Ridgerunner Weekend #4, Bulls Bridge and Ten Mile River

For this weekend I covered the New York border up to the Bull’s Bridge. While not a lot of miles I added a few by doing a loop past the campsites up to the market for a root beer, and then back to the campsite. I did that again the second day, without the stop at the market. I met many nobo and sobo thru hikers, and a mom supporting her 15 year old thru hiker. I helped them with advice on town resources, itineraries, shelter and campsite options and conditions and had some fantastic conversations with them all about trail names and hiking in general.

I really enjoy this part of the job. There are a lot of great people out there on their journies and I love to hear their stories. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was saying “welcome to Connecticut” to a thru hiker just as he was entering our section and I was reaching the end of my shift at the New York border. He said thanks and then I heard him holler gleefully as he reached the Connecticut sign and I smiled as I walked in the opposite direction. I really felt like a trail ambassador and representative of this fine section in that moment.

Another great moment was going down to the river after setting up my camp to see our resident blue Heron we named Jim. He stood on a rock about 30 feet across the river near the opposite bank and posed there for about 30 minutes while I sketched him from the beach. I also came across a raspberry patch which gave me a boost of energy and morale.

The bugs were merciless and the humidity was pretty bad, but I always enjoy and embrace the suck because it is always so special to be out there. It heals me so. I will be headed down to North Carolina in a week to do 2-3 days of hiking there with Fielden Stream. Those glorious balds should bee just the therapy we need to deal with a bunch of difficult things we’re dealing with right now.

I brought my hammock out again after using it in my yard at home a few times and getting more comfortable in it. I also realized its more comfortable for me without a pad. So I will either need to get an underquilt or just use it in the dead middle of summer when its 70+ degrees at night. On this night it dropped to around 59 and being right near the river, it was colder, and I had an hour or so where it was a bit uncomfortable and I really bundled up but this is also because I brought my summer 55 degree bag not my 24 degree down bag.  I will find the right combinations, as its really much gentler on my back! I tried the inflatable pillow and while I like it, it slid around a lot in the hammock, so when hammocking I might stick to my current clothing bag pillow technique. It’s easier to keep in place.

And I finally tried out my Dirty Girl Gaiters my daughter got me and loved them!  So they will be a regular item going forward.  I really got into the zone this time out. I just really wanted and needed to be out there very much this time. I joked with my wife when I returned and was in a bit of a transition fog that I had re-adapted to my wild origins like a runaway animal does when in the wild too long. If only I could stay out much longer. One day.

Photos below.

Miles day 1: 6.2

Miles day 2: 5.7

— Linus

Welcome to Connecticut!

Welcome to Connecticut!

A beautiful scene

A beautiful scene

Rt 55 trail entrance

Rt 55 trail entrance

The trail above the Housatonic

The trail above the Housatonic

The trail along the Housatonic

The trail along the Housatonic

A tale of two trail snacks

A tale of two trail snacks

LIvin in a bag down by the river

LIvin in a bag down by the river

The Housatonic

The Housatonic

Jim the blue Heron

Jim the blue Heron

My sketchbook and trail journal

My sketchbook and trail journal

Running the ridges

Running the ridges

Looking upriver from the campsite

Looking upriver from the campsite

Winding up that hill

Winding up that hill

My new dirty girl gaiters

My new dirty girl gaiters

So humid my shirt is drenched with sweat

So humid my shirt is drenched with sweat

 

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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


Weekend volunteering and the first overnight of the season!

Trail cleanup last weekend

Trail cleanup last weekend

The last two weekends I got some great hikes in while also joining the rest of the trails committee for some spring trail work.

Last weekend we had our committee kickoff work party where we started the day by reviewing the accomplishments of the previous season and thanked all the volunteers involved in the various projects. I got these great work gloves with the club logo which I happily dirtied up a few hours later. We broke off into work projects for the day, and I headed up Schaghticoke mountain with 3 other volunteers to do some cleanup.

I recall this section being a big climb, especially when fully loaded for an overnight. Fielden Stream and I were forewarned of its difficulty earlier in the season we backpacked it in 2014, and put it off until later in the summer when we were a bit more warmed up. Luckily, the frequent reports of rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the rock outcrops were not an issue on our overnight that summer, but it was certainly on our minds. In fact, this mountain’s campsite was once named “Rattlesnake Campground” until being renamed due to it frightening campers. This is one of the toughest sections of the Connecticut trail, from either direction.

On the New York southern overlook of Schaghticoke Mtn

On the New York southern overlook of Schaghticoke Mtn

This mountain alone has multiple shoulders, peaks in two states, and many sharp ups and downs in between. This first ascent when heading northbound is a good 880ft climb from the road along the river to the first overlook, which is just after you cross into New York for one last short stretch in that state. Originally the trail entered Connecticut up on this summit so this was the true state line crossing. Nowadays it comes into Connecticut farther south, follows the river until this climb, re-enters New York for 2 miles and goes back into Connecticut for good. The ascent southbound of Schaghticoke is no less daunting as you first have a steep 700ft climb up Mt. Algo before another steep 5-600ft climb up the north side of Schaghticoke. In between it dips down to lower ridgelines and climbs again and again from end to end.

Along the Housatonic River

Along the Housatonic River

On the work hike last weekend, I didn’t have as tough a time as I was only carrying day hiking supplies and a light saw. We also brought up loppers and a few hoes (insert chuckle here). We cleaned up leaf buildup around waterbars, filled in areas of trail that had been widened by erosion and lots of hikers, and cleaned off any debris from stone steps where needed. The weather was pretty crappy when I arrived in the morning but fortunately by the time the meeting was over it was clearing and we got a nice view from the overlook and some great conditions for our hike back down. Afterwards, we had a short social gathering and a little more planning conversation before heading home.

Ten Mile Shelter

Ten Mile Shelter

Yesterday I headed back up this beast, and again with a fully loaded pack. I was out for an overnight trail patrol hike, to check out a few campsites and resolve any issues I could in the process. I drove up after work on Friday night and hit the trail at the base of this mountain at around 630 heading south. I arrived around 7 at the beautiful Ten Mile River Campground. It is set 1.8 miles south along the confluence of the Ten Mile and Housatonic rivers at the base of Ten Mile Hill. This is a very popular campground because of its idyllic locale and easy access from town. I was here a few months ago to check things out as well.

Livin' in a tent, down by the river

Livin’ in a tent, down by the river

There is also a shelter here so the first thing I did before setting up my camp was to check out the shelter and sign in to the register there. Again, there was a campfire site and burned logs lying alongside the shelter. I cleared and scattered these and left a nice note in the register asking folks to please not make a fire — it is prohibited here, for good reason.

I then headed to the campground where there was another, bigger, fire ring. As dark was falling, I set up my camp, hung my bear bag, and got dinner started. It was a very chilly night which explains why I was alone for the night.  Luckily I had my new down bag, and brought along my down jacket and both my foam and inflatable sleeping pads. I had my usual long johns baselayers and a fresh pair of socks for sleeping in. I had a ‘nice dinner’ of Mountain House Lasagna and settled in for the night.

View of Schaghticoke from the southern end

View of Schaghticoke from the southern end

These days I’m in bed by 9 anyway as work and parenting wear me out quick. I checked in with Fielden Stream who was enjoying a night in NYC with friends, a stark difference to my evening plans. I said goodnight to my kids and soon the rushing river lulled me to sleep. Nothing makes me sleep better and faster than water. Rivers or rain or both. It was so peaceful, and also has the benefit of masking any small critter sounds that may be perceived as much larger when alone in the woods!

My favorite 'blazes'

My favorite ‘blazes’

It got down to about 25 but I was pretty cozy and happy I was properly prepared for it. I woke around 6 to the sounds of my favorite owls — the barred owl! I have missed their songs for the last year so it was a fantastic wake up call. While I made my breakfast I cleaned some trash left in the privy compost bucket and cleared the fire ring as I was too short on time the night before and no one else had come in that would be tempted by it.  I am a fan of most of the Mountain House meals but the scrambled eggs and bacon one…. eh. I had to drain the excess water and it just reminded me of cheap reconstituted eggs at a motel buffet. Maybe a couple days out I’d be ok with that, but I wasn’t that desperate for eggs and bacon. The mini-moos from my office kitchen were a nice addition to my Starbucks Via, and helped wash down what I could eat of that meal. I cleaned everything out at the wash pit, packed up the tent and sleeping gear and hit the trail around 715. I knew I had a big day ahead of me. About 9-10 miles, depending on the side trail distances into the next two campgrounds. And at least 2,000ft of vertical over challenging terrain. I ended up being pretty accurate on those numbers.

Crossing back to CT at 1250ft

Crossing back to CT at 1250ft

The hike back north to where I had parked was a good warm up with great views of the peaks I would soon ascend. There’s not much vertical rise here as it follows the river, only a small hill or two. I made note of a blowdown overhanging the trail which wasn’t supported by a very strong tree and could be a hazard. Farther north just before the road, a vulture peered down at me from the tree tops but I told him I wasn’t dead yet and to check on me about 8 or 9 miles up the trail as I might be by then! I also got video of a woodpecker at work, who luckily didn’t think I posed a threat and went on about his business.

View northeast to Kent from Indian Rocks

View northeast to Kent from Indian Rocks

I dropped the bag of trash from the campsite in the car and headed up the beast. I admired our trail work from the weekend before as I huffed and puffed my way up to the overlook. I took a break there to re-secure my sloppily attached foam pad and have a snack while I took in the view. I met a day hiker out for an out-and-back hike, and who I would meet again several miles up trail on his way back. I headed north along the western ridge on the New York side and was treated to a northerly view to Macedonia and Cobble mountain that I did not have when we passed through here that summer due to the leaf cover. As stated earlier in my blog, I’m really enjoying getting these extended views for the first time by doing these sections in the winter, late fall and early spring.

Schaghticoke Mtn campground trail

Schaghticoke Mtn campground trail

The trail crossed back into Connecticut, introduced by a nice climb up to the eastern ridgeline of the mountain and the only section of the entire trail that goes through an Indian reservation. That is the Schaghticoke Indian reservation, where the mountain got its name. Their home is along the tidal plain of the river at the base of the mountain below. Here the trail crosses a rocky steep ledge known as Indian Rocks with sweeping views south and north of the Housatonic river and valley.

A royal throne with a view

A royal throne with a view

Its a quick little scramble which I was worried would be a bit icy like my tent poles that morning and some of the other rocks along the hike so far. One rock is a bit of a perilous slide if wet or icy so my main goal was getting past it before the possible (though slight) prediction of rain or snow flurries. Luckily it was dry and I snapped some photos of the bucolic scene below before venturing on. The rocks are at about 1,330 ft and are visible from the road below. I also like to point them out when driving by. From here the trail rises and drops along the eastern face, with equally steep climbs and descents and views from many ledges.

Many water sources along the mountain were rushing heavily with water, so I was not worried about finding a spot to fill my water should I run out. There were two large brooks I knew of on the route and they were no less active. I reached the mountain campground side trail around 11am and made the steep climb up along the rushing and cascading brook to look things over.

Is this New Hampshire?

Is this New Hampshire?

There were a few blowdowns that needed noting, and I also checked out the privy, one of only 2 or 3 exposed ‘throne’ style privies along the trail in our state. Another 12 or 13 have already been updated to the enclosed moldering privies we all love. While not having any cover, this one did have a view!

I remember around this time on our hike through here together a few summers ago, that Fielden and I were both feeling pretty tired by this point from all the ups and downs we didn’t seem to notice in the guide. We seemed to think we would only have one last small climb over Algo before we made it to the shelter for the night. I too, was feeling it here, but this time I knew better. There was one more huge climb up the higher peak this mountain holds in Connecticut. But the trail drops down along the ridge to about 850 feet just before its climb back up to 1400 ft. Its a hell of a climb with many false summits, though there were some more sweeping views including one of the Taconic plateau in the distance far beyond Kent. When I reached the top, I had a long break to have some fruit and energy gels and share my equally hellish climb story with Fielden Stream.

Thayer Brook

Thayer Brook

I had to be in Kent at 2 to see the amazing lady who trained me do a presentation on her 2004 thru hike. She’s now retired and planning a 2017 PCT thru hike! So I knew time was ticking and hauled butt down the steep north face across Thayer Brook to ascend Algo and make my final campsite check before reaching the end of the hike. The rocks coming down here reminded me of the white mountains, as the trail was just rocks. I considered filtering some water at the brook but I had a bit left and other than one last easy climb up Algo from this side, I decided that was unnecessary. There’s also a brook at that shelter a half mile north should I have been wrong. Unfortunately it was around here, just before the end, that I was hitting a wall. This was my first fully loaded hike of the year and despite having 60 miles of day hikes behind me since the new year, I was feeling it by this point and my leg muscles decided to start growling at me. I took another break before making it over the top of Algo and down through the amazing mountain laurel tunnels to the Algo shelter and brook. I met a backpacker there who was waiting out the cold a bit longer and we chatted briefly while I signed in at the register. I looked around the rest of the campsite for any other issues and then called my friend from the trails committee who was picking me up at the road on the way to the presentation. He saved me a mile-plus walk into town. After over 9 miles on the dirt, paved roads can be pretty brutal on the feet.

I'm lichen this tree

I’m lichen this tree

We had a nice lunch in town and then made it to the library for the sold out crowd. It was great to see such enthusiasm for her story, and we even got to be part of the presentation and talk about our roles in caring for the trail in Connecticut. We invited everyone to our volunteer event next month called “Give a Day to the Appalachian Trail” where you can volunteer alongside us to give back to the local section of the A.T. There were a few past thru-hikers in the audience, including one couple who were active members of the ALDHA, the Applachian Long-Distance Hikers Association, another great group who help care for the trail. They also provide all the information for the Connecticut section in the official Appalachian Trail guides.

I got home feeling fulfilled, satisfied, exhausted, and ready for the next adventure. I can’t do any hiking next weekend due to other commitments, but this hike was enough to hold me over and I am looking forward to my Wilderness First Aid training the following weekend, and then my and Fielden Stream’s first overnight together in New York.

I’d love to see you at Give-a-Day. Its free of course and snacks and refreshments will be provided at a social afterwards. Here’s the link.

Day 1 Miles: 1.8

Day 2 Miles: 9.2

— Linus