Monday August 30th, 2021, 1015-1830
RT 7 to Riga Shelter, SOBO AT mm 687.2
4524 gain, 3547 loss
I slept well and had a leisurely morning in town. A trip to the PO and Subway were about all I accomplished. I got a take-away sub to serve as lunch and dinner. We got a ride to trail with a trail angel named Papa Joe. He takes donations and I also bought a canister of fuel from him. He was a hoot, showing us his spreadsheet of hiker stats from 2019. He took detailed notes, getting our names and direction of travel. He’s retired and just seems to be really entertained by hikers.
To start out, we hiked for miles through the river valley, enjoying flat and gently rolling fields. It was great trail and fast, if a bit buggy. Thankfully a breeze was blowing to keep the suckers at bay. I had also put on bug spray. It was like walking in the Shire. We made a lot of LOTR references, with some GOT mixed in just for fun. I also enjoyed a quality petting of some very friendly cows. COWS! I saw so many of those out west but none were friendly like these Massachusetts cows. One licked me with it’s huge tongue and I felt bad that I had bug spray all over my skin. Also, sorry about the beef brisket the other day…I really have been trying to stop eating beef but had a moment of weakness.
We could see a high ridgeline ahead and knew we would be going up it soon. Sure enough, we were climbing steeply. We stopped for a short break at a lookout, where 2 guys came by. One had taken a fall and warned us about the tough, steep terrain. There was a lot of rock slab to negotiate, but it opened up along the edge of some cliffs, offering some really scenic hiking. We could see all the way back to Mt Greylock. I enjoyed this stretch a ton.
We caught up to a SOBO named Heartstring and had lunch with her at a shelter. She was one of those rare thru hikers: middle aged and with 2 kids at home that she was missing greatly. She seemed lonely and was lamenting not having a tramily. She had been hiking with Jinx, my USCGA alum, early on but Jinx had gotten off trail for a spell for a wedding, leaving Heartstring alone.
We wished we could have helped in this regard but with our fast pace, it didn’t seem feasible to all hike together. Heartstring was still working her way up to distances over 10 miles, while we have been shooting for minimums in the low 20s. We bid farewell after lunch…I hope she finds some hikers that match her pace.
The last part of the day held a steep climb of Bear Mountain, the tallest peak in Connecticut. In preparation for this, we stopped at the CT/MA border for a soak in the creek. It was cold water and the skies had become cloudy, so I no longer felt too hot. No sooner had I soaked myself and clothes that it started raining. So of course we had to negotiate the steep rock while it was also slippery and streaming water. It’s not enough that parts of the trail are hard, there have to be compounding factors to make it even harder. All the comments in the app warned of how treacherous the trail would be if it were wet…par for the course it seems like.
The thunderstorm let up just as we got to the top. We were able to admire some more views and dramatic clouds. We meet several groups of college kids that were out for their orientation trips. Yale, Trinity, and Dartmouth all do this apparently. At the shelter, we found a pair of SOBOs, Shower Beer and Just Ben. The rain had stopped but I heard thunder in the distance, so I decided to sleep in the shelter. Plus it had a great view down into the valley, which is rare for a shelter. I figured it would be nice to watch the sunrise in the morning. I just had to put up with some pesky skeeters buzzing in my ears until midnight. All in all a really great finish to Massachusetts and start to Connecticut.