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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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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