According to the National Geographic map that I have, this segment of the trail is 7.3 miles (one way).
Starting Point: West Cornwall Road Junction
Ending Point: Dawn Hill Road/River Road Parking
We started the trail at 10 in the morning and hiked until 4pm.
Favorite part of the trail: Crossing the River
After walking about five and a half miles, we came to a part of the trail that crosses over Old Sharon Road #2 (not sure how many Old Sharon Roads there are, but apparently enough to be numbered). Old Sharon Road #2 is a quiet road that is heavily forested with just a few homes backing up to the woods. The trail brings you to a small river that in the summer, hikers would just walk right through. In the winter, however, that’s not as easy to do. It’s too cold for wet feet; clothing would freeze, not dry out, etc. (There’s even a sign suggesting a detour during the winter because of icy conditions. The fast currents don’t help either.)
If we didn’t cross this river, we’d have to walk back to the road and take the roads all the way back to our car, which would have added about six miles to our day. If we could get to the other side of this river, we’d only have 1.5 miles to go. At this point, it was about 3:00 and the sun would be setting around 5. We did not want to be stuck on the trail after dark…
There were no good rocks to use as a path and although there were some fallen trees, none seemed like good prospects for walking on. We had to leave the trail to scope out our options, but no trespassing signs kept our limits within a short range from the trail.
We had to try and find a way. We spent about 30 minutes trying to come up with a game plan – one of which hilariously involved us trying to hoist a log across a narrow section between two rocks. After our efforts resulted in a large splash, followed by the log instantly being carried downstream, we almost turned back and resorted to the road path. Neither of us wanted this option as it would not only mean walking at least an additional few hours after dark, but it would also be 1.5 miles less we could mark off on our maps. We would’ve felt defeated. Of course, safety comes first though and so we were mentally preparing ourselves for this possible reality.
But…we weren’t ready to give up just yet…
We decided to walk just a little bit further downstream and eventually found a spot where we thought we could make it work. It would be a little tricky since our legs were tired, but we both agreed that if we took our time and focused, that we’d be up for the challenge. It was a spot where two trees had become entangled by the current so they crossed over each other. We’d have to start on one tree, then step down to the second tree to get to the other side.
My dad went first and I thought he’d breeze right over – and he almost did. But, right as he was getting to the intersection, his legs started to wobble and I had to look away and hold my breath. When I looked back, they were shaking even worse and I definitely was starting to fear the worst – he was going to go down into the icy water. Finally, in what felt like forever, because I was so nervous, he reached down and steadied himself on a branch and then sat down for a while to catch his balance.
When we finally got to the other side, I felt such an enormous sense of relief and accomplishment – we did it! I was really happy that we both managed to make it across, unhurt and dry!
The last 1.5 miles of the hike, I was in a sense of euphoria – the cool air felt so good on my skin and every inch of my body felt alive and alert. I must have been giving off so much heat, because I had my hair in a ponytail to keep my neck cool and my jacket was completely unzipped, letting the air circulate around my base layers. No gloves on. I’m not sure what the temperature was at that point, but when we left the house in the morning, it was about 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside and at no point during the day, did it get above 25 degrees. As usual, our water bottles were always in a state of freezing as were most of the streams we crossed. Hell, even the ground was frozen!
Despite my happy mental state, my legs were burning and we still had one more mountain to climb and it was going to show us no mercy.
Up, up, up, up, up…the first quarter mile or so after crossing the river took us practically straight up the mountain.
I tried to focus on steady breaths and making solid steps that would launch my body upwards. At times, I just felt like I was scrambling up the mountain, but we persevered and when we finally got to the top, the sun was shining and we knew that it would literally be all down hill from here.
This was pretty much the best feeling in the world – at that moment, knowing we made it. There would be no more rivers to cross, no more mountains to climb, and we would be able to make it back to our car without having to forfeit a portion of the trail that we set out to do.
Going down was easy. The hardest part was making sure not to slip on loose leaves, which caused both my dad and I to each fall once already, earlier in the day. I have a large bruise forming on my right thigh as I type this and I can tell it’s going to hurt for at least a few days.
I got it by slipping and falling onto a large stone. Thankfully, my arms helped brace the fall and so not all of my weight landed in one spot. Still, it was the type of pain that you have to mentally and physically shake off and just keep going, because if you let yourself focus on it, then it will somehow be worse.
So eyes stinging, stomach a little nauseous and thigh in pain, I pushed onward. Then about a half mile later, I stopped and popped two Advil and walked it off.
Side Note: Rice Krispie treats are terrible cold weather snacks that will be the equivalents of eating deliciously sweet rocks in freezing temperatures. You’ll want to keep eating them because they taste good and you’re hungry, but you might break a tooth if you do.
On that same note, you can easily pack foods that need to be refrigerated, like the roast beef grinders that my dad made – with oil & vinegar and hot sauce! #NomNomnomnom