Published in The Hour Online – June 2013.
The Housatonic River looked full and strong, and it wasn’t even the whole Housatonic. We were just downstream of Bulls Bridge in Kent. A good part of the river is syphoned off above the bridge to feed the hydroelectric station a few miles downstream. When the plant was built 110 years ago it was one of the largest of its kind in the US. But the canal that takes the stolen waters to it – dug and blasted by Italian immigrants – was hidden here behind the steep and wooded far bank. The Housatonic, a greeny brown, flowed as if it were a wild, complete river. Just downstream the Ten Mile River came in from New York, and there was white water where they met. The Housatonic was the eastern frontier of the Mohicans – usi-a-di-en-uk, the place beyond the mountains.
This column has generally been written in the first person singular – I got stuck on a rock face, I saw diddly-squat by way of wildlife, and so on. Well, I have used “we” this time, and we now crossed the Ned Anderson bridge to a meadow of tall grass that is the Appalachian Trail’s Ten Mile River campsite. It is time to introduce David. I have known him for a few years, a business contact who became a coffee buddy and now my hiking partner for the day. He is a cyclist and occasional hiker, but not a confirmed hiker – not yet. So today was a fresh experience on two counts. I got to see a bit of AT through David’s eyes, and I got to hike – for almost the first time, it seemed – with a partner who is not a member of my family. And we could not have picked a finer day. As we left the trail to take a look at the Ten Mile River lean-to the sun was out and the temperature climbing slowly towards the low 70s.
The lean-to was occupied by a party of young men. Two were around a fire. The other was in the shelter, awake but still wrapped in his sleeping bag. It was hardly the crack of dawn, and we concluded that these were not obsessed thru-hikers desperate to use every hour of daylight to get closer to Maine. And that fire, I told David as we returned to the trail, was illegal in Connecticut. “Why?” he asked, and I had to admit to not having thought about that. It’s not the rule everywhere on the AT. So I checked the official guide, and the answer is that the AT here is more heavily-used and nearer private property than most of the trail. Frequent fires would denude the woods around the lean-tos and disturb the neighbors.
We started to climb the shaded slopes of Ten Mile Hill. Its summit is precisely 1,000 feet above the sea, and less precisely 700 feet above the rivers. But before we made the top we reached the turnoff for the Herrick Trail. I hadn’t heard of this path until a few weeks ago, and must thank the Appalachian Mountain Club hikes program for tipping me off to it. It crosses Naromi Land Trust property, and offers two fine overlooks on its gradual descent to Evans Hill Road. The first look-out boasted grandstand views of the Housatonic, winding northward far below through gentle green hills. The second – called Amy’s Lookout – was a secluded spot with birdsong and Mountain Laurel about to bloom. Turkey vultures began to circle close above our perch, perhaps mistaking our stillness for lunch. We stirred and walked down from the look-out, wondering who Amy was. I have not been able to find out. We also wondered about the name Naromi, which proved easier. ‘The name Naromi is derived from the Naromiyocknowhusunkatankshunk Brook, a native American name meaning “water from the hills …”’ says the Land Trust website. Now there’s a mouthful.
We picked up the AT again on Route 55 – at a trailhead that would be easy enough to miss – and this time marched north and all the way up Ten Mile Hill. The summit is wooded and provided only a window of view for our lunch. Then we followed the sign that said KATAHDIN 732.3 MI, and walked fully 1.0 MI back to the Ten Mile River shelter. There were still two young men by a smoking fire. We noticed rusted plows near the shelter privy, a reminder that it was a Sherman farmer-hiker who blazed and maintained the CT AT in the 1930s and ‘40s. He worked a farm called Brae Burn a little farther south, so these were unlikely to be his old plows. But they named the footbridge for him. I’d like to know more about Ned Anderson.
If you go …
|PARKING||Bulls Bridge Road, between Route 7 and the covered bridge, 2.5mi north of Gaylordsville.|
|MAP AND ROUTE||Official AT trail map. Herrick Trail map from Naromi Land Trust site. A.T. south to Herrick Trail (2.2mi) – Herrick Trail to Evans Hill Road and CT Route 55 – A.T. north back to parking area.|
|WHAT TO TAKE||Strong boots. Layers of clothing. Plenty of water. Food. Bug repellant and sunscreen, just in case.|