This is my original Appalachian Trail journal from 2001 (Edited for grammar).
It includes additions that were written sixteen years later (in 2017). These are in italics.
Monday, August 20, 2001
Wiley Shelter to Kent, CT
Today’s Miles: 12.7
Trip Miles: 1439.1
I was the last hiker out of the shelter this morning, and fixated for the rest of the day on getting to the town of Kent.
I passed into Connecticut! Since I was finally in New England you’d think I whooped it up and hollered and celebrated the achievement, but it wasn’t like that. I simply had sort of a “Well, it’s about time, Duct Tape!” kind of feeling.
The trail beautifully followed the Ten Mile River this morning. The different character of the woods in New England already began to shine, as I silently went about my way beneath the eaves of thick stands of pine and spruce.
The local lean-to (They’re not called “shelters,” but “lean-tos” in Connecticut for some reason beyond me) was nicely situated in an open field near the river. A young couple that stayed there last night was still hanging around. I enjoyed their company for a minute, while stealing glances at the rapidly clouding sky. They were in a fix because they had just been in Kent the day before and forgot to pick up some iodine. I wish I could have helped them out, but I use a filter.
There was a considerable climb up Schaghticoke Mountain (That’s a mouthful) after the trail turned away from the river region. I then walked the rolling ridge the rest of the day, going through an area comfortingly coined “Rattlesnake Den” campsite. I still haven’t seen any rattlesnakes in almost fifteen hundred miles.
In a mailbox register along the way I read that Freebird simply wrote “Must… get… to… Kent.” I mirrored those thoughts exactly!
I wasn’t in town long when I saw The Amazing Dolphin Boy and Indian Summer! I thought they’d be a day ahead of me, because they’re consciously doing “big” miles now… something those of us straggling back here really have to focus on now. The town’s only inn was town was booked, but Dolphin Boy and Indian Summer graciously invited me to share their room with them. There was even a fold-out cot in there!
We enjoyed dinner together (I ate a whole pizza of course) and discussed our prospects of getting to Katahdin before the snow gets bad.
After we were settled back into the room, Indian Summer said “I’m going to run to the gas station quick – do you guys want anything?”
“Great! A liter of Coke, if you would…”
Tuesday, August 21, 2001
Kent, CT to Stewart Hollow Brook Lean-to
Today’s Miles: 7
Trip Miles: 1446.1
I think tonight is the first time I’m sleeping inside a shelter for at least a week.
Dolphin Boy and Indian Summer left town well before me, and I spent some time picking around the library and restaurants. Climbing back into the mountains was easy. Descending St. John’s Ledges was not.
It was a steep, rocky way down the Ledges, with some mammoth steps. The process went – sit – slide butt – drop – repeat. Handholds (Unsuspecting saplings) were hard to come by, too. I think I would have rather gone up that thing, which would have been no piece-of-cake task either.
The rest of the hike was a piece of cake after that. Wouldn’t that be something? If the hiking actually transformed into a nice big piece of chocolate cake? With sprinkles too… mmmmmmm. And icing, and maybe chocolate chips in it, a bottle of whipped cream on the side, and…..
The end of the day was a flat stretch that followed the Housatonic River. Across a wide point on the other side of the river, apparently accessible by road, there was a lone guy sitting on a log, strumming away at an acoustic guitar. The sound came loud and clear to me – I seemed to vaguely recognize what he was playing but couldn’t place it. I also saw a great blue heron swoop and glide over the ripples of water. I’m fortunate enough to spot herons in a city park at home on occasion, but it’s awesome to see one here anyway.
I’m alone in the shelter tonight with Tenderfoot – surprisingly another northbound hiker. This is seemingly the only shelter along the whole trail that doesn’t have any devices to hang food to protect it from mice, so I made one of my own with a peanut butter jar lid and some parachute cord. Life is good.
Wednesday, August 22, 2001
Stewart Hollow Brook Lean to Cornwall Bridge, CT
Today’s Miles: 4.1
Trip Miles: 1450.2
I didn’t really get enough rest in Kent, so I thought I’d go into Cornwall Bridge today. I slept late at the shelter today, spent some of morning hanging out with Tenderfoot, went back to sleep, and then spent some more time sitting around before I began hiking.
I finished the river walk along the Housatonic that began yesterday, then ascended a little more before beginning the road walk into town.
While crossing the bridge, a guy on a bicycle far below the bridge along the river called up to me, “Where ya headed?”
We awkwardly had a shouting conversation for a few minutes, as it was difficult for me to make out what he was saying over the noise of the traffic behind me. He said he goes camping up at Baxter State Park every now and then, and mentioned to me how beautiful it is. His voice sounded kind of like the actor that plays the flight instructor in Top Gun (Tom Skerrit).
I will sleep well tonight in the comfort of a motel room. Life is good.
Thursday, August 23, 2001
Cornwall Bridge, CT
Today’s Miles: 0
Trip Miles: 1450.2
I’m taking a zero day here today – I’m not really sure exactly why.
I woke up pretty late, and I guess I just feel that I still need one more day’s rest. I know I can’t really afford to take many more zeros…
There’s a Philadelphia Eagles preseason football game on tv tonight. It’s sort of hard to believe it’s that time of year already – the NBA season was far from over when I started hiking! Anyway, I just wanted to say that the Eagles are the team this year!
Ahhhh…. Tv. Life is good.
These last few days in Connecticut make it glaringly obvious that I would not finish the Appalachian Trail in 2001. Maybe I didn’t have it in me psychologically, or maybe I was genuinely physically exhausted.
I’d like to think it was the latter reason as opposed to the former – exhaustion based on malnutrition sounds a whole lot better than lack of mental fortitude, don’t you think?
Friday, August 24, 2001
Cornwall Bridge, CT to Belter Campsite
Today’s Miles: 11.1
Trip Miles: 1461.3
It turns out that Khaos, Sherpa, and Puck stayed in the same motel that I did last night. Their hiking group was a foursome a few days ago, but they stepped over a bee’s nest on the trail and were swarmed! The friend they were hiking with had swelled up badly, spent a night in the hospital, and left the trail for home.
They were stung innumerable times themselves, and tried to relate to me the utter horror of the experience. I could see that they were still very spooked. Bees always get nasty this time of the year.
I hiked nearly the whole day with them, and the miles seemed to go by quickly. It was humid early in the morning but soon turned into a beautiful, clear day.
We passed a cool spot with a short runway where hang gliders can launch from, and marveled at how exhilarating hang gliding would be – the closest thing to flying.
During one point at dusk, Puck was leading the way, followed by Sherpa, and then myself with Khaos behind. Puck later said she was just about to turn around and sing a song lyric when all of a sudden she jumped back about a million feet and screamed “Rattlesnake!”
The following moment was pretty amusing – she and Sherpa jumped back while I was simultaneously stepping forward, pushing and shoving them out of the way going “Where, where?!”
And of course, there it was – I was so happy to finally see a rattlesnake!. Ah-ha! Duct Tape has finally tracked down the wily beast!
But it didn’t rattle at us, and oh… I so wanted to hear it rattle, just to know what it sounds like. It was so well behaved, and Puck and Sherpa weren’t too keen about the prospect of provoking it to rattle, so they talked me out of it.
They explained how it’s “bad snake karma” to get a snake pissed off at humans, opening the possibility that the next person that comes along may not have such a good experience. That made a lot of sense to me. It was a courteous rattlesnake too, eventually slithering off the trail as if to allow us to pass. And after we did so, it resumed its position on the trail! Very nice.
Puck later remarked that she always feels lucky when she sees a rattlesnake. Sherpa added that we are lucky, because this type is an endangered species! The whole experience really made my day. Tonight I’m tented out on a bed of soft needles among some cool pine trees. It’s such a peaceful evening. The mosquitoes attack yet again, but it’s no matter, I’m beginning to feel a sort of Fall-ish feeling in the air, which will soon kill all of them off!
HAHA!!! DIE, MOSQUITOES, DIE!!!!!
Uh, excuse me.
Life is good.
Saturday, August 25, 2001
Belter Campsite to Sages Ravine
Today’s Miles: 18.1
Trip Miles: 1479.4
Finally a good, long, solid day, and a gorgeous one at that!
An early start on this Saturday morning was mucho helpful. There was a small coffee shop not far off the trail that was open for breakfast. I of course took them up on it, and let me tell you, the place was hopping! I downed some good food, and met the young ridgerunner Mountain Goat, who was having breakfast as well. He hiked north out of there, and I eventually followed.
It was a beautiful morning, and this was boosted significantly by my caffeine/sugar high and a very forgiving, flat stretch of trail for a few miles. The trail went down a side road passing right in front of a local high school, and its cross-country team ran by me. Ah, to go back to those days… I wished them all a good season.
Soon afterward I came to a waterfall aptly named Great Falls, and took a long refreshing break there. Boy, did I feel great. The falls were spectacular, with a number of smooth, rocky ledges. There was even a small overhang in one corner that would have been incredible to sleep on a starry night.
I hiked alone for a breezy seven miles up Prospect Mountain and through some lovely woods, until I came to a road that leads into Salisbury, Connecticut. Meryl Streep apparently lives near the trail in this area. Big whoop.
I walked into town to check out the outfitter stores for a new pair of shoes, but they didn’t have anything that interested me. There was a cool classic hot dog stand on a corner, with one of the wheelie things and an umbrella – you know, the old fashioned kind! I felt great about giving him ample patronage, and bumped into Mountain Goat (the ridgerunner) again in town.
Leaving town was a beautiful walk too. Okay it was all a beautiful walk today. I wound through a poignant field and passed a cemetery before climbing up to the Lion’s Head view. It was such a clear day and a significantly great view, which is saying a lot, because at this point many of the views just look the same.
The day hikers there amused me greatly, because they’d huff and puff all the way up to this great place, only to spend less than five minutes here and then walk right back down! I mean, if you’re going to go to the trouble of coming to a spot like this, take some time at the top to enjoy it. Of course, maybe my grizzly, stinky presence scared them off! Hmmm.
Mountain Goat was there too, and he took my picture for me. I proceeded north and met him again at Riga Lean-to, where he’d stay the night. He explained how the sun came up directly within view of the shelter in the morning, and it was very tempting for me to stay there as well, but I knew I had to keep moving on – to take advantage of my motivation and put in some miles.
I made it to Sages Ravine just as it was dark. It’s getting dark so much earlier these days. I’m sure Puck and Sherpa are probably only two miles ahead or so. What a good day, from the early morning all the way through to the late evening. Life is good.
Sunday, August 26, 2001
Sages Ravine to South Egremont, MA
Today’s Miles: 10.9
Trip Miles: 1490.3
I crossed the border into Massachusetts today.
I was up and hiking before it was even light out! Very nice.
I got to the Bear Rock Campsite about half an hour after Sherpa and Puck left – I just missed them. I spent some time chatting with a ridgerunner and went on up Race Mountain. The trail on this mountain was very exposed, walking along a cliff of sorts, and it was awesome!
Getting an early start took its toll though by the time I got to Race Brook, where I took a long break and ate a large amount of english muffin/pepperoni sandwhiches. I met a day hiker going down Mount Everett as I was going up it. He was an older gentleman with a big beard and wooden walking stick.
“How far ya headed?” he asked.
“You’re running a little late, aren’t ya?”
“Yeah,” I said, agreeing, “It’ll be close.”
He looked at me up and down, as if to size me up, then smiled and affirmed, nodding his head,
“You’ll make it.”