By Gregory Naigles
Location: Kent, Connecticut
It had to be the right day. After suffering through two long weeks of temperatures in the 80s, I finally found a day where the temperature would be only 70 degrees – perfect. My choice of hiking destination wasn’t too difficult – I figured I’d return to a beautiful set of rugged hills in the western Connecticut town of Kent, located in a state park called Macedonia Brook.
I had done the 6.7-mile loop, climbing the highest hills in the park, once before, eight years ago. I wondered how much I would remember from then. The most salient facts that I remembered were that the scenery was incredible, and that the trail had, to quote the hike book, an “eight-foot ledge with minimal handholds” and a “thirty-foot sloping ledge” that were always interesting, and they proved to be this time as well.
And so it was at 10:15 AM on Saturday, June 27th that I pulled up to the trailhead in Macedonia Brook. It was located near a series of campsites, and the namesake brook babbled peacefully nearby. Without much hesitation, I started up the trail on the east side of the valley.
I hiked the first half of the loop in record time. This is the easier half, with relatively good footing (at least compared to the second half), and mostly gentle slopes. I enjoyed listening to the birds chirping and watching the ants crawling and the squirrels jumping. At one point, I crossed a road right next to a stream, and out of the stream flew a heron! Once I had joined the trail on the other side, the heron went back into the stream. I felt bad for disturbing it.
Twenty minutes later and one more hill conquered, I tumbled out onto another road, where a vehicle was parked. I noticed that the vehicle had a Georgia license plate, and briefly wondered why a Georgian would come all the way up to Connecticut just to hike Macedonia Brook. Then I saw that the license plate had Fulton County emblazoned on it. It all made sense to me now. Clearly Owens had come to do some hiking here, and I wondered briefly if I would bump into her. Of course, if she had started at the same place that I had, then she would probably have finished the entire hike already by the time I got to the vehicle, but that’s another story.
(The vehicle wasn’t actually Owens’. Her vehicle does say Fulton County, though.)
I then walked along a road that had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and mentally thanked FDR for it. I soon approached another road. However, as I did, I heard a strange noise from the other road, and looked down to see what it was. I could hardly believe it. It was a yeti.
I quickly hid behind a tree, hoping that the yeti would just continue along the road and not notice me. However, the yeti stopped moving, pointed its head in my direction, and started to growl. I got very nervous.
The yeti took a few meaningful steps toward my position. I wasn’t sure what to do. Should I run away as fast as I could? Should I yell and scream in the hopes that someone was there nearby who could fight off the yeti? Or maybe I should try to fight off the yeti myself. I did have my walking stick with me.
Suddenly, I heard a noise in the shrubs next to me, and a small child emerged. He waved at me, and then ran along toward where the two roads met. I realized that what I thought was a yeti was actually just a group of hikers coming up the road. I laughed it off, and we enjoyed witty banter.
One hill after that, and I was standing at the bottom of the eight-foot ledge with minimal handholds. I ultimately scaled the ledge without too much difficulty, but I needed all of my five feet and five inches to do so, and that left me wondering, “How on earth did I do this eight years ago?”
After I climbed the 30-foot sloping ledge, I suddenly felt exhausted, as if all my energy had just suddenly disappeared. I wasn’t too surprised, though. I had, after all, done the whole hike so far at a pretty quick pace. It reminded me of the Katahdin trip my junior fall, where I had plenty of energy to climb the Abol Trail, but as soon as I got to the Tableland I felt totally drained. However, I knew that the summit of Cobble Mountain, which has the best views in the area, was pretty close, so I summoned up my energy reserves and made it to the top.
The summit of Cobble Mountain is exposed to the west, and thus has an unobstructed view in that direction. I could see the Taconics in New York, and beyond that the Catskills. When I opened my lunch, I suddenly remembered that, along with my standard peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, I had also brought a special strawberry from the garden at my house. I named this strawberry BERR, and for the remainder of the hike I carried it in my pocket, wrapped in a spare sock that I had brought. From this exposure, Berr clearly learned a lot about the outside world that most strawberries don’t have the opportunity to learn. Unfortunately, once I reached the trailhead again, I found that Berr had started to turn colors from internal and external bruising, and that the leaves were going brown. Berr clearly needed immediate medical assistance. Luckily for Berr, I did just earn a diploma from a particularly fine institution, so I used the knowledge and skills represented by the diploma to tend to Berr. I opened my mouth and my stomach’s fluids welcomed Berr’s not-particularly-doughy substance with great pleasure. He had a good home in my digestive tract for a few hours.
At the summit, I also briefly considered holding a flag behind me in a pose that Eric knows well, however I was deterred from this by the fact that 1) there were other people on the trail, and 2) it started to rain. I hiked the final 1.5 miles downhill through a light rain, which was refreshing. As Sam knows, it wasn’t my first hike where precipitation began while at the summit.
The hike was pretty close to perfect. The weather (mostly) cooperated, the trail was a mix of easier and more difficult sections, and the scenery was classic Litchfield Hills. I hope that all of you are going on lots of hiking trips (or, in Owens’ case, sea kayaking trips), and I’d love to hear about them!