This is the third, and final trip report describing my Appalachian Trail section hike from Mohican Outdoor Center through New Jersey, through all of New York State, and into Connecticut in, April 2011.
About the Connecticut Appalachian Trail
While the Connecticut AT is only 52 miles long, it’s a very nice state to hike through, with well-maintained trails, nice shelters, and a variety of habitats to experience. Unlike New York or New Jersey, the walking is fairly easy, and there are great views from the hill tops, particularly in autumn.
On this latest trip, I completed the southern-most 20 mile section of the Connecticut AT which I’d never hiked before, finishing up the state. Despite this, I’ll probably come back to Connecticut again, especially to introduce new backpackers to the AT since the trail is so nice here.
Day Twelve: Ten Mile Lean-to to Stewart-Hollow Lean-to (15 miles, 2,000 ft elevation)
I’d spent the prior evening at Ten Mile Lean-to which is situated just off the mighty Housatonic River, near the New York-Connecticut border. It’s a beautiful shelter, facing a pasture that is surrounded by beautiful woods and an old hand-built stone wall.
By morning, I’d nearly eaten the last of my Fort Montgomery resupply and needed to stop at the next town, Kent, CT, for more food. I only had about 20 more miles of hiking to go in CT before my shuttle picked me up and decided I’d splurge a little in Kent and pick up some luxury food for my last dinner outdoors on the trail.
With a town resupply, the agenda for the day was going to be a long one. I had to hike just under 9 miles into Kent, resupply, and then get on the trail for another 7 miles to the next lean-to for the night. I reckoned it would be close to a 20 mile day, if I factored in the mileage needed to get into town and back to the trail. In addition to the mileage, I had about 2,500 feet of elevation to climb, making this one of the longest days of the entire 2 week trip.
I started off early to give myself a time cushion, paralleling the Housatonic, as I traveled north. The river is pretty interesting as you walk up to Bulls Bridge and I noted quite a few whitewater rapids that looked like they’d be fun to play at. I’ve never run this section of whitewater, and while I’ve been out of a boat for almost two years, I want to get back on the water this season.
I was pushing myself by this point trying to get to Kent by noon, but the elevation gain was slowing me down a little. Still I made good time after climbing nearly 1,500 feet up Schagticoke Mountain and Mt Algo before dropping into down to Macedonia Brook and Rt 341 which runs over the Housatonic River and into Kent Center.
Resupply at Kent, CT
Kent had had a some build up in the AT literature as a good place to resupply after Fort Montgomery, but when I hit a town I like to get a feel for it. One of the best ways to do that is to stick out your thumb and try to hitch a ride. Unfortunately, no one picked me up, which is a damn shame because I was forced to walk a mile into town and another mile to the IGA, a full grocery store, tucked away at the very end of town, next to the post office. It was rather difficult to find, to be honest.
When I entered the IGA I was momentarily stunned by the selection of food available. While the store itself is rather small, it is packed with every imaginable treat. I wandered up and down the aisles star struck, trying to decide what I wanted most, and ended up with a quart of Tropicana Orange Juice, Portuguese sub rolls, 2 packages of anti-biotic free Genoa salami, two fresh apples, a brick of extra sharp cheddar cheese, a dozen chocolate covered donuts and a large ice tea. I finally got my salami and cheese fix.
After I’d paid for everything, I wandered outside and sat next door at a bench outside the town post office, where I broke up the food, eating half of it and saving the rest for dinner that night and next morning’s breakfast. I had a feast.
I opened the Tropicana first and nearly chugged the entire quart. My body was craving Vitamin C. Next, I dug into the salami and rolls, finished off a few donuts, and washed them down with the iced tea. What a treat that was! I packed the rest of the food up for later that evening, and started back to the trail.
You Can’t Buy Ice Cream Online
Recharged, I hightailed it out of town, stopping just before the bridge back over the Housatonic at Backcountryoutfitters, to charge up my cell phone and have a chat with the owner.
When I popped in, he was in the midst of remodeling his shop, changing it from a outfitter and outdoor clothing store to a General Store and an Ice Cream shop. The Internet killed his outdoor business, and in his words, “You can’t buy ice cream online.” For thru-hikers counting on a resupply, he still plans to sell fuel, but don’t count on him for anything else except “The Best Shake on the Trail.” Nice guy. I wish him success.
After recharging my cell, I was back on the AT at 2:30, hiking north again. This involved another 1,000 foot climb, this time up Fuller Mountain, Caleb’s Peak, and St John’s Ledges. The ledges are a popular viewpoint, but the high point for me was descending down to the river below them, a precipitous 500 foot drop down a path of 90 stone steps and boulders, and wading through the calf-high leaves at their base.
My guess is that the autumn leaves fly off the cliffs during winter and accumulate at the cliff base, and that I had the back luck to get there before a trail maintainer had a chance to rake them out. Luckily, it was dry day. In rain, the descent would have been far trickier and even more hair raising.
After St Johns, this stretch of the AT is known as The River Walk and runs beside the Housatonic for another 2.5 miles to Stewart-Hollow Lean-to. I cranked up the pace in this stretch, walking on paved road and dirt trail, until I reached the water source for Stewart-Hollow Lean-to and found the shelter near-by. It looks nearly identical to the Lean-to at Ten Mile, but is a little more run down. I think it was built in 1981, which would make it 40 years old.
I finished off my cheese, salami, and fresh rolls for dinner and once again, had the shelter to myself, my last night on the trail. Before crashing, I sent my friend Wystiria an email letting her know that I was 4 miles from our agreed upon pickup and that I’d be on time the following morning. Then I set my alarm for the first time in two weeks and went to sleep before the sun set.
Day Thirteen: Stewart-Hollow Lean-to to Rt 4, Cornwall Bridge (4 miles, 500 ft elevation)
This was my last day on the trail on this trip and I only had to walk 4 miles to the trail head on Rt 4 outside of Cornwall Bridge to meet my ride. I woke up before my alarm went off, bolted breakfast, and packed up camp one last time. I had finished my entire itinerary as planned, and one day early in fact, but the feeling was bittersweet. I’d gotten used to waking with the sunrise and falling asleep exhausted before sunset. I knew I’d miss this natural cadence in a few short days, but there will other long trips in the coming months where I’ll get to experience it again.
I figured I’d be able to make my remaining mileage in two hours but gave myself a little more time, just in case. I hate to be late and I had to climb up another big hill before descending down to the road 4 miles away.
However before climbing that final hill, the trail passes along the perimeter of several large cleared fields surrounded by stone walls and forest. The morning mist still clung to the ground as I passed by these unusual open spaces which must have been farmers’ fields in the past. They’d make a wonderful place for an outdoor concert or a big picnic and are only a few miles from the nearest road.
From here, I climbed Silver Hill, passing near the Silver Hill campsite area which has a nice view of the ridges on the other side of the Housatonic. I could have sworn that I saw a swing set there through the trees, and indeed, ATl Thru-Hikers’ Companion says that there is one there, at the site of the old Silver Hill Shelter, which burned down in 1991. It’s quite close to Rt 4 and is probably worth a return visit someday.
Soon, I made it down to Rt 4, passing a pile of snow on the side of the road in the shade. I poked at it in disbelief. I hadn’t seen snow since my first day on the trail in New Jersey, about 12 days earlier. It’s remarkable that this pile was still here.
I crossed the road to sit in the sun and wait for my ride, sitting just below the sign where I’d started the Connecticut AT nearly one year prior, to the day. I was even wearing the same exact clothes that I had worn on that hike, taken just a few weeks before I hiked across Scotland last year in the TGO Challenge. Funny how everything comes round the circle again.
Wystiria picked me up on time and drove me to her house for a hot shower, while she popped out and got me fresh grapes and a Rotisserie chicken to munch on. We drank strong coffee and ate them outdoors, watching the birds feeding in the sun. I’ve known her and her section hiking husband for years, and I don’t even know their last names. No need, really.
Despite the challenging seasonal conditions, this was a good trip. I finished the AT in New York and Connecticut, and most of New Jersey. If I complete the rest of the Maine AT this summer, I’m going to have to head south of New Jersey next year to start hiking the remaining 1,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Those future section hikes will probably be 2-4 weeks in length, due to the distance from my home, but after this latest hike, I now have confidence that I’ll be physically able to complete them in the future without any further ITB issues. Still next time, I head south for a hike in spring, I think I’ll wait until May before starting out. I don’t want to experience early spring weather like this again on the AT.