Day mileage: 21
AT total mileage: 1,500.3
Time: 8.8 hours
If ever there was a sign from the world that slowing down was the right decision, today was every ounce of proof I'll ever needed. But we'll get to that.
Around 3 AM the skies opened up and a steady rain began falling. The pitter-patter on the tin roof of the shelter made the perfect ambient noise and as the world around us became damp, 8 tightly packed hikers stayed dry and slept soundly in the shelter. In the early morning alarms started going off intermittently to wake people up, and every one was dismissed with a snooze button. Even hikers don't like waking up in the rain. It took me until 8:30 to be hiking this morning, a welcome change for someone who spent quite a while trying to be on the road 1 to 2 hours earlier on a daily basis. Despite the size of the group I actually hiked alone for the first 8 miles as the rain blew through, clouds burned off, and blue skies started intermittently appearing with occasional rays of sunlight piercing through to the forest floor. With wet rocks as the only hazard, I maintained a slower than normal 2.5 mph pace across the ridgeline from the shelter until I was down in the valley where Village Falls, CT was situated. Passing by farmlands, in front of the high school, and through a bit of recreational trail, I hiked out past a hydroelectric station alongside a river. Crossing a very old iron bridge over the river, I noticed Finn and Rocket Girl upstream sitting on large rocks by the water. I hiked on a few minutes to meet up with them, and we sat together eating a late morning snack for quite a while. As we sat together the idea of going into the next town, Sailsbury, located 8 miles further down the trail, came into play. Rocket was hesitant but Finn and I played convincing arguments and we decided we would venture in for a quick stop.
Stopping for a few minutes at a waterfall located just upstream of the hydro turbines, we pressed on towards the 900' climb up Mt. Prospect. Hiking at somewhat different paces, Finn and I made it to the top and further down the ridgeline before stopping to wait for Rocket to catch up. We ate lunch together before moving on at a group friendly pace, talking about music, cars, movies, and life in general. It's so nice to have a new variety of people to talk to and learn to know. We arrived at the road crossing of US Rt. 44 around 1445hrs and began our 0.8 mile hike into town, thumbs out trying to hitch a ride as we went along. Just when it seemed like nobody would be willing, a blue Jeep Grand Cherokee pulled over and we hustled to get our gear in. No sooner did the driver open the door then we were asked 'are you hungry?' and presented with a tray of cold cut wraps from a real estate open house our driver had just come from. Susan, said driver, said she tries to be a bit of a trail angel locally, and drove us the rest of the way into town joking with us and asking questions about our hike. As she dropped us off outside the market in the center of the cute little town, she made the offer for us to head to her house after we finished our errands for an afternoon of swimming in her pool and relaxing. We gratefully accepted her offer, and asked if we could let our friends know, to which she said of course. We parted ways, thanking her profusely, and after getting Rocket Girl some fuel for her cooking stove, made the phone calls and text messages to those we spent the night with at the shelter the night before. We secured a ride back out of town to the trailhead, as Susan had said she lived almost directly across the street from where the Appalachian Trail was. We met up with Deep Blue, Legs, and Dorothy, beginning our trek down the driveway we believed to be the right one. We were greeted by a resident of the home at the end of the driveway, who after some quick explanation of our presence was delighted to inform us that 'Mom always invites hikers over' and gave us the tour of the place, ultimately bringing us around to the gorgeous stone swimming pool behind the house. Overlooking what I later found out to be in excess of 100 acres of property, practically across the valley to the next ridgeline, we swam in the picturesquely blue pool as more of our group trickled in, and our electronics charged at outlets we had been offered around the property.
We would end up being at her house for nearly 4 hours, listening to music, swimming, and talking with Susan and her daughters about each of our treks. She brought out some beer and we mutually enjoyed each others company as the afternoon continued on. I spent quite a while floating around the pool (only after making a stereotypical first dive into the pool, one the YMCA swim instructors from my childhood would have been proud of) and watched the multiple dogs of the house run around the property playing with Naila. We were secretly informed by her kids that it was Susan's birthday, and sang happy birthday in unison the next time she came outside. Despite an invitation from her adult son to came on their property, we decided it was best that we move on the remaining 5 miles to our intended destination, eventually heading back to the trail around 1930hrs. Thanking her again and again for her hospitality and generosity toward us, she snapped a few photos of the group before we moved on completely, heading for the mountain ridge visible from their pool deck. The next 5 miles wouldn't be too difficult, a 1,000' climb to Lion's Head peak followed by a meandering hike past the 1,500 mile mark to the Brassie Brook shelter. The climb happened quickly with our caravan of 8 hikers moving along together. Music was playing on the portable speaker that has secured a role in this story, and we kept a great pace, laughing and joking as we went along. More than a few beers were in backpacks, being carried up to enjoy at the vista atop Lion's Head. Reaching the summit we watched the end of sunset, hanging around until dusk when we eventually deemed it important to press on the last 3 miles to the shelter. Though I've tried to swear off night hiking, the flat terrain and doing it as a group made it a bit easier. We pressed on, eventually finding the entrance trail to Brassie Brook around 2200hrs. Making a somewhat loud entrance, we came across the hiker Kamikaze in the shelter, who woke up to be a part of the rather loud cooking of late dinner that would subsequently occur around a packed picnic table. We stayed up as a group until 2330 or so before I headed for my sleeping bag in the shelter, while most of the group is cowboy camping under the unthreatening sky.
Legs and I talked for a while as I emailed Susan in reply to photos she had sent me, thanking her yet again for her kindness and doing my best to explain the immeasurable happiness she imparted on us. I think we were a bit more than she had expected (both in numbers and general atmosphere, though we were phenomenal house guests who went so far as to take a trash bag around before leaving the house) but she replied and told me she truly enjoyed having us. I don't know the last time I was up past midnight in a shelter was. For someone whose eyes automatically open at 5, it's not a great thing, but the experience of the day called for it.
I kept thinking, sometimes even saying aloud, that this was the kind if day I'd not have if I maintained my normal pace. I'd not have had the time to stop and swim, relaxing with friends. Day one of this new mentality has already showed the potential number of roses available to smell. Many in the group have voiced their happiness about my sticking around, which I'm glad to hear. First thing tomorrow morning we'll enter into Massachusetts. I'll be home, sort of... With 655 miles to go, I'm excited to see what other adventure awaits. A 'longer' day at 24 miles will be nice to hike, and Saturday I'll look forward to hiking with my dad. Good things are happening, and thank you for the outpouring of support after yesterday's blog post.
Onward & upward in the cool of tomorrow's morning.