Tuesday August 31st, 2021, 0610-1745
Riga Shelter to Cesar Brook Campsite, SOBO AT mm 709.3
4616 gain, 5476 loss
We got an early start but had a lot of distractions again today. Technically, New Jersey is called the deli run part of the AT, but we’ve been making a lot of small town stops since Massachusetts. It’s so hard to stay focused on hiking miles, between the weather and towns. Sunrise at the shelter was nice as anticipated, then it was all downhill to Salisbury, a tiny town with a small grocery. I bought random things like naan and guacamole for breakfast.
The trail in-between the next town was nice. There was an open meadow with a gorgeous view. There was also a cool stone-henge like rock…perhaps a portal to other times like in Outlander. I touched it but nothing happened. No hot Scottsman for me. Just before the next small hamlet, we passed a dam and waterfall on the Housatonic River. The town was Falls Village…very original.
We went to about the only place in town: an overpriced coffee shop and bakery. I got a milkshake that was a decent value calorie-wise and a pastry. We lingered for too long at the cafe. We were trying to decide what to do about the next hurricane remnants coming our way, Ida. The forecast called for a lot more rain than the last 2 that hit while I was in Vermont and it seemed like a good idea to get off trail for a night. Problem was, this area is one of the most expensive we pass through and our options were very limited. Also, it had been just 2 days since we were last in town and I hated to disrupt my pace yet again. It was bad timing to be sure.
After calling a few places, we still didn’t have a plan but at least some better ideas. We hit the trail, walking along the river for a few miles. It occurred to me that this river provided an excellent aqua-blazing opportunity for over 30 miles of trail… that’s when long distance hikers paddle a river to cover miles. The AT pretty much parallels the Housatonic much of the way through Connecticut. In fact, this was the same river we walked along on the way to Great Barrington. It’s said to be heavily polluted with PCBs from a GE plant in Pittsfield Massachusetts but rolling along in a canoe or kayak would have suited me just fine, just no swimming. There are no PUDs on a river, just flat and straight miles. This would be a SOBO-only special, given the flow of the river. I saw a canoe sitting on a bank and was tempted to do some pirating. Next time.
Entering the woods and ridges again, we could hear noise from a nearby racetrack. It grew to a dull roar for what seemed like hours as we walked. I put on music and still couldn’t drown it out. It was such lovely trail through thin forest and with the sun shining, but the racetrack completely ruined the experience. I started walking as fast as I could just to get away from the noise. I can see why others complain that the AT is not much of a wilderness experience…it certainly has a lot of distractions most days. This can be good to break up monotony but also very bad, like being reminded of frivolously burning fossil fuels for race car practice as we’re all suffering from another record hurricane season due to climate change. They should come up with a hurricane alphabet using NASCAR names, maybe to draw some parallels. Yup.
The rest of the day was nice, in the woods and more quiet. I stopped to take a dunking in a stream, a daily ritual now. Camp was 2 miles further, allowing my clothes to dry some. We found Shower Beer and Ben already set up there, having walked one of their longest days yet. I felt like I had wasted a lot of the day with all our stops yet we still did over 20 miles. Not bad. Today we saw about 6 NOBOs after a lull of 1 or none the previous few days. Still a trickle but certainly the time of NOBOs has come and gone. It was only us 5 SOBOs at the campsite…a great spot it was, too. Quiet, flat and with a nearby stream. We passed 700 trail miles…only 1500 left.