Half a mile from my tent I pass a woman out for a morning walk. We are high up on a ridge and its 6am on a dreary weekday morning, so I am surprised to see her, although If I lived here I'd want to walk here too.
I spend most of the day following ridges, which is a pattern that will repeat itself throughout Connecticut. Road crossing, climb, ridge walk, decent, repeat. The mist blankets the landscape. The cliffs overlooking the landscapes below becomes the edge of the world. The drizzle turns to rain.
My guide pages suggest that I "stop for lunch in the quaint village of Tarriffville." I look forward to arriving to a trail town and fantasize about the pizza I'll order and the soda I'll drink. As I descend upon the town I begin to hear airplanes... no, it is thunder. The rain turns to a storm. The two or three restaurants in town are closed since it is only 11am. With no place to get a meal, nor buy the plastic spoon or fork I was hoping for, I spot a gazebo in the town common and take shelter. I play the role of a strange vagrant hunkering under this small roof as the rain blasts down and bounces off the concrete streets around me. Everything is soaked. I rehydrate some ramen and eat it "push-pop style" out of a zip lock bag while shivering in a rain coat and short shorts under the gazebo.
The thunderstorm breaks and returns to just a heavy rain. I'm sick of sitting here and developing hypothermia so I refill my bottles at the water fountain nearby and walk on, regaining my internal heat as I stomp carelessly through puddles. I can't get any wetter.
I pass through a McMansion town in the evening. A disappointing, but brief section amongst an otherwise fantastic trail. I briefly consider a hotel stay to dry out and rest but I can't justify the outrageous $160+ nightly fee. Since I can't camp here, I push on and settle down once returning to the woods after having hiked nearly 30 miles. The sun peeks out for the first time in two days for the final thirty minutes of the day and the night is dry.
I wake to rain once more. It is now the third day of rain. I hike four miles as quickly as I can to the next road crossing. My left knee feels weird but I excitedly carry on because I've spotted on my phone that there is a shopping center with a supermarket, coffee shop, movie theater, and all the rest half a mile off trail just ahead. As I walk this ridge I see the stores at first off in the distance... then closer... then further away as the trail bends away. I hit the road and take a right. I'm drenched and stumble along a road definitely not designed for pedestrians, but I'm glad to be here. I get a giant cappuccino, banana, and veggie bowl. My first hot food and fresh fruit and vegetables since I started 5 days ago. I'm thankful to have a fork again and stuff it in my backpack's side pocket.
As I return to the trail along the shoulder of the busy road, I see another hiker coming towards me on the opposite side. He crosses to my side and we chat among the whizzing cars and pouring rain. His name is Woody and he is thru-hiking northbound. We share info about the respective sections we've completed and part ways. My spirits are boosted to have met another overnight hiker. He was the first and only other overnight hiker I saw on the trail.
Back in the woods, my left knee is getting worse. Bending it hurts enough that I don't want to do it, so I start limping, trying to keep it straight. I'm thankful to have trekking poles giving me three other working legs. After I few hours of this, I decide to pop a few pills from my first aid kit in hopes it'll decrease inflammation and reduce the pain. I worry if my slowed pace will prevent me from making my goal of Cat Tails shelter tomorrow night. I carry on..
|Castle Craig, Hubbard State Park.|
I reach Hubbard Park and Castle Craig. The castle is truly a tower and is made of the trap rock I have been scrambling along for hours. Visibility is barely 100 feet, but the sign at the base of the tower says the 32ft tower has the "distinction of being the highest point within 25 miles of the coast from Maine to Florida." The ridge is only 976ft so I doubt the validity of this claim. Regardless, I climb the spiral staircase of the tower, and stand alone atop the world with no views. The world is my oyster!
|Descending from Hubbard Park, the view opens enough for a nice panorama.|
The next morning I awake before dawn. It helps that I managed to pitch my tent in the least comfortable place ever and essentially slept upside down. Today is an exciting day. My plan is to hike to Cat Tails Shelter and meet my friend Marty for the night. I think I have about 22 miles to go, which should be okay, but yesterday my knee was so iffy. Thankfully my knee is feeling better today and only really bothers me on the descents.
|Lots of scenic cliff walking on Connecticut's ridges.|
Marty arrives shortly after dark and in the rain. It's good to see him and really talk to someone for the first time in nearly a week. It seems like we might have a cold, rainy time together. The rain breaks and Marty starts a fire. He brought marshmallows and drinks! This is a real nice way to spend a night out here...
|Morning at Cat Tails Shelter|
I have about 21 miles left to the ocean and to complete the trail. While there is time to push hard and finish tonight, I decide a more leisurely finish early tomorrow would be better. It looks like I have about 10 miles today, and then 11 tomorrow giving me an early finish. That sounds good.
I wake for the last day on the trail, and its raining again. I check the forecast on my phone and its going to rain for at least two more hours. I figure there is no point in trying to wait out the rain, so I decide to just get going. I'm exciting to finish this hike, and there is a diner with vegan food awaiting me!
I have 17 or so miles to reach the ocean, but they are flat and I'm pumped up so they quickly dwindle. The rain subsides according to schedule. I reach a salty tidal river, so I must be getting close. The sun even starts to come out and I feel its warmth after 6 days of rain, mist, and clouds.
|Sun shining in Guilford, CT !|
|Chittenden Park - Southern Gateway|
This is it! Chittenden Park is at the end of the road with a big sign that reads, "New England Trail / Southern Gateway". I pick up a sea shell as a memento and find a hiker log book. I sign the log, "only need to put my feet into the ocean to complete my Mt. Monadnock to Long Island Sound thru hike!" I cross the field. It's getting windy and cold so I put on my puffy coat. I pass the last two blazes and walk out to beach.
There is an Osprey flying nearby. I step into the ocean. It's cold but feels nice on my tired feet. My hike of the New England National Scenic Trail is complete. I'm thankful to have been able to complete this hike, and thankful for those who create and maintain the trail!
I return to the boardwalk where the grassy field meets the sand. It's nice to have completed this hike with everything but my tent dry. I sit to put my feet back into my now dry shoes when out of nowhere a torrential downpour begins! Before I can put on my raincoat I'm soaked to the skin from head to toe. A fitting way to end a dreary week on the NET! I slosh back to the train station and catch a train to New Haven where Marty is hosting me for the weekend before my return home.
This has been a wonderful adventure.
|Mt. Monadnock to Long Island Sound!|