Day 3 – Connecticut Section Fall Hike
Day 2 had left me a little stiff, and I slowly began stretching out my stiff limbs as I worked to motivate myself to climb from my little cocoon of warmth. The most challenging part of the day was putting on damp hiking clothes from the previous day. I had forgotten to bring them into my bag with me the night before, so I now lay spooning the little ball of wet, smelly clothing as I waited for it to warm.
The evening before, Linda and Bob had told me that there would be a meteor shower and that the shower’s peak was between 4 AM to 5 AM. I laid on my side, watching from under the edge of my tarp as lights flashed across the campsite and dark forms moved slowly through the dim pools of light.
Anything worth doing or seeing always seems to occur at inconvenient times – sunrises, low water river crossing, meteor showers. Even sunsets happened when I wanted to crawl into my shelter and sink into an exhausted sleep.
Linda and Bob were making breakfast when I walked over and immediately offered me some filtered water for my oatmeal. Today’s breakfast meal was from Outdoor Herbivore. Cooking and Fall foliage were the highlights of this hike. Cold oatmeal, shoveled down with a grimace, had been standard on other hikes. It was SO MUCH BETTER hot, though.
Sugar was moving around in her tent, and I suspected she would be over shortly. I had heard her ask Linda to wake her up for the meteor shower the night before and was impressed since it was about 4:30 AM. But then again, I was impressed I had woken up at 4 AM.
We never did see any meteors. Well, Linda claims she saw one. We ended up sitting and chatting for a half-hour, and I’m not sure any of us paid much attention, to be honest. A half-hour was about all I could take of the cold without moving, so I said my goodbyes and grabbed my pack. I had packed up my camp before breakfast and was ready to go.
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Hiking Before First Light
Since I had woken up so early, I was hiking in blackness. It took me a minute to find the trail with all the leaf cover. It was a good thing the trees were blazed so well; I thought as my headlamp flashed across a white mark ahead.
As I began climbing the first real hill of the day, I came to a minor out-cropping of rocks. I muttered to myself as I picked my way sideways across the face of the stones. This was not much fun with only my headlamp to light the way. I don’t find much to appreciate about night hiking, but I do enjoy walking with the world as it awakens.
I love to hear the birds come alive and to watch the sun begin to peek over the horizon and through the trees. Out here, every day is a fresh start, a new adventure that is ever-changing. The world sings to life, and I feel the intoxicating power of that life all around me.
Detours and Squeezes
Once arriving at CT 4, I noticed a sign for a detour around Guinea Brook. Picking my way down the hillside, I noted the creek was passable if you did not mind getting your feet wet. However, it was still cold, and I felt a little lazy, so I decided on the detour. The detour traveled a half-mile down CT 4 and another half mile back up Old Sharon Road.
After crossing West Cornwall Road, I made my way another .3 mile up to the “Lemon Squeezer.” It is a large boulder that has been cracked in two. The trail squeezes its way up between some rocks, climbing over some smaller boulders in the process. It is nice to have a light pack here.
The hiking was reasonably moderate, as I made my way past Pine Swamp Brook Shelter and Sharon Mountain Campsite a couple of miles later. There were some lovely views also – i.e., Hang Glider View and the Cornwall race track, which I heard long before I arrived. It was race day.
Even the race track was picturesque, nestled into the hills blanketed with bright Fall colors. Clean and pristine were not adjectives I would use to describe a track used to race fuel-burning machines, but they fit this track.
Counting my detour, I had hiked around 13 miles and decided to call it a day @ Belters Campsite. The next day would be only 10 miles, so I would have a couple of “leisure” days. As usual, I was hungry and looking forward to cooking dinner.
Before Belters, I stopped at the water source for the campsite to grab my water for the evening. It was a slow-moving spring, with a small pool at the bottom of the trickle of cold, clear water. I gulped down a half liter, savoring the taste and crisp sensation. This was better than any water I could purchase or run from a spout.
Often I would carry two liters out of town and then stop to empty and refill them from a creek at my first opportunity. Finishing my water, I tilted back my head and paused to listen. Bears frequented this camp, but birds were singing, and chipmunks were chittering, so I knew no bears were nearby. I scooped up a couple of liters of water and headed up the hill to find a spot for my shelter.
Finding a campsite took a few minutes. I’m picky about my tent placement and making sure it is flat since I’m a light sleeper. There was a HUGE group site at the bottom of the hill, below the “official campsites,” but it was spooky with its towering spruce leaving pockets of dark shadows for things to hike in and peek out at me.
Most of the campsites sloped slightly, so I chose Site 2 since it had a small flat spot just big enough for my shelter. Site 2 also provided some brush and needles to set upon. One bad thing about established campsites is that they are often packed dirt that turns into a muddy mess if it rains. I should probably have camped elsewhere, but the woods were a little dense in this area, and this site was more accessible. It also had bear boxes.
I cooked dinner and settled in for the night. There was not another soul camped here, but I would have visitors before the night was over.