The AT: Day Hike on the Appalachian Trail

The vista from the top of Pine Knob.

The vista from the top of Pine Knob.

I’ve wanted to hike the entire 2,100 plus miles of the extraordinary system known as the Appalachian Trail (or AT) ever since I first learned about it as a teenager.  Family, career and life in general intervened and a few years ago I realized that this was one life goal I would not accomplish.  I am one who does not relinquish my goals easily, so instead I decided to be less ambitious and try to hike only the 53+ miles of the Trail that wind through the northwest corner of Connecticut.  It’s easy to do this as day hikes because there are frequent parking areas that allow easy access to the Trail.  By driving two cars and leaving one at our planned destination, we have gradually chipped away at the Connecticut portion.

The Trail winds though leaf carpeted woods along the tops of the Connecticut hills.

The Trail winds though leaf carpeted woods along the tops of the Connecticut hills.

Too ambitious when we first started to do this several years ago, we had begun at the New York border on Route 55 and planned spend the night in a tent, hoping to hike sixteen miles in the two days.  Two of our sons had decided to join us (afraid the old folks would fall off a cliff, I suppose) and we had set off, each with a 40  pound pack.  The day began well but I finished with one son carrying my pack, filled with the sobering knowledge of my true physical stamina.  For me, a goal of one mile an hour with frequent stops to snack, catch my breath and watch a bird or two became the new reality.

This tricky spot is known as Roger's Ramp.  You scuttle down between two huge boulders.

This tricky spot is known as Roger’s Ramp. You scuttle down between two huge boulders.

We have now done three stints and covered 25 miles, so with the day ahead bright and cool, we decided to hike another section, beginning where we had left off in Cornwall Bridge.  The AT itself is accessed via a mile long steep side trail known as Pine Knob Loop leading to the summit of the Knob where there is a lovely vista.  Once on the Trail itself, we found this section relatively easy going.  One hiker we met told us he had seen a large black bear ahead but we didn’t encounter him and we met few other hikers.   This late in the season we saw only one couple who, from their packs might be “through hikers” on their way to the Trail’s terminus in Georgia.  We stand aside and salute through hikers when we meet them, for their ambition and dedication puts us to shame.

The woods are full of interesting natural vignettes such as this mossy boulder crowned with Polypody Ferns.  You can understand how they get their common name of Rock Cap Fern.

The woods are full of interesting natural vignettes such as this mossy boulder crowned with Polypody Ferns. You can understand how they get their common name of Rock Cap Fern.

Our day was perfect with small jewel like spots of rocky outcroppings and tiny waterfalls, lit  by the sun filtered through golden fall foliage.  Among the birds I saw were four woodpecker species, Pileated, Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied.  We were accompanied by the dee-deeing songs of scolding Black-capped Chickadees and I saw a few other songbirds, with the most delightful sighting being a Golden-crowned Kinglet with his crest raised at me in indignation.  We got as far as West Cornwall Road, more than halfway to our 53 mile goal with our souls restored.

 

 

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