We are finally back on the trail for overnights! I have been waiting for this moment since October when I did a quick out and back to the shelter in this section, because let’s face it, I needed down time from a pile of responsibilities. The woods are where I get myself balanced again. That time in October was me, my pack, and mother nature. It was easy. Add a few coyotes, owls, a new trail friend, and a couple rowdy late-nighters enjoying a fall Friday night, and it did the trick – even if they didn’t get ‘hiker midnight’. But the real humor was me not setting up my new 1-person tent BEFORE I left, and being that guy – who figured it out at the campsite.
It was a long, long, long winter and it was the end of April before it was warm enough – or so we thought, for this first outing on what seemed like surely late enough – April 25.
Sure, it had warmed up to 60, even 70-degree days by now. Only for this trip it decided to be the coldest night of the month. Schedules being what they are for us, that was the weekend, like it or not. And it was awesome.
We had originally planned to finish CT this time – Salisbury to Sages Ravine, Mass. But there was literally seven feet of snow here this winter. Just thinking of what was left at 1500 ft and above was not comforting. Even if most of the snow was gone, there were still icy patches to be found, and the ravine would be flowing high from run-off, maybe impassable. This was not an easy section of trail to begin with and these were not factors to be taken lightly. I had already trudged through enough snow in my spikes on winter hikes to not want another this season, especially fully loaded for 2 nights of backpacking.
The experienced hikers at whiteblaze concurred. Besides that, it had been 8 months since we did a backpacking trip of any substantial challenge together. This was a trip better planned for later. So off we went to New York.
From my October trip I knew it wouldn’t be a tough first day out to Wiley Shelter. From the CT/NY state line it was only about 1.3 miles, and no more than a gradual 350 ft elevation gain up there. The next day, new trail to me, was only 5.5, and really once you’re up on Hammersly Ridge, you’re up there till you come down. It was a perfect starting trip for the season. Really only the overnight temperature was a challenge. But the good news is you’re allowed to make campfires on the trail in N.Y.
We arrived around 4, and believe me that first 1.3 of the season with full packs on felt hard, even though it was easy trail. We set up camp and made our first fire on the A.T, and my first successful one using a ferro rod — even if I had the drier lint to help. We roasted hot dogs, drank some wine, and made our mountain house meal.
For these short sections, a platy full of wine isn’t too much to manage, so I guess we’re a little spoiled in that regard! But despite the 60-degree temps during the day, we were prepared, and experienced the 29-degree low that night like champs. We only have 30-degree bags, but we layered and we had the win. I brought along my new lightweight fleece, my new beanie, my patagonia capiline skiing long johns for my base layer bottom, and I even put my sawyer filter in my sleeping bag to keep it from freezing. I was proud of that one. Though really, I had just learned my lesson from freezing my other one on a day hike in February up East Rock and the Giant Steps in New Haven. I didn’t even use it. Oh well, glad they are so affordable.
We had no company besides a few families doing a day hike because of the temps. We had picked a great tent site right on the ridgeline, and hunkered down after dinner for the night. No coyotes this time, just a few owls.
At 5:45 I was up filming the amazing sunrise on my gopro, doing some yoga stretches on an unused tent platform, and boiling water for coffee. Once the sun was up, things warmed up quick. We were on the trail by 830 and were shedding layers within an hour.
We made it to the end of the ridge by noon. The end of the section goes through the Pawling Nature Preserve and some muddy puncheons, through some lovely meadows, wooden turnstiles and a field of cows — one of which had her eye menacingly fixed on my wife. It all turned out alright though. We passed our first trail magic of the season, but left it for those who would need it as we were just finishing. We headed to the hiker-friendly Native Landscapes garden center on Rt. 22 to stamp our A.T. passports and call our ride back to our car. We then went to check out the one and only Appalachian Trail train station. On weekends, you can catch a train from NYC right to the trail crossing. It’s quite a contrast, and something I think would be a fun way to get some of our city slicker friends to join us on the trail.
For our post-game meal, we went to Darryl’s House (the club and restaurant run by Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates) and were treated to soundcheck by that evening’s performers. Then it was time to go home and plan the next trip out.
This section is about 7 miles from end to end, and a successful first one of the year for Linus and Fielden Stream.