River Road to Limestone Spring
Cucumber Dill Le Croix Camp to Purple Mountains Camp
AT miles: 24.1
Total miles: 1509.3
Elevation change: 5797ft gain, 5079ft loss
There may never be a more perfect spring day than the one I experienced today. Oh, it was so nice. The sun was warm, hot enough to make me sweat when I was working hard, and also quick to dry me out after a cool breeze cooled me down again. There was not a cloud in the sky, and only the suggestion of wind all day, as I cruised through forest and along some of the most pleasant river walking imaginable. Some classic steep ups and the following crunching downs tested my legs and balance, and overall it was an exceptional day with a rewarding mix of terrain. It also helped that I ate lasagna for breakfast and lunch. How could a day be anything but great with that much fabulous cuisine?
I was awake before my alarm, which in some cases I find very comforting. Flipping over to snooze for another hour felt luxurious and indulgent, both rare adjectives on a thru-hike. I felt no particular rush poking me back to the trail, so SpiceRack and I took our time with our morning tea. The day was already bright and warming up as I sat with my feet up, forking more macaroni salad, and then some leftover lasagna. It was even better this morning than it was fresh from the oven last night, but I could only make a small dent, full as I was from the mac and some other things.
By 10:30am I was packed up and ready to hike. The three days of food in my pack would get me another 75 miles further north to the next trailhead rendezvous. By then, I would be out of Connecticut and well into Massachusetts, another state with a difficult-to-spell name. Spice and Tango joined me for the first couple miles of glorious trail along the rushing Housatonic. It was wide and flat, the morning glowy and bright. The fresh green leaves and tiny trailside flowers left no doubt that spring was here. The smell of hot dirt mixed with the scent of the rushing water, brought back childhood memories of Easter camping trips to riverside campgrounds. They were unspecific and not anchored to any place or time, essentially a vague fiction that I gripped to tightly as if that part of my life could evaporate if left unremembered. Spice’s quick pace brought me back to the CDT when I learned during the long roadwalk to Anaconda that she could leave me in her dust if she wanted to.
The other two turned back to the van after we reached the next shelter, and I continued along the river for a few more miles. The flat trail and large body of water were both easy to enjoy, though I longed to stop at one of the many small beaches for a dip and morning siesta. Alas, I had already exhausted my modest quota of luxurious lounging for the day. I was all business, from now until bedtime.
My business and the trail turned me away from the river, pointing me up a brutally steep climb. I would complain about it, except that I passed a troop of Scouts who were definitely having harder time of it than I was. Excess baggage dangled from the scoutmaster’s already massive backpack, and I cringed in sympathy for each pair of denim blue jeans that I saw. And I thought that I was hot in my tights! A slow and careful descent followed down the other side of the hill. The trail was steep, the rocks were large, and the leaves were deep. At the bottom, I crossed a road, splashed through shin-deep Guinea Brook, then churned back uphill. The steep-as stone steps left me panting and soggy. Whew, they sure like it short and steep in Connecticut.
The trail stayed up high for a few miles of pleasant forest meandering, eventually dipping gradually down through creek-filled corners of deep pine shade and mossy rocks. I sucked on a root beer candy to keep the juices flowing in the heat, but with water so abundant, I didn’t need to worry about becoming dehydrated as long as I remained vigilant in my hydration efforts. I pooped for an unprecedented second time at the perfectly timed Cesar Brook Camp, then hiked around the next few bulges to lunchtime at another rushing creek. I made it a short visit, but managed to filter water and eat a lot anyway. The last of SpiceRack’s lasagna was the highlight for sure, and it refreshed my pizza-flavored burps for the second half of the day.
Another road and another creek, this one damed by beaver, sat where they do, at the bottom of the next hill. Where all these roads went, I had no idea, but there sure were a lot of them. Another steep climb sat where it do, and I laughed out loud part of the way up when confronted by an arresting jumble of house-sized boulders. I laughed a little harder when my gaze followed the white blazes straight into it. Of course. A feature named Roger’s Ramp squeezed me through a crack in the stone to the top of the heep, no drama, no questions asked.
On top, I sucked down more root beer candies and cruised for miles on comparatively easy trail. There were ups, downs, and rocks, but never in concentrated quantities. I needed all of my muscles to be ready at a moment’s notice. Once, my uphill legs got caught off guard, and they burned with the effort of a sustained climb after just a ten-foot spurt of ascent. All the while, the sound of revving engines drew closer. They were easy to ignore at first, I hear a lot of cars ripping through these mountain roads, but eventually I had to wonder what was going on. The continuous orchestra of farting growls and burping downshifts had gone on for too long to be illegal. Every cop within twenty miles would have heard the cacophony. It had to be a race of some sort, but this seemed like a strange place for it. I was in the woods. Where was the race track? I finally caught a glimpse from a viewpoint high above. Sure enough, an endless stream of little specks followed one another around in circles. My map told me that I was looking at Lime Rock Speedway. Who knew?
The sound eruptions had ceased by the time I reached river level again on the outskirts of a small town, called Falls Something Something. There, I picked up the road for a few miles, across the Housatonic, looking lazier than I remembered it, and past a high school. A gorgeous riverside trail followed, this one through a forest of quiet giants, huge pine trees that stood without moving, heard without speaking. The evening sunlight splashed warming streaks across the forest floor. I exchanged whistles with an invisible bird. Hiiiigh low low. Exactly what we were communicating was a mystery to me, but the short conversation that we shared was my favorite moment of the day.
I crossed the Housatonic one more time on a large iron bridge, wondering where all the water had gone. Upstream, the riverbed was a largely empty channel of smooth granite pools connected by a stream of water much to small to explain the evidence of erosion. My answer came just a little later when I saw the dam. Water was still pouring down the impressive Great Falls, but I’m sure that it was nothing compared with what had been. Still, I resolved to return on a hot day. This looked like a dope place to splash and swim.
SpiceRack gave me a jingle, and we spoke for the final miles to camp. She filled me in on what her research about the Canadian portion of the ECT had uncovered. Some good, some expensive, all exciting. A final sunset viewpoint granted me the best vista in many days. I gazed out at a wide valley, rimmed by hills glowing purple in the fading light. I was looking into Massachusetts, but that was the extent of my knowledge, and it didn’t matter. Beauty knows no borders.
I found camp in the last few minutes before darkness. I sniffed the bag that had held the lasagna, wishing for more, but feeling satisfied by the beans that I had instead. I gulped down a few Oreos for good measure, holding nothing back to end a day that had given me everything I could ask for.