General Note: The following post contains photos – many of which were taken by my camping buddy. They should not be copied or otherwise reproduced without permission and never for profit. Please click on the photo to see a full-sized version in your web browser. I take full responsibility for all fuzzy, blurry, and unfocused pictures.
After a long few weeks of hitting the books instead of the trails, I finally decided it was time to get back to basics and explore a little bit of the local CT/MA wilderness. For whatever reason, the decision to do so coincided with American Thanksgiving and so I spent this holiday of excess eating less than 1000 calories a day and hiking over some of the more rugged terrain either state has to offer (though admittedly that isn’t saying much when you come from British Columbia – or California, as is the case for my hiking buddy).
After a brief stop at the local Trailblazer to pick up what would prove to be woefully inadequate supplies, we drove to north-western CT where (as has been mentioned on this blog before) the Appalachian trail cuts across the state before diving into the North Taconic range in Mass (never ask me to spell Massachusetts without a spell checker… results range from funny to depressing).
I should note that at this point we are both fueled up on Panera sandwiches and feeling pretty darn good about the short hike from Under Mountain Trail to Sages Ravine – both because the hike is about 3 miles and because we have done it before (last time when my buddy was a bit worse for wear). You can tell I was pumped up on carbs and calories because I took this opportunity to leap through the parking lot like a complete doofus.
My hiking buddy was excited too, but a little bit less demonstrative. From here on out, I shall refer to him as Smokey.
Note: For more information on Under Mountain Trail and Bear Mountain (the highest peak in CT), I suggest you head here. To get to Sages Ravine from the point where the Under Mountain or Paradise Lane Trails hit the Appalachian Trail (clearly marked by the famous “white blazes”), head North-East until you get to a stream – the campsite is just a little bit further down and across the stream.
Once we got on our way, Smokey – a budding paparazzi – took every opportunity to catch me in action.
And I took every opportunity to steal his very fancy camera, snap shots of him hiking, and grumble over the fact that he is about 10x more photogenic than I am. Curses!
While on the Paradise Lane Trail (an offshoot of the Under Mountain Trail that conveniently circumvents Bear Mountain – especially convenient when it is getting dark and you don’t want to be caught scrambling down the rocky outcroppings on the North Eastern side) we caught sight of what we thought at the time to be an adorable rarity – a porcupine!
It turns out that porcupines are common along the AT and that they have a predilection for salt that often leads them to drag away the boots of unsuspecting hikers and gnaw on them in the night. Still… he’s pretty darn cute.
After some time, we arrived on the AT. We were both pretty happy to be there and it should be noted that I came up with the stupidest “Yay, the AT” pose ever invented. Smokey followed suit.
My trail buddy was becoming increasingly skeptical about whether (a) I knew how to take a photo in any kind of focus and (b) I was capable to traversing the wilderness without falling flat on my face (or rear). Suffice it to say this photo proves the first is possible. As for the second, I am arguably the most clumsy person in Christendom and… and… there were lots of leaves on the ground…
We arrived at Sages Ravine and I took the opportunity to jump for joy (again). It sort of looks like I was photo-shopped into this picture and I would like someone with good photo-shop skills to cut me out and paste me into some other camping pictures (here’s looking at you, Canadian Hiking Photography!) so I can pretend I went somewhere cool).
Smokey set up camp.
It was around this point that we realized we had the following food supplies: 4 “Backpackers Pantry” Meals (3 Louisiana Beans and Rice and 1 Kung-Pao Chicken and Rice), 4 Luna Bars (Chocolate Peppermint, of course), 4 packets of hot-chocolate, 1 Peanut Cliff Bar, 10 packets of instant coffee, and 6 packets of instant oatmeal. We had planned to be camping out for 3 nights and hiking over 25 miles so obviously something didn’t add up. After having dinner of 300 kcal Beans and Rice each, half a cliff bar each, and a packet of hot chocolate each (more on that hot chocolate in a moment) we found ourselves contemplating how to ration out the remaining food. We settled on the next day consisting of oatmeal in the morning (390kcal total/person), a Luna Bar snack (180kcal), beans and rice for lunch (300kcal), kung-pao chicken dinner (370kcal), and a packet of hot chocolate each (90kcal) totaling to 1330kcal (which, after hiking 7 miles left us at a fairly serious deficit). Anyways, enough on that subject… we chocked it up to experienced and vowed to prepare better in the future.
The next morning we hiked down Sages Ravine, past a beautiful stream and some lovely little waterfalls.
After crossing over the border to Massachusetts and signing the trail register (something I take great joy from reading), we emerged eventually onto a series of cliffs and ridges that overlook the state East of the Taconic range. We took a short break to soak in the sights.
And Smokey proved once again that he is infinitely more photogenic than I am.
A few miles on – after ascending Race and Everett “mountains” (I maintain that a mountain must be at least over 3000 ft to be classified as such), we dipped down into a valley containing 2 AT shelters/lean-to-sites. For some reason we decided against the Hemlock shelter (note: this had nothing to do with capacity or crowding as we saw only 2 day-hikers on the trail and no-one else over-nighting…. probably because it was American Thanksgiving Day) and headed to the Glen Brook Lean-To. Here is me looking rather dubiously at what would prove to be a mouse-infested box.
Near the shelter was a deeply impressive shelf fungi (yes, I made many fun guy puns, much to Smokey’s disdain) that I insisted Smokey photograph for my fungi loving mother (hey, mom – I love you!).
It was not long after this that we discovered a little rodent friend had made fast and loose with one of our much-desired hot chocolate packets. We were fairly annoyed. The mouse seemed to lose interest in us once we slung our food up in a tree but let this be a warning to anyone staying at the Glen Brook Shelter – keep your food wrapped up (mice!) and sling up your boots (porcupines!).
One of the best parts about camping on the AT in Mass is that you are allowed to light fires in designated fire pits (unlike in CT where they are banned in all locations). We had a fire pit right outside our lean-to and – perhaps driven by memories of the previous night’s brutal temperature drop (our platapus water-bags were partially frozen in the morning) – we started a roaring blaze to ward off the winter chill.
We slept fairly ill that night – mostly thanks to a creepy/creaky tree that had us convinced we were about to be attacked by ghosts or bears or possibly a sasquatch – but woke up ready to make the long trek back to the car on 300 calories of breakfast (beans and rice… getting a bit repetitive at this point) and a granola-bar each. Fearing fainting fits brought on by deprivation and altitude gain (albeit relatively little altitude gain), we decided to hike down to Mass-41 and return to the car via civilization. With about 3 miles to go, we were scooped up by some very nice AT section/day hikers in a pickup who asked us for our trail names (erm… Smokey and Clumsy?) and dropped us right back at our point of origin.
All-in-all it was a fun-filled trip and I look forward to getting back onto the AT soon. As winter is coming up I am thinking of buying some snowshoes (read: asking for snowshoes for Christmas) and doing some legs of the trail in January). If you have any brand or style recommendations, comment below!