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Thursday, September 17, 2020

CT/NY border to Tenmile River Shelter (AT Backpacking)

Backpacking is something I wish I got into earlier in life.  There's something romantic about carrying everything you need on your back to spend the night in the woods.  Once you escape the campgrounds or roadside camping areas, it's hard to go back to the noise and the crowds.  When you commit to carrying everything you need on your back, you weed out a lot of the people.  It's not as simple as going out for a hike, you do need to invest in some staples that allow you to sleep under the stars comfortably and safely.  Like all of my hobbies, they are uniquely my own, skills and interests acquired and invested into throughout my adult life.  My family wasn't the backpacking type and their idea of camping involves a large RV at a developed campground.  I had to do a lot of research, save up, invest in gear, and find some likeminded friends to hike with.  When you do invest in the gear and find your tribe, there's nothing like setting up your camp somewhere in the woods far from any road or roaring generators.  While I love an epic adventure deep into the Whites of New Hampshire, it doesn't always have to be 30 miles into the wilderness, 3 miles into the woods was plenty for us.  

I wanted a one-night "easy backpacking trip" and I didn't want to travel all the way up north to Vermont or New Hampshire.  When we think of mountains, it's the Greens of Vermont and the Whites of New Hampshire that quickly come to mind.  While those mountains are magnificent, and I have some wonderful memories backpacking in the Whites, I needed something easier and closer.  Lucky for me while smaller, we have some mountains, trails, and amazing scenery right here in Connecticut.  We even have the world-famous Appalachian Trail that traverses 52 miles through the mountainous corner of the state.  If you want to plan a Backpacking trip close(ish) to Coastal Connecticut, if you want designated campsites and a scenic well-marked trail, pick a spot along the AT.  

Once I decided on the AT in Connecticut, I had to do a bit (okay, a lot) of research to find a shorter stretch of trail that leads to a shelter/camping area and started from a parking lot that allowed for overnight parking. Olive was recovering from an injury so I wanted to be sure it was something on the shorter side, but also something scenic.  I wanted to set up my tent in a pretty section of woods or next to the water.  I spent some time zooming in and out of the AT mapping, checking information on trailheads and tent sites when I found the Ten Mile River Shelter.

Our plan for the day was to get to the northwest corner of Connecticut by noon, do a quick little day hike on the Pine Knob Loop in Sharon, head to Fife and Drum in Kent for dinner, and then be on the trail around 6.  It was a 3-mile hike into camp and we loaded up our bags, grabbed our headlamps, and headed north on the Appalachian Trail.  

I quickly realized that whether it be a 3-mile overnight or 3-day trip, you need all the same basics.  The only thing that really changes is more food.  For one night in the woods, we still needed all of the big bulky items: tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, water filter, and the Jet Boil. So off we went on the trail, with heavy packs excited to spend a night in the woods far from the chaos.  

I looked at a topographic map for the area and realized we would be gaining some elevation on this hike.  The hike in was a slow climb to the ten-mile hill summit where we caught the end of the sunset as we started to make our way down, and down, and down.  It was dark now as we followed our headlamps down the trail, aware that we were going to have an uphill battle out of camp.  

When we got to the camping area, there were a few tents set up and a group of campers was hanging out by the river.  We decided we would explore more in the morning and we quickly set up our tent and settled in for the night with the sounds of the critters and the river.  

In the morning, we made coffee by the river and set off the explore the area.  The camping area is set back by the river and trails bring you right to the river.  The camping area consists of a wide-open meadow and there is an outhouse set back along the treeline.  

The sad fact of this insanely beautiful spot is the Tenmile River that runs right through the camp is polluted with PCBs which cannot be filtered out with your normal water filter.  A beautiful river that we can't even drink out of or swim in because it is so polluted.  The AT trail keepers had a water pump installed instead which can be found by the shelter and picnic tables.  If you need to refill on water, do not use the stream but head to the water pump and be sure to filter your water here as well.  There is another outhouse in this area and we also found the portion of the AT that keeps heading north over a bridge and back into the woods.  

We loved how serene this campsite was and quickly made plans to come back, hopefully with friends.  The 3-mile hike into the woods makes this backpacking trip accessible to a lot of people.  With that being said, do not undermind the elevation gain on this hike, especially as you make your way out of the woods.  We did a lot of climbing in the first mile or so with heavy packs and we worked up a sweat as we followed the AT, this time southbound back to our cars.  Once back in the car, two tired dogs resumed their nap and we did a bit of research to find the best breakfast in the New Milford area.  

We settled on Johannas and went to town on a big breakfast of eggs, hash, toast, and a gigantic side of pancakes.  We were two happy campers, literally and figuratively as we made the drive back to Coastal Connecticut. 

Connecticut is a beautiful place that has a lot to offer from beaches and lobster shacks to quiet farm towns and tent sites along the Appalachian Trail.  Of all the campsites I have been to, this was probably the best one.  Just a 3-mile hike in and we were quietly camping by a river nestled in the woods of Connecticut.  No roads, no generators, just a quiet night along the AT.  We are hoping to spend some fall nights along the trail and this was the perfect start.  

Trail Stats 

Park:  Parking area off Route 55 right at the New York/Connecticut border.  This parking area allowed at least 10 cars and did not have any signs prohibiting overnight parking.  There are no fees and we had no issues parking here overnight. 

Trail:  Follow the Appalachian Trail (white blazes, north bound) at the end of the parking lot all the way to the Ten Mile River Shelter area.  You will see signs for the shelter, well, camping area, and outhouse.

Distance:  3-miles one way (6-miles round trip) 

Elevation:  781' (the hike out is steeper than the hike in)

Red Tape:  Do not drink from the river as it is polluted with PCBs.  There is a water pump by the shelter (filtering is still advised).  

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