For the fourth of July my younger brother and his 2 boys flew in from California and my older brother joined us as well. We had a great hike and 2 days of car-camping by the Housatonic River at a favorite campground, Housatonic Meadows S.P. My daughter also came along which made her dad very happy! We’ve been there a few times now and knowing the layout we picked two great sites right by the water. The forecast (except for the first hour or so) was looking great all along, so with a good deal of planning logistics, meals, and a stop or two at REI to pick up some last minute needs we were ready (this was our first outing with such a large group).
Speaking of planning… while airing out and checking the tents for all parts, I discovered my one-man tent I intended my older brother to use had suffered some pretty serious mildew buildup on the rainfly over the winter (fortunately the tent and footprint were not affected as they are made of different materials). This happened because like an idiot I didn’t properly dry it out before packing it up after a rainy solo overnight last October. Lesson learned.
So, like any good gear-addict, I used the opportunity to upgrade to a new Big Agnes 3-person Mountain-glo Rattlesnake tent and let him use our trusty REI Passage 2 which was roomier anyway! We both benefitted from this mistake I guess! And, the good folks at Easton Outfitters were very generous when I told them about my amateur mistake and asked if I could buy just the fly, and are sending me a free one they had on hand for just the cost of shipping. That right there is great customer service!
We are taking my son “Jiffy Pop” backpacking for the first time next weekend, and the idea of two tents, and someone having to sleep alone didn’t appeal much either so the three-person ultralight tent was a good buy for this reason as well. And REI was having a July 4th sale, so I got that $400 tent for $278! It has built-in lights so we don’t need to bring our lamp, and it weighs less than our Passage 2.
I am fine with making a wise investment like that with so many reasons to have, and knowing that I bought a more budget-friendly tent to start out with 2 years ago to make sure this was a hobby that would stick. It will mean more room and hence more comfortable trips for my wife and i going forward, and a spare tent for when friends or family who don’t own one want to join us on the trail.
Despite arriving at the campground in a bit of a steady rain, it stopped once ponchos were donned to set up the tents. From then on out it was beautiful weather. We had some great meals made over the fire, ghost stories, an exciting incident at the next campsite between the park rangers and some campers lighting off illegal fireworks, and met a thru-hiker (trail name “Airborne”) who’s a 65-year-old Vietnam vet. Despite having a laundry list of ailments, none have stopped him from making the 2,100+ mile trek.
I have utter admiration for this man and we treated him to a steak and potato dinner and fresh cobbler made by my wife and daughter who opted for the you-pick-it farm instead of the hike Sunday. He showed us some photos from his hike so far and we shared our A.T. stories. I gave him the rest of our water too when we left Monday morning and wished him well on his adventure. I’m not gonna lie, I was jealous too. He started Feb 27. We had wanted to return trail magic for quite some time and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.
We had a great hike on Pine Knob Loop on Sunday. Pine Knob loop is a 3-mile blue-blazed trail managed by the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association and shares just under a mile with the A.T. It starts with a beautiful 800ft climb along Hatch Brook then heads north on the A.T. to one of the better views on the CT section before parting with the white blazes for Pine Knob Itself, which has equally breathtaking views. Though this is my second time on this loop, I forgot that it is quite steep at the top and as you descend.
We had a nice snack at the first viewpoint, and took a pause at the second as well. You can also see the campsite from up there which was fun for the kids to try and spot. While there were steep spots on this hike, even the smallest of the children had no problem with it and loved it. I gave them all their first trail names: Baconator (breakfast at the campsite earned my brother this one), Bino-saur, Mr. shroom, and Caboose. I also gave them a water filtering demo in the brook with my sawyer mini.
Half of us had to go home after dinner Sunday but I took a vacation day so I could stay one more night with my son, my younger brother and his sons for one more night of campfires and the sounds of the rushing river as we dozed off in the tent. On the way home Monday we drove over the historic covered Bull’s Bridge where George Washington himself crossed and lost a horse on one journey. We also spotted the A.T. crossing at the base of Schaghticoke Mtn as we turned around to finish our journey home. All in all the weekend was a great success! I think I put the hiking bug in a few of them.