OK AT, If You Dish It Out, I Can Take It!
So I say to myself, “Self, how can you possibly find enough material for a blog after just four days of hiking since your last zero day?” And I answer, “It’s quite possible, since (a) I most definitely get on a roll when talking about my favorite subjects, and (b) as backpackers like to say, ‘The trail provides.’ ”
So here goes, as I spend my morning in the most logical place ever for a person called Chocoholic.
After a taxi ride from Peekskill, NY, back to the trailhead, I continued my journey north. The day’s terrain had the usual ups and downs….
nothing overly challenging except for the morning’s heavy downpour.
Happily, my rain jacket, rain skirt by Zpacks, and rain gloves all served me well. No rain system is perfect and you still get wet, but this combo is the best I’ve settled on so far. The only fall was when the weather cleared and I tried to step out of the rain skirt gracefully and ended up tumbling sideways, with my feet trapped by the crumpled skirt. This was especially bad timing, since I was trying to show Kara and Heather how easy rain kilts are to use. Pride goeth…
Camping that night was a real pleasure, in a big grassy meadow at the Clarence Fahnestock State Park in NY. Heather and Kara were there, as well as Jay Squared, who I’ve known a few days. We were joined by a fun fellow from eastern TN. He used to go by Hound Dog, but is now Whooped Dog, after all the trail has dealt him the past few days. Two others staggered in as well. The last mile to a shelter will surely be proven someday to be much longer than the first mile of the day.
Day two was kind to the hikers with perfect weather. I had a break at an AT shelter, the RPH Shelter (Ralph’s Peak). This used to be a small private home that was claimed under eminent domain by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, since the trail runs within a few feet of the hut. The former owner now helps maintain the shelter, adding some good-natured humor in unexpected ways.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by a small local newspaper’s reporter in her quest to encourage volunteers to help maintain the trail. I’ll share the article in the future when she emails me a link.
I held out on my lunch break till I found a beautiful view. This won, hands down, looking down on meadows and a sweet barn.
In the afternoon, I saw more signs of good humor by trail maintainers. It was as if they said to their grandchildren, “Let’s make this the most heavily blazed section of the whole AT!” White blazes everywhere.
Nice camping that night at another shelter. With good weather, most folks prefer their own tents, hammocks, etc., to sleeping inside the shelters.
I was on the trail by 6:30 the next morning, a minor miracle. Perfect weather yet again, a good omen for my longest day yet, nearly 17 miles to the shelter I had in mind.
Gradually, it looked like there were fewer nasty rocks and more lovely stretches of nice smooth dirt trails. I could actually look at my surroundings, not just my foot placement.
There was an interesting mix of scenery, with another long boardwalk through wetlands,
a train stop bound for NYC, designated “Appalachian Trail,” which operates only on weekends,
paths through meadows,
and my second lunch at a hot dog stand in a nearby parking lot. When the owner saw she was out of change, she offered my dog, kraut, chips, and water for free. I reversed the trail magic and gave her a $20 bill, thereby “paying it forward” for the next few backpackers. I love giving in unexpected ways, and always hope it will have the ripple effect.
My final miles were long, with the usual nasty rocky ups and downs before reaching the shelter. However, I had brief entertainment provided with a conversation with a good-natured hiker who hails from the Netherlands.
Jasper has been on the AT several weeks before soon joining his family to begin a less strenuous family vacation. Because I walked across the southernmost portion of Holland in 2013 and intend to do more in the future, we could both fully understand the radical differences between walking in his highly populated, pancake flat country and the semi-wilderness, geographically challenging AT.
The best view of the day: the shining tin roof of your shelter when you first spy it through the trees and hear the laughter of other hikers. This year’s section on the AT has had much more of a social aspect to it than the previous two years. I can still get all the solo time I need, while enjoying good companionship at the end of the day, if I so choose.
Because of rain forecast during the night, I simplified things and slept inside the shelter. The usual ratio: me with five guys. No big deal. And happily no snorers this evening.
On day four, the rain held off till noon. I had the excitement of entering my tenth out of 14 states through which the AT travels.
Crossing a covered bridge to get to a deli was the perfect way to celebrate being in New England.
And then the rain came. At first, just a bit, so I let the tree canopy keep the bulk of the raindrops off me. When it increased, on went the rain jacket. With heavier downpour, get out the rain skirt! What, it has stopped now? Take off all the gear, to avoid sweating under the jacket. Wait, now it’s pouring again! So it went all afternoon, gear on, gear off.
But that was the least of my issues. It appears that CT is not all covered bridges and cute villages. I encountered multiple super steep ascents (with their even more treacherous descents),
rocks, boulders, roots,
and my least favorite: big slabs of what I assume to be granite, sometimes flat, but usually slanted to the side, intentionally formed by nature this way just to make it perilous for hikers.
Add green lichen, made especially slippery due to the rain, and you get a lot of slow, careful foot placement, and lot of butt sliding sessions on the stone slabs worthy of America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Well, it took me an hour longer than projected to finish this section, but I did it. It was heaven to hear the warm, welcoming voice of the owner of the B&B on the phone, on her way to get me. I dragged my sopping wet self into her garage, where I left my equally wet gear.
A hot shower, laundered clothes, a dinner I had picked up in town, and a glass of wine put things right again. And I was very happy to hear that the buddies Kara and Heather would be joining us tonight, after they finish the Section From Hades.
The AT can be a real smorgasbord. It can be a feast for the senses, but can also chew up hikers and spit them out. I’ll admit to being gnawed on quite a bit yesterday, but I’m far from being eaten alive. I’m going to continue to step up to the table, until I reach my just desserts, Katahdin in ME.
Bring it on, baby!
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.