The New England Trail Part 3: High Points and Cold Nights
To say that I was excited for some overnights would be an understatement. Isn’t that what separates the backpackers from the day hikers? I had been on my thru hike for a week, yet still hadn’t spent a night in my tent, and I was buzzing with happy energy. Ok, maybe a little coffee, too.
My husband dropped me off at the northern terminus on his way to work. The closest trail head parking is just under a mile from the New Hampshire border. A quick down and back to admire the TTOR shelter and touch the border sign and I was on my way. Band Aid had some muggle commitments to take care of, so I was on my own for the next 4 days. It was so exciting to be exploring new terrain again! The previous week was all close to home, terrain I covered regularly. This, this was new. This was exciting!
This was cold.
Going SOBO, we had raced into warmer temperatures, establishing funky hiker tan lines and carrying extra water. Hopping 100 miles north was a jarring reminder that I was still hiking in the shoulder season, spring had barely started. Back to tucking all of my sensitive gear in my bra, oh joys. While most of the snow had melted, there was still enough to slow my progress here and there. Which was fine, because slow was the tempo du jour. The trail was still riddled with massive blow downs. The northernmost miles of the trail were part of a new reroute, and not updated on FarOut yet, so I spent the day picking over trees, and stopping with my back to a blaze, scanning the forest carnage for the next one. By the time I reached the Mt Grace shelter, I was ready to set my tent up and fall in it. There are a plethora of good tent sites at the shelter, but without leaf cover it was tough to distinguish bare trees from widow makers. I ‘settled’ for the spacious shelter and had it all to myself.
Day 2 -Mt Grace Shelter to Richardson-Zlogar Cabin and Tent Sites
Day 2 was a short day to the Richardson-Zlogar cabin and tent sites, one of the few where reservations are required. No luck on the cabin, but I was able to snag a tent platform. At first I worried I would get to the shelter too soon and be bored the rest of the day, but the trail conditions took care of that worry. After a clear climb up to the NET’s high point, Mt Grace, once again I found myself scrambling over trees. But the day was clear and quiet, and I was in the woods, so I was happy.
Loaded up on water for the dry camp site, I reached my destination by late afternoon. A gorgeous spot, complete with bear boxes, picnic tables and a porta potty. Sometimes it’s the little things. I quickly set up as the wind picked up and the temperature started to drop. Shortly after, a family hiked in, the smallest carrying a pack the same size as she was. They had booked the cabin for the weekend and hiked in from a parking lot a short distance away. The kids ran around with barely a jacket on. I ate my dinner and quickly got in my tent early to get out of the cold.
I woke up just before sunrise to cold winds that gave me flashbacks of my morning camping near the Overmountain shelter in the Roan Highlands. Nothing in me wantedto get out of my cozy quilt, but I had a longer day and no idea what the terrain would be like, so I quickly packed so I could watch the sunrise before heading out. And Mama Nature showed up! The views to the north highlighting Mt Grace and Mt Monadnok beyond it were stunning. I could easily understand tacking on an extra 18 miles to a NOBO hike to finish on Monadnok. What’s one more mountain, after all?
Day 3- Bushwacking and Wendell Forest
Soon after setting out, I completely lost the trail in the aftermath of winter storms. It reminded me of a mini Mahoosic Notch, but with trees. Thank heavens for GPS! My perseverance was rewarded with a road walk, the first of two that day. Normally, I despise road walks, my ankles hate them. But after the forest jungle gym I had navigated, the temporary asphalt was an oasis. Thankfully, that was the last of the blowdowns I had to deal with (shout out to Trail Maintainers- most of the trail was cleared a month after I went through!).
After the cold night, the clear day warmed up considerably, by the time I crossed the bridge over Millers River, I seriously contemplated jumping in. But there were miles to go, and a decent uphill in front of me, so off I went, my feet grateful when I finally got back into the forest. I missed one sharp turn and added an extra half mile or so to my day, but still arrived at the Wendell Forest shelter in plenty of time to set up before dark. There were no tent platforms, so shelter rat life with a group of climbers was the plan for a practically balmy 38* night.
Day 4-Time to Fly!
I cruised through my miles the next day. The trail between the shelter and my pickup point at Cooleyville Rd was mostly road of one kind or another. Logging roads, some asphalt around Lake Wyola, and hardpack country roads. Even the actual trail was fairly wide and clear. After three days of bushwacking, I felt like I was flying. My husband picked me up with plenty of time to go grab a bite and a beer from a nearby brewery. #willhikeforbeer
Those four days wrapped up Massachusetts. On to Connecticut!
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