Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
1 Timothy 4:12
The short story is that Ian and I went backpacking at Bear Mountain in Connecticut. There, now for those of you with short attention spans, you know what we were up to without having to suffer through all the details.
Now, for those of you who want to hear all the nitty-gritty of our backpacking trip, here’s the lowdown. Friday I only worked a half day, driving myself in at 7:30 to get off at just before noon (people work too many hours at CRL, and even I do it occasionally). Tucked into my backpack, I found a list I had made of everything Dad and I take on our backpacking trips, and after that pretty much the rest of the day Ian and I spent preparing for our first solo backpacking trip as a couple. We bought lots of small things at REI as well as renting Ian a backpack — incidentally, possibly the best deal ever, with the first and last days free and only $15 for the middle day for REI members. We also bought ingredients for the world’s best trail mix as well as food for the four meals we ate on the trip. When I had assembled and sorted everything, we packed everything into our bags, a feat easily said but less easily accomplished, as it requires serious geometry skills in addition to some serious stubborn shoving.
Saturday morning we woke up and started off straight away, only pausing to eat breakfast and make ourselves (highly squishable) PB&J; sandwiches for lunch. Then we drove for two and a half hours to western Massachusetts, diving at the last moment down into Connecticut where two miles later we found the Undermountain Trail. This trail connects to the Appalacian Trail, which stretches 50 miles across western CT; we followed the trail up a consistent but not gruelling incline to the AT, where we turned south. After some fruitless exploration, we left set up camp at the Brassie Brook shelter, which was nice and close to a rather low water source (at right). All this took a few hours, but by 2:00 we had set up our tent, eaten lunch with another AT hiker who sat rather taciturnely at the shelter near us, filtered ourselves two and a half liters of water to replace what we drank on the trail, and packed most of our food into a bear box. This marks my first, but probably not last, bear box experience and later in the trip I was extremely grateful for that box.
To use up our afternoon time and to provide mosquitoes with more opportunity to bite our unprotected legs, we decided to hike a loop up to Bear Mountain, down to the Undermountain trail, and back to the AT. On the way up to Bear Mountain — another not particularly ruthless climb that I would describe as more of a steady incline — we started noticing some small drips from the sky. Anticipating that very event, we had both brought our jackets and so the slight drizzle, if it could even be called that, bothered us not at all. At this point Ian’s sweat glands shifted from medium (slightly soaked shirt and shorts) to high (waterfall of sweat dripping literally everwhere and leaving Ian looking as if he had stepped fully clothed into a shower). We reached the peak of Bear Mountain, CT’s tallest peak (ha, ha) and enjoyed the hazy view from atop a gigantic stone cairn that a mason had built in 1885 expressly for the purpose of view-enjoying. Then we hiked the remaining four miles down and around back to our camp site, where we ravenously watched water boil and snacked on beef jerky, energy bars, and trail mix until our Cup o Noodles cooked. As we boiled water another couple hiked in and set up in the shelter itself. We had chosen to sleep in our tent rather than the shelter, which proved extemely interesting later on. Ian’s soaked clothes we relegated to a tree branch, the vestibule, and — in a fit of unexplicable generosity — a pocket of the tent to hang from.
…Later on… Feeling rather pooped from nine miles of walking (or trudging, as Ian insists), we turned out our flashlights at 9:00. I fell asleep fairly quickly, feeling rather soggy due to some excessive humidity in the tent. At midnight I woke to a bug buzzing under the rain fly and the sound of some drops dripping off the fly. At 3:00 I woke up to thunderous downpours that splattered mud all over the bottom of our tent, under the vestibule and onto everything sheltered therein, over the rain fly, and pretty much everywhere else. It sounded as if somebody had opened up a hose full-throttle onto our tent, and the rain just kept up for hours. We sweated in the humid, sealed tent and wondered if sleep would ever catch up to us. It must have, because I woke up again at 6:00 to slightly lessened rain. By 8:00, when my bladder urged me to emerge, the rain had actually stopped completely.
Mud covered the tent, coated the rain fly, and splattered everything. When I went to refill our empty bottles with the now-broken filter, I found our water source much changed (at right) from the gurgling mossy little creek of the previous evening. Now it demanded respect and careful rock-hopping to cross, but it also meant we could easily find places deep enough and fast-flowing enough to filter from. We ate a camping-delicious breakfast of oatmeal and oatmealy hot chocolate, packed everything up, and left. The tent, rain fly, and groundcloth we carried to the shelter and rolled up still wet with the intention of hanging them out to dry at home. Our hike back out I consider rather unremarkable; we only rested a couple times to give our knees a break from the downhill, but covered the whole distance in a very timely fashion. At the trailhead we took our photo, Ian changed into non-sweat-soaked clothes, and we drove home.
That is, we drove directly into traffic on I-90 that caused us to detour to Route 20 and thence to 290, which took an extra forever. But now we are home, washed and clean and extremely itchy. The tent, rain fly, and groundcloth drape bushes as the mud converts into brush-off-able dirt. Everything else is clean and more or less put away.
It was a good trip. But I seriously doubt my ability to ride to and from the train station tomorrow…