Backpacking Report

Posted By on July 24, 2013

Backpacking Report

12 miles   not very fast

brennan

remember walter brennan? that funny little hitching, limping walk he had? that’s what i look like today.

i ended up not doing the full hike, due to several unfortunate circumstances. one, i was simply not prepared, physically, for the rigors of hiking in the berkshires. i mean, seriously NOT PREPARED. i managed 8 miles the first day, but my legs were shredded. and two, i had some unfortunate, er, how to put this delicately… intestinal difficulties… yeah, that’s close enough. so i went another four miles the next day and caught a lift back to my car and headed home.

the hike itself was brilliant. i wish i had taken more photos, but i was too tired and in too much pain to think about it. i started in kent, connecticut, over a turnstile and into a field of wildflowers. then the trail started going uphill. and up. and up. it was along here that i met my first through-hiker, a guy from virginia who had started in georgia. he was hiking with a german shepherd. they were both so tired they almost bumped into me. i felt sorry for the dog. she looked like i felt.

but i slogged along and i was pretty proud of myself by the time i made it to caleb’s peak (1160′). i knew from my research that it was literally all downhill from here to the housatonic river and a long, flat stretch along the riverbank. whew!

atop caleb's peak

atop caleb’s peak… there’s a sign and everything!

what i didn’t realize was that between caleb’s peak and that blissfully flat stretch along the river was [cue ominous music]… st. john’s ledges. yeah, i read there was a steep, rocky descent down to the river from here, but i thought, “hey, how bad could it be? it’s all downhill!.”

how bad was it? it was super steep, almost a sheer drop off. and filled with giant boulders and smaller rocks. and it went on for what seemed like forever. it took me an hour and a half to get down to the river, and every step i took loomed in my mind as a potential broken leg or ankle. and to make matters worse, i was already pretty tired and carrying a 30-pound pack on my back which threw off my balance. but i did make it, and didn’t break anything. yay! the river walk!

not that you could see the river from the trail… there was a pretty thick stretch of woods between the trail and the riverbank. and whoops. the mosquitos through here were horrid. i was almost too tired to care at that point, but i did stop to put on deet. i was still 2-1/4 miles from the first shelter on the trail, at stewart hollow brook.

i met my second through hiker at the shelter, a dude from minnesota who was hiking southbound from katadin, called righteous. he was neatly settled in a corner of the shelter surrounded by a mosquito net cooking his dinner. i wasn’t inclined to set up in the shelter with him, so i dragged myself off to one of the 4 campsites and set up my tent. thought (for about 3 seconds) of cooking my dinner, but decided i was too tired, so i crawled into the tent and promptly passed out. woke in the dark to rain. “perfect,” i thought. “now i get to go find the privvy in the dark in the rain.” the good news was that you couldn’t see the spiders too well in the dark. then again, i guess that could also be considered bad news…

the rain continued through the night and into the next morning. i discovered that sometime after i passed out, 4 more people had come into the shelter area. two guys at the adjacent campsite were using hammocks and tarps. it was a cozy-looking set up, and they seemed very experienced as they quickly broke down and packed everything up.

and there were two more guys in the shelter, both section hikers. brian was from chester, connecticut, and just taking a long weekend. the second guy, tony, was from long island and was doing a two-week-long section hike to vermont from bear mountain in new york. tony was awestruck because he heard a pack of coyotes howling. must be pretty urban where he lives, because coyotes are pretty common even in the suburbs. he’d also heard a bear  leaping up trying to get his food his first night on trail in new york. when he got up the next morning, his whole campsite was covered with bear tracks.

i left the shelter around 8:00 am, intending to hike no further than the closest road into the closest town, which was about 4 miles away. it was still raining when i hit the trail, but the sun came out not long after. i was still walking along the river, so again, it was mercifully flat. which was good, because i was walking like walter brennan by this time.

brennan

this was probably the best part of the whole hike. you could actually see the river. at one point i startled a huge flock of ducks up off the water. i heard a long freight train rattling and chuffing on the other side of the river. and cows lowing. the sun had come out, and there were fields of hay and wildflowers. i really wish i hadn’t been in so much discomfort, because it was beautiful.

wild bergamot on the bank of the housatonic

wild bergamot on the bank of the housatonic

when i finally reached dawn hill road, i had caught up to tony, who passed me early on (he and brian were the last to leave the shelter). he had stopped to ask directions at a beautiful white farm house. the farmer came out and promptly offered him a place to stay, food, and use of his washer and dryer. trail magic. i continued shambling down the road hoping for a car to come by, and low and behold, a young woman i had met earlier that morning on the trail walking with her dog stopped to offer a ride. i was still, at that point, about 15 miles from my car, and was merely hoping for a ride into town so i could get to a major north-south road and grab a lift back to it. but cindy, who was an experienced hiker and backpacker herself, said she knew exactly where the parking lot was and offered to take me all the way. more magic.

so that is the story of my first section hike. i’m not giving up, but i plan on doing a lot more conditioning work on real hills before i go out again.

Comments

One Response to “Backpacking Report”

  1. Bill says:

    WOW! WOW! WOW!

    LOVE YOUR WRITING, I HOPE THERE WAS ENOUGH CHEAP WHITE WINE WELL CHILLED AND WAITING WHEN YOU MADE IT HOME. WOW!!!
    SEE YOU THE 2ND, BILL

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