Category Archives: Appalachian Trail

New England Trail – Days 3-7

April 28 – May 2, 2015

Tuesday, April 28 was another stellar Connecticut spring morning. We sure picked the right week to be out!

More beautiful woods road walking to finish up the Menunkatuck Trail (the southern 17 miles of the New England Trail) and start the Mattabessett Trail section, which would terminate in Berlin, CT, a little under 30 miles north.


  
As we hiked along, the landscape began changing. We were leaving the granite strewn topography of the coast and entering the dramatic trap rock cliff section. Besides the trap rock itself – basalt formed by ancient lava flows that tilted up to create amazing cliffs, another bellweather was the appearance of the Chestnut Oak, a white oak that boasts the deepest bark grooves of any ridge loving species.    

After junctioning with and joining the Mattabessett Trail, we made our first steep ascent of the trip, to the clifftop of Bluff Head. The views were phenomenal — all the way from Hartford to the north to Long Island Sound to the south, the place we had started our hike.  

These rigetop views would be our treat the whole way to Berlin, CT, where we got off the trail on Friday afternoon. The spring warmth finally arrived and we had timed our trip perfectly to get the most out of it before we would need to cede the territory over to the annual black fly invasion.

Over the four day stretch, we would hike over the ridges of Totoket Mountain, Pistapaug Mountain, Fowler Mountain, Beseck Mountain, Higby Mountain and Lamentation Mountain — all fantastic examples of trap rock formations and very fun, inspiring hiking destinations. These cliffs are home to dozens of turkey vultures. On two occasions, I startled them upon my arrival. The first was in a small valley. As I approached a cave formed by two huge boulders leaning against each other, the bird exploded out of the cave, flew just past my right shoulder and perched on a nearby branch. As Wayne came up the trail, the bird looked back at me over her shoulder and with two giant wingbeats, ascended up and out of the forest. What a thrill!

The other close encounter was on May 1st. I was just rounding a corner on the open ridges, when a Turkey Vulture took off from just below me on the cliff. I stood in awe as I heard the powerful “whoosh, whoosh” of her wings and she climbed effortlessly on the thermals. This enormous bird took two passes back toward me before she began making ever widening circles over the green pastureland below. What a treat to watch her and her fellow harriers riding through the sky as part of our daily journey!  

    

   

By mid-day Friday, we were taking in the last views Lamentation Mountain had to offer (on a rocky summit just off the trail) and looking back on the miles we covered and the memories we had made during one terrific 6-day hike. From here, the trail dropped through the woods to the east and then to a .8 mile road walk that led right to piping hot slabs of pizza, thanks to a trailside pizzeria.

Once again, the trail gods were kind. We had now completed the Menunkatuck and Mattabessett sections of the New England Trail. It was time to celebrate. What a great way to end a trip and a great location to start our next journey — the hike that will complete our walk across Connecticut!

 

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New England Trail – Days 1-2

April 25-26, 2015

With the Applachian Trail under our belts (as well as a number of other trails), it was time to cast about for a new adventure.
Wayne and I had been eyeing the Matacomet-Monadnock Trail (through Massachusetts since 1991. When we completed it, it would be our third hike that extended the length of Massachsetts (we completed the MIdstate Trail in the early 2000s and the MA section of the AT in 1990.)

We also knew that the trail extended south to the Hanging Hills of Meriden, CT. (We would undoubtedly do that section some day, too.)

When I started researching the trail in anticipation of a spring trip, I discovered that something had happened in the intervening years since Wayne bought me the Matacomet-Monadnock guidebook in 1991. The trail had been extended all the way to the Connecticut coast and was now known as the New England Trail – a trail given National Scenic Trail status that traveled 215 miles to Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire.

That’s all it took for a new plan to emerge. We decided to make an April departure from the CT shore and hike north as far as we could get in a week.


 On April 25, 2015, we set our boots in the Atlantic Ocean, then turned north toward Monadnock (and eventually Canada, but that’s another story) and started the New England Trail with a 4 mile road walk as a warm up.

  Once we got away from the shore, the trail entered a series of town and state forests filled with oaks and granite boulders strewn about the landscape thanks to retreating glaciers.

In places, there were also signs of old farms and testaments to craftsmanship by way of stone walls and bridges.


 It was a real treat to walk through this landscape after the intense winter we had in the northeast this year and to amble in the short window we had before the black flies would invade.

The geese, ducks and woodpeckers shared our glee. We heard the heralding honks of arriving geese and the chits of woodpeckers all day long.


As is our tradition, we celebrated our first full day on the trail by eating the heaviest meal in our packs. Wayne won. The beef stroganoff ruled the roost.

With lighter packs, we look forward to day two. We don’t know what it will bring, but it is increasingly looking like rain can be ruled out, which is a relief. (Wet gear = heavier packs).

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Why I wrote my first book

I could tell you like so many other authors that I never set out to write a book.

But I’d be lying.

I’ve been yearning to write a second book since age 7, when I wrote and illustrated “The True Story of Dogs in the Army”, which was of huge significance to me. I couldn’t wait until my mother weighed in with her review. It left such an impression that she kept it for more than 50 years. (She recently gave it back to me, which was a great moment.)

Over the succeeding decades, I had several false starts in writing my second book. There was plenty of raw material to work with. I spent six months on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1983. I climbed Maine’s highest 50 mountains in less than a year. I hiked the length of Vermont’s Long Trail between 1986 and 1991. And while those thousands of miles yielded dozens of spiral bound notepads filled with observations and reminiscences, they didn’t give me the one thing I needed to shape them into something meaningful — perspective.

By the time Wayne Cyr and I completed our 28-year Appalachian Odyssey, I was thinking about how best to tell the tale. I didn’t want it to be the typical “we ate oatmeal and walked 12 miles” story that’s been experienced and told many times over. What I wanted to share with my readers is that this journey was different right down to its DNA. It is a story of perseverance, commitment and friendship, all of which strengthened as the years went by. It is also a story of how we began our journey without even knowing we were on one — that by simply following a shared passion for hiking, we were setting out on the adventure of a lifetime.

And so, like our journey itself, my quest to write a book became a different adventure than the one that started when I wrote my first words. I thought I was sitting down to write a book about hiking. But it became something bigger. Something I could only create with the benefit of many years and many miles behind me. The trail was simply the stage. The scenery changed between acts and the actors got older and better as the performance went on. And the play wasn’t so much about the hike per se, but the things that comprise a life filled with purpose and meaning.

As I wrote in my preface, what I came to realize was that,

If we head in the direction of our dreams and accept the winds and rains that will test our resolve, we can experience the deep satisfaction of looking back upon the path of a life well lived.

Little did I know that following the path would also lead to a second book as well.

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Final Journey – Day 9 – October 27, 2013

Completion of AT

Day 9
Hawk Mountain Shelter to Nimblewill Gap
North to South
10.4 miles

Today was the day a 28 year journey would come to an end. I awoke and sat up in my ground pad/lounger, waiting for the sun to rise above the ridge and bring daylight to our camp. At 7:00, it was still mostly dark when we heard the legions of scouts walking past our tent, heading north on the AT to end their weekend excursion. So good to see kids out in the mountains. Nature is such an underrated stimulant to the imagination. Continue reading Final Journey – Day 9 – October 27, 2013

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Final Journey – Day Eight – Oct 26, 2013

Georgia AT - JR

Day 8

Ramrock Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter

North to South

11.0 Miles

A little better at getting up and out today, another sun splashed one. We have been so spoiled on this trip. It’s a lot easier to hike on a dry path with dry soles. The temps stayed higher last night, in the upper 40s – another bonus.

Lots of small up and downs were on the menu today. We needed to do some nonstop work today. I guess you could call it our Crux Day II. An eleven mile day would set us up nicely to reach Springer Mountain tomorrow. Continue reading Final Journey – Day Eight – Oct 26, 2013

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Final Journey – Day Seven – Oct 25, 2013

The view from Preacher Rock, GA.
The view from Preacher Rock, GA.

Day 7

Jarrard Gap to Ramrock Mountain

North to South

6.7 miles

It’s funny how adding the extra day to the trip immediately affected us. The first manifestation was hanging out in the tent for an extended breakfast. It took a while for the day to warm up and we weren’t in as much of a hurry. Just knowing that we only needed to cover 9 miles per day for the rest of the trip was enough of an excuse to brew and extra cup of coffee and wait for the sun to do it’s thing. Continue reading Final Journey – Day Seven – Oct 25, 2013

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Final Journey – Day Six – Oct 24, 2013

 

Blood Mountain (4461'), highest point on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail.
Blood Mountain (4461′), highest point on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail.

Day 6

Bags Creek Gap to Jarrard Gap

North to South

9.6 miles

Not much water left, but enough to make two short cups of coffee. Temps went down to the low 40s last night. Needed any warm up we could get to go along with granola bar breakfast. Now the decision to eat bagels earlier in the trip reared its head. Would have been nicer to have a more substantial bagel and peanut butter breakfast to fight the chill. But, here on the trail, you need to live with your decisions, adapt and move on. Started out with fleece top and kept it on most of the day. Continue reading Final Journey – Day Six – Oct 24, 2013

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Final Journey – Day Four – Oct 22, 2013

Georgia AT Day 4

Cheese Factory Site to Chattahoochee Gap

North to South

9.0 Miles

What a great wake up call! A barred owl began calling in the last hour before sunrise. He or she then perched right above the tent and let out a call, just to make sure we were stirring.

My sleep was fitful, as the muscle that extends from my hip down toward my knee on my right leg was throbbing. Rolling onto it and sleeping on that side seemed to help. Continue reading Final Journey – Day Four – Oct 22, 2013

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Final Journey – Day Three – Oct 21, 2013

image

Day 3

Kelly Knob to site of the old “Cheese Factory”

North to South

8.0 Miles

Awoke to another gorgeous autumn day in the Georgia mountains. One thing for sure, I caught up on my sleep, I slept 8 hours straight, awoke at 4:19 to go out and look at the stars, then dove back into the sleeping bag for 3 more hours of shut eye.  One small annoyance from yesterday was an incessant headache above my left eye, which I attributed to lack of sleep. I relegated it to “check engine light” status. It was a warning that I needed to keep tabs on, but nothing that would take this vehicle off the road for repairs. Turns out I was right. No headache today. Continue reading Final Journey – Day Three – Oct 21, 2013

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