One of the benefits of doing a short mileage day is that you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to go. After a quick breakfast, I packed up and headed down the fog shrouded trail. It was already a warm outside and the weather forecast was calling for clearing skies and lots of sunshine.
After crossing Schaghticoke Road, I began a gentle climb to Calebs Peak following a beautiful section of trail. There were multiple views along the way of the Housatonic River in the valley below. Just past Calebs Peak is St. John’s Ledges where I enjoyed an exceptional view.
While there was a really nice view of the valley from the ledges, the trail began what appeared to be a near vertical 700 foot descent to the river valley. As I stood at the top and looked down, I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and wondered if St. John was the guardian saint of bouldering. I slowly inched my way down the cliff because I had to, but I would not want to do this section when the rocks are wet.
Once I was safely on the valley floor, I was relieved to find that the trail follows the perfectly flat River Road for over 3.5 miles. There are many pretty views of the Housatonic River along the way. About halfway through the road walk, I stopped at the Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter for lunch and was soon joined by Little Cheese and Einstine. I can’t recall if I have mentioned it before, but they are brothers from Maryland and their sibling interaction is at times quite amusing.
All good things must come to an end and at the end of the road walk I passed through a farmer’s field and started a steep 500 foot climb up Silver Hill, followed by a steep descent down the other side.
The A.T. Guide indicated that I would soon be crossing Guinea Brook by way of a dicey rock hop over mostly submerged boulders. Prior to reaching the brook, there was a sign posted that said the boulders were no longer suitable for crossing and it suggested a road detour. Since I was hiking by myself, and there had been some considerable rain over the past few days, I elected to take the detour. This is the first time I have ever “blue blazed” around a section of the A.T., but I felt vindicated because that hot and steep 0.5 mile road walk was much more difficult than the few hundred yards of trail that it bypassed.
After rejoining the A.T., the trail soon crosses Hatch Brook and follows it for a while past some impressive cascades. A few miles later, the trail crosses West Cornwall Road where I stood facing a steep climb. If there is one thing I dislike, it is a steep climb at the end of a long hard day, but it had to be climbed. About halfway up the hill my legs didn’t want to climb anymore, so I took a break and was passed by a hiker named Glove. Continuing up, it seemed like the sole purpose of this climb was to route the trail through a split rock formation (more evidence that Chuck Norris had passed this way).
When I arrived at the Pine Swamp Brook Shelter, it was packed with campers. There was a Ridgerunner there along with the father and son from Dothan, Glove, Little Cheese, Einstine, and a dozen weekend hikers. The thru-hikers were grumbling about that final climb and Little Cheese remarked that the day was 0.8 miles longer than it needed to be. I managed to find a small plot to pitch my tent in a tenting spot shared by Glove, Little Cheese, and a weekend hiker.
During dinner, the conversation turned to the subject of bears (in order to impress the weekend hikers) and the Ridgerunner told us that a bear had attacked and killed a goat in the nearby town of Kent, CT. Kent is a very affluent town and during a break in the conversation Little Cheese deadpans, “The thing I find most interesting in that story is that someone in Kent owns a goat.” Everyone at the table cracked up laughing.
I should have expected it at a shelter with “swamp” in the name, but around dusk the mosquitos came out with a vengeance forcing everyone to dive for the safety of their tents. I’m looking forward to some relief from the bloodletting when I arrive at a hostel tomorrow and enjoy a bed indoors.