Trail Kryptonite

I successfully thru-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, but less than a mile into the New England Trail and I already failed. Just goes to show ya I guess.

Okay. Maybe “failed” is a tad bit strong. But I did, in fact, turn my butt around after 0.6 miles and hike right back to the trailhead with plans to re-evaluate. What caused this? My outdoors kryptonite.

If I Go Crazy…

I’m going to brag here for a second because I’m actually proud of the hiker I’ve become. Plus, I’ve got some lucky genetics on my side. I can handle a lot out in the woods. I like to joke that I’m meant to be in the wilderness because I’m in the (roughly) 20% of people that aren’t allergic to pollen and the even smaller 15-17% of people that aren’t allergic to poison ivy. On the entire AT I found exactly one tick on me (thank you Permethrin). As a longtime runner, my legs were built to transition into hiking; on the AT, pumping out 30s was common with my longest day at 37.5 miles, all of which were in the daylight (it was June, but still). I’m cautious with bears but not frightened of them, and I find snakes downright cool.

…Then Will You Still Call Me Superman?

But spiders? I crumble faster than a Nature Valley bar. I can acknowledge that they’re interesting; the nature lover in me can’t resist being a little bit fascinated. But from afar. When they’re not on me. Or could possibly be on me. One night on the AT in Pennsylvania, I left my shoes outside my tent, exactly as I had for the first 1300 miles of the trail. I put them on the next day, or rather tried to, and my foot came up against something in there and I had to pull it out. See photo evidence of the size of what came out. I have slept with my shoes in my tent ever since.

The Progression

Obviously, as an avid hiker, I know I can’t avoid them, but they’re definitely my biggest weakness in the woods. I read somewhere that spiders and snakes are such common fears for humans because of the way they move; as bipedal creatures, it looks unnatural to us, and it freaks us out. Which makes a lot of sense. I know, for me personally, I get more freaked out when they’re moving than when they’re standing still.

I’ve gotten way better about spiders than I used to be. But I have my limits, and the New England Trail hit that limit almost immediately.

Choose Your Own Adventure

The New England Trail has a ~30-mile spur trail in Central Connecticut. On the official NET website, they list this spur as sections 1-4 of the Connecticut portion and the sections count up from South to North. From what I gather, it seems to be a choose your own adventure; start at Long Island Sound or start at the end of the spur, but I don’t think the intention is that you have to do both. Every NET source everywhere lists the trail as 215 or 235 miles; I can only assume this spur is why.

Not surprisingly, the Long Island Sound portion is the much more popular route to go, which is my choice as well. I really like the idea of walking until I hit the water and actually can’t go any further. My thoughts appear to be in the majority on this one because the reviews online for sections of the spur are that it’s overgrown and hardly used.

For my official hike, I’ll be starting at the Northern point and hiking SOBO, walking past the spur. But since I live in Connecticut, day-hiking the spur as I feel like it is an option to me that a lot of hikers won’t have. So, on an unexpected day off, I decided to unofficially kick off the NET with a day hike on the spur.

The reviews were not kidding. I started at the northern/easternmost point. It was a perfect weather day, and yet the pull-off was deserted of cars. The trailhead itself was overgrown, and without signage, you’d barely be able to see it. As I got started, there were blowdowns pretty immediately. But I confidently started the hike.

Spider City

Then, I came inches from going face-first into a spider-web. And I don’t mean the wispy little things that are unavoidable. As an early riser on the AT, I was the unofficial/official web-breaker for everyone else. But again, those are wisps and, generally, spider-free.

Not this time. I am talking fully formed, huge webs, with the big ol’ spiders fully taking up residence. Right across the trail. The first one was a close call, but I avoided the eight-legged facial and was able to duck under it and carry on. Less than 0.1 miles later, I accidentally broke another, again, fully-formed web and did a little dance to get the crawler off of me. Fine. Carry on. After another 0.1 miles, there’s another. And then another. You get the idea.

My plan was to go 4.5 miles out and then back the same way. I checked my watch and saw that I had only gone 0.6 miles and had come across five spider homes. Nope. That’s not even fun, and what is the point if I’m just stressed out the whole time?

Another Day

So, screw it. I’m not about to take an activity I love and turn it into an activity I’m not enjoying. The spur was just a bonus for me anyway. I’ll probably get out and do other, more trafficked parts of the spur, but it’s not a concern.

So, moving on! I’ll be hitting my official start of the NET soon!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 19

  • Jeff McCorkle : Jun 26th

    Great read. I start my through hike attempt in 2024. Your post reminded me of the tarantula migration we experienced camping in Death Valley a few years ago. In the late Fall, they move from the high elevations to the lower elevations where it is warmer. Every so often they’d scurry past the tent.

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jun 28th

      Ooo, the migration sounds cool.. but would also freak me out!

  • thetentman : Jun 26th

    No matter where you store your shoes at night you should always shake them out in the morning. In your house, in your tent, or in a Shelter.

    My GF always makes me hike first to break all the webs.

    Nice post.


  • Erik : Jun 26th

    That was a fun read. I’ve sectioned hiked most of the NET over the last 2 years. My first hike was from the same trailhead you wrote about. I got out of my car mid-morning to a near empty parking area. The only other car was that of 2 pseudo-thru-hikers ending there. I crossed paths with them later that evening. They were the only hikers I saw that pleasant July Saturday. Anyway, the first five feet of the trail were so overgrown that I briefly considered getting back in my car and changing my plans about hiking the NET. With the exception of a couple road walks and some overgrown sections near power lines, the rest of the spur was actually pretty nice. I liked the spur more than the section from Long Island Sound. Enjoy.

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jun 28th

      Oh that’s awesome to know! I’ll definitely have to do other sections of it. Thanks!

      • Eric : Jul 5th

        Spiders are my Kryptonite as well. As long as I see them first…

  • Badger : Jun 27th

    I was so interested to read this. I’m planning a thru hike of the AT in a few years; my main worry is my crippling fear of spiders. There’s lots of info out there about snakes but I’ve been struggling to understand just how prevalent spiders are on the trail. I’ll be sleeping in a tent and checking my gear thoroughly every night – will I be able to get through it without a close encounter?

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jun 28th

      Ooooh yeah, I was definitely mindful of it. I keep my tent door zipped shut at all times.

  • EarthTone : Jun 27th

    I read somewhere that no matter where you are on the planet, you are never more than 3 feet from an arachnid. 🙂

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jun 28th

      Haha, I’ve heard similar information also. Just as long as they’re not on me!

  • Jeff "MP3" Stone : Jun 28th

    The way you described the NET spur reminds me of the Massachusetts Mid-state Trail (90+ mi between Rhode Island and New Hampshire). Except for a couple of popular places it crosses, like Mts. Wachusett and Watatic, it is not heavily traveled. I day-hiked it in sections in 2020-2021 during the height of COVID and was glad not to be in crowds but a few stretches, mainly unused farmland, were totally overgrown and I was fortunate not to get devoured by insects. I do recommend the MMT. Although maybe 5 to 10% of it is road-walking, there’s some really scenic, pleasant areas and one great campsite – Muddy Pond. It’s a little known gem.

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jul 14th

      Oh, I’ll have to look into that, thanks!

  • Mike Watkins : Jun 29th

    I also hate running my face into spider webs, on a trail or anywhere. I’ve developed this habit of carrying a 4-6’ long stick and pointing it ahead of me at about 45° angle, waving it up and down as I walk. This mostly just during the seasons in my area when the arachnid beasts are actively webbing.

    Once I did that when leading the way for couple of friends as we walked into the woods to do a little squirrel hunting. We decided anyone seeing us would figure I was the tribal witch doctor repelling evil spirits ahead of the warrior column!

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jul 14th

      haha, that’s great. There’s definitely hikers out there that would see you and know exactly what you were doing!

  • Jeff Greene : Jul 2nd

    You and my outdoor loving, veterinarian daughter would get along well! Spiders are the one thing in God’s great creation she totally loathes and fears!

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jul 14th

      Sounds like we would! I try so hard to respect them but I can’t help it; they give me the heebie-jeebies!

  • Loretta Armbruster : Jul 5th

    Take a spare pair of socks and put it over your shoes…no bugs or spiders

  • Coach : Jul 12th

    I love this story, my friend that did anthropology work down in the Everglades would tell me stories about writing in airboats and smacking into bananas spiders .

    My own experience, was whan I was hiking the AT, heading out of Duncannon in Pennsylvania, over the Susquehanna River on the Clarks Ferry Bridge. It was getting dark and and the bridge has lights that shine up to illuminate the bridge at night. Which attracts what I call night spiders. You can see them at gas stations at night if you look up at the lights, going for bugs attracted to the light.

    Cuz you may recall there’s a walkway along that bridge for pedestrians, and every 2 to 3 ft how long that bridge there is a barrier of night spider webs, occupied night spider webs! All at the height of foot to waist level.

    It was like being in a bad William shatner horror movie, with multiple spider encounters ever 3 or 4 feet of that long walk accros that long bridge!

    I wrote about that harrowing experience in the next shelter log.
    It is one thing to run into a spider web that may be occupied and you have to wonder where the occupant may be, it is yet another to know it is occupied, and so it the next on and the next…. etc.

    – Coach

    • Kristen Fiedler : Jul 14th

      oh geez, I can’t even imagine every 3 to 4 feet! I went over that bridge, happily and spider-free, in the middle of the day!


What Do You Think?