Last weekend was sweltering hot, but that doesn’t keep the likes of me at home! Some last minute developments changed things quite a bit, and so not only did I not hike the previous weekend originally planned, but I also moved the hike from up in Falls Village to the southern end of the Connecticut trail. It also meant I had some company this weekend, and I was basically in charge of the campsite for the night to boot. That was also good news to my ridge runner coordinators who were glad to have this popular campsite covered for the night. All the hikers were so curteous towards me, and I loved answering their questions and helping them out with whatever they needed to know.
Some friends from the city were doing their first backpacking trip in a long time, and bringing their sons along on their first overnight. I truly wish Jiffy Pop could have joined for this one but he had plans with a friend, and was really excited about that too.
I went through some options with them for good sections for a first adventure for the boys, and ultimately decided on this one. They were considering some New York locations but naturally I swayed them to a perfect one in Connecticut! The section had a great campground, only one climb each morning of manageable challenge, a river to splash around in when were were overheating, and a shelter, should they want to stay in one. The distance was only 2.8 miles from car to camp, and had a nice view on the summit for their reward as well.
We made arrangements to meet at the trail head lot at Route 55. I started just a bit south at the New York state line, and met them at the lot just as they were unloading from the cars. I also saw our AMC crew in the lot, mowing. Having had been there a weekend or two before with my in-laws, the difference was appreciated. They would be headed to the campground we were after mowing here, but given the stifling heat they made quick work of it and were finished and gone by the time we arrived.
With the kids we took our time and made sure everyone had sufficient breaks for water and rest and snacks, including a nice lunch break at the top of Ten Mile hill. We also played a game where we quizzed the boys on the fourteen states that make up the A.T. route to distract from the tough climb. The view on the top has been cleared here recently which was nice because I was worried they wouldn’t see much for all that uphill they just did. The boys set a quick pace for the descent after lunch and wandered ahead of us a bit and accidentally down a side access trail to private property that abutted the A.T. We called them back and I saw the perfect opportunity for them to learn a bit about what I do. As the boundary between these two trails was obviously unclear to anyone not looking closely, I had them help me brush in the trail edge more thoroughly with logs and leaves. In just a few minutes, a much more defined trail edge had been born, and everyone felt good to be a part of improving the trail.
We reached camp and got our tents set up by the river. Well actually my friends got there a few minutes before me, as I stopped to talk to some day hikers and section hikers and let them know about the campground amenities and the water situation north of here, should they decide to carry on (it was hot, and very tempting to stay here for the night). There were caches of water bottles left at both the Hoyt Rd and Rt. 55 lot kiosks by local trail angels, like we saw in Massachusetts the month before. I’ve read a lot of comments on the various hiking and backpacking websites where hikers are specifically requesting water at certain road crossings, and locals obliging. As long as the empty bottles are getting picked up later, I think this is the best kind of trail magic. Especially in these conditions. Luckily, this campsite is one of the ones that has a water pump, though you still need to filter that water.
When I got to the campground I teased my friends that they took my spot, but by that I meant they found the best spot, and I set up next to them. We compared notes on our tents and other gear old and new. Everyone enjoyed my new accessory, the REI camp chair as much as I did as we socialized. At only $25 and 1lb 2oz, it was a luxury I could afford for a quick overnight. I don’t have the best back in the world so it was great when I needed to change into my water/camp shoes or prepare a snack. We said hello to some of the other hikers already in camp and then went to cool off in the water for a few. My friends in the AMC did a great job mowing the fields at the campsite, and later some hikers set up their tents on the lawn where on an earlier visit I made here the grass was 4ft tall. This is really when the peak thru hiker bubble passes through the area, so the timing was right. After a while I went up the trail to the Bull’s Bridge to see my friends in the maintaining club and check the other common stealth campsites along the way. It was nice to just have my nalgene and not a heavy pack and I made quick time of the visit and hiked back with a section hiker from New Haven and showed him around the campsite.
When I got back to camp my friends were still enjoying the water and I felt like it was high time to cool off myself. I spent about 30 minutes cooling off in the river and watching the crawfish pop out from the rocks by my feet and the trout swimming by in schools. I spoke to a nice man named Anthony who was from neighboring Putnam County, N.Y. who was walking his dogs and letting them cool off in the river as well.
We thought we heard either an eagle or a red-tailed hawk screeching as we hiked down the mountain to camp that morning, and we heard it again as we were at the river. A father and daughter who had come into the campsite earlier and who were hiking from Connecticut to North Carolina (Lost Cause and Rewind) said they saw a bald eagle down river, though we did not. I’m still not sure which it was, but it was definitely a bird of prey. Rewind was 11 years old and has been hiking with her dad since she was 3. She was so curious and inquisitive and I loved how she kept coming over and asking me questions, particularly about why we have some of the rules we do here in Connecticut.
I lent my new friend, Janesport, my second stove as hers had a leak, and she treated everyone to spaghetti dinner. This was a nice treat as I didn’t have to cook my dinner, and my stomach was feeling a little iffy after some bad chinese the night before. TMI, sorry. But the pasta was perfect to settle my stomach.
They then went for a walk up the trail as I had recommended to check out the rapids and get some more exercise while I took a nap. When they got back we made smores and then spent some more time at the river. As sun set, we visited the Ned Anderson bridge so I could show them all the spider activity coming to life. They were just as amazed as me when I saw it on my last overnight there. We hung the bear bags and the boys came up with some imaginary theater, acting as bears trying to get to the bear bag.
We hit the hay and I think I slept pretty well but I was worried I would snore a bit because I forgot my allergy meds, and they let me know I did! I hope the three hammocking across from us didn’t hear it too loudly. Our tents were pretty close which is why I think my friends heard.
The next morning Janesport made everyone including Lost Cause and Rewind pancakes and I boiled my coffee and went for a walk to check out the shelter and get water after answering some questions for the thrus in for the night. As I made it up to the shelter not half awake from my coffee yet, I suddenly realized the hiker standing before me was Ninja Roll, aka Alan Craig, who we’ve been following on YouTube since he started in Georgia! I was so excited because I had missed several of the other hikers we had been following by as little as a few hours. I wish Fielden Stream had been there too, but she was excited for me. We chatted for a while about some other thrus he also knew about that we were following, and their progress.
I signed the register, got a head count, and asked him to stop by the campground after he packed up so we could get a photo. I was super happy when I went back to the campsite and told my friends and asked my friend Matt to take a picture of me and Ninja Roll. A few minutes later he came by and we all spoke for a while before he headed off. If you’re reading this Alan, great to meet you and have a great hike!
We packed up our campsite and I did my notes and cleared a fire ring by the ‘beach’ while they went for one more swim. It was a little cooler now, but was heating up fast. There were a few raspberry bushes and while not completely ripe, we enjoyed a few before starting up the beautiful stone stairway our club has built for hikers heading up the slope. It’s a steeper and longer climb up the mountain going southbound and we made our way up, admiring our trail work from the previous day, and meeting other hikers on their way north. I gave them more advice on the water and campsite situations and they were ever greatful, as was I for being the one that could help all these hikers, including another nobo hiker named Alan. At the top we stopped for another long snack break and I split off to let my friends enjoy the rest of their journey at their own pace while I cruised down the trail to make it back home for my own kids midday.
I stopped on the way home to find some dining room chairs for the new house and Fielden Stream came up the next day to look at them while I was at work. She picked up a few thru hikers who had zeroed in town the night before and they got talking about the trail, and eventually me and my volunteering. She mentioned that I was out at Ten Mile the night before and coincidentally it was the three hammockers across from us at the campground that weekend. Small world. Trail Karma, whatever you call it. It was cool for all of us.
Miles day 1: 6.2
Miles day 2: 3.25