Easy days like this allow more time for boredom and Thought to creep in

Cohos Trail, Day Thirteen: Tillotson Hut to Deer Mountain Campground

Another easy day ahead of us, just 10 miles of breezy terrain. We got a late start, well after the speedy father-son duo.

The trail that morning was delightful. We walked over an 800-foot bog bridge, thought to be the longest in the northeast. The weather was sunny and bright, the forest smelled good, and our feet stayed dry, mostly. We were roughly following the path of the Connecticut River between 1st and 2nd Connecticut lakes, although for long periods we could neither see nor hear the water.

I was still anxiously keeping alert for moose, and so we walked quietly and kept our thoughts to ourselves, mostly.

But as we approached the “Unknown” Falls, day hikers and fly-fishers began appearing in the woods, coming from a nearby road. Apparently these rapids were virtually unknown to all but a few locals until the Cohos Trail Association built this stretch of trail, and now they are some of the most popular miles along the route.

We stopped to prepare lunch on the rocks jutting out into the white water, and the roar of the river covered the sound of other people.

We moved on up the Connecticut River, but soon took another break to refill our water bottles at a calmer spot. As E filtered, I dangled my feet into the cold water.

Near 2nd Connecticut Lake we met another thru-hiker breaking for lunch. We stopped and chatted for a bit, and learned that it was his third time hiking the Cohos, after a previous section hike and another thru-hike, and that he is also a trail maintainer of one of the more remote sections of the Cohos. I think he said it takes him 4 hours just to drive to the trailhead—the dedication!

We walked out to the rocky shore of the lake. I almost wish we had lingered longer, because the trail after this was rather boring and tiresome, but my thoughts had already turned to our camp that night. We would be staying at the last campground on the Cohos before Canada, and our guidebook said anybody in their right mind wanted site 28 (our new acquaintance confirmed this was true, and said he hadn’t seen anybody at the site when he walked by earlier that day). I started to imagine that every minute, every second might make a difference in whether we got site 28 or not. So we hustled on.

Everything after 2nd Connecticut Lake sucked, according to my notes that night. There were too many rocks and branches underfoot. The trail runs right up against Route 3, so we could hear the occasional car or truck speeding by—people taking the easy way to site 28, I thought to myself. We passed an ugly logging scar, a river of debris running down to the road.

We made it to the campground by mid-afternoon and stopped by the office to register. I asked about site 28 and the older woman behind the desk ran her finger through the book. “You’re in luck,” she said. “It’s available.” Apparently a woman had booked it for eight days—starting tomorrow.

We bought a bundle of firewood. The woman and her husband also gave us a gallon of drinking water because the campground spring was dry, even though we said we had water filters with us, and he drove our bags and firewood down to the tent site in a little golf cart.

Our tent site was located right at the edge of Moose Falls Flowage, a pond created by the northernmost dam on the Connecticut River. Deer Mountain rose up on the far side of the dam. Fall colors were finally starting to peak through the green.

We set up a poncho like a ground sheet near the dam and played a few rounds of rummy before dinner.

Easy days like this allow more time for boredom and Thought to creep in. I was pondering the Why and Meaning of hiking, especially because we were walking in two days what many do in one, and I was perhaps feeling a touch inadequate. I knew deep down that we could have made the border that day, if we pushed like other hikers said we should. But we didn’t, because we had planned on a mid-day finish tomorrow so we wouldn’t be driving back to Vermont in the dark. Our ride was scheduled. We had plenty of food (also, there’s no food at the border). There was no reason to push. I knew all that and it made sense to me and yet, I still felt Less Than.

More than that, I wasn’t out there to finish the Cohos Trail in as little time as I could. That’s not why I hike. Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing to remember.

I was also already wistful about leaving the trail, and heading back into society. Although sometimes it seems I only write about Things That Went Wrong, most of the time that I’m hiking I feel there is no place I would rather be.

We built our first and last campfire of the trail after dinner. It would have been an incredible spot to stargaze, but the sky was clouded over, unfortunately. Eventually, it began to spit precipitation on us, so we smothered the fire and climbed into our tent.