Re-Routes, Road Walks, and Wildfire Problems

What would a long-distance hike be without unexpected kinks in the plan?

Getting Back to Trail

After my first stretch of the trail, I popped off for some obligations at home and work. I’m lucky I have so much flexibility with my work schedule and can get longer hiking stretches in and save my time off for my big trip to Glacier National Park. (Granted, this makes for some very long days when I’m not hiking).

With a planned pause of the NET coming up for the Glacier trip, for this chunk of the trail, I drove myself up and parked my car at the last trailhead (SOBO) before the Connecticut River and Ubered back up to where I left-off on the trail.

I got the idea from the official NET website. There are no crossing options for hikers over the Connecticut River and you certainly can’t ford it. If you walk the roads to pick up the trail on the other side, it adds over 10 miles and isn’t a particularly safe walk. However, this is also near some populated towns and so, the website suggests Uber.

Instead, I took this idea and left my car at the Connecticut River and figured I could just drive myself across. I liked getting the Uber ride out of the way first and, even hiking past my car on the other side, I’d be relatively close to it for when it was time to go home.

It worked out very well. I got an Uber ride immediately even though it was a 45 minute drive and it only cost $35. It was super convenient knowing I was hiking towards my car and there was no pressure to meet up with someone giving me a ride at a certain time.

Road Walkin’

Once I got on “trail” it was questionable to even call it that. So. Many. Roadwalks. I learned that, when the NET became a National Scenic Trail, there were a lot of people that didn’t want the trail going through their property anymore. Portions of the trail were moved but a lot of it just ended up on the road. Road walks on long distance trails are inevitable; all the pieces of the trail aren’t going to perfectly connect. I know this. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m okay with it. On the AT, it was kind of fun because it was something different.

This, however, was a lot. Most of the road walks were several miles long. Then I’d be back in the woods for just a few miles and then onto another road walk. I actually started getting mild shin splints from walking on so much pavement, which is never an issue I deal with.

However, on one of these roads, I passed a man taking his dog out for a walk. He was the first one that immediately asked if I were doing the whole NET. He said that his wife and his wife’s best friend were section hiking it and he was the one that had to drive them. I told him about the Uber idea that I read about online and he was stoked. While I’ve been enjoying the solitude, it was fun to connect and talk with someone that wasn’t just being polite but also interested in the trail related conversation.

Unexpected Re-Route

In Mount Holyoke State Park there was some trail maintenance going on and some of the trail was closed. I didn’t know until I came across the caution tape blocking the trail and a sign indicating re-route options. None of them were great. One of them was about three times as long as the NET to get to the same point and the off-shoot for it I had actually already passed. I ended up taking one trail to another trail behind a construction site that spit me out on the road probably half a mile down from the NET. I road walked (again) back up to the NET.

This was not a fun section. The trails were not well traversed, overgrown (hiii ticks), and easy to lose. But I made it and was rewarded with a state park visitor center at the end with air conditioning, a bathroom, and a water fountain.

Canadian Wildfires

We all know, a handful of weeks ago, that parts of the US was covered in smoke from the Canadian wildfires. It was pretty wild to be in town and look down the street and it to be smoggy. The AQI was at dangerous levels and it was recommended to avoid being outside much, and certainly not to exercise outside.

The AQI got back to good levels and, as with everything else, people stopped talking about it. But that doesn’t mean that the wildfires are gone and that we’re in the clear. Though the AQI hasn’t gotten as bad as that first round, it’s had its ups and downs.

Because I was out hiking, I didn’t know it was getting high again. I had the series of road walks and not a lot of view points so I didn’t immediately realize that visibility was low. Once I broke into Mount Holyoke State Park and got to the higher elevations, it became pretty apparent. When I got to the visitor center, with service, I checked the AQI and, sure enough, it was creeping up there. It got up to 137 in the area I was hiking (anything over 100 you shouldn’t be exercising outside in).

I chose to cut out a day of hiking. For me, this is no big deal. I have so much time and flexibility to do this trail. I have nothing to prove and I’m just enjoying myself out there. This also made it amazing that I parked my car where I did. I was still able to hike back to my car and, instead of driving myself over the Connecticut River and picking the trail up again, I just drove myself home. It did made for a longer last day on trail.

I am super curious as to what AT hikers did. Did they take a zero? Did they do a short day? I’ll certainly be checking out the AT bloggers to see how they navigated it.

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