Bearded Woods Hostel CT to Home

July 5th, 2013

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Bearded Woods, Bunk and Dine is a one of a kind hostel. The place is super clean, provides both dinner and breakfast and laundry service shuttles and slack-packing. The house is located about a 1/2 mile from the AT on a wooded hillside outside the village of Sharon in the Connecticut countryside. The owners located the house over two years ago when searching the area to start a hostel.

The former owner had suddenly become ill and passed on, leaving the house wide open and soon in disrepair. It was general knowledge also that the former owner fed the local bear population and Hudson and Lu have fairly frequent sightings of bear in their yard. One notable visitor is Billy Bob, a full-grown male bear who basically believes that this is his mountain.

Out of the abandon house, Hudson and Lu have created a neat place offering most of the comforts of home to those who enter. Lu is a great cook and both she and Hudson have enjoyed meeting hikers years hailing from 38 states and 6 countries in the 2 1/2 years of operating the hostel.

You may have noticed today’s destination is home. Over the past week I became bothered with a sore on my shoulder right under my backpack strap. At first I thought I must have gotten a sunburn but after getting to a bed and breakfast and thorough inspection with a mirror, I realized it was much worse than I thought. Apparently the Deet spray I was using over the past month had caused a chemical burn and the backpack strap caused heat and friction, resulting in a deep chemical burn. The strap was also not very clean and the wound had become infected with pus oozing out and was very painful. There was no way I was going to be able to continue wearing the backpack and get the wound to heal and get rid of the infection.

Denise and I talked Wednesday night, deciding to wait until morning to see if there was any improvement in it by the next day. But by morning I could see that it was not going to heal even in a week, so I made the decision to end my hike and called home.

I enjoyed the hiking tremendously, the scenery, the adventure and most of all of the wonderful people I met along the way. Sometimes I think that too often we hear about the negative acts people do but here on the trail I have seen how kind, generous and giving people are to perfect strangers. I think this was the greatest gift that the trail gave to me.

I plan to return to finish the hike in sections with Denise slack-packing me. When I think about what part of the trail I enjoyed the most, it was the days that she was there with a hot cup of coffee to greet me at the end of the day, or eating dinner with her at a local eatery, or going to the local drive-in theater with her. I appreciate everyone’s support, comments and interest in my hike. I feel truly blessed to be a part of it all.

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Cornwall Bridge CT to Salisbury CT

The Bearded Woods turned out to be a wonderful hostel; proprietors Hudson and Big Lu put on a great spread for dinner and breakfast served with some great conversation at each meal. The owners also provide shuttle service to hikers back to the trailhead of their choice and mine was to where I left off yesterday at Cornwall Bridge.

Here the trail continued with small ups and downs but with few rocks, although I did pass through another tight squeeze similar to the Lemon Squeezer where the AT passes between two large boulders which are naturally placed close together and thru hikers must squeeze through.

The day was going to be a hot one with a 100 degree heat index predicated, but no rain was in the forecast for a change. The Bearded Woods owners told me that June’s rainfall was one of the highest on record with flashflood warnings many days and some roads and bridges were washed out in the area.

After the Lemon Squeeze rocks I am hiking down the trail when I ran into a south-bounder. This south-bounder had four legs rather than the typical two and was covered in sharp quills! You guessed it, a porcupine was coming right towards me and we both stopped in the middle of the trail. For a moment we sized each other up with neither of us wanting to give ground but I won out and the porcupine moved off to the side of the trail, graciously posing for a photo.

The trail then ascends to a ridge line where I came to a rock-outcropping known as Hand-Glider Outlook. Local lore is that Hand-Glider Outlook got it’s name from a man that would rehabilitate injured birds of prey and then with the use of a hand-glider, teach them to fly again before he releasing them.

During the morning’s hike I kept hearing the distant roar of racecars and here I had opportunity to see where the noise was coming. The out-cropping provided a view which overlooked a valley with a racetrack with a race in progress! I had found an enviable balcony seat to view the race and momentarily I became a spectator among hundreds of others enjoying Independence Day festivities.

I continued on the ridge where I met another hiker sitting by the trail eating raspberries. He told me that while sitting there he spotted a rattlesnake slither under a rock ledge. I peeked under the ledge as close as I wanted to get and could see the large, slate gray rattler. Although coiled up I could tell he was sizable and was the 4th one to cross my path on the AT.

The trail then made a descent from the ridge to the valley floor where I crossed the Housatonic River on the Iron Mountain Bridge. This is a clear, shallow river with the riverbed covered in solid rock with many cascading rapids and small waterfalls which fed into small, still pools. Walking on its’ banks, I could hear the laughter of children and adults wading into the pools and letting the small rapids swish over them as they cooled off in the summer heat.

After the river walk I had a gradual climb up Mt. Prospect and had beautiful views of the Connecticut countryside and the mountains beyond. A gentle descent then led me down to the village of Salisbury to end my 21 mile hike. The Bearded Woods shuttle was awaiting my arrival and I was whisked away to spend another night at my favorite hostel on the AT.

Ronnie B heading north.

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Four legged South-bounder

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Starbuck Inn Kent CT to Cornwall Bridge CT

July 3rd, 2013

Starbuck Inn provides breakfast in addition to the bed so at 8:00 I went downstairs to enjoy a wonderful breakfast. After breakfast and collecting my gear I headed downtown Kent to a bank and ATM machine before heading out to the trailhead.

It was a steep incline to greet me immediately but not the rock scrambles that has been the norm of late. From here the trail led me on a series of ups and downs and then a very steep climb up Cabel’s Peak followed immediately by St. John’s Ledges which are stone steps descending rapidly to Housatonic River.

The trail here was wide and smooth, following the river for four miles and it was a beautiful walk. It had not rained all day and this coupled with an occasional cooling breeze and less humidity than previous days made the miles peal away.

At the end of the day there was one more climb up Silver Hill and then a steep descent to CT 4 and .9 miles into Cornwall Bridge CT. There are a couple hotels in the area but last night we researched a relatively new establishment called the Bearded Wood. The proprietors have rooms for rent for $50 per person which includes bed, shower, dinner and breakfast along with shuttles to and from the trailhead in the Kent to Great Barrington MA area.

Tomorrow Hudson is slack-packing me back to Cornwall Bridge and I’ll hike to Salisbury CT where he’ll pick me up for another night at Bearded Woods with a return trip in the morning to Salisbury. This is a good deal and wished I could have found more of them along the way here!

I’m on my way to dinner and to bed early tonight with dreams of slack-packing in my head.

Ronnie B heading north.

 

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Native Landscapes & Garden Center to Starbuck Inn Kent CT

My campsite last night was sandwiched between the railroad and NY 22 so at times it was a train wheezing by that woke me and other times it was road traffic but I appreciated the hospitality at Native Landscapes.

I was up early and packed up by 6:00 as I had a 20 mile day planned to reach the stores located in Kent before they closed for the day. The trail started with an immediate steep climb to Hammersly Ridge where it plateaued for about a mile before beginning a gradual descent over the next 4 miles. The rain and mosquitos were constant companions until noon when the rain stopped but my other companions hiked with me the entire day.

I crossed the NY/CT border about 9:00 today at Schaghticoke Mountain. The trail was very rocky with a never-ending series of steep ups and downs or so it seemed. The downs are more tricky than the ups due to the rocks being very slippery so you have to pick your way down carefully placing each step. I did not fall but nearly did numerous times. From here it was a steep ascent up 10 Mile Hill and an immediate descent to 10 Mile River, which I crossed via the Ned Anderson Memorial Bridge. The rivers churned violently and roared in their movement downstream so I could hear them quite a distance before seeing them today.

After crossing the river the trail again went into another series of small but steep ups and downs until I hiked into Kent. The village has an outfitter where I stopped first for cooking fuel and a MSR. From here it was to the Laundromat to wash and dry my hiking clothes. I had planned to stay at Cooper Creek B&B but they were full as was Fife n’Drum Inn and I was about ready to give up and hike nearly a mile back to Mt. Algo Shelter when I found Starbuck Inn, another Bed & Breakfast that had an available room. It seems like everyone has made it town: Running Shoe, G2 and Wise Owl were all here at Kent. I was surprised to run into Long Trail who had taken a zero day.

It was a tough 20 miles today but again, I have clean clothes on, resupplied, and will get to sleep in a bed tonight, so life on the trail is good again. It’s been 2 weeks and 2 days since I’ve slept in a bed so I’m sure I will sleep well tonight.

Ronnie B heading north.

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RPH Shelter to Native Landscapes & Garden Center NY

July 1, 2013

One negative about shelters is that they are a haven for mosquitos so in the middle of the night after several hours of swatting every few seconds, I got up and put on my rain gear, deeted up and then was able to get some sleep.

The 4 of us were up early, packed up and ready to hike at 6:10 a.m. There was a steady light rain until 9:00 a.m. and then the skies opened up and it poured for about 30 minutes and then it was back to light rain pretty much the rest of the day. By keeping a fast pace you can minimize the number of mosquitos that land so it was a fast pace today and fortunately the terrain was fairly level as the AT goes.

It’s days’ like today that I remembered an AT adage “to not quit on a bad day” and today I had to remind myself of this more than once. But I hunkered down and basically hiked non-stop until reaching tonight’s shelter at the Native Landscapes & Garden Center.

Wise Owl, G2 and I hiked the 20 miles to Native Landscapes and Garden Center which is located right on the Appalachian Trail and making pretty good time by arriving around 4:00. En-route Running Shoe cut his finger and may have stopped at a shelter before this one to get the bleeding to stop.

The NLGC is right where the Trail crosses New York State Route 22. Rt. 22 runs north and south in “The Oblong”, a historic strip of land two miles wide and 51 miles long that, way back in 1731 became the border between New York and Connecticut and, essentially, the southern demarcation between New England Yankees and the rest of the early colonies. Also at this location is a high speed rail system with round trips to Grand Central Station in New York City that runs on weekends only.

The owner of the Garden Center is Peter Muroski and he offers tent camping, has a hiker room where thru-hikers can recharge their phones, a shower and use the restroom. After getting my tent set up and phone recharged, I started to hike to a deli located .6 miles down the road when Pete came by and offered me a ride which I gratefully accepted. Just when you think that things are pretty bad, they can turn around very quickly and in a short order I was sitting at the deli eating a humongous Italian sub with a fudge brownie for dessert. I even got a sub packed away for tomorrow! So I’m back in my tent the rain is falling, I have dry clothes on, the mosquitos are on the outside trying to bore in but my tent is holding firm and I think today wasn’t so bad, I can make it another day.

Ronnie B heading north.

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Rail to Grand Central Station

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Graymoor Spiritual Life Center to RPH Shelter NY

Sunday June 30, 2013

A heavy fog blanketed the morning air and my tent was wet when I packed up to begin today’s hike. It was hot and muggy and the mosquitos were out in force for an early morning feast of thru-hikers.

The terrain has leveled out some and the jagged rocks of Pennsylvania are replaced with smooth normal rocks – easier on the feet! A couple miles later we hiked into Clarence Fahnestock State Park and took a slight detour to the concession stand where I enjoyed a feast of my own with a cheeseburger, fries, 2 oranges, a cookie, Gatorade and an ice cream bar for dessert. While here the sun had popped out so we laid out our tents and they quickly dried while we finished eating.

Refueled we resumed our hike and within 20 minutes of returning to the trail the sky let loose with a heavy downpour. It did not last long though and washed off some of this morning’s grime and cooled the air as well.

Partway through the afternoon I was hiking along when suddenly a wild turkey exploded onto the trail about 10 feet in front of me. I think that I must of startled it as much he did me and he began to gobble frantically while flapping his wings wildly. In turn I began to holler at him, waving my hiking sticks and clanging them together to scare him off of my path. It worked and he moved off the trail and calmed down enough for me to get a photo of him, It’s too bad I didn’t get this on video because it would have been hilarious!

In talking with my wife today she also had a funny story about some wildlife at home. Apparently a skunk had taken refuge under our deck but after a hefty dose of ammonia, mothballs, a sprinkler and a broom, the skunk chose to vacate.

Tonight’s shelter is the RPH. It is a well constructed block building with a door – a novelty as most shelter’s go and has 8 wooden bunks on the interior. Another great feature is that you can have pizza delivered to its’ door! So four hikers feasted on 2 extra large pizzas tonight and will go to sleep with full bellies. Today I hiked 1,100 miles on the AT.

Ronnie B heading north.

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Tenting at Graymoor Spiritual Life Center

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William Brien Memorial Shelter to Graymoor Spiritual Center NY

Saturday June 29, 2014

The hike today started with more hand over foot rock climbing but after each climb we were rewarded with some pretty amazing views. Black Mountain was the first climb and I got my first view of the New York City skyline. After a steep descent Running Shoe and I crossed Palisades Parkway, a busy 4 land highway, stopping at the Visitor’s Center to refill our water bottles and grab a coffee to go. From here we had another ascent at West Mountain providing another photo opportunity with some great views. It was here that I noticed a tower in the far distance.

Bear Mountain was our third climb today but here the trail turned into a nicely graded road and hiking trail including steps, a change from the boulder hopping of recent days. Reaching the summit we came to Perkins Memorial Tower which is a tourist attraction and I realized  was the tower I saw in the distance earlier today. The area was busy with day hikers and section hikers all taking in the views of the NYC skyline. After taking in the view the trail made a quick decent and past Hessian Lake and since it was only 1.5 miles out of our way, we decided to take detour into Fort Montgomery for some supplies before returning to the trail.

The trail there travels through a tunnel under US9 and right through a zoo! The zoo has 2 brown bears – in cages and is the lowest point on the entire AT. From the zoo we trekked across Bear Mountain Bridge which crosses the Hudson River. As we crossed the Hudson, it crosses my mind that it was on the Hudson where Captain “Sully” successfully landed Flight 1549, saving many lives and becoming an American hero.

Our next climb was up Anthony’s Nose, a mountain which provides views of the Hudson River that we just crossed. At its’ summit we walked level for a short distance but then it was straight down for our last descent of the day and then fairly level hiking to Graymoor Spiritual Life Center to tent camp for the night. The camping here is free, offering showers and a privy and there are a lot of section and day hikers camping here tonight also.

Ronnie B heading north.

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View of the Hudson River

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Wildcat Shelter to William Brien Shelter NY

Friday June 28, 2013

There were four thru-hikers seeking shelter from the storm last night. The storm produced 2 inches of rain, thunder pops and quite a light show but by morning the rain ceased, the clouds parted and we departed by 6:00 a.m.

The terrain here consist of a lot of boulders and ups and downs in fairly quick succession and a couple miles into the hike is a waterfall named Fitzgerald Falls. As you can imagine, the recent rain had increased its’ water flow considerably and it was spectacular.

From the falls we traveled north and east crossing West Mombasha Road where we found jugs of water left by some kind trail angels. After refilling our water bottles we then had to ford a stream which had also felt the effects of last night’s rain. We could see stepping stones but they were underwater about 4 – 6″ but the rocks were flat-topped and we found it easy to find our footing and crossed with ease. East Mombasha Road was our next road crossing and it also had been visited by a trail angel providing fresh water to thirsty hikers.

The trail continued with rock climbing and ups and downs throughout the day with some places so steep that I needed to go feet first and climb down backwards. It was a challenge! At one point we came to a location which I had read about previously in other trail journals named the Lemon Squeezer. It’s a good thing this AT feature is at the section of the trail and not in the beginning because I’m not sure I could have “squeezed” through at my starting weight. Here you must remove your backpack and carry it in front of you while you squeeze between the two gigantic boulders on either side.

The woods here are beautiful with large gracious trees allowing you to see deep into the forest making for an enjoyable hike until reaching tonight’s shelter named William Brien. It was a 20 mile day and I’ll sleep well in my tent tonight.

Ronnie B heading north.

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Fitzgerald Falls

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St. Thomas Episcopal Church Vernon NJ to Wildcat Shelter NY

Thursday, June 27th

I woke up rested and ready to hike at 6:00 a.m. Many thanks to St. Thomas Episcopal Church who offers respite to thru hikers by providing showers, towels, shampoo, laundry, TV and a laptop all for a donation and a little help with cleaning.

I was out the door at 6:30 and headed over to the Mixing Bowl for a fine breakfast of eggs, fresh sausage, hash browns, OJ and coffee, all of which was exceptional and the price wasn’t bad either. While there I noticed a table of older gentlemen enjoying breakfast and conversation and soon joined in by introducing myself and how I am thru-hiking to Maine. One of the gentleman Mike Segal, a beef farmer, who walked with a cane and was probably in his 70’s generously offered to give me a ride to the trailhead, saving me 2.4 miles. A good night’s rest, a good breakfast and a ride – man this is starting out to be a good day!

The hike started with climb up Wawayanda Mountain and although I’ve climbed much higher, it was fairly steep offering a good stretch to the calf muscles right off the bat. The view at the top is named the Pinwheels Vista providing a view of the valley I walked yesterday into Vernon. From here I followed a winding wooded trail for several miles, stopping at Wawayanda State Park to refill my water bottles before heading on.

It was soon this that I came to a boulder scramble with New York/New Jersey state line painted on them and at 12:30 I scrambled over the boulder was now in the State of New York. Good feeling to know I’ve made it this far.

Eight miles later I made a slight detour off the trail to a hot dog stand for an all American feast consisting of 2 hot dogs, bag of chips and a coke to wash it all down. Nearby was an ice cream stand so ice cream for dessert! I knew this was going to be a good day!

From there it was a quick 2 mile hike ending at my abode tonight at Wildcat Shelter. Rain is in the forecast so I opted for a roof over my head rather than tenting.

Ronnie B heading north.

 

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High Point Shelter to Vernon NJ

June 26, 2013

Had my tent packed up and was hiking by 6:30 am. this morning. I had a 19 mile day planned.

The trail followed along farm fields for most of the first part of the morning, I kicked up two deer that were bed down in a tall grassy field. It was a more rural area, crossing many roads as it traveled through the valley.

Around noon I took a side road to the town of Unionville New York, it was only about a half mile from the trail. The trail actually runs close to the New Jersay and New York State lines. I stopped in at a place called Annabele’s Pizza, and had a sub sandwich and coke for lunch.

After lunch it was back to hiking, and the trail now went through a swamp for approximately a mile. You walk on a elevated boardwalk, it was a really beautiful area. You would think the mosquitos would be bad in a swamp, but I didn’t notice any, it could have been because a steady breeze was blowing through, it was a really pleasant walk.

I was soon diverted back into the woods to finish my day’s hike. When I came to NJ-road 94, I stopped at a place called Heaven Hill Farm, that sold fruit, vegetables, ice cream, and they. Even had a bakery. I ended up having two hotdogs, two bananas, and two oranges. After finishing all that, I went back for butter pecan ice cream.

I planned to stay at the St Thomas Episcopal Church Hostel, in Vernon NJ., which is 2.4 miles down the road. It’s illegal to hitch-hike in New Jersay, so I ended up walking all the way to Vernon. It was worth it, getting to shower and do laundry.

Ronnie B. heading north.

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