The New England Trail, Part 4: Shoulder Season in Connecticut
Day 1: Short and Sweet- MA 57 to Windsor Locke Tent Site
Back to the warmer temperatures and drier trails. We had a quick 8 mile day, crossing the border and officially ending the MA portion of the trail. To avoid the heat, we set out early, and made it to the Windsor Locke tent site a little after lunch time. The tent site was large, set just off the ridge to block the wind, had a maintained water cache, and we had the whole place to ourselves. It made for a lazy afternoon, something neither of us are accustomed to, but we counted our blessings and watched the sunset before turning in.
Day 2: Entering Band Aid’s Stomping Grounds- Windsor Locke Tent Site to Hartford Road
Well rested, we set out early. The terrain wasn’t too difficult, and the bare trees presented gorgeous views. We quickly hopped across the busy Turkey Hills Road intersection and back into the woods. Band Aid had promised a good lunch spot in the town of Tariffville, and well, you know, #willhikeforbeer. I was very thankful that mosquito season wouldn’t start for a couple more weeks, giving us the opportunity to meander along the Farmington River for a bit. The brief, exposed road walk into town began to cook us, I was glad to escape the sun for lunch at The Cracker Barrel Pub(no relation to the country place with the rocking chairs). Band Aid’s wife, Syd, wasn’t picking us up until the end of her workday, giving us some time to kill indoors. Probably too much, as the first climb out of Tariffville is exposed road and uphill, and my full belly did not like it. I am a fan of big climbs first thing in the morning, but right after lunch? Not so much. Up and over The Pinnacle’s summit, I was excited to retreat to the air conditioned interior of Syd’s Subaru.
Band Aid’s place was our base of operations during the next few day hikes
Day 3: Beautiful Views and Reservoirs- Hartford Road to Rt 6
Syd dropped us off early and we started the climb up King Philip Mountain to the Heublein Tower, encountering a gorgeous barred owl along our way. The trail was steep, but well maintained and we took a quick break at the tower to admire the views. I was in Band Aid’s territory now, and every view had a story. Honestly, if you aren’t hiking with a local, you’re missing out. Many of the views along the ridgeline of this trail seem the same, it’s nice to have someone with you to tell you what you are looking at. Once we got down from the mountain the trail took us around the Hartford Reservoir, fairly busy with foot traffic even on a hot day during the middle of the week. We couldn’t access the water at the reservoir and the day was starting to scorch us. I was glad to be back in the woods, but the views of reservoirs from the dry ridgeline did nothing but taunt us all the way to Rt 6. Band Aid’s sister picked us up with beautifully delicious ice cold Cokes and dropped us back at his place for the night.
Day 4: Melting in the Sun- Rt 6 to Rogers Orchards Farm Stand
We had planned for a 14 mile day. Mama Nature had other plans. As we left my car at Rt 6 and started our way up Rattlesnake Mountain, the humidity settled in. It was going to be a hot one. We hit the asphalt and road walked beside highway 84 for almost a mile before we snuck into a convenience store and consumed ice cream at barely 10am just to get cool for a moment before setting back out onto the road for another half mile before reentering the woods. Devoid of leaf cover, the trees provided no relief from the sun. Catching up to Band Aid at the next small, seasonal, but very much appreciated water source, I tapped out. It was insanity to stay out as long as we had planned that day. Part of my goal with this trail was to take my time and enjoy myself, and I was doing neither. A quick call was made to Syd, and we melted down the road to Rogers Orchards Farm Stand where she rescued us.
Day 5: Two Become Three: Richard Orchard Farms to mile 145.5
Back at Band Aid’s place, we reassessed our plan. Thru hiking has revealed that I am quite the planner, and this had messed up my schedule big time. The day’s forecast promised an eventual storm. We settled for a 9 mile day that would cover our missed miles the day before, let us wrap up our hike early to avoid the storm, and get me home to catch a family gathering. Since the shorter hike fell on Saturday, Syd was able to join us. Trial by fire, indeed.
After a beautiful road walk passing apple orchards that made me daydream about a fall hike and stereotypical New England foliage, we encountered our first rock scramble since the Holyoke Mountain Range. It was an omen of what was to come. The trail was mostly wooded and lulled us into a false sense of security. By the time we reached the summit of Ragged Mountain, we were back on open ledges, meeting rock climbers repelling from the summit in the beastly humidity. And people say thru hikers are crazy! The next descent was steep and rocky and technical; I was in my happy place! We briefly skirted someone’s yard, where chairs and signs welcoming hikers definitely tempted us. Another technical climb up and over Short Mountain and we were back on the road. Marked as a road crossing on Far Out, the trail turned into a grueling, exposed, almost 4 mile long road walk, abusing our feet at the end of a hot day. Getting out of Band Aid’s car when he dropped me off at mine was no easy feat, but I shut my door just before the sky opened.
The forecast predicted two more days of storms, so we waited it out before tackling the last section of trail. Stay Tuned!
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