New Year! New Trail! New England!

It’s 2023. Thru-hiking season is well underway.

It’s a weird spot to be in, mentally. This time last year, I had started my AT journey. My whole life was consumed with preparing, training, gear reviews, YouTube videos, and asking a million questions. I have been off trail for 5 months now, still not as long as I was on it. Springer feels like it was a month or two ago. Katahdin feels like yesterday. The only thing that tells me it has been longer than that is the fact that stairs are no longer my enemy, thanks to some particularly gnarly yet effective physical therapy.

My external world is quiet now, colored with basic muggle chores and routines. Internally, the hamster on the wheel is going 100mph, and there is a pull back to the wilderness. ‘Any trail, any place, just get out there! It’s time to HIKE!’ My body hums with potential energy.

So what’s next?

This spring I will be doing a SOBO thru hike of the New England Trail (NET). Yay! New adventures!!

Why the NET? Several reasons.

At 215 miles, the NET is short by thru hike standards. If you were hiking the AT, you’d still be in the Smokies at that mile marker. Most hikers take an average of 2-4 weeks to complete it, thus eliminating the need to budget a large amount of time or money for it. The trail is a mix of ridgeline, forest trails, and road walks, with the highest elevation just over 1600ft at Mt Grace in MA. While some of the sections are as rugged as Vermont, there is a considerable amount of flat (relatively) terrain. Considering there are still days my body remembers the beating I put it through for seven months last year, tackling a trail that is a little gentler on it sounds like a solid plan. Also, the NET is a relatively new trail, formed by stringing the Mattabesset, Metacomet, and Monadnock trails together from the Long Island Sound in CT, and finishing near Royalston Falls at the MA/NH border. After trekking along such a busy route like the AT, I am really excited to explore something that does not have the same popularity or trail community. Yet. Finally, I live right along the trail! I frequently used it for training hikes while preparing for the AT. Part of my reasons for doing the AT was to explore the US for a bit after traveling with the military for 25 years. This trail gives me the opportunity to get up close and personal in my new backyard.

Some big logistic differences between the AT and the NET.

Trails evolve over time. They get rerouted to avoid hazardous terrain for hikers, they get moved as land for the trail gets purchased and protected, or they shift to ease overuse and erosion of the land. The NET is still in its youth in this regard. It still contains a lot of road walks, both asphalt and unpaved logger roads. The trail also has two major river crossings. The Westfield River can, sometimes, be forded. The Connecticut River cannot. These add roughly 15 miles to navigate around if you don’t have a ride. While the NET is on the Far Out app, unlike the AT there aren’t trail angels or shuttle drivers listed at every road crossing.
Another logistic issue is camping. While much of the trail goes through state parks and forests, it also crosses a fair bit of private property, even coming out onto a private driveway at one point. Currently there are less than a dozen designated places to stay on the trail, and they are not evenly spaced out. Staying at shelters or cabins along the way requires a registration on the NET’s website. Dispersed or stealth camping is not permitted. There are no hostels, that I am aware of, along the trail. Fortunately, most of the trail has good cell service and Uber exists so I am sure a hotel or two or an AirBnB is in my future. My hope is as the infrastructure for this trail grows, solutions to this issue will arise.


From a hiking perspective, NOBO is the logical route. The trail gradually gets more difficult, more mountains and less towns, more scenic views to keep you going. A popular option is to continue on after the MA/NH border another 18 miles to the peak of Mt Monadnock for a dramatic finish. So why am I bucking tradition? Physically, I want to get the harder stuff out of the way first. I’d like the terrain to mellow out as my body succumbs to the daily grind. The main reason is I am from Long Island. I haven’t seen the ocean or a beach in over a year and I definitely miss it. Nothing could keep me moving like that feeling of walking home. Putting my battered toes in the sand is a fantastic reward.

Bring on the new adventures! This journey will also include some shakeups in my kit, stay tuned for the inevitable gear list!

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Comments 2

  • Auz : Feb 24th

    Me and my girlfriend have spent many nights at the royalston shelter and did from there to mount grace last may,then for my birthday last year we started at royalston again and went nobo to mount monadnock. We’ve spent several days in royalston (we live a town over in athol.) Feel free to email me when you are starting if we can help out with some trail magic for you would be great. Have a awesome trip.( we actually want to start at grace again and sobo hike the rest soon) p.s. the royalston shelter has a awesome setup for sleeping,and mount grace don’t let the trickle fool you,about 10 ft from it was the actual stream for water. Best of luck! Auz and staisy.

  • Auz : Feb 24th

    Oh also we met two great guys cowboy and iron heart on our trip that had done the A.T. awesome dudes that helped with the surprise I had for the lady once we summited mount grace. Asked her after 3 years if she wanted to spend her life with me….got a someday lol. There are no hostels along the way,there are some motel/hotels and air BnB.


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