THE GATEWAY TO NEW ENGLAND
Kent, CT to Mount Wilcox South Shelter, MA
The trail through Connecticut and into Massachusetts was a sharp contrast compared to the miles over the last month. The elevation profile is like that of a heartbeat, a steady stream of noticeable ups and downs, interrupted by the occassional flatline.
It’s so refreshing to wind my way further north and into the heart of the mountains. Ten years ago, when I hiked the AT for the first time, I fell in love with the mountains and it was the vast vistas that overlooked a sea of remote beauty that inspired me to seek more.
I’ve had a blast the last few days, hiking alongside another thru-hiker. It is a rarity for hikers to experience such solitude, and after two months, I am grateful to have company. With clear skies, and the welcome heat of a 75-degree day, we hiked past a dozen clear, cold brooks, where I scooped water onto my face, tempted to immerse my whole body. We hiked at a steady pace, my footsteps fast and deliberate. It felt good to sweat, to feel the moisture on my lip, and it felt rewarding to laze on green patches of grass.
On the first of April, I dipped myself in the Housatonic River. Legend and I were hopeful to take a shower at the hiker-friendly hydroelectric pump house, but like many things for the first of the year thru-hikers, it was turned off for the season.
The next morning, after staying at the Riga Shelter, where lightning fluttered on the distant horizon, we headed up the steep, rocky, mountainous ascents of Bear Mountain, Mt Race, and Mt Everett, all above 2,000 ft. The weather was no longer 75-degrees and clear, and although some would say there’s no fun without a view, I love watching the weather lick at these rocky summits.
That afternoon, the weather gave way to sunshine, followed by a brief afternoon downpour. As I neared the top of another mountain, the rain ceased and the sun Illuminated the forest. It was vibrant in color, a hundred shades of green and gray with a bright blue sky above.
It was 7pm when we left a shelter and began the last 5 miles of the day. It would make 30 miles, and I suprised myself to have so much energy left. But poor Legend, he’d fallen ill, his stomach in knots. Nonetheless, he reckoned that he was able to hike on. I crushed the miles, leaving my new friend in privacy if he needed to “use the bathroom”.
That night, I reached the turnoff to the South Wilcox Shelter, an unseemly location as it sits on a steep mountainside. I left Squackers, my plastic orange duck, at the turnoff serving as a nice gesture for my sick friend, but also as a marker because in the dark, the turnoff could be missed. It was after nine when I unloaded my pack in the sharp-looking 2007 shelter. I made dinner, ate dinner, and by the time I finished my jounral, I grew a little worried that Legend wasn’t there yet. He is a fast hiker, and even if sick, he’d have reached the shelter at least by now, I thought. But I figured it was more than a stomach of knots, and that likely he had either the stomach bug, or I feared, giardia. I hoped he had the stomach bug which could see relief after two days, and I hoped that if he had giardia, that I didn’t drink the same untreated water two weeks earlier as he had. That said, he texted to tell me he was camped below the mountain (the whole technology on the trail still baffles me), and I turned off my headlamp and went to sleep.
After midnight, I heard a light rain fall on the tin roof, and then, total silence. I knew what total silence meant, and by morning, any idea of a 75-degree day was history.
Stayed tuned…Up next: Winter Storm #3 and my updated gear list.