Saturday, June 18, 2016

Appalachian Trail Symphony: Days 1-7 (Mozart in the Woods)

Finally made it to a computer for the first time since I started the hike a week ago today.  I decided to temporarily change my blog name to "Mozart in the Woods" as Mozart is my trail name that I have been dubbed (every AT hiker gives themselves or has someone give them a trail name) and it's a play on the book and TV/internet series "Mozart in the Jungle" which I have read and seen, but still wonder whether or not it is a good or bad thing for classical music.  (I have another interesting story regarding that book, but it will have to wait for another time when I have more time to write.)

So I don't have as much time as I would usually have to craft a well written and thoughtful blog as I'm at the library, so this probably won't be as logical and polished as my usual writings, but I want to give you all some sense of my experience as it is happening.  These are mostly plucked from my journal I'm keeping on the trail, along with pictures (also, not as polished as I'd usually like, as I had to take my point-and-shoot instead of my nice camera because it was too heavy and I have no time to do any post-production on the photos.)

Day 1 (6/11/16) - 2.9 miles (NY/CT Border to Ten Mile River Shelter)

We drove down from NH and Diane dropped me off after driving through some torrential downpours in Hartford, CT.  I was worried I'd be starting this hike in all this rain, but luckily it was gone by the time I started at about 3pm.  I hiked about 3 miles to the first shelter and got in around 5pm, with my fully-loaded pack weighing around 35 pounds.  I felt pretty good in general, although uphill is difficult and I need to get more used to it.  Climbed my first hill, Ten Mile Hill, going from 444ft up to 1000ft and camp here is next to the Ten Mile River where it meets the Housatonic, although I'm next to a big group of boy scouts.  I briefly considered hiking on to the next campsite 5.5 miles beyond here, but that was completely dashed when I missed a switchback and hiked probably 1/4 mile down a wrong trail before realizing it.  The "Private Property: No Hunting..." signs should have been a red flag!  But I finally realized it when the trail became less cleared and more overgrown.  I was afraid I'd get lost on the very first day!  I've really been listening to the sounds around me, mostly heard birds and cars.

Ten Mile Hill, my first nice view
Day 2 (6/12/16) - 15.7 Miles (Ten Mile River Shelter to Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter)

Probably shouldn't have done that many miles on my first full day!  But I made it, barely.  Left at 8:15am and got in at 7:15pm, which wouldn't have been a probably except the sky became overcast all afternoon and got dark earlier than it should have, but luckily never rained.  I saw 4 snakes on the day!  One was a medium size snake that must have just had lunch because is had a big bulge in its body.  Then a little baby snake came and slithered up on top of it, probably a mother and baby.

I've averaged about 1.5 miles per hour, which is pretty good I think.  The blisters started, but my "Band-Aid" blister things stick to my sock more than my feet and move around too much.  This day was very painful, and I can't wait until I get my "Trail Legs" and my body becomes more used to it all.  Flat ground is ok, but up is as bad as down.  Up hurts my feet, calves, and lungs, and down hurts my shins, feet, and quads.  And my shoulders always hurt from my pack, and I think that's the worst part.  The hiking poles help a lot, although I feel like an injured person getting around with crutches, or some 4-legged insect crawling around over the terrain.  My right sandal already broke.

Day 3 (6/13/16) - 10.0 Miles (Stewart Hollow Brook Shelter to Pine Swamp Brook Shelter)

Today was much better, still a challenge, but nowhere near as bad.  I think my body is starting to get used to this physical toll.  It seems like I've summitted and de-summitted a million hills already.  The trail so far has mostly followed the Housatonic River, just to the west of it.  I feel this is Charles Ives' land, although he lived a little further south, Danbury, than where I started.  Saw another snake and my first deer of the hike.  My feet really stink, but everything else is not so bad.  It has been difficult so far, but I'm in fairly good spirits and on schedule with 28.5 miles down, which is now my record for a single hike.  I keep kind of wishing each mile will go by quicker, but a mile is always a mile.  But that's kind of the point of a hike like this: there are no shortcuts.  I have to experience every single foot of it in real time, much different from the instant gratification of the internet and computers.  I'm really slowing my life down on this trip.  Between getting up, packing up camp and getting ready, hiking 10-15 miles, eating dinner and setting up camp, it only leaves an hour or two at night for anything else, as bed is between 8-9pm because that's when the sun sets.  No rain yet.
Mountain Laurel are blooming everywhere

Day 4 (6/14/16) - 11.4 Miles (Pine Swamp Brook Shelter to Limestone Spring Shelter)
Today was much easier.  Hiked from 9am-5pm for about 12 miles.  Everything is getting a little easier.  The 9-5 reminded me of my summer job in college working at a music shop cleaning rental instruments, after which I vowed never to work another 9-5 job again. But now this is my "summer job" and I prefer it even if it is 9-5!  It is much harder work, but always changing and every day is an adventure.  The music shop was boring, repetitive, in a cave of a workplace, and made me feel horrible.  I went through my first bit of civilization since I started the hike, just through part of a village called Falls Village.  Went by a high school, Housatonic Valley High, that was setting up for graduation, and then by a hydroelectric dam with some nice waterfalls.  It's a very nice area.  I heard some sounds around me last night when I was sleeping, but it wasn't until dinner tonight that I realized it was mice!  My tortillas had a bit through the bag and the tortillas that I had left all in the same place.  I realized I had forgotten my hand sanitizer, but it wasn't a couple of miles later on the trail that right in front of me was another thing of hand sanitizer that was even more full than the one I forgot! Perhaps my first instance of "Trail Magic" as they say?  I've been fairly anti-social so far, haven't seen a ton of hikers on the trail and I opt to pitch a tent rather than sleep in the lean-tos at the sites as I'm usually too tired and prefer some privacy.  But tonight another hiker, who is thru-hiking, came up to introduce himself to me and asked my name.  I said I don't have a trail name yet and asked if you pick your own or have it given to you.  He said either way, so I suggested Mozart as I mentioned my project to him, and he and the other thru-hiker at the campsite liked it.  So now I'm Mozart, and I think it's a good way for people to remember my project and to bring it up in conversation.  Now I sign all the trail registers that way.

Day 5 (6/15/16) - 10.9 miles (Limestone Spring Shelter to Sages Ravine Campsite (MA))

First day heading into a town, Salisbury, CT.  A beautiful little town.  Unfortunately the library is closed for the month of June for renovations, so no internet or blogging yet.  Did get different blister pads and groceries.  There was a little Episcopal church that is open for hikers with a box of toiletries and similar things, and cold drinks that hikers and take.  At first, I didn't want to take anything, but then realized this stuff was there for hikers like me, so I took a little bottle of Gatorade, which I haven't had in years.  The sign said hikers could go in and sit in the sanctuary if they liked, so I went in and looked at the piano a little, but they had speakers with music playing "There is a Balm in Gilead" which was then stuck in my head all day.  For a moment, I felt like I was on the Camino de Santiago making a pilgrimage, and maybe I am in a way.  Because I spent less time in town that I'd anticipated, I hiked ahead a little bit today and made it to Massachusetts!  CT is done!  1 state down and 4 to go!  And it ended with a beautiful view from the highest point in the state, Bear Mt., at 2354ft on a rock observation tower created in 1885 (where I ate an avocado.)  I'm grateful for my experience in CT, which started out rough but got much better.  A beautiful part of this state. I've seen at least 1 snake everyday so far, and I think I saw 4 today.  One was in the process of trying to devour a fat toad! I watched it for several minutes, but it didn't make any progress.

On Bear Mountain

Day 6 (6/16/16) 6.7 miles (Sages Ravine Campsite to Glen Brook Shelter)

Short day today because there are no campsites or shelters for the next 14 miles and I didn't want to hike 20 miles today or hike less and wonder where I was going to camp.  I had time to take it slow today, so I did.  Had a beautiful climb along the ridgeline on Mt. Race and had a long lunch there.  I thought about how green it was as far as the eye could see, and how much forest I'd trekked through, and how much more was around me but that I didn't get to see.  I'm really only seeing a tiny fragment of it all while on this thin trail.  And every square yard is packed with creatures and plantlife, it's so vast.  Anyways, my view along the ridgeline was somewhat ruined by the sound of a chainsaw down below and the sound of a tree crashing.  Just as a day or two ago a view looked out over a racecar track filled with the sounds of cars mindlessly speeding around in circles.  Neither was exactly what I wanted to hear.  I made it up Mt. Everett, which did feel a little like Mt. Everest as it's the highest point on the trail yet for this hike at 2602ft.  No good view though as there was a fire tower but it was taken down in 2002.  No shower yet, and it shows: I smell really bad!  My feet are the worst.  But what can you do?  No rain yet.

Words to describe my experience in CT: short, intro, nervous, adjustment, excitement, initially difficult, beautiful, awakening, clear skies

Day 7 (6/17/16) 14.3 miles (Glen Brook Shelter to Tom Leonard Shelter)

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and half my tent was glowing.  I was really confused, especially as I didn't hear any sound with it.  I even had the thought that it was some angel or something visiting me.  I finally opening my tent to see what it was: it was the moon peeking through the clouds and trees.  A pretty long hike today, but I did it ok and most wasn't very steep, mostly flat.  Left at 8:30am and got in at 5:30pm.  Massaschusetts so far is much more buggy and more pine forests.  So far MA is not as good as CT.  I even liked the CT privies more, semi-open and less smelly.  I think because there was been no rain for the past week, a bunch of the recent water sources have not been very good.  I ran out of water and to get some from the Housatonic River (and then read a sign that said "Do not eat fish, frogs, and turtles from the river, because they are contaminated with PCBs") and pre-filtered it through a coffee filter.  Then I had to do it again at a spring that only had stagnant water.  But now I'm at the shelter and tenting on a platform looking out over a ravine and the mountains.  It will be really nice to wake up to.  I had the thought to day after seeing one of those signs saying "Take only pictures, leave only footprints."  But we really leave and take much more than that.  I'm leaving little parts of myself everywhere I go, and long this whole trail.  My sweat, urine, hairs, saliva, dead skins cells, etc.  It all sounds gross, but I think it's beautiful to know that everywhere I go I'm adding something of me to each place.  And this extends to every person I shake hands with, we are all exchanging oils and dead skin cells every time we touch.  We take and give a little bit of ourselves every time, and I like that.  

My campsite last night

No comments: