AT RunVenture Project Segment No.12
AT Segment #12 April 29- May 1, 2022 NY route 52- Cheshire MA miles 1437.8- 1582.5
This one is a Doozy! The logistics for this segment were a nightmare, but we pulled it off… with a little (a lot) of help from our friends!
April 29th, 2022 Celia and I were both flying into Laguardia airport in Queens, NY. This was a fairly bad idea. When we planned it we had a ride from the airport to the trail, but when we confirmed a couple weeks out our ride had forgotten and was no longer available. So, we were flying into a busy International Airport in NY with no way to get to the trail. I suggested we cancel our flights all together and drive up from Maryland but due to cancellation/ flight change costs for Celia we opted to keep the plan and we would need to Uber or Lyft to the trailhead south of Pawling NY.
I was pretty stressed about the entire thing! Upon choosing to fly, Wednesday night was the best option and so we had tacked on 21 miles that night, which means, in order for the entire logistical plan for the weekend to work- we had to get that done. We would need to sleep on the trail that first night. We would need to carry sleeping bags, liners, pads, extra layers for 30 degree overnight temps- all that weight for a desperate 3-5 hours of sleep on wooden planks. It was not a great plan, but we’d managed worse. We were ready. Celia and I took the time from work and prepared for the stress of travel, hopeful logistics and heavy packs.
Tuesday night though, Celia messaged me, her college roommate Amanda, had just agreed to pick us up from the trail at the NY/CT border and allow us to sleep in her home for a few brief hours and then return us to the trail the next morning. In other words, no heavy pack, no achy and cold sleepless rest! This was amazing, all we had to do now was get to the trail.
Celia’s flight went off without a hitch. Mine, well, the Lyft from my home to the airport was a long political discussion with the driver who felt quite differently than I about, well, pretty much everything. It wasn’t a bad ride, other than the cigarette smoke baked into the air and fabric, but the intensity of staying in my metaphorical lane was not really what I had in mind. Luckily, I live only twenty minutes from the airport and the discussions about our American’ freedoms ended quickly.
My flight really didn’t go too badly, I was only delayed about 35 minutes for takeoff and but still landed at LGA within minutes of the expected arrival time. Celia had about 35 minutes lead time on me at LGA and all I could think for her to help us save time on that end was to get us coffee. She did and we planned to meet in baggage claim. We should have realized sooner, but we hadn’t, the airport has multiple baggage claims. She does not fly Southwest and I always fly Southwest, needless to say we were not in the same place.
Nearly half of an hour later, Celia arrived to my baggage claim via the shuttle (according to airport staff it should have been two minutes for her to get to me and presumably 15-20 for me to have gotten to her) and we headed upstairs to Car pick up location. While I was waiting for Celia I pulled up the Lyft app and about lost my mind when their best ride option was a 10:40PM arrival (it was 5:40pm at the time) and would cost $540!! I began texting F bombs to Celia and my husband as I frantically downloaded the Uber app instead, which Hallelujah! offered the price and arrival time I’d expected, 6:45pm for $230.
Once we arrived to the Car pick up location, I pressed “confirm” on the app and a man noticed us immediately and offered to take us to the location right now for the same price, plus tip. He quite literally grabbed my phone and canceled the official “Uber” ride. We were a little concerned but between the hustle and bustle and stress, we hopped in. Writing this now, that seems to have been a fairly careless decision, but at the time seemed appropriate.
We arrived at the trailhead by 6:50pm and Celia was charged a whopping $340 for the ride. She didn’t question it and didn’t tell me she’d been over charged $90 dollars until we were walking North on the trail. We agreed to let it be, we were here on the trail, safely and as quickly as we could have hoped with all of the delays- so the money was the least of it.
We hiked happily into the darkness. The trail was kind to us with very little in the way of elevation gain or rough terrain. We made great time and without running more than a step or two we arrived at Hoyt Rd, 22 miles from our start by 1:30am and Amanda was there waiting to take us to her home. It was a very quick drive and once we had arrived Celia and I enjoyed our post run “snacks” to try and help our bodies heal by 7am. We were up in bed by 2:30am and both struggled to rest well after the stress and the hiking from the prior few hours.
The sun streamed in the window and Celia was wide awake. She went downstairs to chat and catch up with her friend while I snoozed and took my time rolling out of bed. We ate lots of delicious oatmeal and Celia of course had sweet potatoes. We had a lovely early morning visiting with Amanda and her family. Then, as quickly as we’d arrived, we were getting dropped off at the trailhead for a 28 mile day.
As soon as we crossed the road we saw the “Welcome to Connecticut” sign and we could check NY off the list! Only 5 more states to go!
Connecticut, was a known AT challenge- to hike all 50 miles of it in 24 hours. We were not taking part in such a challenge but we knew people did it- so the state had to be “pretty easy.” Connecticut started cold and blustering that morning as we climbed Ten Mile Hill. I took off pretty early that morning as I was anxious to enjoy the trail and to get home, literally to my childhood home just 6 miles off trail from Cornwall, CT in Goshen, CT. I called my Dad from the top of the climb to let him know we were on track and hiking north. I told him my ETA and he let me know he likely wouldn’t be able to get to the trailhead to pick us up until an hour after that, at least. So, I knew I had lots of extra time and could not or should not push too hard. Not to mention, I didn't want him to drive back and forth for Celia and I because we would be coming in at different times. I continued to move at my pace and figured I’d worry about it later.
The sun was warm despite the wind and as long as I was running I was very cozy. I stopped in the first hour just on the other side of Bull’s Bridge to take off my rain pants and extra layers and then continued up Schaghticoke Mountain. The view was lovely. I was tired, deeply exhausted tired. The climbs felt much harder than they were, which made me slightly nervous for the remaining 120 miles ahead of us, but I knew it was mostly from lack of sleep and the copious stress from the prior day. I coached myself through it, remembering I could rest and walk as needed, that despite my “need” to push myself, I could take it easy. After a few less notable ascents and descents there was Caleb’s peak, which looked daunting on the Far Out app.
The climb actually wasn’t too bad but I still found myself sprawled out on a rock around 13 miles into the day, breathing heavily thinking, “Oh my… the Whites might kill me! Why in the world have I been running so much? I really need to work on my climbing skills.” I had another snack and took 2 of my “Up Time” caffeine pills which usually works like magic. I got to my feet and completed the climb, then was brought to my knees down St. John’s ledges. The steep descent down the back side of Caleb’s peak had seemingly never been mentioned in anyone’s recap of the Connecticut Appalachian Trail. It isn’t long, but it was as memorable and as death defying as descending Dragon’s Tooth back in VA. I carefully moved down the 18+% graded AT stairs, then shimmied down the rock faces. I rolled an ankle only once and fell sideways into a soft pile of leaves which I sprang from as quickly as possible imagining ticks crawling all over me!
After that exciting descent though we had FIVE FLAT miles. It was strange how long the trail stayed flat and smooth. I ran all five miles, eating and jogging along. I was thrilled that the 50 minute jog along the Housatonic River had dropped my overall pace for the day. At the terminus of the flat section the trail ascends back up a climb to Silver Hill. I felt like molasses as I climbed but I was still holding a solid pace.
Next, I climbed up Breadloaf Mountain, one of the last ascents of the day. Celia and I had tossed around the idea of adding miles to the day, getting one more road crossing up, but that was 9 miles! We would have considered 4, maybe even 6 but were both really struggling through our low mileage day as it was. I had designed the logistical plan for that day with our exhaustion in mind. It was short on purpose so that we would not appear rude getting in too late to my parents’ place, but also so we could go to sleep with the sun to recover from a rough first night and clearly, even though we’d been treated to a warm bed instead of a cold 3-walled lean-to, we still both needed better sleep.
I arrived to West Cornwall Rd at 2:45 pm. I was 15 minutes slower than my fastest prediction which was perfect, except I figured I had about an hour and a half to wait in the 48 degree weather. I quickly put all of my layers available back on to trap in my body heat. I debated walking to the next shelter 1 mile uphill or possibly just walking towards my house, I would stay warm and my Dad would find me somewhere along the route or heck, I hadn’t yet tried my hand at hitchhiking, and if I were going to try I felt like the town next to where I grew up seemed like a safe place to start.
I got even luckier though, I had only just zipped up my rain jacket and put my gloves on when a man in his 70s walked Southbound out of the woods and began to put his things into a car I’d watch pull up and wait for only a minute or two. He looked at me and asked if he could give me a ride somewhere. I said yes and they kindly drove me the entire 6 miles home. He and his wife lived up in Mass and he is hiking some the AT in segments of about 7-9 miles a day a few weekends a year. I thanked them profusely for the ride and ran inside to find my Dad had just arrived home and was planning to leave to get me. Instead we chatted and caught up until Celia sent me her ETA.
Once my Dad and I had picked up Celia we then drove back to the house. Celia and I showered, charged all of things and tried to relax. My Mom got home and, I love the woman, but she seemed completely unaware of the exhaustion we were feeling. Our tired bodies and minds could hardly keep up with her conversations. My Mom, well, she doesn’t really understand what I do, or what Celia and I are doing. She, herself, is exhausted from her job which she will be retired from only one week after we pass through CT. It was my hope that she’d already be retired when we came through so that she might be interested in our project but instead her focus was on her survival and not ours. She was wonderful for allowing us the comforts of her home and my Dad was a bit more interested in us. We ate and prepared for sleep. Celia laid down by 7pm or so and I took a work meeting and tried very hard not to nod off. Then I spoke with my kids and husband briefly and I was out cold by 8:30pm.
The next morning went smoothly. I woke up and took care of making coffee in my Dad’s stovetop camping stove coffee pot. It makes about 16oz of coffee at a time. It’s plenty for him and his daily coffee needs but it required a little extra effort to get my second cup and make sure there was plenty left for him. We were ready to go right on time and we were back to the trail by 6:30am for a 36 mile day which would start by take us up Roger’s Ramp. This climb was fairly short but it helped us get warmed up. From there we twisted and turned on the ridgeline trail until we ascended to Mount Easter passing the “700 miles to Katahdin” sign. Then, we had a lovely descent to Falls Village where we ran the road for a while before popping back on trail after a view of the Great Falls. Here, while following the river on our left I saw a bear across the river and I showed Celia. This was the first bear she’d seen. We took pictures and video and continued on.
We continued on and summited Mt. Prospect and somewhere in the woods around 13 miles into the day I looked back and did not see Celia. I slowed for a minute or two and then knew it was time to do my own thing. I broke into a jog and ran through Salisbury CT and then climbed to the summit of Bear Mountain, Connecticut’s highest peak at 2312’. Connecticut had been much easier that day, we assumed the addition of sleep into the equation helped a lot. There was no “molasses” sensation today, just smooth and strong running. Anyways, according to the map you cross over into Massachusetts seemingly right after Bear mountain. There was no sign saying so until about a couple miles into the state. What you pass through though on that descent is Sage’s Ravine. This was the most beautiful, “secret garden-esk” place I had ever seen. The trail weaved alongside the creek and the rocks, the roots, the moss and ferns created a story like ambience. I came to a small waterfall with a large pool of clear greenly tinted water that looked magnificent with the sun rays passing through the trees. I stopped by it’s side and had a lunch break. I spent nearly 25 minutes taking it in and eating my sugary lunch of pop tarts, gatorade mix and chocolate covered fruit.
As I began to get chilly I knew I had to move on. I finally came to the signs for the state line and crossed the creek into Massachusetts. I began to ascend Mount Race which takes you over these gorgeous ledges. I struggled to hike forward as the view continued to grow behind me as I hiked up the open face ledges. I stopped for photos, then had to send those photos to people then went “live” on Instagram to share the view. It was beautiful. I never knew that, that, was so close to home my entire life. Right after that lovely easy climb, you descend a bit and then you climb Mount Everett which had a grade that was comical.
Mount Everett was the closest to rock climbing I’ve come. The ATC had drilled wooden steps into the rock faces to try make it more “climbable”but I scurried up the rocks loving the challenge. I was peering into the brush when I heard a cow bell jangling and an older couple, likely in their 70s, descending this steep rock face jokingly said, “It’s a bear.” I smiled and said, “Wow, I wish they all sounded like that.”
Once I was at the top I stopped at the cement blocks on top, all that remained of a fire tower, and I basked in the sunshine and celebrated the summit as I almost always do. Once my heart rate had returned to normal I braced myself for a descent similar to the ascent. It wasn’t as bad as I expected but there were switch backs on open rock faces that you could have probably sat down and slid to the bottom of these 30-40’ slabs.
The trail though was fairly easy to move on, at least until I crossed the summit of the next mountain, Mount Bushnell. Coming down that climb was hard! Only for about a mile but it was steep, and covered in jagged rocks. It required maneuvering down rock structures and many typical AT staircases . Luckily, at the bottom you cross Jug road and the trail takes off into the woods with a smooth runnable trail all the way to the Sheffield-Egremont Road, where we’d stop for the day. I tried to convince Celia to tack on the 1.8 miles to the Route 7 crossing, but as it turned out my Dad showed up right on time for my predicted 5pm finish. I had tried to call him an hour earlier to let him know Celia was about an hour back on the trail and he didn't need to be there yet but he hadn't answered and he had brought his book to wait and read.
I spent the time waiting for Celia searching the Far Out map for a better logistical plan for the following night. I unfortunately had very little cell service though and my Dad’s not much of a talker, so the app was about as exciting as it got. I didn’t have great luck with the logistics but tossed a few ideas around. Soon enough Celia arrived and my Dad drove us back to Goshen, CT.
We had a nice evening refueling, showering and we even did some laundry that night. After attempting to call a motel near our next day’s stopping place and finding they had no room, we stuck with the plan to drive all the way back to Goshen again the next night. That meant an eighty minute drive after a long day and then waking up and driving eighty minutes back, but, other than fuel cost it was free. Also, we had our things for flying home at my parents' house and since we’d start the day 10 miles before seeing Keila and Kevin we didn’t have a great plan to manage that either. So we didn’t make any changes.
The next morning was as smooth as the prior day. We woke up, had coffee and breakfast and drove the 40 minutes back to the parking lot. We were off and running by 6:45am. It was a chilly start right through muddy wet fields. Both Celia and I had wet feet in the first ten minutes of the day as we hiked hard over the flat miles and across the fields. Then we enjoyed a steady climb together which was great because we could finally get warm! The first 10 miles passed smoothly and we met up with Keila and Kevin at MA Route 23 or mile 1533.5.
Celia had been waiting for these miles with Keila excitedly. I was happy to have them out there with us as Kevin often runs in from the next parking lot up and I get some company too! Not to mention, aid and support means we travel the miles carrying next to nothing and do not need to stress or worry about much of anything. We had a fairly long stretch to get to the next parking lot at Jerusalem Rd at mile 1544.2. The weather was amazing, thank goodness, the sun was shining and the wind had calmed from the prior couple of days.
I passed Benedict Pond running strong but stopped for some pictures. It was so beautiful and I love spending extra time on the views. Soon enough though I ran into Kevin on trail headed towards me and we ran the long descent out to the road crossing together. Then after my quick pit stop with Kevin I climbed a large hill with a view of a small town down below, the trail then traveled down and across about a mile of boardwalk crossing right through the area you could see from the top of the hill. I believe this was West Becket, MA.
It was a really awesome run. I pushed myself through the runnable sections and although I was feeling well, I was definitely feeling some of the fatigue from it being our 4th day out there. After following the river and seeing a few more ponds, the trail climbed one more mountain for the day, Becket Mountain. This climb felt long but it was really fun and very hikable. I was tired but really enjoyed myself on this climb taking in the forest around me, the sounds and smells of spring. The descent from Becket Mountain, though, was exhausting! The last four miles of the day were technical, muddy and simply rugged. I wanted to continue at a solid pace but I found myself taking it easier and easier, although it didn't feel easy. I was hungry and ready to be done for the day.
I had dabbled with the idea of doing a little extra that afternoon as I knew I had a couple of hours on Keila and Celia but once I got to County Road and met Kevin, I was ready for some real food. I thought about the options for a few minutes. I knew if I ate more I could go for the next 4 miles which was fairly flat, but then I made the decision to just stop for the day.
Kevin and I drove to Pittsfield and ordered pizza and pasta from a restaurant. While we waited, we each had a beer and chatted about the following day and the big finish (Celia and my plans to finish the remaining 465 miles of the trail in July). Once our food was ready we headed back to the trailhead, where there was no service. I was so grateful we had Kevin there and that my Dad was not the one driving out on this obscure road with no way to contact us. I felt like we’d dodged a serious logistical bullet.
Celia and Keila finished up and we drove the hour and half back to Goshen. The four of us, all worked separately on getting what we each needed ready for the next day and getting ourselves ready for bed. I spent extra time chatting with my parents and thanking them for allow us to be in their home in the first place. I gave them big hugs, as we’d be leaving before they would wake up the next day, and then headed up to sleep. Celia and I both chatted for another half an hour trying to get comfy and get our bodies to relax.
The next morning came fast. I got ready pretty quickly and headed downstairs to make coffee for Celia and I and tea for Keila. We all hustled and we were on the road back to County Road at mile marker 1559.7.
Keila, Celia and I started hiking up a small climb and within a few minutes I was outpacing them. I waited, we took a photo together and I hugged them both goodbye. I would go at my own pace today and my friend Dave, from high school, would be meeting up in about 9 miles to crew me for the day and to take me to Albany airport. Celia and Keila would have Kevin and when they were done they’d drive south. Celia would meet her cousin Josh and stay with him until her flight out of Laguardia the following day.
After the initial short climb, the trail was flat and easy to run. I finished the first 9 miles in just over 2 hours, well ahead of my predicted schedule and hung out with Kevin and waited for Dave and his wife Stephanie. They were on time and I enjoyed a cup of coffee and half of a bagel with bacon, egg and cheese before heading out on the trail.
As I ran the next four miles I was suddenly having regrets. I realized that after a crappy breakfast of pop tarts and coffee and then running hard for the 5th day of being on the trail, that I had burned through my electrolytes. I had told myself to replace them before or with my coffee but in the chit chatting and treats I forgot. I felt my stomach turn. I walked a bit and promised myself to fix it at the next road crossing.
Once I arrived I downed some Liquid IV and hoped that’d be enough to balance things out. I offered Dave to come with me and just hike the next four mile section and he agreed. We hiked and chatted through the woods and popped out to the town of Dalton where we walked across town on sidewalks, like a little Sunday stroll. This took us to Gulf Rd where Stephanie was waiting for us. I enjoyed some more electrolytes feeling slightly improved but honestly not very well, though, I tried not to let that show. I knew I had just a few more miles to hike before I would have a few days to recover.
I took off up Crystal Mountain and did not push myself. I had plenty of time, the weather was gorgeous and I wasn’t ready to leave the trail. I hiked up and then descended down into the town of Chesire. I met Stephanie and Dave at the community center parking lot in town. Another 145 miles completed!
After pizza and chit chat for a couple of hours (since my flight was not until 7pm), Dave and Stephanie drove me west to Albany airport before driving back home to Connecticut. It was an amazing day getting to catch up with an old friend after knocking out a some solid miles.
This segment went more smoothly than we’d anticipated. It was a stressful start but after that it was really pleasant. We had amazing support from my parents, Kevin, Keila, Dave and Stephanie. It was almost too easy! Thank you for coming out!!