Eye Diving and Other Extreme Sports

Day 109-117: Connecticut to Vermont, 135.2 miles

Welcome to New England

I like to imagine that gnats have extreme sports. The most extreme of these sports is called “eye diving” and very few gnats can actually do it and survive to tell the tale. Of course they all have to give it a try, because if a gnat were to successfully eye dive, that gnat would be inexplicably famous.

These are the kinds of things I would think of while hiking in Connecticut. There were so many bugs!!! Every 20 minutes or so I’d stop hiking to dig a failed eye diver out of my cornea, only to be savagely attacked by hoards of mosquitoes. On the plus side, I’ve started hiking much faster. Running from blood sucking insects will do that for you.

Connecticut forest

Despite the plague of bugs, I enjoyed Connecticut. There was one section in particular that I recommend taking your time through. The Ten Mile River and Shelter is gorgeous and the hiking in this area is easy. When I went through, it was about 90 degrees and there were no bugs in sight. There was no way I could resist stopping for a swim.

Ten Mile River bridge and excellent swimming hole

Sometimes you’ve got to just pause and relax. As one of my fellow hikers said, “Don’t let hiking get in the way of the hike.” Sometimes we get so caught up in doing big miles that we forget to slow down and smell the roses. We pass up spots like this simply because there are still 7 miles to go before camp and it’s already 4:00. If you’re hiking because you love crushing miles, ignore me. However, if you’re like me and enjoy simply being in the woods, the Ten Mile River is a quality spot.

Out in the Cold

Connecticut was such a brief section, and it felt really good to be cruising through states. As we sailed into Massachusetts, so did the rain and the cold. It was one of those days where the rain feels like little bullets of ice relentlessly pelting your skin. If you stopped hiking you’d turn into a popsicle. I faced these conditions with only a rain jacket and a pair of shorts. The solution: just don’t stop hiking. For 14 straight miles, I did not stop walking. I got to camp so early that day, even before Inasias and Peregrine!

I’m not sure if this is an improvement from my past experience taking selfies with signs that are taller than I am. My face is in it and the sign is in it, what more do you want from me.

I had better luck staying warm than others. Later, I found out that Inasias had gotten so cold during the day, that she stopped after 6 miles and took refuge in a shelter until she was ready to move again. Peregrine had found her and stayed with her, and that was why I got to camp first. Eventually, the rain cleared up. The clouds and the cold would stalk us all the way through Mass.

Upper Goose Pond Cabin

I think the first time I had heard about Upper Goose Pond Cabin was way back in Virginia. That’s how great of a reputation this place has. So I made sure to plan my days so that I’d end up staying there. As I neared the side trail that would take me to this prestigious establishment, I heard voices yelling my name from the lake. Peregrine and Inasias had commandeered a canoe, found me on the trail (which was right next to the lake), and plucked me right off the AT. Best way to aquablaze. Not sorry.

Accidental aquablazing!

We couldn’t have gotten here on a better day. It was cold and gray outside. I shivered every time I stopped, so I rarely stopped. It was a long day, and I was tired, cold, and wet.

As I walked into the door of the Cabin, all of those feelings melted right away. The Cabin is a two story building with a kitchen, a living area, a porch, and an upstairs bunk room. As I entered the living area, I was greeted by a warm fire and other happy hikers. They also had a massive selection of games, and the caretakers’ kids were intent on finding thru hikers to play Monopoly with. Peregrine and I gladly obliged them. Turns out I’m a champ at Monopoly.

Get money.

The Day of Trail Magic

On our way into Dalton, Inasias’s mom and sister met us for lunch and brought us some stellar sandwiches and brownies. We were thrilled, food is worth more than money on the trail. So after leaving there with full bellies, we were happy hikers. We never expected that we’d be the recipients of two more trail magics that same day. At a road crossing we met a man named Rob, who had all kinds of goodies for the group of hikers that had gathered around. I enjoyed a bagel with actual cream cheese for the first time in… I’m not sure how long.

Rob and his group of happy (and well fed) hikers

The last seven miles of the day flew by after that. The plan had been to go into Dalton for the night. As we trekked into town, we stumbled upon EVEN MORE TRAIL MAGIC. A group had just set up a grill with burgers, hot dogs, chips, and drinks. Who says New Englanders are unfriendly? Three trail magics in one day? On a Wednesday? Unheardof! Don’t let anyone tell you the people in the north are less hospitable than southerners.

In town, there is a local who lets hikers stay at his house, but he stressed that we needed to be quiet because of his neighbors. Now, hikers can get pretty rowdy, and there must have been at least 15 tents packed into this guys yard. Nevertheless, it was SILENT back there. You always hear horror stories of disrespectful, loud, rude, and entitled hikers, but I can’t help but to wonder where they are. I’m sure they’re out there, but up to now most of my experiences with other hikers have been positive.

That is a nice piece of trail.

The whole trail culture is unlike any other. Everyone involved in the trail seems to automatically and unconditionally accept you for who you are. Out of everything, I think the people are really what make this experience so special. To see so many misfits all working together for the same goal is empowering. If we can get along out here, with all manner of misery literally raining down on us constantly, why can’t our communities back home do the same?

In the clouds on Greylock

Now Entering: Vermont and the Long Trail

On our last day in Mass, we climbed to the state high point, Mt. Greylock. Still not being able to shake the cloudy weather, there were no views. I was not bothered by the poor weather, my mood could not be dampened. We were about to be in Vermont! One more state to go before my home state of New Hampshire! I’m looking forward to experiencing Vermont.

Southern Terminus of Vermont’s Long Trail.