Southbound out of Monson

Yesterday I decided, on the spur of the moment, to take a quick trip out to the Monson trailhead for a morning southbound hike on the Appalachian Trail.

I was surprised at the difference in the terrain between the AT on the north side of Route 15 and that on the south side. Much easier going south. Granted, the north side is the Hundred Mile Wilderness, but still…

It was a nice cool morning for the third week of July (sunny, breezy 63 degrees), and I took my time and enjoyed the greenery and the solitude. Unlike my northbound trip into the HMW where I passed so many thru-hikers I thought the trail was a superhighway, I only encountered two hikers, a pair going SOBO only a half-mile from the trailhead when I was nearly finished. So the first 7.5 miles of my eight mile out-and-back journey blessed me with sweet solitude. At the two and six mile marks I broke out of the tree canopy and was treated to this view:

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And it’s always a strange disconnect when I’m communing with nature and come upon a man-made structure in the wilderness. I did appreciate the bridge through the swamp, even though a previous windy day caused me to do the limbo on one end of it:

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I was disappointed that, like my northbound morning hike last month, I saw no wildlife except for birds. I’ve seen a black bear and dozens of deer in the road less than a quarter mile from my house, but twice now I’ve driven 75 minutes to hike in the woods and have seen zip. Maybe I should try dropping Twinkies along the trail next time. That might get the bears out…

(Note: That last bit was a joke. Under no circumstances would I ever feed a bear human food. And people who do so should be shot along with the bear when it needs to be put down for becoming aggressive around humans in an attempt to take food from them)

Okay, enough wildlife preservation talk. Back to happy hiking. Overall, I enjoyed a nice stroll over easier terrain than that in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. A relaxing way to spend a morning, for sure.

 

Notes: In another glaring similarity to my AT hike a month ago, my feet were pretty sore at the end. And I’m totally to blame. I still have the on-a-mission runner’s mentality while hiking. I don’t sit when I stop for hydration breaks. I don’t ever take my pack off. And given that my feet aren’t accustomed to the terrain and to spending upwards of four hours at a stretch with my body-plus-pack weight on them, it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re barking at me when I finish. Longer section and thru-hikers are afforded the opportunity of ramping up their mileage gradually, acclimating their feet to the pounding until they can bang out impressive daily miles without limping. This newbie hiker, doing short hikes, isn’t given the luxury of days. So I need to force myself to take a nice break every couple of hours and remove my pack and sit, or my poor dogs will never survive a full day hike. A leisurely 8 mile run is 70-75 minutes on my feet over smooth asphalt or groomed trail. An eight mile hike on the AT here is 3.5 hours over rocks, roots and elevation changes. I need to remind myself when I’m out there: It’s not the number of miles, it’s the time on my feet!

Also, my Osprey Kestrel 28 is still a wonder to me. In the short time I’ve been a hiker, I’ve grown to love how this pack carries. I might be tempted to do an overnight with it, and just lash a bunch of stuff to the outside, Beverly Hillbillies style…

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