Day 94. Today’s word of the day is humidity. Humidity humidity humidity humidity. When we walked out of our Pawling room at 8am this morning, it was already a hot and muggy day. The temperature never got above 85, but it felt like hiking through the Everglade swamps of Florida as the day went on.
But before hiking, breakfast! As you may recall, Happy has been (literally) dreaming of a decent hot breakfast all week, and finally got a chance to feed his hunger. We went to McKinney and Doyle for breakfast and he had a giant Belgian waffle that put the biggest smile I’ve seen on his face in 8 days. The fuel for Happy’s happiness is clearly comfort food.
Next we had to coordinate the day’s plan. I already knew cell service was spotty along the trail at the CT border, but didn’t know what to expect beyond. Happy was not interested in hiking the full 11 miles in to Kent, so instead would take a cab directly there, check into a hotel, then dayhike backwards to meet me. I would hop out of the cab at the border and hike North, as usual. So I get my full miles in, he gets a more relaxing day, and all would be well.
In general it was, but damnit if those 11 miles weren’t tough. The humidity made every mile feel like 2, there were 3 or 4 big peaks to scale, and then there were the bugs. Have I mentioned the bugs on any blog posts yet? If not, let’s be very clear … the infamous summer insects of New England have definitely made their presence known. Very well known. Annoyingly and incessantly known. All week, I’ve been swatting away mosquitoes, gnats, and teeny tiny biting no-see-ums (midges). And today they were dining on my sweat-soaked flesh like like there was no tomorrow. The midges are the worst, as you can barely see or feel them until it’s too late … and they leave a nasty red welt that itches like crazy. I spent all day swatting, shooing, and scratching these bastards to no avail.
The worst of it though, is how they buzz in your eyes and ears, driving a normally sane hiker to tears and fits of rage. More than once, I stopped in my tracks, flailed arms worthlessly around my head, then screamed into the sky. No joke, I screamed. Loud. At least 4 times. With no other purpose than to expel my frustration in a more satisfying way. I’ve decided that it is tie to don my mosquito head-net. It won’t save my arms and legs, but maybe, just maybe, it will keep them out of my %#&$@* face. Say a little prayer for me.
Side note, if the midges are able to fit through the mesh of the net, tell my wife and family I love them. I’m sacrificing myself to the AT gods and jumping off the first cliff I see.
Ok, back to hiking. Around 2pm I called Happy to check in and was delighted to hear he had been hiking south for some time and was only a half mile ahead of me. I told him to wait there, as he was atop a small summit, and quickened my pace. But when I got to the top, he was nowhere to be found. I hiked on another third of a mile and then got worried. Did I pass him somehow? Did he accidentally hike north? Was he even on the right trail??
Now, my dad can hold his own on a hike … but we already know his feelings of this trail, and his comfort level upon it. So, I started to worry and envisioned Happy wandering aimlessly through the forest, delirious from dehydration, and desperately pleading with the chipmunks to point him in the direction of a white blaze.
Fortunately, just as that thought popped in my head, I heard a yell. “Sharkbait!” Yep, it was Happy. He was causally resting on a log about halfway up the mountain. When I told him of my worries, he responded with “Oops, I thought this was the top.” Yes, the false summits of the AT have fooled their 872,518,384th hiker.
We hiked the last 2 miles back together, only to find one more surprise at the bottom of our steep descent. Trail Magic! Happy got to meet his first magicians at the Schaghticoke Road intersection to Kent, as a 2017 thruhiker named Tumbleweed was sitting in the shade with a friend. They had cold water, soda, donuts and beer. Beer! Words can not describe how great that ale tasted after today’s muggy heat.
We swapped the usual hiker facts (start date, finish date, trail name origin, etc.) and took a photo to commemorate the joyous moment (above). As Happy is almost done hiking with me, I’m so glad he got to receive some trail magic before heading home. Now he can say he had a full AT experience. Tumbleweed also offered to drive us the 2 miles to our hotel in Kent, which was just frosting on the cake. If you are reading this, thank you Tumbleweed (and friend)!
We are staying at the Fife ‘n Drum an upscale Inn with attached restaurant, bar and gift shop. It’s old fashioned and pricey, but a very nice place to stay in town. All of Kent is pretty expensive actually, so there aren’t many alternative options. It’s a stark difference from the $20/bed rates in Franklin and Hiawassee, but that should be no surprise to hikers. It is well known that accommodations get more sparse and more expensive as you hike North.
My sister is here tonight as well! She drove a long 6 hours to get here and join us for Happy’s last weekend on the trail with me. We will dayhike together the next couple days, and enjoy the spoils of these adorable Connecticut towns. On Monday, she will drive Happy back to DC to meet Mrs. Happy and spend some quality grandparents time with the kids. But for now, it’s just us 3 on vacation … which hasn’t happened in over 30 years. We had to capture the emotion of that moment in the photo below (sorry Mirra and Mom, you are missed).
My dad has nicknamed my sister “Queen Angel”, as she has been an overly-amazing trail angel to me on my thruhike. Four times now, she and her family have driven out to meet me and provide respite from the rain and ramen dinners plaguing me. It’s been so incredible to have their support, and this is the best of all. To help get my dad back home, allowing me to hike on without break, is a great aid. Queen Angel indeed!
Side note, she isn’t done yet. The whole family is still planning to meet me in New Hampshire to hike the white mountains (even though I’ve warned her of its difficulty). It’s an adventure the kids are looking forward to, so I’m looking forward to seeing them one last time before the end.
Hello Neimans (Sharkbait and Happy)
- Start Mile: 1457.5
- Start Time: 11:05
- End Mile: 1468.4
- End Time: 16:30
- Miles Hiked: 10.9
- Miles to Go: 722.5
- Lodging: Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant & Inn