It was actually slightly chilly this morning, the first time on this whole trip. I hated to leave Tillotson but it felt good to start hiking.
We reached Route 3 in short order and crossed over it to the Bog Bridge Trail, named for the 800′ bog bridge there that is believed to be the longest in the Northeast. It was pretty neat and over very quickly.
Next we reached Magalloway Road and a detour. We should have been getting onto the Moose Alley Trail there, where you are supposedly guaranteed a moose sighting, but it is currently being logged, so we walked up the road to Route 3 instead.
After road walking for a couple of miles, we saw the junction to get back on the Falls in the River Trail, which then abruptly ended at the logged area, with tape and “no trespassing” signs strung across the path, with no indication of where the trail went. We didn’t want to road walk more and miss the falls so we walked down along the logged area until we found the trail again at the edge of the woods.
The Falls in the River Trail was pretty nice and we took a snack break at the falls before continuing along the Connecticut River, even seeing some fly fishermen before popping out of the woods at the Second Connecticut Lake dam.
We chatted with a couple of day hikers in the parking lot for a few minutes. They questioned us about our tactics for bears, asking about bear spray and food storage. I’m pretty sure they were kidding when asking about grizzlies but it was hard to tell if they really just didn’t know that black bears are the only ones in New England.
Next up was the Idlewilde Spur Trail and then the R&J Chaput Trail. That one took me forever. I stopped to get a gnat out of my eye. I stopped to sign a trail register. I stopped to wonder what the hell I was doing walking up and down countless tiny PUDs (pointless ups and downs) when a flat road was twenty feet to my left.
When I caught up to Chuckles and Jon at the road, I was seriously considering just road walking the rest of the way up Route 3 instead of risking a few more miles of PUDs in sight of the pavement. But I did follow them onto the Black Cat Trails (Lower, Upper, and Middle).
These trails were much better, although some of the mileage was definitely listed wrong in the databook. I was getting pretty hot and tired again and was super excited to get to Sophie’s Lane. From there, we walked out to Route 3 and north a bit to Deer Mountain Campground after 9.8 miles for the day.
I’d been so excited about getting there and showering but when I was hot and tired earlier in the day, I’d suddenly thought “oh no, what if it’s a primitive campground and there is no shower??” Turns out it’s a primitive campground and there is no shower.
The ranger was off for the middle of the day but we found the campsite Little Spoon had booked for us and luckily it was right next to the river. I decided I’d at least scrub off there before I cooled off too much. The river was in the sun but very shallow and it was very easy to stir up mud. The water was cold but I sat in it up to my waist and cleaned off. I got out slowly enough that I don’t think I brought too much new dirt with me. Once I’d dried off and put on my dry sleeping clothes, I felt way cleaner than I had earlier in the day.
I laid out some things to dry then sat at the picnic table snacking. The ranger was back on duty at that point and came by to check on us. We asked if there was a secret shower anywhere and he said he’d heated up a bucket of water for hikers before on his propane stove. I was as clean as I was going to get without soap so I declined. We found out he did have playing cards for sale though (one of the things Young’s Store had been missing) so I told him I’d be right up to buy those and firewood.
When I went up to the store, he did have some water heating for us. I knew Chuckles was already in the river but I figured Jon would probably want it. He keeps a little cleaner than either of us. I got the cards and wood and headed back to our campsite. Once everyone was clean, the ranger came by again and chatted with us for over an hour about hiking and gear. He does some pretty cool trips himself.
We only bought one bundle of wood, but we collected some more fallen wood from the path to a farther campsite – we thought enough for the night. Little Spoon was meeting us there but wouldn’t make it until at least 9pm, or later depending on when he’d left work. I didn’t think I’d be able to stay up that late. We delayed starting the fire so we’d have something to do while waiting. After cooking dinner, playing cards, listening to music, and playing more cards, it was getting close to 9 and we were running very low on wood. There was nothing more to add to the fire and it was hard to keep it going. Once it hit 9:30, I had to go to bed. A car pulled in just as I was getting up but it turned out to be our neighbors, who then kept their headlights on and talked very loudly for what felt like a long time.