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AT 2017: Day 113, Sharon Mtn. Campsite to Riga Shelter

I'm walkin’ through a valley of pain

Hike with Gravity

Walking every day creates a rhythm.

Wake up. Pack. Walk. Stop. Set up camp. Sleep. Repeat.

A thru-hike can be boiled down to day after day of sameness. This includes eating a lot of the same meals and feeling a lot of the same pains.

Date
Weather Mostly sunny, high temperature in the low 80s
Trail Conditions Ups and downs with a few flat spots and road walking
Today's Miles 16.2 miles
Trip Miles 1,503.0 miles

I’ve begun to realize that being successful as a thru-hiker requires accepting and understanding the sameness.

To be sure, there are differences in the days. There are unexpected moments, which should be appreciated and embraced.

Variety brings joy and surprise. Without this, the trail would become boring. And if it were boring there would be no reason to hike it day after day.

This is part of the mental challenge of thru-hiking, which is easy to overlook at first. A hiker's most immediate concern is the physical challenge. The mental side of the trail creeps in later when you think you’ve overcome the tough part of thru-hiking.

My hike this morning began with a walk over Sharon Mountain, which overlooked a broad valley. Located just under a mile away from the trail was Lime Rock Park, a speedway that hosts several car racing events each year. I could see the speedway from a viewpoint soon after I left the campsite.

The descent from the mountain was gradual at first, before falling off more steeply. At the bottom of the mountain the trail began a long flat section.

It crossed a corn field, then went along a road. By now it was mid-morning and there wasn’t much traffic.

The road passed a high school, so in a few weeks this road will be busy. As I walked past the school I could see preparations were underway for the new school year. I thought of my wife, Kim, who had already started the year at her school.

A teenager was working near the road, watering trees that didn’t look especially healthy. He asked me a couple questions about my hike and seemed surprised that someone might want to walk from Georgia to Maine.

After the trail left the road the flat section continued along the Housatonic River. For a portion of this section the trail had been constructed to be wheelchair accessible.

The trail skirted past Falls Village, but went by a couple of buildings connected to a hydroelectric power station. One of the buildings had a faucet and a shower head attached to it. Fireproof was taking a shower there when I arrived. He said the water was cold. I elected to not take a shower, but I sat under a large shade tree and ate lunch.

When I left the power station the trail crossed the river over a new bridge. Not long ago the trail had been temporarily re-routed here when an old bridge was torn down, and was only recently retuned to the regular route when construction of the replacement was complete.

Road walking continued past a few houses. A couple of them displayed a yard sign supporting a ban of Sunday racing at Lime Rock Park, which is an on-going controversy in this part of the state. Racing promoters have been trying for years to overturn the ban, which was put in place because of noise coming from the track.

The trail followed the road for almost a mile before re-entering the woods, where it continued to Great Falls, the largest waterfall in the state.

Much of the water from the Housatonic is diverted for power generation, but the waterfall was still nice to look at.

After leaving the waterfall, the trail began a long climb over Mt. Prospect. This was the first climb after the long section of flat trail. My left knee was not pleased by this change in terrain. Suddenly I was feeling a lot of pain, so I stopped to take some ibuprofen.

I caught up with Stick and we walked together through an expansive meadow called Rand’s View. We were nearing the end of our walk through Connecticut, and the mountains we could see from here were in our next state, Massachusetts.

The trail had been making a gradual descent from Mt. Prospect, but ended with a steep and short drop to a field. Next was more road walking as the trail passed by the edge of the town of Salisbury.

Where the trail left the road and returned to the forest I found “1500” written in small sticks. I didn’t celebrate this milestone, though. The time was past 5 p.m. and I still had a long ways to go before reaching our planned camping spot for the night.

The next miles were almost all up, and some parts were steeply so.

On the climb up I came upon Leapfrog and Extra Mile. I hadn’t seen them in several days, and I learned why. Leapfrog told me she had been fighting effects of Lyme disease.

Stick had gotten ahead of me, but I caught up with him at a particularly steep and rocky part of the climb. Another hiker was here too, but he was obviously not a thru-hiker. It looked to me he was in over his head and was struggling to negotiate his way up the mountain.

Stick tried to help the guy out by telling him about an alternate trail that took an easier route up the mountain, but he stubbornly continued on.

Stick and I weren’t struggling like the section hiker, but we knew when to give up. As we reached a side trail to Riga Shelter we decided to stop there for the night instead of continuing to our planned campsite.

The Honeymooners and Fireproof were here too.

Later, after I crawled into my tent, my knee began to hurt again. It was a stabbing pain in the kneecap area, not in the IT band like I experienced early in my hike.

This far into my hike, I’ve become more aware of thru-hiking’s mental challenges. but that doesn’t mean the physical ones have gone away.

Don't let me grow bitter I pray
Give me strength to carry on my way
Don't let the darkness drive me insane
While I'm walkin' through, walkin' through 
A valley of pain
I'm walkin' through, I'm walkin' through 
A valley of pain
I'm walkin' through, I'm walkin' through 
This valley of pain

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