal WSR status too…

    I think you next 500 miles are the parts of the AT I would most like to visit…looking forward to your reports…

    • Jon : Aug 9th

      Thx for the AK update. That’s encouraging. Thought I might get fired.
      Did you win at cards? I don’t remember it that way.
      Yeah, I’m really looking forward to being further north and above tree line more.

  • Susie Camenzind : Aug 5th

    “If feet can smile, mine were grinning toe to toe”. Funny! I didn’t expect that. But I can believe how seeing that hard-packed sand could be so welcome. Clever!

    • Jon : Aug 9th


  • Homeward : Aug 5th

    Oh, you blue blazing cheater, you 🤔🙂. Could you recommend a good purist blogger for me to follow 😉? Seriously, this sounds like a wonderful alternate route and I’m glad that you could enjoy it.
    Hike on, my brother!

    • Jon : Aug 9th

      There are no other bloggers.

      • Homeward : Aug 10th

        He he he😋.

  • Mike Nixon : Aug 6th

    Nice post. Mornings like that just tease you that Fall is just around the corner. Hopefully, it is sooner in the NE than it is here in NC.

    Stay safe & strong.

    • Jon : Aug 9th

      Can’t wait for fall colors.


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