Last weekend I was back up in the Kent area for another patrol hike, and for a special meeting of trail minds. Several years ago the AMC, with the support of local town officials, created a group called the Bulls Bridge task force. They monitor the historic Bulls bridge area and keep the parties out, the trails and riverbanks clean, and the people safe. Lately, larger and larger groups are attempting to come in to the area fully loaded with picnic coolers, alcohol, BBQ gear, and more. It’s not a state park and there are no bathrooms, or lifeguards, or janitors to clean up. It is a very beautiful area though so locals from near and far like to visit. This area is just .2 miles off the A.T. and while most of these big crowds aren’t coming to hike the A.T., many A.T. hikers also use the side trail through here as a shortcut to access the amenities on the road across the river. So our AMC chapter helps maintain and protect this spot as well due to its proximity to the A.T.
They invited me to join the meeting so I could see how the park service works with us, the towns and other maintaining clubs to keep the trail and adjacent properties safe. The special meeting the task force was having on this day was with the NPS ranger in charge of the A.T., and the first selectman from Kent, to address the current issues and come up with additional strategies to keep the increasing numbers of visitors manageable. I stopped by on the way to my hike to confirm the meeting time and say hello, then headed up to the trail crossing on rt 341. I passed many thru hikers walking into town to resupply, as well as several others down by the bridge when I stopped in.
I wanted to check in at Mt. Algo shelter and see what condition the water source was in there, as well as at Thayer Brook.
At last I heard the Algo brook was dry, but we had a lot of rain lately, and so I was hoping it had helped. Its a fairly steep 1,000ft climb up Algo, but I had a New York section to do the following weekend with Fielden Stream with a feature called “Agony Grind,” so it seemed like a little warm-up thigh-burner was in order. The shelter is about .6 up the trail from the road, or about halfway to the summit. The brook is on the side trail from the A.T. to the shelter, and I was happy to see it was running again. There were several hikers in the shelter packing up. There were 2 northbound and 2 southbound hikers. I asked them if they had any questions on town or trail resources ahead, and gladly answered them and enjoyed a brief chat about the weather and trail conditions ahead and behind. There were no fire rings to clear, so I swept the privy and signed the register. I was looking for some of the hikers I was following on YouTube but while I didn’t see them, I did see Vino’s name, who found Ninja Roll’s phone for him in Virginia. So that was kinda cool.
It was steamy and sweltering hot this morning – the air was not moving at all. I was soaked with sweat by the time I got to the summit, so I cruised quickly down the other side to the gap where Thayer Brook sits between Mt. Algo and Schaghticoke Mountain. I took off my pack and cooled off and had a snack. Thayer brook was running strongly, as I suspected. I dipped my hat in the cold water of the brook before I started up again, which helped cool me down. As I left the brook to return towards my car I heard a very loud branch snap down the brook, and went into paranoia mode. All these stories of big predators in the woods by the trail lately, and my mind got the best of me. I made double time back up to the summit, and then even faster on the way down. I heard more branches snapping on the way down and imagined I was being stalked by a bear or panther!
I need to stop reading so much trail gossip on the forums… soon I had a nobo thru hiker right behind me, who was very possibly responsible for the noises behind me I let freak me out. He made me laugh because not only did I realize he was probably the bear or panther, but he also said the southbounders who passed him earlier said the shelter was much closer, and I said hey well you’re here now, and there’s water! I said goodbye as he went down the shelter path and got to my car soon after. I was relieved to be back in the car and cooling off in the air conditioning. I drove down the dirt road that parallels Schaghticoke mountain back to the Bulls bridge. I passed a few more thru-hikers making their way up the section of trail that is on the road.
It was great to meet the ranger and hear his vast knowledge of all things trail and his ideas and suggestions to help the group manage the surging number of visitors to the area. I felt privileged to be part of a meeting with such dedicated volunteers and our counterparts in the park service. The next few weekends, Fielden Stream and I will be back in New York to work on finally finishing the state. We will do it in 2 or 3 more hikes, including some day hikes, especially on the treacherous rebar ladder up the cliff on what I think is Bellvale Mountain. I want to be going UP that, and with a daypack if I can have the choice!