Trail Journal

Date: August 31 2000
Trail Day: 92
Miles Today: 24
Location: Tom Leonard Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 641
ECT Mile: 1333

I was glad it did not rain last night. I was sleeping in a cozy hollow and would have been in trouble had it rained as water can collect there and get soaked in the sleeping bag. There were no suitable places to tarp.

Crossed Massachusetts turnpike - took a photograph. The flash did not come on so I think it will be a silhoute of me with the road in the background. Mosquitoes continue to be bad. Sit for 5 minutes and they make your life miserable. Things are OK when you are going downhill or flat but on uphills they start biting.

One of the hills had a large bush bursting with blueberries. The bush was about 10 ft tall - not the low ones. The berries on this one are bigger and numerous. I stopped and spent about half an hour picking and eating. If life gets any better than this, I sure would like to know. Also came across several apple trees - not the store kind but smaller. Some were good, others OK. Also saw a 1.5 ft snake. I was surprised when it slithered rapidly towards me - turned out that's where its shelter was. Saw several salamanders.

Met 4 north bounders. I am almost starting to miss them. They were a nuisance in a crowd but a good source of information on future trail conditions. All of them will have to do a good clip to get to Katahdin before they close for the season (Oct 15).

Today was another beautiful day. Started out cloudy but cleared up later. Also saw 3 groups of Yale freshmen. One of the group leaders was Amanda. She is from California. Nice girl. They are very concious of their status as ivy league students. I hope it doesn't go to their heads. In life, humility goes a long way. I got to the shelter and there was a group from Yale. I went to them to ask for directions for water. I caught them spelling out names of things with their butts. They also have a song for when they hang their bear bags. I heard this one from the group that I met near Barrington. It goes ( I am not sure of the first line)

Hey Black Bear
You are big and strong
If you eat our food
We will kick your ass

The shelter is located near a Gulch. Quite awesome. Some of the trail runs on a narrow ledge with a 100 ft drop on one side and a 50 ft rock, the other.

I did not get any chance to meet Digger. He left a last note near Benedict Pond. I think I must have missed him by a few hours. I bet he went into Great Barrington for the night and then to Eaton to catch a flight to California. It was fun interacting and hiking with him. I now feel somehwat alone. I had gotten to know some of the hikers when I slowed down and stopped to meet Suriyan. All of them except for Nomad are now behind me and I dont think I will be seeing them again.

Date: September 1 2000
Trail Day: 93
Miles Today: 18
Location: Near Peak of Race Mountain
Section Mile: AT 659
ECT Mile: 1361

Last night at about 10 PM a north bounder showed up - name: Falafel. He lives in Bardstown. I used to ride my motorcycle to Bardstown a lot when I was in Louisville. Today morning I copied the Data Book section for New York/ New Jersey from him. I will try and get maps in Kent but if not I will manage with just the data book numbers.

I packed, put on my backpack and left. The pack felt very light. Then I realized that I had forgotten to pack my food which was hanging in the shelter. Went back and got it. Falafel and I had a good laugh over it. Continued up East Mountain. This place should just be called Blueberry Mountain - tons of them as far as the eye could see. I spent about a half hour plucking and eating. I was also very thirsty since last night and was out of water. I had to hike several miles before I came to a road. Decided to get water at one of the houses. The lady had just gotten up. She asked me to go to the back of the house and get water from the faucet. She said she had spent a year teaching in Maharashtra, India.

The trail then went past corn fields. I tried eating some of the young corn. It tasted excellent. Ate several more. Then came across an apple tree with the best tasting apples I have come across in the wild so far. Ate some and put 5 in my pocket.

Then a sharp short climb up a mountain. It became very cloudy and started raining. I was hoping to do a 20 but had to settle for what I got.

I am now tarped about half a mile from the peak of Race mountain. I think I am in some buck's territory. He keeps stomping and snorting. If I yell he runs away but then comes back.

I met no north bound thru hikers today. First time this is happening. I did meet a section hiker - Gerard. He is from New York city. He took a photo of me with my camera and I took a shot of him with his. He showed me several photographs of his trip to Canada. They were beautiful.

The mosquitoes are horrible again and I hope the buck doesn't keep bothering me.

A tree with a massive trunk.
A scenic view.

Date: September 2 2000
Trail Day: 94
Miles Today: 26
Location: Pine Swamp Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 685
ECT Mile: 1377

It rained quite heavily last night. I got my sleeping bag slightly wet, quite good considering the heavy rain. There was a lot of thunder and lightning. I waited for it to stop raining and got out of the tarp and started to get it down. It started to rain again and I got soaked.

Continued the climb down Race mountain. I met Waterfall near Sager Ravine. She is a pretty south bound thru-hiker from Louisiana. She has a slight southern drawl. Her real name is Nina Baxley. She was extremely active in about 8 months ago and she had also transcribed a '99 thru- hiker's journal. I knew she was originally planning on a north bound hike but then switched to a south bound hike.

I hiked with her to the junction of Under mountain trail. She was going to blue blaze Bear mountain via this trail. I tried to talk her into climbing Bear mountain (white blaze). She almost agreed but then a north bounder came by the blue blaze and said it was much easier. He had heard from a south bounder that the climb up Bear mountain was steep with climbing bars and stuff. Waterfall then changed her mind and decided to blue blaze. I took a photo of her before we seperated.

The climb up Bear mountain was steep in places but very short. In fact, I had to ask the people already up there if it was indeed the peak - it was so short. There were also no metal bars. I don't know what the north bounder was talking about. I am sure Waterfall could have done this easily. I got a photo of me at the peak. Absolutely no views because of the fog. I was also in Connecticut now, my seventh state.

The climb down Bear mountain was gradual. I made good time on this. some places were rocky but otherwise the trails have a lot of dirt on them - good for friction. We had no such thing in New Hampshire and Maine.

The trail then skirted the town of Salisbury and climbed Wetawa mountain. I met a group of guys doing a day hike to the falls on the Housatonic river. All of them seemed to be in good shape. I got to a place called "The Thumb". It is a vertical rock looking like a thumb. Time for another photo. Also met an older gentleman who had worked for the embassy in Madras, India. He knew several phrases in Tamil. For Americans they say, "The world ends at their borders", indicating their lack of interest and knowledge of foreign cultures and countries. I have found this to be true in general. However I have met a lot of people who not only knew about India but had actually been there and worked there in some instances. I was having Indian food in Thistle Hill shelter about 2 weeks ago and a scout looks at me and says, "Palak Paneer" - the name of the dish I was eating. I was extremely surprised. Bivouac Jack the hiker I met about 5 days ago was married to a Nepali - not Indian, but close enough. He knew several phrases in Hindi.

The trail then climbed down and ran along the Housatonic River. Portions of it were very good, others bad. Also a lot of cutting in and out of roads - easy to lose the trail.

The trail then climbed Sharon mountain. The mosquitoes were very bad, so I had to put on my T-shirt and spray poison (DEET) on me. Got to the Pine Swamp shelter - 26 miles. Cooked and ate rice with tuna - came out good. All I have now is a handfull of cookie crumbs to last me the 17 miles to Kent where I resupply. I also want to do laundry and take a shower there. Also, try and get maps for the NY/NJ section. I should be out of Connecticut tomorrow - small state.

Date: September 3 2000
Trail Day: 95
Miles Today: 18
Location: Mt. Algo Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 703
ECT Mile: 1395

Today's hike had about a 6 mile section along the Housatonic river. There were several local people running and hiking the trail. I also saw and passed a couple whom I saw again on the road to Kent at the trail head. They had done a loop and gave me a ride into Kent. The climb to Caleb's peak turned out to be surprisingly difficult - almost a throw back to Maine with sections where you had to pull yourself up holding rocks.

On one of the lookouts, just before the trail dropped to Kent, I saw a cairn with notes to Crash. This was the place he died. I took a photograph of the cairn. It was sad. Its strange how you are touched by someone you've never met.

Went to the pizza and place in Kent. Had beer and 2 ft of sub. The food and beer was excellent but it cost me an arm. Did laundry and tried to call Kumar, Suriyan and Vivek, No luck anywhere. Got groceries for a day. I've heard there are many Deli's in New York and I will get food there. Met Mama Hotpants there. Looks like there are a few south bounders in Kent.

Continued to Mt. Algo Lean-to. PlayFoot was there. He is doing a section hike. We had a long discussion about hiking, books and philosophy. It was quite interesting. He gave me a glow light. It's extremely light but quite effective. I had been looking to buy one for a while.

Date: September 4 2000
Trail Day: 96
Miles Today: 21
Location: Telephone Pioneers Lean-to
Section Mile: AT 724
ECT Mile: 1416

Happy birthday Kumar. Talked to the groups from Princeton and Playfoot for a while and took off. Tuition at Princeton is 30K a year ! Playfoot gave me a flashlight that weighs about 0.1 ounce. I had seen such lights before and was looking to buy one. Thanks Playfoot.

Continued the climb up the mountain. Passed another group of Princeton students. The trail entered New York state for a mile or so and went back to Connecticut.

Then there was a walk along the Housatonic river. This will be the last one. There is some white water here. Saw 2 large St. Bernard's. Also met Walkie-Talkie and a lady. He did the trail in '97. He asked me a lot of questions on the IAT portion of the hike. IAT has now become fairly well known and I can easily see it being completed several years down the line. There were a lot of people doing day hikes because of the long weekend. It was nice talking to Walkie-Talkie.

Some more miles of bushes and forests and I was in New york - my eighth state - Wow ! The land has been changing quite a bit. The roots and rocks are disappearing and the vegetation in valleys is becoming extremely thick.

Met another group of about 10 day hikers. Surprisingly, all of them were fit. They asked about my hike and the children listened wide eyed. It was cool.

Got to the Appalachian Trail Station. Trains run from here to New York and several other places. You can get here, walk 20 feet and be on the trail - very unusual. Got food at a nearby deli. I drank the beer in a brown paper bag.

It was getting quite cold. I have had no summer this year. Walked another 3 miles to the shelter. There was no one. This is the first time this is happening. In Potaywadjo shelter no one was there but one couple was tented. Even I had tented due to the mosquitoes. In Stony Brook shelter I slept by myself but there was another guy tented, again due to mosquitoes. Cube shelter is no longer a real shelter. I think I will be having the shelter to myself more and more. Saw no north bounders today.

Date: September 5 2000
Trail Day: 97
Miles Today: 20
Location: Top of Shenandoah Mtn.
Section Mile: AT 744
ECT Mile: 1436

Writing this from the top of Shenandoah Mountain. I don't know if this is the summit but sure seems like it. I will be sleeping on top here - going to be my first. The view is spectacular - not the breath taking of the Whites but beautiful in its own way. The sun has set and a half moon is out. Its pinkish where the sun has set and bluish on the other side of the horizon. Overhead is a sky of dark blue, grey and orange almost all mixed together. Another horizon shows long streaks of clouds. Its almost all forest and hills looking from here. Civilization shows itself not blatantly and vulgarly as it normally does but more as a hint that it exists. You can see the electric lines stretch into the distance. In one corner there is a cluster of town lights, quite subdued. There is a flicker of light every once in a while from the towers here and there. And you can hear faintly but not see the turnpike. It is somewhat cold and windy. I am in my thermal underwear. It is very beautiful and serene. It cannot be captured by photographs, paintings or words.

Last night I did have the shelter all to myself - no late arrivals. I have started the "no map" section and so dont know what to expect - sometimes its a climb, somtimes a lake. About 10 road crossings today. Had lunch at a Deli on Rt 52. I did not know if it was to the left or right and ended up doing an extra 2 mile roadwalk. Food was good and I could not finish it. This was a surprise.

Because I had no maps I missed a shelter. Usually, I know where the side trail is, if the shelter is not on the trail itself. Today I started looking for it after I was about a mile past it. All in all a fairly easy, lethargic day of hiking. Saw only 2 hikers to the end - no one else. The north bounder run is over. School's started and there are only a few south bounders. So the trail is actually starting to get a little lonely. I am also avoiding a lot of towns and hiker places due to a philosophical problem that I will write about some time down the line. Now, time to eat a sub and watch the stars.

Date: September 6 2000
Trail Day: 98
Miles Today: 19
Location: Near Hemlock Springs Camp
Section Mile: AT 763
ECT Mile: 1455

The moon set quickly last night. I watched the stars quite a bit. Lots of planes over the area - probably going into or out of N. York city. Another day of numerous road crossings. Got to Rte 9. There's supposed to be a convenience store here which is now closed. Walked further to a place called Stadium. Its a sport bar. I was very low on cash and luckily the place had an ATM. Withdrew some money and had lunch. Turned out quite expensive.

Got back to the trail and hiked 3 miles or so and decided to stop. There's still day light left but I dont feel like hiking. I've also got a slight headache. This area is crawling with deer. They are quite unafraid and curious. I took a photo of one that was close by.

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