Solo Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner Weekend #1, Kent to Cornwall, CT

Last weekend was my first solo ridgerunner weekend of the season.  It was full of wildflowers and wildlife. This includes bald eagles, deer, frogs, mean-looking spiders (including one IN my tent!), hummingbirds, scarlet tanagers, robins (and robins’ eggs), fleabane, bamboo, violets, thistle, clover, the rare pink lady slipper, and buttercups. These are just a small fraction of what’s out there to see on the trail in June. I met lots of day, section and thru-hikers, boy scouts, paddlers on the river, and enjoyed a warm, beautiful weekend one of my favorite sections and favorite campsites on the Connecticut section. I was feeling a little under the weather from a cold, so I took it easy and picked this mostly easy section so I wouldn’t over exert myself when slightly compromised. But the fresh air and exercise did it’s magic.

I saw a few of the thru-hikers we’re following on YouTube in the trail register at one of the shelters which was cool, too bad I missed them. I cleared a fire ring and cut a blowdown with my new saw, the Silky Big Boy 2000, which made quick work of it.

I did a sketch at the campsite, and wrote two nature poems. I’m no Thoreau but I think they’re decent and it was fun. I composed them while walking and wrote them down in my journal when I took a break. I want to try and do at least one sketch and one poem each time I’m out there, besides just my usual trail reports and personal journals.

It was supposed to rain but other than a drop, it never came, which I can’t complain about. One of these days I’ll get to wear my rain kilt so I can do my best Outlander impression! I sat at a rock bench in front of an old Indian marker tree, which filled my heart and mind with history and reflection.

I heard owls chatter all night at the campsite, including one moment when I could swear they were laughing! As always, a great weekend. I will be out again in 6 days for weekend #2, as the thru-hiker bubble is moving in now, and I am eager to see the mountain laurels reaching full bloom — probably my favorite sight on the trail. Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.2

Miles day 2: 6.2

— Linus

Misty morning along Liner's Farm-no filter

Misty morning along Liner’s Farm-no filter

Frog on the trail

Frog on the trail

The deck and porch swing at Pine Swamp Brook Shelter

The deck and porch swing at Silver Hill

Pink Lady Slipper

Pink Lady Slipper

Paddlers on the Housatonic

Paddlers on the Housatonic

Name that flower

Name that flower

Brook emptying into the Housatonic

Brook emptying into the Housatonic

Fleabane

Fleabane

Robins Egg

Robin Egg

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Stewart Hollow shelter register replacement, Appalachian Trail, Kent, Connecticut

I painted this blaze!

I painted this blaze!

On Saturday I was back on the trail to swap out the last year’s shelter register at Stewart Hollow Brook shelter. Since I was in the area with my wife for another visit, I was pleased to have her come along with me. This is the first section we ever backpacked together, about 5 years ago, and a very easy pleasant walk along the Housatonic River. We spotted a lot of wildlife, including a bunch of turkey vultures, and one who flew right over our heads. So I got a very good in-air shot of that big bird!

Since we parked at the south gate on river road, it was only a 1.2 mile hike in to the shelter. I posed for a picture in front of a blaze that was one of many I re-painted along this stretch several years ago.

Stewart Hollow Brook

Stewart Hollow Brook

The water sources here are plentiful, with many brooks crossing the trail as they flowed into the Housatonic. Please note that the water in the Housatonic is not fit for drinking, even with a filter. Many years ago it was unfortunately polluted with PCBs from a GE plant upriver in Massachusetts. It is fine to swim in, but get your water from the brooks, a bit upstream from where they meet. And then always filter it, to be safest.

Signing in the new register

Signing in the new register

Even though it was a short walk today, we met several backpackers and day hikers. Because of the easy terrain and scenic beauty, this is a popular one for day hikers of all ages, and well-appreciated by the thru-hikers as this stretch provides a few miles of flat terrain before the climbs begin again. We met some women who were birding, six section-hiker backpackers, and one who looked like a thru-hiker, though we didn’t get a chance to speak with him.

We chatted with 3 of those section hikers as they arrived at the shelter shortly after us.  But first we had to dismantle a large bushcraft shelter someone made in the woods on the side of the trail. While that’s in impressive skill, these are not your woods to do with whatever you desire.

Fielden Stream at the shelter

Fielden Stream at the shelter

This has become an increasing problem lately, especially since many of these folks have actually been cutting young saplings with an axe for their timber. Luckily that was not the case here. I was glad to have Fielden Stream along to help with the task, and get her some volunteer hours.  I also refilled the duff bucket in the privy, and checked the campsite areas. I had to clear some kindling left in one site, but it doesn’t look like they were successful in ever starting a fire. Which is good, because its not allowed here. Please follow the rules so that we can still have the trail through here to enjoy. We have many campgrounds nearby where you can have a campfire.

Turkey Vulture Overhead

Turkey Vulture Overhead

I enjoyed reading last year’s register entries on the trip home and more when I got home, including my own entries from my overnight and drop-in visits to check on the shelter and campsite conditions. It immediately brought me back to those times and gave me some joy. And I got to be the first entry in the new register which I left for the upcoming year’s use.

Tomorrow we have our annual Give-A-Day to the Appalachian Trail volunteer work day, with many different work parties from shelter repairs, boundary maintenance, and trail improvement.  Details can be found here.

Miles: 3

  • Linus

Birthday Hike with my AMC Trail Friends

Yesterday I finally got back out on the trail, and with a whole crew of my favorite hiking people, less one: Fielden Stream. We had a very bad cold or possibly even the flu last week and as my fever was just breaking Friday (on my BIRTHDAY!), hers was just kicking in. So sadly she couldn’t join us for this one. I had set this up as a birthday celebration hike and while I wasn’t 100% yet I was also suffering some pretty bad cabin fever at this point after 3 days in bed.  I was well enough for a few hours of much needed nature healing with my friends!

It was originally planned as a short 3-miler, up to the south overlook on the New York side of Schaghticoke Mountain, and back down. While short, it’s a 1,000ft climb in 1.5 miles so its no walk in the park either!  Brian, Ray and Lisa joined me Sunday morning at the trailhead. Lisa brought along a new friend Emma, who is new to the area as of two years ago. She is originally from Iowa, with some years in Arizona as well. She made a nice addition to our little group, and is interested in future outings with us and getting involved in the club activities. So I guess we made a good impression!

The temperature hovered in the high 30’s but lower up top. We had a few small flurries as well during the day where the temperature was lower due to elevation or wind chill. There wasn’t much of any snow on the ground, but many parts of the trailway were runways of ice because the rain collects there, then freezes.

We had a nice break at the overlook and enjoyed some snacks and took some photos while exploring the winter scenery before heading back down.

When we got back down the mountain, a few of us wanted to keep going, and go down to the shelter and Ten Mile area. I had waited a month to hike, so even though I was not not planning on doing more than the first 3 miles, this portion is low elevation and not challenging, and the views are amazing.  So I was easily pursuaded and Lisa, Brian and I continued along for a few more hours/miles. I also really wanted to hit my 1,000 mile milestone. I’ve tracked every hike since I started hiking again in late 2013, and at the beginning of the hike I had only 7 miles to go on the counter to hit 1,000. Technically, I did have a few hikes over the years where the tracker dropped the signal and some miles so I may have hit it already, but not on paper! I only needed 3.7 more miles from the bottom of the mountain, and that was easy with this loop down to the shelter and campsites. More fun, AND a big milestone? Double bonus!

The river was flowing even more intensely than my last hike here at the very beginning of the month with Crista.  Many areas of the river beaches were sheets of ice, but our microspikes solved that problem! We had a great hike, and it was a very special way to celebrate my birthday with friends. I just wish my wife could have joined.

I got a hammock system for my birthday on Friday, and am excited to try hanging for the first time this season. Sadly, it will be a bit of a wait until I can do that, but I will write all about it when I finally get to try it! The 2019 WhiteBlaze guide I ordered also arrived on my birthday which was happy timing!

I am also picking some other gear I have been wanting for the new season – a rain kilt (pants are way too sweaty and soak you from the inside as well) and leukotape (better than moleskin!). I might invest in a wider Ti pot as well for my cook kit. Stay tuned. Photos below.

Miles: 7

  • Linus
Making Plans for 2019!

Making Plans for 2019!

Housatonic under Bulls Bridge

Housatonic under Bulls Bridge

Icy glacial erratics on Schaghticoke mtn

Icy glacial erratics on Schaghticoke mtn

Me and My AMC trail friends on top of Schaghticoke mtn

Me and My AMC trail friends on top of Schaghticoke mtn

CT AMC at Ten Mile River shelter

CT AMC at Ten Mile River shelter

Finally hit this milestone!

Finally hit this milestone!

Easter Trail Work on the Appalachian Trail

Streams are flowing!

Streams are flowing!

On Easter I was very happy to have an opportunity to again be out on the trail doing my thing. Usually we’re celebrating the holiday in some capacity with family but it fell right during my kids’ spring break this year so we were in Florida and returned late the night before. Since my parents went out of town for the family visit and weren’t around Easter morning, Fielden Stream and I did a quick exchange of baskets with the kids and then I headed up north for the woods.

Looking Southeast from Schaghticoke Mtn

Looking Southeast from Schaghticoke Mtn

It was a very mild weekend and had I returned one night earlier I would have done an overnight. Quite a few hikers had, especially those who had Good Friday off as it made a great 3 day weekend. My friend on the trail crew let me know that there were already several camping at Ten Mile so I planned to visit the campground as part of my hike in case there was any cleanup to do. Just two weeks before when we were out on a volunteer work day, we had to clear two very large fire rings (and a few blowdowns) and I was glad to have the extra manpower. This is one of the most popular camping areas around so we visit and patrol it and have to clean it up very often.  I wanted to also visit the southern overlook on Schaghticoke Mountain, so the plan was to go up there and then back down to the campsite and in the meantime check out some of the side access trails along the route for any issues.

New water system

New water system

I parked and started the .4 mile road walk where the A.T follows Schaghticoke road north before cutting into the woods for the nearly 1,000ft ascent. While there are several switchbacks,  its still a tough climb, but worth the view at the top. I noticed the map box was empty so I made a note to myself to put any spares I had in the box on the way down if no hikers I met on the trail needed one.  As I started up the trail a young hiker in his late 20s passed me and we chatted for a bit about his hike and the work I do. He was doing a 3 day section of CT, having done another a few weeks ago with his brother in the northern end of the state.  He works the night shift and was up all night before starting his hike.

Cleaning fire rings on the mountaintop

Cleaning fire rings on the mountaintop

The trail heals all though, and I admire his tenacity to hike 12 miles in the heat after working all night. Ah to be in my 20’s again… I’d probably have climbed a few 4000s had I the passion I have now for hiking and backpacking. At that age I was deeply entrenched in the NYC music scene trying to make a name for myself. It was fun but in vain.  I still play music with my friends but I find more relaxation and purpose hiking and preserving the trail.

Anyway just a bit farther on at the first stream crossing (which was raging by the way) , I met an older hiker who was doing a NOBO thru. He was hydrating and enjoying some shade. While it was raining that morning the sun came out and the temperature quickly approached the 70s. Without much leaf cover to shade, you could feel every bit of the heat that day. I wished him well and moved on.

Schaghticoke from the road below

Schaghticoke from the road below

I met the younger hiker again, enjoying a snack high on a glacial erratic – a great spot if I say so myself! We said hellos again and I carried on up and up and up. When I reached the south overlook I was immediately treated to a Bald Eagle AND a Red Tailed Hawk flying over the edge of the ridge. I had been trying for months to spot one of the eagles as many hikers had reported seeing them in the area. Finally one greeted me in its glorious flight.  I was so captivated by the view and the birds of prey that it took me a few minutes to notice the fire area on the rock face. There was no ring at that point, perhaps they scattered it with the ashes after. I checked that it was cool and went about cleaning it.  Much of the residue was tossed down into a depression in the hillside and as I headed down to clean that up the young hiker reached the viewpoint. He thanked me for my work and as we were chatting we spotted a large black racer snake about a foot from where I was working. He did not bother me and just watched, perhaps a good omen or spirit animal visiting me to thank me for taking care of what was once native land? I’m such a history nerd.

Forsythia gone wild!

Forsythia gone wild!

The hiker moved on after this break and I too headed off, back down the mountain towards Ten Mile. I passed the older Nobo thru hiker I had met at the stream below and gave him some advice on nearest water and campsites ahead as he was wanting more water and a break from the heat.

Speaking of water, I also made a short video on the mountaintop discussing my new water system. I am again revisiting because I still want an easier solution than filling up my reservoir in my pack and using that as the water for camp and sleeping as well. I tried the new Katadyn BeFree with .6L bag and a Smart Water bottle with an Aquaclip, one of many solutions I researched to hang the water bottle in front of me since my pack pouch doesn’t have stitched in side pockets.

With my aquaclip and SmartWater bottle

With my aquaclip and SmartWater bottle

While my day pack does, it still requires practically dislocating your shoulder to reach back for access. With the BeFree I can just fill up at a source, camel up, then refill quick and easily to filter into my smart water bottle, and a Nalgene if I need extra. This thing filters super fast and doesn’t require backflushing as far as I can tell. I always bring emergency purifying tablets just in case, for myself or hikers I encounter who have no filter or water left.

I tend to carry too much water at any one time and this system and solution that was in the product reviews seemed a good one to try next. The water sources have all been great lately with all the epic rainfalls and snowmelt since winter died and so for the time being at least I wont carry more than the beFree and the 1L Smart Water bottle (with sports cap). Though I do still hate how those bottles crinkle. I may go the shock cord and Gatorade bottle next if the Smart Water bottles start to bother me that much. I will post the video on the blog  (Please note that I was rushing on the video and said I’d chug it right after filling it at the stream but I meant only AFTER the filter cap was back on.. very important!

Name that spider

Name that spider

I dropped off the maps in the map box on the way down, and some litter that I picked up on the trail when I passed my car and headed back into the woods towards Ten Mile Shelter and Campsites. There are some beautiful new signs in this area both for the side trails and the shelter – great work team! The Forsythia is also blooming like mad. When I reached the campsite no one was still camped there and luckily for me this time, no fires to clean up. Though there was a massive spider in the shelter that I noticed when I went to sign the register. I just saw his long legs peeking out behind a piece of the lumber frame, but could easily tell he was 1.5 inches or more around and brown and black. I’m not the hugest fan of spiders but all the time on the trail has helped that a bit. Many a day I found one of these in a privy or even on my pack in the morning. They’re pretty terrifying to look at but also fascinating and I’m quite sure not harmful. I believe this was either a wolf spider or a fisher spider. Anyone wanna have a go at identifying it from the photo?

An unspoiled view from the top

An unspoiled view from the top

I made my way back along the A.T. as it followed the Housatonic River, which was also at very high levels complete with raging rapids. I passed about 25 day hikers out here in the recreational area at Bulls Bridge which the A.T. passes by. I checked that side trail and left my friends on the Bull’s Bridge task force a message in their kiosk register, then headed back to my car.  As the season is starting up around here, and water is good, I should have a busy summer. On that note I am also very excited as I have some new roles in the AMC that allow me to further my love for the trail and protecting it and our natural resources. More to come on that but you will see me out there over the weekends this season often anywhere between the NY line and southern Massachusetts! Maybe I’ll even be on duty at your campsite for the night and you can share stories of your hike.

Miles: 6.3

Snakes: 1

Birds of Prey:2

— Linus

 

Warm Winter Check on the Appalachian Trail Connecticut River Walk

Watch the video

Watch the video

February 8 was the first of what would be a string of unusually moderate midwinter temperatures. While this raises its own concerns, I’m not one to let a good weather day pass me by! I planned on a patrol hike of the river walk section from Kent to Sharon, CT. It’s almost entirely flat (and hence a favorite of tired thrus) until the end, and very scenic. There are three different camping areas on the flat section, as well as one at the top of Silver Hill on the northern end. So it’s a great way for me to check on a lot of campsites and do whatever cleanup necessary, and have a nice walk full of relaxation and some workout too. I discovered some wild things out there, and some not so cool things. Click here (or the image) to watch the adventure, in my latest video. I did the music with a dulcimer my father-in-law gave me.

Ironically, the next day delivered at least a foot of new snow.

Miles: 6.25

— Linus

A Day In The Life of a Trail Patroller: Ten Mile Video Journal

Video Journal

Video Journal

I realized I was so chatty in this video that you probably will learn all about this hike by watching the video! The new setup with the phone worked better than the GoPro but I do need to remember to keep the same horizontal orientation throughout so please pardon the switches to the vertical shots. I’ve almost got this video thing down! I know I’ve covered this section before but it was not a great quality video… This hike was a windy and wonderful Veterans Day, and I got to cut my first blowdown! Thanks veterans for your service.

Click here to watch the video

Miles: 4.1

— Linus

A Day in the Life of a Trail Patroller: Weekend at Ten Mile

Welcome to Connecticut!

Welcome to Connecticut!

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.

Top of Ten Mile Hill

Top of Ten Mile Hill

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.

Brushing in the trail edge

Brushing in the trail edge

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.

Home for the weekend

Home for the weekend

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.

Cooling off

Cooling off

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.

Filtering at the pump

Filtering at the pump

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.

Dawn from my tent

Dawn from my tent

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.

Linus and Ninja Roll

Linus and Ninja Roll

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.

Nature provides

Nature provides

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.

Beautiful stone steps

Beautiful stone steps

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.

Trail angels provide

Trail angels provide

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

— Linus