Surprisingly Dad was up and moving before I was this morning, he was starting to take down his tent before I had even fully woken up, and I had to hurry a bit to catch up with him so we could get going. The trail started off fairly easy and flat for a couple miles before turning rocky, but we got some nice views of the surrounding ridges which made the rocky scrambles almost worth it.
Dad specifically requested that I take this photo, so here it is for your enjoyment
We paused at the Wildcat shelter for a break and to eat a snack, sitting at a nice picnic table is always a morale booster. After a couple miles we came across the Fitzgerald falls, and the trail wound up right alongside it before continuing on to Mombasha High Point. The climb up to Mombasha High Point wasn’t super steep or rocky, but we were starting to feel worn down already in the warm weather, and we were moving slower and slower. After descending from the high point we grabbed lunch across from a busy road, and sat around for a bit trying to figure out our plans for the rest of the day. We were definitely starting to feel like we were ready to stop soon as we made our way over the very steep Buchanan Mountain Outlook and around a beaver made pond, and we were just barely crawling as we made our way over the very steep and rocky Arden Mountain. The final descent from Arden Mountain was crazy steep, and my knees were aching while I took my time carefully picking my way down the mountainside that looked as if it was dropping straight down. We could hear the road for a long time before we finally reached it, and when we finally made it down to street level we caught a ride to the nearby Tuxedo Motel for the night. I resupplied and we got a delicious veggie pizza but we were both struggling to stay awake by 8 pm after the tough day, and we turned off the lights early to grab some sleep.
I was a little bummed as we packed up the motel room, since dad was heading home today, and the feeling persisted for the first couple miles on the trail. Unfortunately, the terrain in those first few miles was pretty rough, featuring a steep climb and a bunch of rocky scrambles including the Lemon Squeezer, where I had to take off my pack a couple times to squeeze through the narrow rock openings that made up the trail. So far New York has been so much more difficult than I had ever heard about during my pre-hike planning, with areas that are just as rocky as PA and some very steep climbs. Additionally, New York has felt a little rough mentally as well, well beyond the thrill of the halfway point but still unimaginably far from the end of the trail. All in all New York hasn’t been my favorite state on the trail. Fortunately the trail got much easier after making my way through the Lemon Squeezer, and I cruised along not really noticing the ups and downs for a while. In the early afternoon I reached the summit of Black Mountain which had awesome views, and I could even spot the skyline of New York City in the distance.
NYC was way out there!
Eventually the trail started up Bear Mountain, changing to be either paved or pea gravel, with stone steps making the elevation easier. Suddenly, upon reaching the summit of Bear Mountain, the number of day hikers sky rocketed. The number of people around made it feel like some of the most crowded trails in the big national parks I’ve been to. While coming down from the mountain the trail was so crowded that we all formed a line heading down the stairs, which felt agonizingly slow to me. As I walked I could smell barbecue smoke, and when I finally reached the bottom I saw hundreds of people picnicking, boating, and strolling around the base of the mountain. There were so many people and colors and sounds that it was almost hard to keep track of where the AT was going. I paused at a concession stand to grab a plate of chicken tenders and a soda, and grabbed a spot at a shady picnic table to enjoy them. After my snack I kept heading down the trail, which led through a trail side zoo. I had arrived just as they were closing, but the employees let me walk through anyway, and I stopped to look at some of the exhibits. Most of the enclosures were very small without much room or many objects for the animals to interact with, which was a bit of a bummer to see, but the animals there were all rescues that were non-releasable so I guess it’s good that they have a place where they can be taken care of.
A red tailed hawk in the zoo
Right after the zoo, the trail hopped onto a large bridge that crossed over the Hudson River, before turning and making a steep ascent up Anthony’s Nose. At this point I was feeling pretty tired, and I very slowly made my way up the steep grade with multiple pauses to catch my breath. Finally I wound my way down to the Hemlock Springs campsite, and set up my tent for the night. I expected other hikers to arrive at the campsite since there weren’t many other camping options in the area, but no one else arrived and as dusk fell I settled in while listening to the sound of the road and trains far below.
I set off in the morning going up and over a hill and descended to a market situated right next to the trail. I grabbed a smoothie and snack and sat on a bench out front while I let my phone charge for a bit. The trail went over a few ups and downs during the day, but none of the mountains felt too difficult, and I kept cruising along. I got nice views of Canopus Lake through the trees as I wound my way around the lake, and a cool part of the trail led along an old mining road built of rocks up above the surrounding forest and next to the large cliffs in the area. The miles kept speeding by, and pretty soon I started the long descent from Shenandoah Mountain down to the neighborhoods below. Mt legs were feeling a little shaky towards the end of this descent, and I was glad to read the RPH shelter. The shelter was super cool, a large former cabin with the back wall mostly removed and multiple bunks, picnic tables, and a large water cache for hikers to use. There was also some fun decorations at the shelter and privy including feet coming out of the ceiling, a door mat, paintings, a flush handle, and multiple wacky signs.
Peep the feet coming out of the ceiling! This is not a shelter to pass up!
Once I’d settled in, I saw that there were multiple nearby restaurants that would deliver to the shelter, so I quickly put in an order for some Chinese food, which I scarfed down when it arrived. Full and sleepy, I threw out my quilt on top of one of the foam pads in the bunk beds, and quickly fell asleep.
The morning started off with a breathless climb up a hill to a small view before heading right back down the hill. I trudged along feeling pretty tired from my big day yesterday, and had to put in a couple podcasts to keep motivated and moving in my tired state. Eventually the trail started going around the pretty nuclear lake, which had multiple nice views of the water and lily pads, and I paused to look out over the area a couple times.
The views over Nuclear Lake
The trail wound it’s way back uphill and became pretty rocky and slow going as I picked my way down the rocks. I was definitely feeling worn out at this point, but fortunately after the hard terrain the trail dipped down and took me over a nice board-walk covered wetland. Just past the wetlands the trail led over the train tracks next to the Appalachian Trail metro stop. Very cool that the AT has its own small metro station.
I regained some energy after strolling through the easy fields and feeling the strong breeze blowing on my face, and I was able to push to make it to the Wiley Shelter just before dusk in a light rain. Fortunately there was just enough space for me to squeeze into the shelter, which I was grateful for as it was supposed to continue to rain more heavily throughout the night.
I was the first one to set off from the shelter and onto the damp trail in the morning. I quickly came across a bridge that was out over a creek, and had to carefully picked my way across the rocks to cross. Pretty soon after I saw the sign welcoming me to Connecticut, another state down, and I wasn’t at all sad to leave rocky and steep New York behind.
Throughout the morning I started noticing more and more caterpillars on the ground, and the trees on the ridges almost looked bare from how much the caterpillars had eaten. It was a fully fledged infestation of invasive Gypsy Moth caterpillars, which were eating almost everything, falling out of branches onto me, and pooping so much that I could actually hear the sound of all the tiny caterpillar poops hitting the ground.
Fun fact: caterpillar poop is called frass
The caterpillars and all their poop were pretty gross.
The next climb up Ten Mile hill started off steep but didn’t last too long, and soon I was back down and walking next to the Housatonic River, admiring it’s nice rapids. The nice river side walking didn’t last too long before heading back up a ridge and into a series of ups and downs that were frustratingly slow before finally reaching the road into Kent. I headed into town excited to do some laundry and take a shower at their welcome center. Sadly, when I collected my clean clothes and headed to take a shower I saw that the shower was broken. I was very sweaty and sticky and just had to get clean, so I decided to wash my hair and give myself a quick rinse off using the water bottle filler next to the building, big hiker trash moment! After grabbing some town food I set back off again, up a ridge and finally up and over the very steep and rocky Caleb’s peak. The descent from the peak was incredibly steep and challenging, going all the way back down to the Housatonic River, but fortunately once it reached the river the trail stayed on nice flat ground all the way to the Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter. I spotted some familiar faces at the shelter and was glad to slide in next to them for another night of predicted rain.
Overnight the sound of the caterpillar poops plinking off of the shelter roof turned into the steady drumming of heavy rain. In the morning everyone in the shelter decided to sleep in, not interested in setting out in the downpour, and it was very peaceful lying in the shelter half asleep listening to the rain come down. Eventually the rain died down and I got going a little after 8. The first part of the trail continued next to the river and through some pretty fields with views of the misty hillsides.
Most rising off the nearby hillsides
The fields were all heavy with water and my legs got drenched as I had to push my way through the tall grasses on the trail. As the trail re-entered the woods, the grade of the trail increased sharply, and I struggled to power through the climb and make it to the summit. Due to the rain the descent was very muddy, and I took a quick slide on my knees down a part of the hill after losing my footing. At the base of the hill I bumped into the other hikers from the shelter, they had been wandering along the banks of the creek looking for a safe place to cross. With the recent rains the creek was flowing pretty high, and there was no bridge spanning the banks. One option was a detour around the creek along a couple roads, but it would’ve added two miles to our day, so eventually we decided to take the plunge and ford the creek, thankfully without incident.
Fording the swollen creek
The trail continued to take me up and down a series of steep climbs, and even though most of the ascents were only around 500 ft of elevation gain, their rockiness and steepness quickly tired me out and I set my sights on the small town of Falls Village for the night instead of the shelter that was up another steep hill. Toward the end of the afternoon I started hearing engines revving which made I me think I was near the road. The revving sounds continued for a long time though, and I eventually realized that I was nearing an overlook of the Limerock speedway. At the overlook I paused and watched the race cars zooming around the track, and even after I kept moving I could hear the engines for miles. Finally I started down the ridge towards town. The last miles of the day are always the slowest and this was no exception, I was imagining the hot food and nice campsite that awaited me even though I still had miles to go. As I was moving along the other hikers from the shelter came up behind me, they’d also changed their plans to head into town, so we all walked the last mile in together. In town there was a couple who allowed hikers to tent in their yard, and I quickly threw up my tent before grabbing some dinner nearby. Despite sleeping in that morning I felt very tired, and I went to bed right after eating.
As I headed out of Falls Village I could hear and then see the large waterfall the town was named after.
One of the largest waterfalls I’ve seen on trail
The crashing water was fun to watch for a bit before I turned on a podcast and faced the climb up Mt. Prospect. This is the climb that I’d chosen not to do the previous night, and I’d been dreading it a bit because of how steep it looked on the elevation profile, but surprisingly the climb wasn’t too bad. It was a bit steep, but it was mostly easy dirt trail instead of rock scrambles, and I was at the top faster than I had imagined. On the way down the other side I passed the 1500 mile marker, which was actually painted the same mint green as all the signage in Connecticut, instead of the usual sticks or rocks on the ground.
There were multiple picturesque views of nearby fields and mountains as I descended, and I stopped frequently to look around. The next big climb up Bear Mountain (yes, there are multiple Bear Mountains on the trail) was longer than the previous one, but again I was feeling surprisingly fresh and powered my way to the top. I’m not sure why I was feeling so energetic today, maybe the hamburger and chicken wings from the night before, but I was feeling good and zooming along. I stopped to eat some lunch at the summit, and a day hiker told me that the area ahead was some of the best on the whole trail before wishing me well on the rest of my hike. I eagerly headed down the mountain and past the sign announcing my entrance into Sage Ravine. The ravine was just as beautiful as I was told, with the trail wrapping along one side of the ravine and following a cascading creek downhill in a forest of tall pine trees.
The peaceful Sage Ravine
Just as the trail crossed the creek in an open part of the ravine, I crossed into Massachusetts, the eleventh state!
After another quick climb the trail reached the top of Mt. Race, which had huge views of the area around it, and I walked along the edge of a series of ledges while taking in the scenery below. Right at the summit of Mt. Race I was surprised to come around a corner and see an ermine in the middle of the trail looking at me. I tried to take out my phone to grab a picture of the fluffy little guy, but it raced into the bushes, leaving me with only a fluffy butt photo.
Here is the fluffy butt. I hope I get to see another ermine, it was super cute.
The last climb of the day up Mt. Everett was the steepest yet, but I was still feeling surprisingly good, and I clambered my way up the rock faces and bolted down wooden steps to the top. I quickly made my way down and was happy to make it to the Hemlocks Shelter, which had a large loft area that I tossed my gear into before scarfing down some dinner and hopping into bed.
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