Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Well Marked Trail: AT 4.1

We tumbled out of the car, clicked a picture of ourselves and headed for the wide beaten path. It had been a while, and by golly, we were just happy to be out on the trail again.

“Huh," I told Tara, "they've switched to plastic trail markers." A hundred yards later the trail butted up to a chain link fence running north to south. We pulled our hats over our ears against the mid-October chill and headed north.

“This doesn’t feel right,” said Tara, “there aren't enough trail markers.”

We back-tracked nearly all the way to the parking lot.

“Well there aren’t as many blazes as we’re used to, but the AT marker is plain as day,” I said.

*Note to self, never listen to me.

Frowning, Tara accepted my reasoning. We turned north again and hiked. The fence was kind of ugly and we were uneasy but it was a beautiful, light hearted day. Perhaps this was due to our being light-backed. We’d opted out of an overnighter and were thoroughly enjoying the novelty of a day hike.

“Geez, this really is a poorly marked trail,” I complained. It was time to split up again and scout ahead at another fork in the trail.

“The trail's over here,” I hollered, finding the remnants of plastic trail sign. Just little white pieces remained pinned under large flat nail heads.

We discussed the merits of plain painted blazes and our disappointment at seeing them replaced with plastic placards. We didn't get lost in discussion. The navigation was just too taxing as was a growing unease until we saw another sign that jogged Tara’s memory. (There was nothing in my mind to be jogged. Had we been depending on me we would have had a more “interesting” adventure.)

“We’re following the perimeter of the trail!” she said, “There’s a corridor of protected land on either side of the trail. These mark that boundary.”

As appealing as back-tracking is, we decided to bushwhack. Logically we’d been running parallel to the real AT, if we set our course perpendicular we’d cross it.

We held our breaths... Actually we didn’t hold our breaths, but we used our eyes extra hard. In the end it worked out, we found the trail and the rest of the hike was lovely.

While retrieving the car in Cheshire, we looked to see where the trail really began. That morning we’d snapped a picture of ourselves standing in front of the trail itself and then we walked away.

In our defense the “other trail” was bigger. We learned something though, if there aren’t white painted blazes… it ain’t the AT.

[Dalton to Cheshire Massachusetts is a 7.4 mile hike. This hike on October 12th, 2009, was my fourth payment on my 30-year plan to section all 2,178 miles of the Appalachian Trail.]


  1. Informative! I plan to hike something, someday on the AT :-)

  2. Ahh, memories! I miss you and we have to get out there soon. You are so good at writing about our adventures!

  3. Nice. I feel like going on a hike again. Going back to my fast hiking experiences makes me want to get free and be wild.

  4. Ah, yes, one can never get too much of being wild and free!