Location: Stewart Hollow
I lost another toenail today. I remember that last night I caught the nail on a seam in my sleeping bag and I felt the nail being pried from the quick. I saw that it was hanging by an edge when I peeled off my sock, so I gave the nail a few twists and yanked it out by the roots. It bled a little, but my pinky toe feels better without the nail. My skin feels better today also. It gave me no trouble on the down hills.
This morning Bears and I woke up around 6:30am. We both slept well last night despite the close quarters. He snored occasionally, so I’d jostle him as I rolled and changed positions. Our body heat and breathing caused a substantial amount of water to condense on the rain fly. The tent was wet on the inside and outside. The morning temperature had dipped into the 40’s, so we packed our gear quickly and went for breakfast in the café. I gorged on French toast, two bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich bagels, flushing them down with glass bottled Diet Coke. I certainly ate my fill this morning. We left Toymaker’s Café around 8:30am after wasting time with newspapers, New England magazines, and Bears’ favorite publications, the tabloids. I met a couple from New Hampshire in the café who both plan to thru-hike the AT. The man offered me a bottle of whiskey to take on my trip. I declined the offer. The thought of whiskey at 8:00am made my stomach twist.
Bears and I returned to the trail on the cool morning to find several miles of flat trail that the guidebooks claimed were handicap accessible. Soon the trail turned into a roller coaster track of ups and downs. We made 400ft climbs and descents all day, which made the day somewhat tedious. The morning seemed to drag on the longest. Bears kept sending e-mails and making phone calls when we stopped to break for snacks. Also, I got hung up at a hang-glider runway that overlooked a racetrack. Formula One cars were practicing on the track before a race this weekend. We watched as cars made turns at 100 mph. The tires screeched and the engines roared and I could hear them a mile away and 2000 ft above the track.
Eventually the morning ran into the afternoon and our hiking became more serious. We needed to make Cornwall Bridge by 5:00pm so that bears could pick up his mail drop. We finished most of the ups and downs and made it to town by 3:50pm. We averaged over 2.5 mph on the hills. Not too bad. We decided not to hitch to town so we started walking as soon as we reached Route 7.
Bears got the package from his mother that was filled with pounds of brownies, muffins, and homemade chocolate chip bars that he gladly shared with me. We sat outside Baird’s General Store for a couple hours and ate. Bears bought me a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and a Diet Coke, which he owed me because I bought his dinner last night. Cold Feet showed up in a minivan while I finished the sandwich I ordered at the deli. Would you believe it, I asked for lettuce on my sandwich? What’s next, tomatoes? Cold Feet hopped out of the van in a red, flowered sundress. She certainly didn’t look like she had been hiking. She yellow blazed from Salisbury to Cornwall Bridge, and after she sleeps in tomorrow at The Hitching Post Motel, she’ll be dropped off in Kent, CT so that she can hike with us.
Bears and I left Cornwall Bridge around 6:00pm to hike the last four miles of our day. On our way out of town, we stopped by the package store to sign the register and get a free drink. We had the possibility of getting a free beer, selecting one bottle from the 99 varieties of micro-brewed beers that the store stocked. Instead we both chose a PowerAde to help with the steep climb out of the valley.
We raced against the sun to reach the shelter before dark. In the woods, the sun sets quickly. It takes only a few minutes for the light to change from dim to dark. The evening walk along the Housatonic River was peaceful despite the rush. We have crossed the Housatonic a dozen times in the last 30 miles, but tonight we walked along its flat banks for several miles. The trail stretched wide along the river, flanked by the slow moving waters and stone walls that protected tall cornstalks that ran to the base of mountains on the other side of the field. I imagined that I was walking on an old carriage road as I made my way to Stewart Hollow. Tall oaks lined the path and dropped the first fall leaves as we walked. The stone wall, in pristine condition, stretched for miles. Bears and I walked several dozen yards apart and enjoyed the serenity in our own way.
We arrived at the shelter only minutes before the day became dark enough that we needed our headlamps. I helped Bears with his newspaper article for his hometown paper immediately when we arrived because his deadline was 9:00pm. He wrote the article on trail lingo, defining all of the ways to hike, the many different types of blazing, and other miscellaneous terminology. We have the shelter to ourselves, so I’ve spread out my tent to dry it. It’s dripping wet from last night. We realized tonight that we will get to Fort Montgomery on Monday when the post office is closed for Labor Day, so tomorrow in Kent we will call to have the boxes forwarded to Glenwood, NJ. Kent will be our last town for a while. We’ve been spoiling ourselves with town food. Back to everyday Pop-Tarts, tuna, and Lipton’s noodles again. We hike into New York State tomorrow. We’re still on pace for Delaware Water Gap.