Saturday, October 14, 2017

Pamola's Quest - Push 20 - The Push to Williamstown, MA - Part 2

Push 20 - The Push to Williamstown, MA - Part 2

The last four days of Push 20 were a pleasant finish to the Phase.  I had a pond to swim in and Mt Greylock to climb, but all would come in good time.  

Day 112 - 8.9 miles - W Cornwall Rd - Bearded Woods Hostel
Day 113 - 16.4 (slackpack) miles - US44 - Salisbury, CT
Day 114 - 13.1 miles - Glen Brook Shelter
Day 115 - 14.3 miles - Tom Leonard Shelter
Day 116 - 11.2 miles - Shaker Campsite
Day 117 - 9.9 miles - Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Day 118 - 17.6 miles - Kay Wood Shelter
Day 119 - 16.9 miles - Mark Noepel Shelter
Day 120 - 9.6 miles - Williamstown, MA - End of Phase II-b of Pamola's Quest

Upper Goose Pond Cabin Adventure

Only a couple other people showed up at the campsite for the night and the morning was dry, but cloudy and breezy.

I ate breakfast with the three students and said my goodbyes as I headed out early as usual.  I didn't have far to go today, but I wanted to arrive early, so I could enjoy the pond and what it had to offer.  

Early in the day, I came to a road crossing.  To the left there was a little shack that said AT Trail Stand.  Next to it, was a young cow, just munching on the grass in the front yard, next to the road.  It was an interesting sight.

Young cow, Mooowing the lawn

After climbing Baldy Mountain, the day was rather easy as I made my way towards the pond and circled around it.  I ate an early lunch and just before Noon, I came to the turnoff to the cabin.  

I arrived at the cabin and saw it was locked and no one was around.  I explored a little and found that the outside door to the upstairs bunk room was open.  I went in and explored the place a bit.  I found a bunk and stowed my gear.  It was time for a swim and some cowboy laundry.

As I was heading down, I met Harvester, a girl who had been doing some hiking on both the PCT and the AT this year, but had gotten off-trail for an injury.  She was from nearby and was there to meet her "hiking partner" who was a sobo, due to arrive soon.

I went down to the pond and went for a swim.  I rinsed the sweat out of my hiking clothes and enjoyed the fresh, cool water for awhile.  I guess I forgot to take the bugnet out of my back pocket and sometime during my swimming and cleaning, it came out and floated away.  Oh well, Karma was still screwing with me.

Calm morning on Upper Goose Pond

The rest of the day I just lounged on the porch of the cabin.  After a while, the incoming caretaker arrived with his wife and a friend.  Also, I few more hikers showed up.

One hiker, Simpleton Extraordinaire and his dog Jameson came in. He had a lot of goodies in his pack including the ingredients for S'mores, which I don't like.  He did give me a bar of chocolate which I really enjoyed as I tried to put a dent in my constant hunger. He also gave me a sip of his whiskey, which gave me a very pleasant glow for a while.  Jameson was pretty cool too.

I took another swim, later in the day and had a decent night's sleep up in the bunk room.  It wasn't my hammock, but it was comfortable enough.

In the morning, the promised pancakes and coffee were served and I left a decent donation to help them continue their service.   

Some Days Are Just Days of Walking

I was able to get on the trail pretty early still, even after the served breakfast.  I had over 17 miles to do today. Today's walk would be just that.  I pretty much just stayed in my head all day and put one foot in front of the other.  There weren't any long climbs or anything.  The one note of the day would be a stop at the Cookie Lady's house.  If she was there, the possibility of cookies and blueberries would be a nice break.

When I arrived at the Cookie Lady's house, there was no one around.  I filled my water, which had a strong sulfur smell and taste, ate a few blue berries that were in a container on the table and relaxed in some nice chairs as I ate a snack.  No cookies, but a good break nonetheless.  

I arrived at the empty shelter area and set up behind the shelter.  I needed water so I headed down the short trail to the source.  While I was down there, I heard lots of voices coming from the shelter.  When I went back up, the shelter was full past capacity.

A freshman orientation group from Yale had arrived.  I had encountered one of these groups, a couple years ago during a day hike in PA and thought it was a good way to get the kids out in the woods before they had to hunker down in their studies.  Now, I had a few other thoughts out here as we were sharing the same resources now.  

The group seemed a bit larger than the recommended 10 people, and they were noisy and clunky.  They put all of their cooking gear (and it was a lot) in the bear box, filling it up.  Luckily, my food bag was already in there, but I did have to dig through their heavy bags to find mine in the morning.  I would encounter other college orientation groups these last couple of days and they all seemed large and clunky.  But, it's all good out here.  We share the forest and there is plenty to go around.

I had some good conversation with the group as I ate my dinner then headed to my hammock for the night.  They had actually asked if there was a certain time that they should be quiet and I told them to just do what they wanted.  That is what ear plugs are for.

They did stay up into the night, with a fire, but it wasn't bad at all.  No one was loud or rowdy and I was able to fall asleep as usual.  

Town Stops are The Bomb

The next morning I had a spring in my step as I packed up and got ready to go.  Today, I was heading into Dalton, MA, which the trail went through and it was only about 2.5 miles away.  I was looking for food, a free shower, a library visit to print my bus ticket and my final resupply of the Phase.  

The town was still waking up as I strolled down its streets. The first stop was at a Cumberland Farms store for some coffee and chocolate.  As I walked through town, heading to the breakfast place on the other side, Mary Jane, a hiker I had met at Upper Goose, stuck his head out of a coffee shop to say hi.  I continued on and went into the Dalton Restaurant for a huge second breakfast.  While I was there, I made a reservation at the Williamstown Motel for my last night and bought a bus ticket home.  It was time to finish this Phase.

When I finished breakfast, I went out front to get my gear and out came Blaze.  The last time I saw him was in Erwin, TN at Uncle Johnny's Hostel.  It was good to see that he had made it all this way.  I crossed the street and entered the Community Center.  I signed in and received a towel.  I went down to the locker room and enjoyed a nice hot shower.

My next stop, was just down the road a bit to the Library.  I needed to print my bus ticket, so I went in and asked if I could use a computer.  I saw one that was a little out of the way, but there was one other guy on the computer next to me.  Now, after my shower I had just put my hiking clothes back on and not my town shirt for some reason, so even though my body was a little cleaner, I still had the smell of adventure all around me.  When I came up to my PC, they guy next to me, made a concerted effort to move all his stuff and himself as far away from me as he could.  I giggled at his Muggleness and went about my business.  He really seemed sensitive to my stench.  Oh well, there was nothing I could do except finish my business and move on.

I printed my ticket and left the library, imagining the huge sigh of relief the Muggle must have heaved when I left.  My next two stops were to pick up a nice sub for lunch/dinner and a couple of 24 oz cans of Genesee Cream Ale for the walk out of town.  Those items would add about 5 lbs to my pack, but were worth the weight in my opinion.  

I bought the last of my resupply and headed out of town, feeling happy and full.  After finishing town and heading back up into the wooded hills, I came upon Fairy Baby and Cave Bear who were taking a break and drinking their own beers.  I figured I had carried one of those beers long enough and joined them for a nice beer break.  

Looking down to the Cheshire reservoir 

With a slightly lighter load, I moved on towards Cheshire, MA.  I leaped frogged the couple once or twice and we rested again at an ice cream store on the edge of town.  After some ice cream, I moved on.  The trail goes through town again, but as I walked the streets, my attention wavered and I missed a turn of the trail.  I had no worries though, as I quickly used my phone to find my way back.  I did get to pass an interesting house on my "reroute" though.

Interesting house in Cheshire

The last part of the day was the start of the climb up Mt. Greylock.  It did get a little intense as I went along, but I just soldiered on and before too long, I was walking into camp.  There was rain in the forecast, which always makes the shelter areas crowded and there was another orientation group at this shelter.  The whole area is kind of on a slope, so I just walked around a bit, passing the tent spots already taken until I could find two trees that would work.  I went up above the shelter and saw an area with two tents set up and a fire going.  I said hello and asked if I could set up next to one of the tents, where two good trees waited.  Dave and his two sons, Collin and Connor welcomed me into their camp for the night.

The threesome were very nice and kept offering me stuff.  They were out for a few days, but were ready to head home as the mountain had been a little more than they could handle.  They were planning their exit of the mountain in the morning. I set up and hung out with them as I ate the last of my sub and drank that last beer.  The rain arrived as darkness fell and we all retired to our shelters.  

Completing the Push and the Phase

The next morning dawned windy and drippy as I packed up for the day.  It was time to finish the climb up Mt. Greylock.  I walked the 3.3 miles to the peak where a large war monument stands.  It was a little foggy as I reached the monument, but the wind was moving the clouds fast.  I climbed up to the top of the monument and looked out all around.  It was clear enough to see pretty far.  

First foggy view of the monument

I came down and started down the mountain.  It was a little slippery from time to time and I did another slip and fall, but it was into soft mud with my shoulder and I only got a little of the Greylock mud on me.  I came off the mountain with my ipod singing in my ear and came to MA Route 2.  The ending point of this Phase.

Williamstown from the sides of Mt Greylock

I walked a little bit more north to find one more treasure hunt item form AWOL's Guide and then started walking towards Williamstown.  It was early and I had only gone 9.6 miles so far, so the 1.5 to the Motel would be easy.  

I stopped at a pizza place and ate some lunch before crossing the highway and checking into the Motel right at the 1400 check in time.  

After a shower, I walked another 1.5 into town and had a beer and some fries at the Purple Pub then picked up a six pack for back at the Motel.  On the way back I also stopped and bought a sandwich for the next day and a stick of deodorant. 

The rest of the evening was spent converting my pack into bus mode and watching TV shows on my phone.  I decided to retire the old Half-Crocks at this time.  One of them had snagged on a tree and ripped off one side of the heel strap and I figured it was time to get something new.  They had served me well enough, but my cutting them had compromised their structural integrity without very much weight savings.  

Time to say ba-bye to the Half-Crocks

It had taken me 24 days to hike 334 miles and tomorrow I would travel that distance and then some in about 10 hours.  It was time to complete the Phase and re-enter the Matrix.  The Other World.

Back to the Matrix

I was up early the next day as usual and after a quick breakfast in the lobby, I started walking to the bus stop.  As I started walking down the road, I saw a group of four hikers heading the same way.  Eventually, I let them catch up to see who they were.  They had been out for a couple of days and were taking the same bus down to the first stop.

I arrived at the Hotel where the bus stop was and had some time until the bus arrived, so I sat in the lobby and caught up on some trail journal entries.  Before I knew it, the bus was here and I was on it as it started on its way to New York.

It was interesting watching the changing scenery outside the bus as we went from rural Massachusetts town to the busiest city in this hemisphere.  I had fun doing a lot of people watching from the bus as we worked our way down into Manhattan.  Of course, the bus arrived at the Port Authority Terminal, well after the time my second bus was due to leave.  I went up to the ticket counter to see what I had to do and was shown where to go to catch the next bus.  

I headed down to the proper gate and grabbed some food for dinner.  Before too long, there was a bus at the gate and I'm not sure if it was the right bus, but it was going to the right place, so I boarded and soon, we were out of the city and starting through New Jersey.  

Leaving New York

The ride back to Baltimore was uneventful.  I finished the last book of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy that I had been listening to the whole Phase and not too long after dark, we were pulling into the bus station once again, like I had in June when I finished the first Phase of the Quest.

LoGear was in the parking lot waiting and 20 minutes later, I was back at home, where all the comforts of the Matrix are.  Within a few hours, I was already thinking about when I would complete the last two Phases of the Quest.  I will be a part of the Class of 2018 on the Trail.  I'm not done hiking this year just yet, but I won't be doing new train again until the winter snows have melted and a new spring has arrived.  

I'm torn between wanting to get my first traverse of the Trail complete and taking my time to be able to keep enjoying the journey.  But, if all goes as planned, next season will see me completing this Quest and then I will start looking for the answer to the question every Hiker has...  What's next?

I think my next article will be about the Hostels I stayed in during these journeys.  Stay tuned.

EarthTone and LoGear

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pamola's Quest - Push 20 - The Push to Williamstown, MA - Part 1

Push 20 - The Push to Williamstown, MA - Part 1

Push 20 covered the next 117.9 miles and would take me another nine days to complete.  There was a possibility that I could continue on from there, get a ride up to Monson or get off trail once again.  I wanted to leave my options open, but was pretty sure I would be ready to see my bride again and most likely complete this year's Quest miles, continuing on next season.  

Day 112 - 8.9 miles - W Cornwall Rd - Bearded Woods Hostel
Day 113 - 16.4 (slackpack) miles - US44 - Salisbury, CT
Day 114 - 13.1 miles - Glen Brook Shelter
Day 115 - 14.3 miles - Tom Leonard Shelter
Day 116 - 11.2 miles - Shaker Campsite
Day 117 - 9.9 miles - Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Day 118 - 17.6 miles - Kay Wood Shelter
Day 119 - 16.9 miles - Mark Noepel Shelter
Day 120 - 9.6 miles - Williamstown, MA - End of Phase II-b of Pamola's Quest

The Bearded Woods Hostel 

There was some rain early in the morning, but it had stopped by 06. I wasn't in much of a hurry today, having less than 9 miles to do, but my routine is fairly efficient now and I was ready to go by 0730.  Firefly was still fast asleep in the shelter, having taken some benadryl to treat a bee sting he had received at the CT border, so I didn't want to disturb him by talking to him.  I knew he wasn't interested in spending money at a Hostel, so I wasn't sure I would see him again.  I never would be able to catch up to him again, but heard that he was just ahead and had mentioned me to one or two other hikers.  I would miss his conversation during the rest of the Push.

I hit a road around four miles in and while I was resting there, a truck pulled up to drop off some Sobo hikers.  I recognized the driver as Hudson, the proprietor of the Hostel and mentioned that I would see him in a couple of hours after I walk over a few more mountains.  He said to text him when I hit a gap about 2 miles out and he would be there at the road crossing.  

I moved along well and sent my text as I moved through the gap, arriving at the road crossing at exactly Noon.  Hudson pulled up five minutes later and we were off to his place.  It is a few miles off trail, so getting a ride there was pretty important. 

We arrived at the place and I settled into my bunk in the basement.  I showered up and gathered my clothes for laundry, which they do.  They have loaner clothes that you can wear while your laundry was being done, but the were mostly medium sized.  I may have lost a lot of weight out here, but I will most likely never be a medium again.  I did find a pair of pants to wear and just put my rain jacket on up top until I had clean clothes again.

Heading down to the Hostel area

I enjoyed the short day and just hung out and relaxed.  Hudson offered me a nice smoked salmon salad sandwich which was so delicious and hit the spot perfectly.  It was turning into a nice day.

Hudson offers a free slack pack if you stay a second night.  He will drop you off at the same spot he picked me up and meet me in Salisbury to ride back to the Hostel for another night.  I decided it would be a fun thing to try and signed up for the next day.

Later in the day, that day's slackers came back for the night.  It was Babbit and Shower Queen, who I had first met at Fingerboard Shelter.  They said the slackpack was great and I was looking forward to trying it out in the morning.  There was also a father, son there who were sectioning CT, using the Hostel as home base.  We had some good conversation as I cooked a pizza for dinner.

Giving a Slackpack a Try

The next morning, we all arose and had a nice breakfast before being flung to our various starting places.  I was dropped off where I had been picked up the previous day, which I was happy to.  I am in no way a purist of any sort, but I have kind of liked to be continuously heading north during this Quest.  It just feels right.

The others were dropped off further up north where I would be ending my day today. I headed up the first hill of the day with my very light pack and it felt good.  The Hostel provides small day packs and I only had the day's needs.  Food, water, rain gear and that was about it.  It is such a special feeling to have a light load and showed me the value of keeping my regular load as light as possible.  

I seemed to just float along the trail.  Nothing really taxed me very much.  I did still sweat and huff and puff from time to time, but I also recovered pretty quickly and kept a pretty fast pace.  After several short ups and down, I headed down to the Housatonic River and walked by Falls Village.  I had brought a few pieces of pizza for lunch and would stop from time to time and eat one at my leisure.  


Another View

Soon I was climbing up Mt Prospect.  When I got to the top, I saw a couple resting and we talked a bit.  At first they asked me if I hiked around here often.  I guess they thought I was a day hiker.  I told them to not let the daypack fool them.  I smelled just as bad as they did.  We discussed slackpacking for a bit.  One thing I mentioned, that they agreed to was the slight feeling of a time crunch.  I had a daily goal and needed to get there before too long, so I felt an imagined urgency to get the day's hike done.  This was all frivolous of course and not a real concern, but I felt it nonetheless.

I arrived in Salisbury in 6.7 hours. Completing 16.4 miles at about a 2.5 mph pace.  This was the fastest I had travelled this distance the whole Quest.  A slackpacking success.

I texted Hudson to let him know I was finished and went into the local grocery store to get some drinks for the night and a very small resupply as I waited.  Scrambles and Grouch came by too and we talked a bit.  

Hudson showed up pretty quick and Kitchen Sink was in the truck with him.  She was coming in for the night too.  We went back to the Hostel and cleaned up once again.  I tell ya, having a shower two days in a row and also having your clothes cleaned again is a luxury that is pretty rare on the Trail.  It was nice.  Big Lu cooked us a nice steak dinner for a very reasonable price and we all enjoyed eating until we were full.

After another night in a bed it was time to get going again with my full pack.  I enjoyed the slackpacking experience and will probably do it again.  It is a good break from the normal 30 lb pack.  It gives you the boost you need when things are tough.

Tripping Out of Connecticut

The next morning was cool and calm.  After another great breakfast, we all once again went to our assigned vehicles and were transported back to the Trail.  Stays like these always put me in a weird mood.  I am both antsy to get going and reluctant to leave the comfort of the Matrix that I have been able to once again plug into at the Hostel.  

Getting that taste of the Other World, the world of TV and WiFi and home cooked meals and not having to prepare for rain or any other weather event, makes me rather homesick for a while.  But, there are miles to walk and walk I must do, so I shake it off and get to walking. 

I started moving well and made my way up the easy side of Bear Mountain.  I passed Kitchen Sink as she headed south for the day and soon I descending down the hard side of the mountain.  I carefully made my way down the damp scrambles and soon the terrain smoothed out and I started to pick up speed as I approached the border of MA.  The last state I would hike in this Phase of the Quest.

I was moving good through a grove of pines and as I walked over a rooty section, my foot came down off center and tried to turn on me.  My usual immediate response is to dig in my poles as I try to shift my weight off the turning ankle.  This seemed to help with the ankle, but my momentum kept me going forward and soon the weight on my back was unbalanced and I started to go down face first. 

Where I tripped over the border

I opened my hands and landed on my poles in what felt like slow motion.  I lay on the ground for a few seconds, taking an assessment of any injuries and waiting for any tell tale pain to tell me some bad news.  I was fine though, so I unbuckled, slip out of my pack and stood up.  All was well, with the exception of some sore hands and one knee that took the brunt of the fall.  I continued on, noticing that I had just crossed the border into MA.  I guess I tripped over the border somehow.  


The day's hike next took me through Sages Ravine. A very cool couple of miles with a lot of nice swimming holes that would have been a great relief on a hot day.  But the day was still cool and it was still early, so I continue on.  

I caught up to Scrambles and Grouch once again and slowed my pace to stay a decent distance behind them.  I didn't feel like passing and leading, so I kept myself slow enough to stay behind them.  Before I started up Mount Everett, which had some nice wooden steps drilled into the large rock faces we had to climb, I came upon a threesome who were taking a break.  Two of them were Q-Tip and Donkey who I had met on a mountain top the day before during my slack pack and with them was the notorious Sinatra.  I gave him a knowing smile when he introduced himself as "just Kris" and said "I know who you are", but in a friendly way.  I held no bias towards him.  

Wooden steps up the rockface

We all once again took a nice break at a picnic table near a pond where there was some awesome iced water in a cooler and plenty of jugs to replenish your bottles with.  There was also a Ridge Runner there hanging out.  My day was almost over, but the rest still had 8.5 miles to go to the next major road crossing that would take them into town, so we all eventually moved on.

I got to the shelter area and found a real nice spot in the pine grove, made some dinner and got ready to get back to hammock hanging after two nights in a bed.  Later, a trio of young kids came into camp and headed for the shelter.  I would spend the next couple of nights at the same places as them.

Nice campsite

Rainy Days of Walking

The rain started early in the morning, but it wasn't too heavy and didn't effect the camp breakdown.  I headed out, carefully making my way down slippery rocks as I descended Mt Bushnell.  Today was just going to be one of those days of walking.  It would rain a little, then stop, but it never cleared up.  There weren't too many good places to stop and rest today, so I just kept walking.

Took a break here

There was an antique store that sold sodas, so I bought one and ate my lunch in front of the store, looking like a homeless man as the rain started up again.  I just sat on the ground, shoved my pack under a table that was there and ate a quick tortilla of meat and cheese.  Then, it was time to walk some more.

My feet needed some drying out when I arrived at camp, so I set up quickly, got out of my wet clothes and relaxed in my warm, dry, hammock.  I had thought about maybe moving on another five miles on this day and maybe arriving in Williamstown a day early, but the later part of the day was challenging enough to deter that plan and I was happy to stop as planned and get ready for an easier day in the morning.

I was going to only hike 11.2 the next day, so I could hike another short day to arrive at Upper Goose Pond Cabin, which is a must stay place along the trail.

Trail Magic

The next morning, the rain was leaving the area and the forest still dripped with moisture.  I sat and talked for a bit with the three young kids.  They were all from Boston College and were out for a few days before classes started and Other World life continued.  

I needed some water since I didn't want to do the .25 walk to the spring the day before, so I planned on heading down to Beartown State Forest for a long break and to replenish.

I took the .6 trail to the picnic/camping area around a nice lake and rested while eating.  I had checked my food bag and it looked like I was at least a meal short, but I wasn't too worried.  I figured that I would be able to pick something up near the trail later on.

As I was heading out, I saw a ranger talking to a couple in a small Winnebago, so I went over to ask him if he knew of any close stores at the next road crossing.  He couldn't help, but he said this couple may be able to help.  I looked in and saw 8-Track, who I had met around DWG I think.  The trailer was theirs and his wife, Angel Princess was meeting him from time to time for support.  He had been sick, so had taken a couple zeros to feel better.  I stayed outside the trailer as I talked to them.  

Angel Princess and 8-Track. Awesome people!

They started offering me food and of course, I turned nothing down.  Before too long, Angel Princess had cooked me a nice breakfast of eggs and I now peaches for lunch and one of 8-Tracks homemade dried meals for later.  It was the trail providing in the most magical way.  They really made my day special.

I headed back to the trail and felt great as I completed the short day.  As I was approaching the day's campsite, I was behind two nice smelling day hikers.  I saw them stop and came up to see a beautiful owl sitting in a tree near the trail.  We all took some photos and moved on.

Who are you?

I arrived at the campsite and found a nice place away from the tent platforms.  The three kids came in and we had some nice conversation as I watched them improvise a small tent, a tarp and some netting into something to sleep under for the night.  It actually came out pretty nice.  

I ate dinner and settled in for the night.  Tomorrow was Upper Goose Pond.

Next: The last four days of the Push and the Phase.

EarthTone and LoGear

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Pamola's Quest - Push 19 - The Push Beyond Kent, CT - Part 2

Push 19 - The Push Beyond Kent, CT - Part 2

This post will cover the last five days of the Push.

Push 19 continued as I headed out of Fort Montgomery, NY.

Day 102 - 16.8 miles - Wawayanda Shelter
Day 103 - 10.1 miles - Warwick, NY
Day 104 - 0 miles - Warwick, NY
Day 105 - 16.3 miles - Fingerboard Shelter
Day 106 - 15.5 miles - Fort Montgomery, NY
Day 107 - 6.4 miles - Graymoor Center
Day 108 - 13.8 miles - Fahnestock State Park
Day 109 - 14.0 miles - Morgan Stewart Shelter
Day 110 - 20.6 miles - Ten Mile River Shelter
Day 111 - 15.7 miles - Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter

Heading to the Spiritual Center

After another night in a motel bed, my mind was back where it was supposed to be.  I now had enough fuel to last me a while and even found a couple good meals in the hiker box at the motel.  

Kurt took me back to the trail and I cross the Hudson river on the Bear Mountain bridge.  I made my way up the next mountain, thinking that I was glad I didn't do it yesterday while I was in my funk.  I would have made it, but I wouldn't have been happy.

Crossing Bear Mountain Bridge

Today, I was planning on a short 6.4 mile day.  The Graymoor Spiritual Life Center was nearby and they have a nice place where hikers can stay for free.  

Today's hike would start a trend that was very satisfying and a little more expensive than I  was used to compared to down South.  The trail crossed some roads that had a nice Deli, right there.  I came up to the outside tables and three hikers were hanging out there.  I went in and ordered some lunch and a nice big beer.  This was bringing back memories of Shenandoah and her Waysides.

The three hikers were Firefly, the German boy, Swamp Donkey and a girl named Sleeping Beauty.  I immediately recognized her as a girl I had walked along with in Damascus the day I headed home.  I remembered that she was from South Africa and she remembered that I was getting off trail.  We caught up.  She was almost done with here two year flip-flop hike.  She only had about fifty miles left to do to complete her Hike. 

Sleeping Beauty and Swamp Donkey

I hung out for awhile, having another beer and buying one to bring for dinner.  Firefly decided to also head to the Center and we walked the last .3 together.  As we headed in, we encountered Fairy Baby and Cave Bear.  They asked if we had seen Sinatra.  The story had spread up and down the trail.  Facebook makes the hiker grapevine move very fast.  

When we got to the pavilion, there was another hiker here, Pumpkin, who had been at the pavilion for a week.  She had a stress fracture in her foot and was hoping that it would get better, but it hadn't.  She was heading home.  I carried her pack up the .3 or so to where she would get a ride and said farewell.

The pavilion was really nice.  It had all we needed.  I was able to set up my hammock in the corner and we had a good cool shower, outlets, some porta potties and plenty of camping space.  It was a nice nearo, lazy day.  Sometimes I enjoy the camping part of the Hike more than the walking part.

Later in the day, a few other hikers came in and we all had a nice evening next to the field.

Free Park Camping and Joe the Trail Angel

The next morning I was up and out early.  The day would be a hard one for me once again.  It wasn't a particularly long day, but the climbs would continuously kick my ass and keep me exhausted throughout the day.  It was one of those days where you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow.  Eventually, you get up that hill and when all's said and done, you are at your next day's camp.

Today I was heading to Fahnestock State Park.  There is a lake and a concession stand and you can camp one night for free in the campground.  

During the day's hike, I came upon a hiker sitting by a stream.  It was Red Bull, who we have seen in every Phase of our hike this year.  We first saw him near Fontana, then we saw him at the first Camp Store we were hanging out at in Shenandoah and now, today, I saw him once again as he headed north.  We caught up quickly and I moved on.  I wouldn't see him again during this Phase.

I arrived at the Park and walked the .2 down to the lake.  There were a few of us who all headed over to the concession stand and ordered some food. I continued on alone to the campground, which was another .5 or so.  The three sites they designate for the Hikers are not the best site and I had a little trouble finding two trees that would suffice for my hammock, but I did persevere and got set up.  

There was another Hiker there who told me about Joe, the Trail Angel, who gets a campsite for a week every couple of weeks and feeds as many Hikers as he can in the time he is there.  Sleeping Beauty had told me about him, but had thought he was leaving the morning I was heading there.  Luckily, he was still there and he came down to see if anyone wanted some food.  Of course, you all know the answer to that one.

Joe, the Amazing Trail Angel.

I headed up and Joe made me a nice egg, ham and cheese sandwich and I had lots of sweet soda.  Joe likes to talk to the Hikers and we had some good conversation while I hung out there.  Eventually, I headed back to my hammock for the night.  

A couple other hikers came in late in the night including Dragon and Camp and a Section Hiker who I had named Brooklyn (that is where she lives) who luckily found the only other possible hammock space in the camp.  

Ask The Trail and It Answers

Joe had told me that he would probably be leaving very early the next morning, but decided to wait until all of us were up and fed before heading out.  He is truly one of the Awesome People of the Trail. So, after a quick second breakfast, I was on my way back around the lake and up the blue blaze to the AT.  On the way up, I passed a guy going down.  He was packless, but looked like the famous trail serial murderer, Sinatra.  I saw a tent set up as I entered the AT.  Maybe that was his and he was sneaking down to the lake for a early morning swim or something.  I'm not positive it was him, but if it was, he appeared to be avoiding the populated places at busy times. 

911 memorial graffiti

At the concession stand the day before, I had seen Tim Messerich, the maintainer of the RPH Shelter who I knew from AT Museum stuff.  I told him I was looking forward to checking out the shelter the next day and that was my first stop of the day.

As I walked the five miles to the shelter at a pretty quick pace, I day dreamed about there possibly being leftover pizza at the shelter that I could snack on.  I quickly dismissed the possibility, thinking that Hikers don't usually have leftovers.  

I came to the shelter and was a little bummed that I didn't plan my days to end up here.  They had some nice poles for hammocks in a small camping area and the shelter, more a open faced cabin was pretty nice.  As soon as I walked through the back door, a Hiker asked me if I wanted a piece of pizza.  Once again, I asked and the Trail answered.  It is just unreal sometimes.  I enjoyed a slice and talked with the others who were there.  Firefly was there and a couple of SoBos.  One hiker, Rainbow, thought I was messing with her when I introduced myself as EarthTone.  She thought I had made up an opposite name on the fly real quick.  Little did she know, my brain doesn't work that fast, but we both had a laugh.

An interesting turn in the Trail

Next on the day's 14 mile walk was another Deli stop.  This one was .4 off the trail, but by now, I was starting to rely on them and plan my days around them.  I happily walked down the road to find the Deli and once again see Firefly hanging out.  

We ordered and I headed back behind the store, where they have water, a charging outlet and a picnic table in the shade.  It was a great way to break up the day.

I hiked the last 3.8 to the shelter. Firefly was there and another couple I hadn't seen before.  I set up and was hanging out at the table when a bunch of other hikers came in for water.  We had some funny conversation about being able to fly or teleport, which would you rather be able to do.  A Hiker's imagination gets really creative when you are out here for a while.  For the record, I choose the flying ability, but by the time the conversation was over, I wasn't sure anymore.  

When I set up my hammock, the wind had started to pick up.  Just as I had most of my kit rigged, I caught a whiff of the privy, which was about 50 feet away, as the wind shifted.  I decided to ignore it as it was only every once and awhile.  No big deal.  I'm sure the privy was pissed off when it caught a whiff of me.

Along with the wind was the threat of thunderstorms.  It turned out to only be a threat though, as it only rained a little during the night.  

Twenty Miles To Go With Bugs In My Face

I was up early as usual the next morning headed out to what was first planned to be a 16.6 mile day.  My goals for the day would be passing Nuclear Lake and stopping at a Garden Center near the trail where they have ice cream and soda and you can charge your electronics and hang out in their gazebo. 

Misty morning photo op

Nuclear Lake

I was able to complete another 10 by 12 with the decent track, so I strolled in to the Garden Center and dropped my pack.  I got some ice cream and a soda and settled down at the gazebo to make some lunch as my phone charged on the porch.  Today's deli was .6 down the road, so I opted to lighten my food bag instead of walking the extra 1.2 miles.  

While I was there, a couple came in with a young, not quite toddler, on their back.  It was a family that was hiking the trail with a 1 year old.  They had flip-flopped a while back and were now heading south.  I had read about them earlier in the year and it was cool to get to meet them briefly.  

The Dover Oak

After lunch, I was walking along and the gnats were just the worst they had ever been.  You could clap your hands in front of your face and kill close to a dozen in one clap.  I had pretty successfully been able to ignore them up to this point, but I decided it was time to dig out the bug net.  

I had been carrying this bug net for several hundreds of miles.  I never felt the need to pull it out until now.  I took a break and found the bug net.  While I was there, Firefly came by and rested also.  He told me that he was going for the 20.6 today, so I decided that maybe I could do that too.  It was still early and I could eat my dinner at the next shelter and not have much to do when I arrived at the night's shelter.  We continued on.  Me in my bug net and Firefly pulling ahead on his 19 year old legs as usual.  

I stopped at the next shelter and as planned, made some dinner before watering up and continuing on for the last four miles.  In a little over a mile, we entered CT.  NY was done.

Ba-bye New York.  You were more challenging than I expected.

The miles actually went by rather quickly and pleasantly and before too long, I could hear the music of the Ten Mile River, coming through the forest.  As I walked alongside the river, it beckoned to me continuously.  Just before turning up to the shelter, I saw a decent access point and promised the river I would be right back.

I set up behind the shelter.  Firefly, Dragon and Camp were there, eating their dinners. I grabbed by crocks and a bandana and headed down to the river after setting up.  I sat in the current, near the shore and cleaned up a bit.  Reveling in the cool, flowing water.  

I returned to the shelter refreshed and headed to my hammock.  My feet were throbbing a bit, but I felt good.  I had just completed my first 20 mile day of the Quest.

Karma Strikes On The Way to Kent

I was all set to get up and out early in the morning, but the chill kept me under the down for a while.  Eventually, I rolled out, packed up and headed out.  The plan was to head into Kent, CT with Firefly, so I had to get a good head start.  

As I headed up the Shaghticoke Mountain, I was wearing my bug net again.  For some reason, I had my hat on over the bug net, instead of a better way to have it over the hat to use the brim to keep the net away from my face some.  I'm not sure why I did it this way, but blamed LoGear as she kept thinking of different ways to use the bug net and I remembered that was one of her set ups.

Regardless of who's to blame (me), I was about 3/4s up the mountain, huffing and puffing, when I realized that my hat wasn't on my head anymore.  The presence of the bug net had prevented me from feeling when it fell off or maybe it was just me being inattentive as I concentrated on getting up that mountain.  

I decided to drop my pack and go down hill for a bit to see if it was nearby, but feared that it was closer to the bottom of the mountain than the top.  After about .1, I gave up and sent a wish out to the AT that someone would recognize it and bring it along.  I have picked up lots of gear and returned it to its owner.  I was hoping that one of my Tramily, which were all behind me would do the same.  But, Karma was about to strike.

After I had returned to my pack and continued up the mountain, Dragon and Camp caught up to me.  I asked them if they had seen my hat and they said they had, but didn't realize it was mine.  I accepted that, but felt a little pissed.  I have been seeing these girls since before the Smokys and I have been wearing this hat (a gift from my daughter) for the whole way.  Hundreds of miles.  I had put a turkey feather in the hat and it usually garnered more attention as people saw the feather.  I'm pretty sure they had recognized the hat as mine, but didn't take the time to scoop it up.  Just like I had done with the trekking pole piece.  Karma had come to visit me.  

Lesson learned. Help others when you can, but don't expect everyone to do the same.  Rejoice in it when it does happen.  I consider one of the best experiences on the Trail, is when a hiker is reunited with their lost gear.  It's a real good feeling. 

EarthTone, Hatless due to Karma

Oh well.  Even though losing the hat really made me sad for a while, I had to push on.  Kent, CT was ahead and I needed some town food and I was finally going to be able to resupply in a real grocery store and not a gas station convenience store.  

I made it to the road and waited for Firefly to catch up.  Once again hoping that he had seen and picked up the hat.  When he arrived, he said that he hadn't seen any hat.

We started the road walk and shortly after starting, I noticed my buff was gone.  Karma wasn't done with me yet.  I was hoping that I had stuffed it into my bag, but when the sun got hot and I needed some protection, I stopped and went through my pack.  It wasn't there.  Today was turning into a bitch.

Kent, CT

Our first stop in Kent was at a ice cream parlor/outfitter, where I was able to buy a pretty expensive hat to replace the one I lost and cool off with a cone.  

New AT hat

After hanging out there for awhile, we headed over to a nearby pizza parlor and had some lunch.  The pizza was good and the meal wasn't too expensive.  The beers also tasted pretty good.

Next we headed over to the new welcome center, which is basically a rest room with a pay shower in the back.  We dropped our packs and went to the nearby grocery store for a real resupply.

I picked up a six pack with the resupply and we sat at the welcome center while we processed our purchases into trail food.  I gave a couple of the beers away and planned to hump the last two out for the last leg of the day's walk which was about 7 miles to the next shelter.  

Even with the great food and a few beers in me, I was still having a hard day.  When Kitchen Sink, a section hiker that I swear I had met before somewhere, suggested an easy road walk along the Housatonic River that meets up with the AT down the trail and avoids the last few hills, I decided it fit into my new rule called "EarthTone's Appalachian Trail Inclusion Corridor" (which extends about a mile to either side of the trail).  I was going to take the nice flat road along the river instead of climbing more mountains.  I needed this.

I headed out as Firefly stayed behind to take advantage of the shower. I was still feeling "fresh" from my river cleansing, so I hiked on.  I had brought along two pieces of pizza and two beers and I enjoyed them along the way as I easily walked the road next to the river.  I made a mental note to return one day and walk those hills, but it wasn't happened today.

I eventually met the trail again as it came near the river and before too long, I was pulling into the shelter area and setting up behind the shelter.  I was spent. Push 19 had come to an end.  

While in Kent, I had sent some texts to Hudson, the proprietor of Bearded Woods Hostel and had arranged for a pick up the next day.  It was time to sleep in a bed again.  I had been looking forward to checking out Hudson and Bug Lu's place since I had followed him on his last hike.  It would be a good visit.

Tomorrow would start Push 20. The last push of Phase II-b of Pamola's Quest.

EarthTone and LoGear