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As of today, my dad and I have officially hiked the entire Connecticut portion of the Appalachian Trail, go us, go us (awkward happy dance)!

OK, OK… I know that hiking 52 miles in sections is peanuts compared to hiking the entire 2,185 miles straight through, but it’s still an accomplishment in my book!

For this last segment, we started at the off road parking on 341 by Grand Staircase in Kent, CT and ended at Hoyt Parking on the Connecticut/New York border.

Total miles from 341 to Hoyt, according to my National Geographic Trail Map: 11.5 (not including any side trails or detours). That’s a combination of 8.7 miles from 341 parking to the Ten Mile River Shelter on the first day, and then another 2.8 miles from the Ten Mile Shelter to Hoyt Parking on the second day.

Areas covered: 341 Parking (elevation: 350 feet), Grand Staircase/Mount Algo (1,160 feet), Schaghticoke Mountain (1,331 feet), Connecticut/New York State Line ( 1,250 feet), Ten Mile River Shelter (290 feet), Ten Mile Hill (1,000 feet), and then ending at Hoyt Road Parking (400 feet).

This was an extremely challenging hike to begin with, but even more so because my dad and I packed enough gear to hike for about a week, despite only planning to be on the trail for one night. Doh!

We figured it would be a trial run for when we did eventually go backpacking for longer. Plus, we weren’t really sure what we would wind up using or not and so off we went; my dad with about a 40 pound pack and me weighing in at about 50 pounds – yikes!

Thanks to the support system on my pack, I didn’t really feel the heaviness right away, but after about 30 minutes of climbing up, up, and up – I started to wonder how it was possible to still be climbing. How was CT this high in elevation? How was I going to hike 9 miles today? How the hell do through hikers do this for over 2,000 miles???

I felt every single step and by 45 minutes (still climbing), I had to stop and catch my breath. The first mile took us an hour and twenty minutes! To put things into perspective, we normally can cover a mile in about 30 minutes or less. This extra weight was definitely slowing us down. So did the downpour that blew through and caused us to stop and get our rain guards out.

If we wanted a trial run of what it would be like to hike the AT, then this was it.

We finally made it up Mount Algo and the trail leveled off for a bit, before descending and then going right back up and over Schaghticoke Mountain. When we reached a large rock ledge at about 1,000 feet elevation, with a good viewing point, we decided to break for lunch.

On the menu: smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches with red onion, lemon, and capers – yum!

The break was good for me – I felt recharged after eating and giving my legs and back a rest.

After lunch, we ascended quite a bit and then came to a road, which the trail crosses and picks back up on the other side. From here, we wouldn’t have too much longer before we hit camp – maybe about 2 miles? We followed along the Housatonic River before coming to a Bridge. The River is beautiful in this section; wide with large white stones and a fast current of cool, clear water. It was pretty empty, except for a lone fisherman wearing waders and standing about thigh deep in the river.

The Ten Mile River Shelter is a very short walk from once you cross the bridge and I wanted to sing and dance when we got there! It was incredible how light I felt after taking the pack off for the night. Gravity felt way off, but in a really good way – like I could jump twenty feet high if I wanted to!

We began setting up our tents in the field – we figured they would be warmer and less buggy than sleeping in the open air shelter and we also wanted to try out our new tents for the first time – my dad bought a Big Agnus one person something or other and I recently picked up a Kelty one person backpacking tent. I have to say that for the price I paid – 80 bucks at Dick’s Sporting Goods, I was very happy with the tent. It was easy to put up and take down and relatively speaking, it was very comfortable. Of course, time will tell as far as durability goes and how waterproof it is.

While we were setting up our tents, my dad saw a tick that looked like a baby crab in both it’s shape and the way it had it’s two front arms waving in the air like two little claws. The field must be covered in them. I had to push the thought of all those tiny ticks surrounding me, out of my head. I sprayed my legs, feet, and the outside of my tent with some bug spray and hoped for the best.

For dinner we tried those dehydrated camping meals that Mountain House makes. I had the chili mac and cheese and my dad had the beef stroganoff. I would say that both were really good and hit the spot, as did the Coronas which somehow remained nice and cool throughout the day!

After setting up camp and having dinner, we hung our food bags from a tree and called it an early night.

(One of the coolest parts of this hike was seeing the NY/CT border sign!)

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