Wednesday September 1st, 2021, 0540-1000
Cesar Brook Campsite to RT 341, then Kent, SOBO AT mm 723
3091 gain, 3494 loss
We all got a really early start to beat the rain to town. We should have walked more miles the day before while the weather was nice but the next campsite was over 4 miles away and it was already fairly late when we stopped. Stealth camping is not allowed from MA through NJ, and we’ve been doing our best to stay at official campsites. So we made up the miles in the dark. Picky was off first at 0510 am. He can pack so quickly and quietly, I envy his efficiency. I was off 30 minutes later, noticing another tent that had arrived the scene after I had gone to bed. It’s like we’re on completely different schedules. I’ll bet they were wondering why the mad exodus of 5 people before 6 am.
The trail went up and down per usual but I was hitting all the mile marks in record time. I had 8 miles done by 8 am, which is when the rain started. By this time I was on a nice long, flat stretch along the river again. I passed one NOBO who was looking downtrodden but at least had a tiny umbrella. The trail unfortunately departed the river road for an exceedingly steep ascent of the ridge again. The map showed that the flat and easy dirt road continued all the way to town, so there was either an access issue or probably the trail designers just wanted to take hikers into the mountains as much as possible.
Whatever the case, this little bit was some of the most technical stuff I’ve done since the Whites. It was less than half a mile through boulders but as is seemingly my luck on this trail, came with the added complication of rain. There was one rock where I had to stop for a minute to assess several ways over it. My solution involved pulling myself up by tufts of grass and using my knees to gain purchase on the slippery rock…this was some real down and dirty wrestling to move along what’s supposed to be a hiking trail. Not fun with a pack and umbrella.
There were at least 4 more small ups and downs as I moved along the ridge and all I could think of was the flat river and road down below. I caught up to a guy who I at first thought was Picky but turned out to be a flip-floper. I didn’t say much to him when I passed, as I was determined to get to town and out of the rain. Picky later told me of their conversation when he had passed. He told the guy that we were all getting a room overnight to escape the oncoming storm and the guy replied “it’s just rain.” Good thing he didn’t say that to me because it wouldn’t have gone over well.
I was later reflecting on how I’ve probably walked close to 100 miles of this trail in the rain so far, which is a significant percentage of the time. I did my second longest day in the 24 hour rain of Fred, so I’ve more than proven that I can deal with it. In that instance, I could have hid out in the Blue Barn or even taken an offer of a free place to stay near Hanover, but I kept walking because I didn’t want rain to be the only reason I got off the trail. The forecast had called for 1 to 2 inches, a lot but still manageable.
This time around, Ida was to bring 5 to 6 and up to 8 inches. That much rain causes major flooding issues and is not wise to be out in. Wouldn’t you know it, our new friend changed his tune when we got to town. We all walked the half mile in together, as the rain became even heavier. He said he was just going to get breakfast but as we sat in the safety of the cafe, he was making a call to the B&B to book a room for the night. Just a little rain.
Speaking of the cafe, and kind of the area in general, it was the least hiker-friendly place I’ve been. The waitress made us leave our packs outside in the rain, even though I tried to negotiate with her that my pack was clean, dry and didn’t smell. Wasn’t there a place I could leave it inside in a corner under such unusual circumstances…a blunt no was all I got. It’s not like this place was fancy, just a dumpy little diner. So I declined to order anything while the waitress looked down her nose at me the whole time.
Many comments in the app spoke of what a stuck-up and overpriced town it is, that treats hikers like second class citizens. I get that we can be a little distasteful because we smell and are sometimes covered in mud but I trend towards the very clean end of the spectrum…and with only a faint odor of BO. I even wash my pack on a regular basis so it doesn’t smell too bad. Plus, we were all middle-aged or retired, well-educated adults with credit cards. Had I walked in wearing designer clothes with a Gucci purse, would I have been made to leave my purse outside in the rain? Of course not. Like a purse, my pack contains my most valuable possessions.
The reality of our crappy location affected us all day. There was no way we were getting a hitch anywhere around the area so we called a local shuttle driver, Chris, who was the one nice person we met. She drove us the 10 miles to our motel, the most inexpensive one we could find in the area but still over $100. There was a reason for this. It was along the road 3 miles outside of New Milford, so basically in the middle of nowhere. And it was a dump. The room wreaked of the must of ages and the doors wouldn’t close without a fight because of all the moisture. I read some Google reviews that were hilarious, if a bit alarming. One said it was a great place if you’re looking to shoot up heroin. We were not looking to do this, just escape the rain.
We called Chris again in the late afternoon, hitting the town for food at Chipotle, Panera, Family Dollar, and the grocery. Just the 4 shuttle rides alone cost us $50 but it was still cheaper than an uber. Plus the large grocery and dollar store saved us some resupply costs compared to if we had gone to the small grocery in Kent. Still, it was about the worst situation to be stuck in waiting out a storm, with nothing in walking distance to the hotel and everything in the large town very spread out. Walking even a block was hardly an option, since the rain was coming down so hard.
Yet it still felt like a semi productive day…it beat being stuck in a shelter or even worse, a tent. I hated to have my schedule dictated by the crazy weather once again but it’s just the cards I’ve been dealt. We made the best of it, staying dry and safe.