Monday, August 27, 2012

The "I Hate Bugs Post" also known as Conneticut (July 18th-22nd)

Pants and I woke up the next morning with plans to go to Mt. Algo shelter, only 12.4 miles away.  We needed to go into Kent, CT. which was down the road immediately after Mt. Algo.  It was definitely time from some laundry and resupply.  Unfortunately, Kent was a waspy CT town with absolutely nowhere affordable for hikers to stay, so a shower would have to wait for another day.  We would stay right outside town and dip in the morning then hike out.  It looked like it would be an easy 12, with no real tough climbs so we took our time up and over Ten Mile Hill, then set up shop at a beach on Ten Mile River with Rebound, who had caught up to us.  We took a dip in the river, watched a cute otter dive around, tried to dry out our sweaty clothes in the sun and had a leisurely lunch.  We would have stayed longer, but according to the weatherman in our cell phones, a storm was brewing for the afternoon.

The Georgia Boys arrived and they decided they were going to hold up at Ten Mile River Shelter until the storm passed, then night hike the remaining eight miles to Mt. Algo.  Not wanting to do that, Pants and I packed up our stuff and headed out.  Rebound had already took off.  Just as we were heading into a very skinny pine tree forest the wind started to pick up.  We paused to watch the skinny spindly trees bend forward and backward.  They all looked like they were about to fall over, branches started flying off and we picked up our pace as one blew by my arm.  We escaped the forest without getting speared just as the rain kicked in.  The rain lasted a few hours as we continued on our way, slightly regretting not staying at the shelter with the rest.  But other than the crazy wind moment, the worst part of the storm seemed to blow over us.  Overall, we were glad we decided to hike through it instead of sitting around at the shelter.  The only problem was after the rain, it became so humid, and it flushed out all the mosquitoes. You couldn't stand still unless you wanted to be mauled.

If you were to ask me what my least favorite part about this entire experience was/is, it would unquestionably be my forced co-existence with bugs.  I'm not talking about the ants and spiders and the sort that try and crawl on you.  I'm talking the gnats, flies and mosquitoes.  The gnats just swarm around your head like a cloud, try to kamikaze into your eyeballs and mouth.  The horseflies get some sick twisted pleasure from buzzing around your head for miles, just following you.  And when you stop to stand still so you can swat it, IT STOPS TOO so you can't find it, the assholes.  So you think it's gone and start hiking again, and right away, bzzzzzzzzzzzz.  You try to keep calm and swat at him when you think you can get him, but eventually you go insane, scream and run, flailing your arms wildly above your head.  If you happen to be in the woods and you see what at first glance appears to be a lunatic talking to himself while waving his arms above his head, rest assured it is most likely a harmless hiker with a fly problem.  But the mosquitoes, they are the worst.  They are tiny and inconspicuous and take your blood.  We are covered in their bites.  I mean covered.  We are defenseless, even 100% DEET (which is basically smearing your body in poison) doesn't keep them away.  One time while sitting in my tent one morning, I counted 42 mosquitoes on the other side of my mesh trying to get in.  42. That's like half a vampire.  Sometimes when I'm hiking I just think of all the awful things I could do to them.  Like every time one bites me, I get really small and punch it in the face and tear out it's wings.  Elaborate scenes of mosquito torture play out in my head as I hike and swat at them, though I know resistance is futile. 

Anyway........Pants and I excitedly crossed the New York/Connecticut border, flew past Indian Rocks and Thayer Brook, and finally arrived at Mt. Algo Shelter.  I turned my phone on to see if Daystar had made it out of town tonight and found a text from her that she was staying the night.  She was nervous about the storm and hesitant to leave, and apparently St. Andrews church was going to let her, the Honeymooners and Spirit camp in their backyard, and there was room for two more!  We could get out of the bugs and be in town bright and early tomorrow to get our stuff done and get out.  Pants and I hiked the remaining mile to CT 341 then walked east down the road straight into Kent, CT.  Kent, pop. 2,979 was an adorable town full of high priced chocolates, fancy cafes, and gift shops.  All things hikers don't need nor can afford.  Despite its frequent visits by hikers (as it is the first town we come to in CT), they have yet to make it very hiker friendly.  We met DS at the church and she showed us to our 'unit'.  We walked past the sprawling green lawn right next to the church that apparently was off limits to us, and were shown to a small strip of grass between the parking lot and playground, right next to the driveway.  It was silly, but it was home.  I had a pint of Ben and Jerry's for dinner which I ate on one of the church benches, pitched my tent and went to bed.

The next morning we were up at 6am, DS, Spirit and the HH (as they will now be referred too in this publication) were heading straight back to the trail, as they got their errands done yesterday.  Pants and I were hoping to get out by 2pm.  We headed to the laundry mat, which was ran by the devil's daughter - meanest lady on planet earth.  She seemed to despise hikers, despite the fact that we were the reason her business was still afloat. She probably had one sour encounter with a rude or disrespectful hiker and now hated the whole lot of us.  While we did laundry we took turns going to the PO to deal with bounce boxes.  The postal worker was also a total dick, seemed to be a theme in this town.  The grocery store was across the street so we did our resupply as well.  Just as we were packing up a few more hikers showed up and I gave them the heads up about the dragon lady as we walked out the door. 

Pants wandered off on his own while I headed to the library to do computer things.  I signed up for a half hour slot on one of the many open computers (as that was the max time allowed) and plopped myself down.  Exactly one half hour later, the psychotic librarian walked over to inform me that if I wanted to continue using the computer I would need to sign up for another slot.  I slowly looked around the small library taking note of the lack of any other persons besides myself, and accommodatingly got up to write my name down again.  What was with the people in this town?  An hour was about all I could take with that lady so I left, grabbed my pack (which I always leave outside when I go into businesses) and went in search of food.  Maybe the sandwich people were a cheerier bunch.

I was walking down Main St. when a cute old couple asked me if I was thru-hiking.  I chatted with them a bit and they gave me a great recommendation for a panini cafe and gelateria back in the park.  I thanked them, walked to the hidden corner they told me about and was greeted with a small park full of cafes and shops.  I put my pack on a table outside and was immediately approached by an older woman curious if I was hiking.  I talked to her about my journey, and she was so impressed she offered to buy me lunch.  Finally, someone who doesn't hate hikers.  I thanked her as she had to take off and couldn't eat with me, and went back out to settle in with my panini.  A family of five came out of the deli looking for a place to sit, and being I had a five person table to myself I gave it to them and headed over to sit in the shade of a large oak tree.  I'm used to sitting on the ground anyway, plus that kid from that one movie taught me it's always good to pay it forward:).  I ate my lunch while chatting on the phone with my friend Sae, and finally decided it was time to leave. 

I found Pants napping in front of the "outfitter" (it really was an ice cream shoppe that sold hiking clothes that weren't really hiking clothes, though I was able to locate a fuel canister there) and we started our walk back up the road towards the trail, noticing the Georgia Boys ahead of us doing the same.  We stuck our thumbs out as we walked, even though it was only a mile back to the trailhead, and based on our interactions with the people of this town we doubted we would get a ride, but surprisingly a nice woman stopped, saying she hated seeing hikers have to walk so many off trail miles just to get in and out of town.  We hopped out of her car at the trailhead just as the Georgia Boys reached it.  Bill yelled at us wondering how we managed to get a ride, even though the answer was simple.  I'm a girl.  It's easier to hitch if you're a girl.  Bill and the boys trudged up the trail grumbling about how they needed a woman and wondering if REI might sell them. ....

That afternoon our goal was Silver Hill Campsite, roughly 10 miles away.  We stumbled past Macedonia Brook, up Calebs Peak, where we were introduced to St. Johns Ledges.  These are steep stone steps that would lead us down to the Housatonic River.  I use the term "steps' loosely, as they were actually just a pile of rocks I was expected to maneuver down.  I finally made my way down to River Rd., where I would be rewarded with five miles of flat trail along the Housatonic.  Well, it was flat I will give it that.  I would have rather been on the ledges for five miles.  At first I wondered if this was a joke, if I had walked onto the set of some horror movie.  I have never in my life seen so many gnats.  They were having a convention, a gathering if you will, all the gnats in the world, here at this river.  The sole purpose of existence for a gnat, their goal in life, is to die inside your eyeballs.  I paused once and my body disappeared in a swarm of black.  I screamed (on the inside, I didn't dare open my mouth), put my head down, sunglasses on, earbuds in and hiked. 

We blew past the Steward Hollow Shelter, where I think the Georgia Boys had taken refuge, and made our way to Dawn Hill Rd., where we were given some peace from the bugs.  Now, a word of advice to all those who ever hike this section of the AT:  before you reach Dawn Hill Rd, the trail actually hooks left up a steep hill, THEN crosses Dawn Hill Rd.  Pants and I missed this detail, got to the road at the bottom of the hill and walked around confused and lost for about 30 minutes trying to find the trail.  There was a faint blaze down what appeared to be a driveway.  The owners of the driveway were outside their house putting away kayaks and we inquired if they had any idea of the whereabouts of the AT.  They explained that the trail used to go over here, but it was rerouted to go up the hill back down the way we came, and they hadn't removed the old blazes yet so hikers got confused a lot.  They let us use their hose to fill up water (Silver Hill had a pump that was known to dry up) and we were on our way. 

We made our way up Silver Hill and stumbled upon the campsite around 7pm.  It was a nice spot, had a covered pavilion and a swing.  It was empty except for two young boys out for a weekend.  Pants and I made our dinner by our tents before we were chased inside by the bugs.  PA had rocks, CT has bugs.  Fact.  The next morning we awoke to rain dropping on our tents.  I procrastinated as long as possible before I finally just packed up in the rain.  My goal was to go 15 miles or so and just stealth camp somewhere, but naturally plans change.  I got the mile to CT 4, where a sign informed me that the rocks used to cross Guinea Brook were no longer passable, and that I would either have to ford the book or take the detour road walk.  Not wanting to walk a mile out of my way on a road, I opted to just walk through the brook.  At first I thought the rocks might actually be ok, but they might as well have been covered in ice.  The rain wasn't helping.  I caved, removed my shoes and put on my sandals and waded through the shin deep water.  The cold water felt good running over my feet and it was worth not risking have to hike in wet boots. 

Pants caught up and passed me right after Guinea Brook along with Promethus and Silent John.  The rain really started to pick up and I got dumped on all the way to Pine Swamp Brook Shelter.  At this point in my hiking career I am so used to getting rained on that I don't even put on my rain jacket.  The trail passed through a crack in a boulder similar to the "Lemon Squeezer" in NY, after which I saw an older man, presumably a day hiker, carrying an umbrella.  I considered stopping to watch him attempt to get through that boulder with that giant umbrella, but my hunger won out and I booked it to the shelter so I could eat under a roof.  Or so I thought.  I got there and it looked like the restaurant had been overbooked.  A SoBo section hiker had put his tent up inside the shelter.  Why people do this I never know.  That left Promethus, Craisin, Silent John, two other hikers and myself to squeeze into the remaining space, wet gear and all.  Craisin and I had to cower on the steps to the shelter as we were the last to arrive.  I quickly ate my lunch and headed back out in the rain. 

I was pretty tired of the rain and a bit crabby from lack of a proper break.  I hit Belters Campsite around 5pm and decided this would be my home.  Silent John had the same thought as we quietly set up our tents (he doesn't talk much).  I managed to coax him away from his tent to check out a really cool tree I found while exploring the area.  After the tree he showed me an old rusted car way back in some brush no one would ever find unless they knew to look for it.  He's from CT and had actually camped here before and was familiar with the area.  We made our dinners and I was about to crawl into my tent to do some reading when I heard someone yell "Is that a Tater Tot?" from down the campsite.  Pace and Hungus had caught up!  I was excited since I hadn't seen them since our stay in Jersey.  I told them how spread out we all had gotten.  Jaybird and Lighthouse were way ahead since they didn't go into the city, Pants was seven miles ahead at Limestone Shelter, DS another seven past that at Riga and Gribley was still behind since he had just gotten back on the trail in NY after his time home.  No clue where Cheesewater and Towlie were....We all said goodnight, with plans to do 18 to Sages Ravine the next day, just over the Massachusetts border. 

Unlike Pace and Hungus, I failed at getting up early to start our 18 mile day.  They called to my tent as they passed by and I assured them at the very least I was awake.  I finally started hiking around 9am, and began my easy flat journey to the town of Falls Village.  I had no desire to actually go to the town, but the trail skirts the edge of it and passes by some type of hydro-electric plant (is that a thing?) near the Housatonic. Supposedly there, one would find a vine covered building with an outdoor shower attached.  There was also an outside plug so you could charge your phone. This was my first goal of the day.  Pace and Hungus were trying to book it to Salisbury to meet a family member of some type for lunch so I didn't plan on seeing them for the rest of the day.  My journey to the vine covered building was briefly interrupted by the finding of a lost dog, whose owner I had to wait for, but I eventually made it to my destination. 

I located the building, and the outdoor shower was just as it seems, a shower head attached to the outside of a building.  One could not take a proper shower there unless they were interested in being arrested for indecent exposure.  I met another NoBo, Ducket, who was there making lunch, and another hiker (forgot name) who was in desperate need of water.  Apparently he found a baggie with white powder in it on the trail, assumed it was powdered milk, and added it to his entire water supply (obviously really in the mood for milk).  Turns out it was detergent, and in lieu of milk he was was left with a substantial amount of soap.  Let this be a lesson to him (and anyone else tempted to add strange unlabeled powders they find in the woods to their water).  Don't. 

I left my fellow hikers and headed up Mt. Prospect, attempted to have a late lunch at Giant's Thumb (big thumb looking rock) but was attacked by a gang of moths, so ate quickly and continued on.  The trail was easy all the way down the road to Salisbury.  I stopped at the trail head to drink some fruity drink and eat the rest of my lunch when Pace and Hungus rolled up in their aunts (?) car.  They gave me some snacks they grabbed in town and we headed up to Lion's Head.  Lion's Head was a short but steep rocky climb with a nice view.  I continued past it to make my way to Riga Shelter.  The shelter had a great view, and also a long register entry by Tree Hugger about demons, his thoughts on demons and also a small tale about opening some portal.  It seemed some hikers were starting to go insane.  After Riga, I caught up to Pace and Hungus who had passed me when I dipped into the shelter, and the three of us caught up to Pants at Brassie Brook.  We all started our climb up Bear Mountain (#2 I think).  It was a challenging climb that we all accomplished pretty quickly, and we rewarded ourselves with a whiskey party at the top.  We hung out on the giant rock pile for the better part of an hour, using every new hiker who arrived as an excuse to unscrew the whiskey bottles.

One by one we all made our way into Massachusetts!!!! and down to Sages Ravine campsite, which was gorgeous.  There was a large camping area next to it with a privy and a caretaker.  Pace, Hungus, Pants and I all shared one tent site, since Pace and Hungus hammock, Pants and I could both fit our tents in one space.  We were all excited at the fact that we only had four states left, and that Great Barrington , MA (our next town) had a brewery.  Massachusetts, we have arrived.

1 comment:

  1. MISS YOU! I love reading your posts. Maybe you can just hike forever so I always have good non-fiction to dig into.