Search Results for 'shenipsit trail end'

Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run

Lately, many of my trail adventures have been with Debbie. That wasn’t always the case. In the past, many of her races, and particularly the ultra distance events, were solo affairs for her. She was the runner and I was the crew.

Photos - 8 of 11

Over the years, and on many occasions, our children joined me on the crew. When they were young, it wasn’t easy for both of us to compete at the same time, so I was on “Daddy Duty” too, but a weekend with the kids can’t be compared with ALL week with the kids.  If you have crewed at an ultra, then you know that there is a lot of downtime. The moments of quietude are interspersed with bursts of activity when your runner arrives at an aid station. Crew chiefs are good at managing logistics. I love that role and look forward to playing it again. Debbie has done more than 100 ultras and I crewed most of them.

Photos - 7 of 11

Yesterday, she ran the Shenipsit Trail End-to-End with our friend Laura Lindquist Becker, and the experience brought back many of the good vibes from ultras past. There was no crew as this was a self-supported effort by the two of them, but that didn’t stop us from helping out with some of the other logistics and showing up at the end to cheer their finish.

Debbie and I met Laura last year when she joined the Shenipsit Striders. She helped out at the NipMuck Trail Marathon and then ran half of the Shenipsit Trail End-to-End the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Photos - 3 of 11

The two of them have been running together ever since. At some point, they hatched a plan to do the entire trail as an FKT attempt. Debbie knows the trail like the back of her hand, and she took Laura out several times in recent months to scout different sections. A few weeks ago, they ran the top half north to south. Yesterday, they did the whole thing south to north. I actually think it was Debbie’s first time doing the whole trail at once. It cuts right through our hometown of Bolton and we are on it all the time, so it is probably the most special trail for us.

Screen Shot 2020-06-01 at 9.31.33 AM

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association Walk Book description is excellent:

Towns: Portland, East Hampton, Glastonbury, Manchester, Bolton, Vernon, Tolland, Ellington, Somers, Stafford 

Trail Overview: The Shenipsit Trail system extends from the Cobalt area of East Hampton north to just shy of the Massachusetts border in West Stafford. The trail traverses the Meshomasic and Shenipsit State Forests on trails that are primarily woodland paths and offer several outstanding views. The Shenipsit also connects to the trail systems in Gay City State Park in Hebron, Case Mountain Recreation Area in Manchester, and Valley Falls Park in Vernon. Points of interest along the Shenipsit Trail include spectacular views of Great Hill Pond and the Connecticut River, excellent views of Hartford from the summit of Case Mountain, a junction with the Hop River Rail Trail in Bolton, scenic sections on the banks of the Tankerhoosen River in the Belding and Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Areas in Vernon, and excellent views to the west, north, and southwest from the fire tower on Soapstone Mountain in Somers. The trail also crosses conservation lands protected by the Kongscut Land Trust and the Manchester Land Trust.

Photos - 9 of 11

Given our 20 years association with the Shenipsit Striders, this trail has a lot of meaning. Debbie has been part of Striders leadership for a long time and was Race Director of the Soapstone Mountain Trail Race which uses sections of the trail. Laura is a very strong endurance athlete with a multi-sport background, but she is relatively new to trail running. She and Debbie make a good team.

Photos - 6 of 11

They started in Cobalt at the southern terminus of the trail on Gadpouch Road around 6:13 A.M. Their effort was self-supported which means no outside aid, and no accompaniment outside of your team. You can read about FKT definitions and guidelines at this link.  I provided more background in a post from last month. They left a car in Bolton Notch with extra food and water. The commuter lot is about 30 miles into the 50 mile total distance. It’s a trail, so these numbers are approximate. They reached the Notch around 11:15 A.M.

Photos - 10 of 11

Shepard was at Case Mountain riding with friends from the Team HORST Junior Squad. His teammate Sean was doing 6,288 feet of climbing for his CCAP Breakaway Benefit Ride, and he (and Alexandra) joined him for 30 miles. Of course, the Shenipsit Trail goes through Case. They didn’t end up seeing each other, but Laura and Debbie saw many other Shenipsit Striders friends throughout the day.

Photos - 5 of 11

Dahlia and I were hanging out at home to start the day. We took a walk and watched Launch America on YouTube. Then, around 9:00 A.M., I rode to Lake Terramuggus for a swim. I stopped at Case on the way, but only bumped into Junior Squad coach Tim Rourke. He is Sean’s dad. After my swim, I continued south to Cobalt to fetch the car. I returned home to have a snack with Dahlia and pack the car. Then we went to Case to pick up Shep. During this entire time, Laura and Debbie were making their way north.

Photos - 4 of 11

The kids and I drove to the northern terminus on Greaves Road in Stafford. They ate lunch onto way. When we got there, we hiked the trail south for two miles before turning back. Our timing was perfect as Laura and Debbie arrived when we were about 1/4 mile from the end. It was about 4:40 P.M. We cheered them loudly as they sprinted to the finish in just over 10 hours and 27 minutes. Laura’s husband, Steve Becker, was on Old Stafford Road and it was great to meet him and have him join the celebration.

Photos - 1 of 11

The kids and I have spent hours in the woods waiting for Debbie to arrive. With ultra races cancelled, this felt good. There was a lot less downtime as we got to do our own thing on a Sunday and then show up for the best part at the end. Congratulations to Debbie and Laura for their great run on a classic trail.

Photos - 11 of 11

2011 Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run

Yesterday, the Shenipsit Striders continued their post-Thanksgiving tradition of running the Shenipsit Trail its entire 46+ mile length from Cobalt to Somers, Connecticut. First off, this is a fun challenge, but it is also our way of paying homage to the trail that gives our club its name and history. It is also a celebration of this great track and the entire Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System. Last year, a group of us ran it as a relay. This year, we had several relay runners, and one brave soul, David Merkt, who ran the whole darn thing.

This year, we went south to north. The first group left the trailhead at the southern terminus at 7:00 A.M. The second group met them in Bolton Notch at the Hop River Linear Park (Rail Trail) for the hand-off at 12:30 P.M. The second group stumbled onto Old Springfield Road, the northern terminus, around 7:00 P.M. Dave was shattered and humbled by the trail, but as they say, “He got it done!”

The quote of the day goes to Dave. About 40 miles into his run/hike, when we were headed up Soapstone Mountain at dusk, I yelled back, “How are you doing ultra-man?” He replied, “Ugggh!”

Debbie ran the first half with fellow Shenipsit Striders: Clint Morse, Dave Almand, Dominic Wilson, Ron Starrett, Alison Cleary, David Sutherland, and David Merkt. I ran the kids down the rail trail  to the Notch parking lot at noon so that I could do the second half. I was joined by Tony Bonanno, and of course, Dave. We had incredible weather. It was shorts and shortsleeves weather, which is wild for late November. The sunshine was brilliant, the sunset was fantastic. Even the darkness was beautiful.

Our group kept a good pace until we reached Ellington, when we slowed considerably. However, we kept plugging along. We had great conversations and enjoyed every minute on the trail. We even came across another group of Shenipsit Striders doing trail maintenance. Thank you Stuart King, Norm Cormier, and Bill Metzger. That’s what it is about!

The trail was in decent shape. We thought it would be worse. There has been a lot of cleanup since the late October snowstorm that damaged so many trees. There was still blow-down and branches in many sections, but overall, it was OK. The mud wasn’t too bad. I heard it was worse in the first half. The trail was well-marked, especially in the northernmost sections, where we needed it most. We were unprepared for the final section of trail which seemed to go on forever. There was a lot of climbing at the end. It was a great day in the woods.

Join us in 2012.

2010 Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run

The benefits of yesterday’s yoga class didn’t last very long. At 5:45 P.M., Art Byram and I completed what 12 other Shenipsit Striders (and friends) started at 7:15 A.M. this morning. The first group, including Debbie, left Stafford, Connecticut at the northern terminus of the Shenipsit Trail, and ran 23 rugged miles south to Bolton Notch. Despite a few interested runners, none of the runners from the first group continued on the second half with us. So, it was a team effort to complete the full distance. At 12:15 P.M., I handed off our kids to Debbie, and then Art and I took the “baton” and ran the 23.5 miles to the southern terminus in East Hampton.

My GPS results show that we went through Bolton, Manchester, Glastonbury, Marlborough, and East Hampton. There was only 2,400 feet of elevation gain, but it was all steep stuff.  We got to explore some of my favorite lands, all in one day. We were on the Hop River Rail Trail, in Freja Park, in Case Mountain, on Birch Mountain Road, and in Meshomasic State Forest. Coming only two days after the Manchester Road Race, it was an epic run. This wasn’t the best for my recovery, but I figured, “what the heck.” My brain was really into it, but my body was screaming, “no” the entire time. Everything hurt, especially my legs.

All the pain from Ironman Hawaii came back, but it still felt so good. Art and I had a great chat and we explored the awesome Shenipsit Trail, which is part of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system. Early in the run, Art warned me that he grunts when his legs are shot, so I dubbed him the “Monica Seles of trail running.” We got lost several times, but each time, we managed to find our way back onto the route. The section of trail in Meshomasic, or “the Mesh,” was the most confusing because of all of the side trails and intersections.

We didn’t encounter too many people and had the woods pretty much to ourselves. It got dark around 4:30 P.M. and we finished with our headlamps. The last section of trail has a little Lookout Trail on Great Hill with a fabulous view of Great Hill Pond and the valley below. The lights in the valley shimmered under a wonderful starlit sky that released an occasional snow flurry. We had a steep descent to the trailhead and Art’s car.

I’ve been needing a run like this for a long time. I dubbed it the “anti-Ironman.” Running without a number just for fun without any pomp and circumstance was like a cleanse. I needed to clear my mind after the attitude, hype, and commercialism of the awesome, but flawed, Ironman experience. Art did the whole thing end-to-end last year with Bruce Giguere, another Strider. 46+ miles on that trail would be even more epic. Someday…

2023 Northern Nipmuck Trail Race

After 13 years, I returned to run the Northern Nipmuck Trail Race in Union, Connecticut. The classic Grand Tree race had a 10 year hiatus, but returned in 2022 after Race Director Tony Bonanno resurrected it. The past two years, it’s been run with a small field.

It was my 9th time doing the race, but first since 2010. I last wrote about it in 2012. Debbie ran it that year, then didn’t run it for the 10 year period that it wasn’t held. She returned to run it last year and was thrilled that Tony and the Shenipsit Striders brought it back. It has always been one of her favorite races. Our club already promotes the NipMuck Trail Marathon and Nipmuck South, so we have the ‘Muck covered.

I was last on this gnarly section of the Nipmuck Trail in April 2020 when Debbie and I ran the Nipmuck End-to-End during the mad COVID-19 Fastest Known Time (FKT) craze. That was an epic adventure. We ran the entire trail including the sections used for all three Striders races plus the defunct Breakneck Trail Race.

My first Northern Nipmuck in 2002 (21 years ago!) was a major fail. I was just starting to run tougher trails in an attempt to keep up with Debbie. My cyclists legs hadn’t yet been conditioned to trail running. I don’t think they ever will be, but at least I can finish now. That day in 2002, I got a ride back to the start/finish after bailing at the 12 mile mark (twin tubes aid station). My legs just didn’t work anymore. It was humbling. I didn’t return until 2004, but then six consecutive finishes culminating with that 2010 race.

My best time was 2:22:15 in 2009. Today, I ran my slowest ever time, a 2:44:55, but that doesn’t matter. At 50, I’m happy to be out there running and feeling good. Today’s conditions were kind of normal for late March on the Nipmuck Trail. It rained most of the day yesterday, so the trail was soggy in spots and slippery most everywhere. It warmed up nicely from the high 30’s (Fahrenheit) to the high 40’s. The sun shone brightly, so the south facing portions of the trail dried up a bit.

This section of the trail is very undulating. My GPS tracked about 3,000 feet of vertical gain and 3,000 feet of loss. It’s rocky and there are lots of roots. Debbie was the first woman in this small field. She finished seven or eight minutes behind me. I felt good. I went out conservatively. I would have liked to have a negative split, but there is more climbing on the way back. I think I got to the half way point in 1:21 or 1:22. The race was always listed as 16 miles and very well may be that long. There is so many sharp ups and downs and so many sharp turns, that it is hard for a GPS to capture all the distance. My watch said 14.88 miles, but who is counting? Miles six and 10 were my two fastest. The grade adjusted pace was the same for both. Now we are talking nine minute miles on what is the “smoothest” and fastest section of the course. This is the same section of trail. Mile six on the way out and mile 10 on the way back.

Of course, right after you run a “fast” nine minute mile, the next mile is over 11 minutes. That’s Nipmuck! It isn’t just that this section is hard; it is also very beautiful. The moss covered rocks are awesome. The trees are fantastic. The trail crosses through the Yale Forest and also Hull Forestry’s property. You don’t run through Bigelow Hollow State Park, but that is where you park. The park is one of the most lovely in the entire state. It’s worth checking out.

A year ago, we were in Delaware Water Gap for the TAMMANY 10. That hurt. I’m glad we opted for Northern Nipmuck this year. It was a much more manageable distance for me. Kudos to Tony and the Shenipsit Striders volunteers. If he hosts us again in 2024, I’ll likely be back.

Race Results

2022 NipMuck Trail Marathon

Today was the 39th running of the NipMuck Trail Marathon. It was my 8th time running since 2004, but today I only did half as part of the team relay with Chris Duffy. He did the first half, and I did the second half. The second half is slightly longer. My GPS registered 13.8 miles.

Debbie also did the relay, racing with Laura Becker, who is quite pregnant. Seeing Laura bring back memories to 2006 and 2009 when Debbie ran throughout her pregnancies.

The Shenipsit Striders did a great job hosting this venerable race. I’m already thinking about the 40th and possibly doing the full distance. I haven’t run the entire course since 2011. That was my second best time. My fastest was in 2009. If I do run next year, it will be interesting to see how close I can get to those past times.

My legs were definitely tired after last week’s Vermont 50K, but with today’s race being shorter, I could push through the pain without any real risk of blowing up. The trail conditions were mint. It was cool and breezy, but that made for very pleasant running conditions in the woods.

It was nice to see a bunch of friends, help out at the start/finish aid station, and cheer for the other runners. I rode home from Ashford, but my legs were dead. It was a bit of a slog, but I made it alive.

This year, I’ve done more running than originally planned. I should probably back off a bit so I don’t overdo it. I’m starting to think a little about cyclocross, but I have a few other adventures on my mind as well.

Race Results (will be linked when available)

2022 Metacomet Trail FKT (MUT)

Last night, Debbie finished the 100 kilometer Metacomet Ultra Traverse (MUT) and scored the supported Metacomet Trail FKT in the progress. Her time of 14 hours and 21 minutes (approximate) will have to be verified because her GPS died with about 80 minutes to go. I’m confident that we have enough evidence to prove her time, at least within a minute. She beat the prior time by about three minutes. I assure you that if she came up short, she was unlikely to try this beast of a trail again. There is more than 9,500 feet of vertical gain and the trail is very rocky as to crosses many traprock ridges.

THE MUT is part of the Connecticut Ultra Traverse (CUT), a 112 mile “race” from the Massachusetts border to Long Island Sound. Her attempt was crewed and supported throughout the day by our friend Chris Duffy. In the late afternoon, she got strong pacing and support from our friend Laura Becker. Dahlia and I joined up around 7:00 P.M., took over the crewing, and helped get her to the finish at the trail terminus on the Berlin Turnpike (Route 5) around 10:25 P.M.

The CUT includes the entire Metacomet Trail, a big chunk of the Mattabesett Trail, and the entire Menunkatuck Trail. The CUT runners are still on course. The entire route is 112 miles and it is gnarly. People don’t give Connecticut enough credit for its amazing trail system. The Metacomet is one of the iconic Connecticut Forest & Park Association Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails and her run was an awesome kickoff to the fantastic Trails Day Weekend. Connecticut has more than 850 miles of Blue-Blazed Trails.

The Connecticut Walk Book description of the Metacomet Trail described in the reverse direction from where she ran it:

Length: 62.2 miles

Towns: Berlin, Meriden, Southington, New Britain, Plainville, Farmington, West Hartford, Avon, Simsbury, Bloomfield, East Granby, Suffield

Trail Overview: The Metacomet Trail follows the striking traprock ridge from the Hanging Hills of Meriden to the Massachusetts border. While offering a wide variety of terrain, this trail affords incredible views, features historic landmarks, and offers the opportunity to observe a variety of wildlife.  Hikers will intersect well known and iconic landmarks on the trail including Castle Craig in Hubbard Park, Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington, and the Heublein Tower in Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury. Other notable points of interest include Will Warren’s Den and Pinnacle Rock in Farmington, Ragged Mountain in Berlin, the Tariffville Gorge in Tariffville, and Suffield Mountain in Suffield. Views from the northern stretch of the trail stretch west to the Barndoor Hills and north to Manituck Mountain.

A variety of loop hike opportunities are possible where the Metacomet intersects other significant trail systems. Most notably are the adjoining trail systems in Hubbard Park in Meriden, Timberlin Park in Berlin, Crescent Lake in Southington, Ragged Mountain Preserve in Berlin, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) Reservoirs in West Hartford, Penwood State Park on the Simsbury/ Bloomfield line and Sunrise Park in Suffield.

Along the trail hikers will travel through sites beautifully forested with mature growth trees, encounter numerous glacial erratics, enjoy the expanded views from the traprock ridgeline, and marvel at the trailside wildflowers that abound in the spring. On the northern section of the trail, hikers will encounter unique Metacomet basalt eroding into chimney-like spires along the cliff edge.  The trail is distinguished by its steep and challenging nature in places. Other sections of the trail are more moderate allowing for a rolling ridge walk. In West Hartford, along Reservoir #6, the trail follows a graveled path that is wide and flat for easy strolling. 

The Metacomet Trail is part of the 215 mile New England National Scenic Trail (NET). The NET was designated as a national scenic trail in 2009 and connects from the Long Island Sound to the MA/NH border. The NET is comprised of the Menunkatuck, Mattabesett, Metacomet and Metacomet-Monadnock Trails. A detailed resource for hikers is the NET Map & Guide. For more info about the NET visit

Debbie is no stranger to the Metacomet Trail. She and I did it in the middle of our June 2020 FKT on the entire New England Trail. On that trip, we went 242+ miles from the summit for Monadnock in New Hampshire to the shoreline in Connecticut. That adventure included the entire CUT and gave us a good look at the Metacomet Trail. That trip included more walking than running as it took 5.5 days and required some sleep. Laura, Debbie, and I gave the Menunkatuck Trail FKT a try in July of 2020, but I think we were still toast from our NET Adventure. We came up short, but it was still a great run. She returned to the Mattabesett Trail in September of 2020 and set that FKT which included the eastern section (spur) that wasn’t part of our NET FKT.

Her original plan was to do the entire CUT, but I didn’t think the full 112 mile run was prudent with only six weeks to go before the Hardrock Endurance Run. I talked her into doing the “baby” CUT, which is the MUT. I didn’t see any reason for a race with substantial sleep deprivation. It worked out for the best as our weekend schedule didn’t allow for the CUT. Our son is on a Scout trip, we have a family wedding tonight, and Debbie’s brother Tom is visiting from Montana. Both the CUT and MUT started at the same time at 8:00 A.M. yesterday (Friday). This will be her second trip to Hardrock. In 2017, she completed the epic San Juan Mountains loop in the counter-clockwise direction. She was lucky enough to get into the race for a second time and will have the good pleasure to attempt a second finish (but in the clockwise direction) in 2022.

It’s too bad the run didn’t start earlier (like 5:00 A.M. or 6:00 A.M.) because she would have been able to do the full trail in daylight. That would have certainly allowed for a faster time. It also would have given her a few more hours of running in a cooler temperature. She said the heat got to her around 2:00 P.M. and that’s when she fell behind her goal pace. She did the first 30 miles on 13 hour pace, but knew that the 85 minute buffer would be good to have in the last half of the run. The trail conditions were decent, but she said there was a lot of overgrowth. Everything has bloomed and trail maintainers haven’t gotten out to clip away the plants that are encroaching on the trail. The temperature climbed into the 80’s (Fahrenheit). The day started with some rain showers and the showers returned in the 7:00 P.M. timeframe. That made for some wet spots. Even when it wasn’t raining, it was humid. These were tough conditions, but that’s what you get in June in New England.

I keep going back and forth between “run” and “race.” The CUT/MUT is more of an organized/supported run and not really a full-blown race. With specified checkpoints, you arrange for your own crew to provide aid. The run is the brainchild of Art Byram, the host of the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast. Art is longtime trail running friend. I first bonded with Art at the 2020 Shenipsit Striders Shenipsit Trail End-to-End Run. We were the only two runners to do the second half of the “relay” run. Since then, he has been a huge cheerleader for Debbie’s exploits. She has been a podcast guest on several occasions.

Our whole family guested in January after Debbie’s HURT 100 victory. She talked Blue-2-Blue Trail Race in October 2020. Art chatted with the two of us after the NET FKT in 2020. Her first appearance on the podcast was episode 13 in March of 2019.

Art is very involved in the trail running community and I would like to think that my longtime involvement with the Connecticut Forest & Park Association as a board member (and now honorary board member) has helped influence his commitment to CFPA. Art has run all of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. Proceeds from the CUT/MUT benefit CFPA. He frequently promotes CFPA on the podcast. This is awesome.

Debbie’s Metacomet run was hard. I had a busy day at work, and had to look after the kids, so it was really nice that Chris took the day off to crew for her. He picked her up around 6:45 A.M. and drove her to the start. I got our kids on their respective buses and then worked all day. I got occasional text messages from Chris. Laura joined Debbie on Edgewood Road around 5:30 P.M. I got home around that time, made dinner with the kids, and dropped Shepard off at Center Church for his Scout trip to upstate New York. From there, I drove with Dahlia to rendezvous with Chris, Laura, and Debbie at the Edgewood checkpoint.

Debbie got there around 7:00 P.M. She didn’t stay long. Chris said his goodbyes as he had to return home. Dahlia hung out with some of the other crews while Laura and I joined Debbie by starting the long and hard section to Castle Craig. We ran/hiked with her for about a mile before turning back. We returned to the checkpoint and Laura said her goodbyes.

Dahlia and I made the short drive to the dam by the reservoir at the base of the descent from the Castle. It is a lovely spot. We hiked about a mile in on the trail to intercept Debbie. We ran back to the dam with her. At this point, she had less than six miles to go and it was dark. She was hurting, but didn’t take any aid. She took her backup light and forged ahead. We ran a little ways with her before turning back.

From there we drove to the finish on the Berlin Turnpike. I wanted to scout out the traffic situation. We gassed up the car and then backtracked to the intersection of the trail with Orchard Road where Kensington Road also crosses. This is where the singletrack ends. The last two miles of the Metacomet are technically on road. The terminus is at the Mattabeset Trail sign on the Berlin Turnpike at the intersection with Spruce Brook Road.

We parked the car at the side of Orchard Road. Dahlia stayed put and I walked a ways into the woods. I brought a reflective vest for Debbie to wear on the last stretch. She emerged from the woods and had about 20 minutes to cover the last 1.9 miles or so. The road isn’t straight or flat, so she had to fight hard to keep moving at the pace required. It’s always tough to watch her suffer, but I’ve seen enough of it to know that she has the grit and determination to push through. Dahlia and I cheered for her at various points on the road before Dahlia donned a waist light, hopped out of the car, and started running with her. They ran together for the final mile.

I drove ahead, parked the car, and then ran backwards to help them cross the busy four lane road. In the last five miles, she was passed by another MUT runner by the name of Matt Freiman. He had a strong finish. There were a few other crews at the “finish” including Matt’s. Debbie sprinted the final stretch of road and her finish was more relief than jubilation. I was pretty amped, but Friday night’s are never easy after a long work or school week. Dahlia was cooked. Debbie was really cooked. We got her washed up and drove home. She made it most the way, but as we entered our own neighborhood, she complained about her stomach. We quickly pulled over and she vomited for the first time. It was intense, but she felt better. We were all in bed by 11:30 P.M. and another great Livingston Family adventure was complete.

2022 Soapstone Mountain Trail Races

Today’s Soapstone Mountain Trail Races were the first “normal” version since 2019. We (the Shenipsit Striders) had a great turnout with more than 225 finishers between the 15.5 mile long course and the 6 kilometer Sampler.

This race has always been a family affair. Most folks know that we have been associated with it for the past 22 years. This was the 18th time I’ve done one of the two races. I originally planned to skip today’s race. I was going to go, but just volunteer, spectate, and take photos. However, yesterday, I told Debbie that I needed to spend some time in the woods and figured running the race was a good way to do that. I didn’t pre-register, but was happy to pay full price this morning.

The day dawned warm and drizzly. It was quite damp after a few weeks of uncharacteristically dry spring weather. That made the rocks and roots on the trails a bit slippery. That may deterred some of the pre-registrants from showing up today, but we were still pumped about the crowd. The grounds at Reddington Rock Riding Club in Stafford were buzzing.

Debbie was the Race Director for more than 15 years, but gave up that role a few years ago. Now, we are just part of a fantastic volunteer team. Kudos to Dan Tourtellotte who took the reigns from Debbie. The course was well-marked (maybe too well marked!) and the post-race meal (Rein’s Deli veggie chili, pickles, chip, drinks, etc.) was awesome again.

After nearly catching me in 2021, Shepard opted to skip the race as his focus is on track. He had his toughest workout of the season on Saturday, so he brought his bike and used it to explore Shenipsit State Forest and cheer for runners on the course. Debbie wasn’t an official racer, but she swept the the short course and then spent some time removing course markers on the first part of the long course where the courses overlap.

This spring, she organized the Shenipsit Striders Run Club for kids. I think this is her third year doing this. She had nearly 30 registrants. She averaged more than 20 participants each Tuesday and Thursday over the last few months. The culmination of their training was today’s Sampler. About 15 of her kids came to run the race, including Dahlia.

Dahlia had a good run. She was 6th overall and 2nd female but more importantly, she had fun. I was the other family member to pin on a bib number. I also had fun. Like I said, I didn’t plan to run, so there was no special preparation. My back was a bit stiff (and now it’s stiffer), but my legs felt good. The race was fast as the front group went out hard.

I backed off and ran my own pace. I did fade a bit in the last four miles, but that’s happened many times at Soapstone. I had to let the group I was with go as they pulled away from me and finished a few minutes ahead. I was still pleased with my time. It was slightly faster than last year. As the rain stopped and the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds, it got warm. That meant it was muggy too. The conditions were a little uncomfortable, but that was OK.

Over the years, Shenipsit Forest has taken a beating. It gets heavy ATV and off-road vehicle traffic. Many of the trails and roads are rutted out. Indiscriminate logging has also left the forest ugly and barren in spots. It’s unfortunate, but the forest gets very little attention and the trails get very little (if any) maintenance. Even still, the fact that we have these woods to run is still positive.

The top three men in the long course race were James Boeding, who had a stellar sub-two hour time, Samuel Alexander, and Austin Frank. The top three women were Kassandra Spitler, Lesli O’Dell, and Molly Alexander.

I frequently joke that I “hate running.” I’m not sure when I’ll race again, but I’m sure I’ll do some more trail running this spring and summer. After all, I can’t hate it that much.

Race Results

2021 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race

About half way through today’s Soapstone Mountain Trail Race, as the heat was rising and the hills were taking their toll, I grew worried about Shepard’s first attempt at running the 15.5 mile long course. This was his longest ever run of any type. A few years ago, he did one lap of the 11 mile Traprock course. He was running on tired legs after yesterday’s Bush Hill MTB Race and Friday’s one-mile time trial (at school). I feared this might be a little too much activity. I was concerned he didn’t carry enough water. I didn’t want him to struggle and have a bad experience.

What I really should have been worried about, was getting caught by him!

I eked out a 24 second advantage, a slim margin over the course of 2.5 hours of hard trail running on the second “hot” day of 2021. Saturday was even warmer. The heat caused problems for yesterday’s mountain bikers and today’s trail runners. I saw a lot of cramping and even some vomiting. Some people suffered, but he had an incredible run. After crossing the line, he grimaced for a moment and then broke into a smile. He wildly exceeded his own expectations and I was even more thrilled than he was, despite the fact that he he nearly caught me.

Debbie was only eight minutes behind him, so the three of us got to share in the excitement at the finish line where Dahlia, who ran the short course (3.8 mile Soapstone Sampler), was waiting for us.

he 2020 Soapstone Mountain Trail Race was cancelled at the start of the pandemic, so today’s race was a fantastic comeback for New England’s second oldest trail race. Only the NipMuck Trail Marathon is older, and only by one year.

The 2019 edition was the 35th anniversary and it also was Debbie’s final one as the Race Director. She was in that role for 15 years, including the first few as co-director with the late (and legendary) Jerry Stage. There are a few old-time Shenipsit Striders still going strong, and we saw two of them at today’s race. Willi Frederich and Tom Curtiss were both there and though time has taken its toll, their indomitable spirit and pride in our “club” has helped keep both them and the club going.

This year’s Soapstone felt very different, and I’m not referring to all of the adjustments and precautions because of COVID-19. I’m referring to the fact that all four of us were just participants. Debbie did a small amount of work in the background, but she had no race-day responsibilities.

Dan Tourtellotte is the new Race Director. He mentored with Debbie in 2019 and got support from other club members to pull of this year’s modified version of the race. I won’t get into all the particulars, but it was a simpler affair with no food, no awards, no kids race, etc. The focus was on the race and the course, and that was fine.

Our kids did miss the days when we had to pack the van full on race morning and you could barely see them behind the piles. They missed Rein’s Deli vegetarian chili. We actually stopped there on the way home to get some takeout, but the line was out the door and we couldn’t stay. Debbie had a good run as Race Director (pun intended), but it was time for her to hand the race off to another steward.

One thing Debbie did organize in 2021 was the Shenipsit Striders supported Bolton Run Club. She coached more than 20 children for a spring running series on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They met each time at the commuter lot in Bolton Notch and did training runs as a group. The culmination of the program was entry into today’s race, and many of them participated in the Sampler. Debbie is justifiably proud of all her kids as many have developed a love of running and fitness. That’s all you can ask for.

We saw a lot of friends at the race, some whom we had not seen since before the pandemic started. Notably, it was fantastic to see Randall Dutton, Tom Ricardi, Joanne Ricardi, and Cole Ricardi. We also saw Bruce Giguere, Paul Funch, and Brett Stoeffler. Carly Eisley came to race. So did Rich Fargo, all the way from northern New Hampshire.

We saw a lot of other friends from the club and the local running community. There are too many to name and thankfully, over the last year, we have seen them on one occasion or another. 62 runners finished the Sampler and 132 runners finished the long course.

As usual, the Shenipsit Striders put on a great event. There was strong volunteer support. The aid stations were simple affairs, primarily with water and chips (in a bag). Shepard said he saw OREO cookies. I can’t confirm that. I didn’t stop once. I ran straight through them because I wore a hydration pack and carried what I needed.

I probably should have stopped at the third and final aid station for some water because I got a 1/4 mile past it, took a sip from my hose, and realized I was empty. That made for a tough final four miles as I was parched. I was hoping there would be a jug of water at the top of the Quarry Trail after the last big climb up Soapstone Mountain, and before the final descent, but there wasn’t. I was thirsty, but I pressed on.

I ran a chunk of the race with Michael Minopoli and Jeremy Beebe. We were joined at one point or another by other runners, but for most of the time, the three of us were within sight of each other. I met them for the first time today and enjoyed their company. I saw Brett early on, but only because he made a wrong turn.

I also saw Neal Leibowitz. He went flying past me, but sadly I caught up to him after he sprained his ankle. He was hobbling and I figured he would call it quits at an aid station, but he pressed on and finished. Kudos to him, but I warned him to ice his ankle. I made a similar mistake 20 years ago, finishing the Savoy Trail Race Sampler (in wicked heat) after spraining my ankle, and it has never been right since then.

The race was won by Benjamin Hearon. He was followed by Adrian Massie, and then Brett was third. Caitlin Roston was the first female. She was followed by Debbie, and Elizabeth Bove was third. I think the standout performance of the day was by Rich. He was sixth overall and about 4.5 minutes in front of me. I couldn’t keep up with him when he passed me. He is 61 and a real inspiration.

You can’t compare this year’s course with past years. It was similar to 2019, but even longer. The start and finish were in the same spot in the field at Reddington Rock Riding Club. That was so each runner could cross the timing mat at start and finish. The race was done on net time so that we could start people in small groups that were spread out. Whether it was necessary or not, it worked. However, the race is now more than 15 miles long. In past years when the times were scorching fast, the race was as short as 13.6 miles with a different mix of trails.

After our finish, we stayed for a short while and watched some of our friends finish. We got to see a few of them cramp, which caused some chuckles. We didn’t stay too long because runners were asked not to linger. Normally, we would have stayed until the last runner finished and everything was packed back into the van. In prior years, that was usually 3:00 P.M. It felt weird to be home by 1:00 P.M. while runners were still on the course. Another issue was the thunderstorm that rolled through just after we departed. I know some runners were caught in this. The temperature dropped quickly which may have helped some, but I’m glad that we finished before the rain started to fall.

This was a different Soapstone, but it still had the best feature…the course. Soapstone will always be a classic. The race is tough and hilly like most Connecticut trail races. That’s how we like them!

Race Results (Long Course)

Race Results (Sampler)

Finch Brook Trail Loop & Scrooge Scramble (Bolton Edition)

The Finch Brook Trail Loop is a little gem in Wolcott, Connecticut. It’s a 12 minute drive from Debbie’s parents’ house in Prospect, which makes it the perfect post-Christmas location for a run. After yesterday’s deluge, the wind blew through, and the temperature plummeted overnight.

We woke up to brilliant blue skies, lots of sunshine, but a temperature of only 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It was chilly! We took our time getting ready, had a full breakfast, and then made the short drive to the trailhead on Barbara Drive.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association Walk Book and website have a simple description of the 2.6 mile trail (note our Garmin GPS’ registered 2.4 for each loop. We chose to run it in the counter-clockwise direction.

Towns: Wolcott

Trail Overview: The Finch Brook Trail is an easy loop trail.  The sole access point is the trailhead at the end of Barbara Drive in Wolcott.  The trail meanders through a combination of wetlands and gently rolling hills, almost completely under a forest canopy dominated by oak species and interspersed with hickory, maple, and birch.  A stretch of the central wetlands of this preserve is crossed by a lovely 125-foot-long bog bridge, affording the hiker an intimate wetlands experience.  Further to the north, the trail follows a section of the Old Finch Road, a very old woods road said to have been once walked by Abraham Lincoln.

The Finch Brook Preserve, totaling just over 64 acres, has been permanently protected by the Wolcott Land Conservation Trust.

Allowed Uses: Hiking Only

Partners: Wolcott Land Conservation Trust

I love the historical reference and the chance that I ran on the same trail/road that Abraham Lincoln explored. Lee-Stuart Evans has an expanded description on his site. You can also read about this trail on the FKT site.

Debbie ran it for the first time back in November, but I was seeing it for the first time today. We decided to do two loops with the goal of running moderately hard while scouting the trail on the first loop, and then running all-out for a negative split on the second loop. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain on top of a foot of melted snow (it is nearly gone) the trail was in good condition. Lee-Stuart warned about doing this trail the day after a heavy rain. However the overnight freeze helped firm things up and there were only a few squishy spots.

There were also a few slippery spots, lots of leaves, some blowdowns, loose sticks, and some rocky sections, but we were still able to blast it. We met our goals and were back at the Schieffer’s house by noon. That meant we could join family for a nice big lunch.

I felt pretty good despite doing a hard effort yesterday. For the first time in 16 years, the Christmas Day Scrooge Scramble 5K in Rockville was cancelled. We had done the race 14 times since 2004, so it was only fitting that we recreated our own version at 10:30 A.M. in our Bolton neighborhood. Scrooge benefits the Cornerstone Foundation soup kitchen/shelter in Rockville, which is an important institution/nonprofit to support. The race organizers established a virtual version and you can do that to help raise funds, or you can just send a direct donation. To make it even easier for you to donate, here is the link too their site.

Debbie mapped out a 5K route through town on some of our regular roads. She put the invitation out to the Shenipsit Striders, and despite the rain, we got three runners to join the four of us. Catherine Koehler, Christopher Duffy, and Todd Brown (nemesis) ran with the four of us. The kids tried to come up with a good name. One suggestion was Rudolph’s Rampage. Another was Bolton Blitzen. I’ve taken to calling it the Scrooge Scramble (Bolton Edition). We hope and expect to be back in Rockville for the real race on Christmas morning in 2021.

Debbie and I also did two loops yesterday with the first one being a warmup and the second one being a hard effort. So, we may not have run long in the last 24 hours, but we did run hard, and it was fun.

Even More FKT’s: Tunxis and Pachaug Trails

For me, the best part of my run was the bike ride. What am I talking about? Read on. This weekend, Debbie and I were back running on Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. Her run was on the Tunxis Trail on Saturday with her partner Laura Becker. My run was on the Pachaug Trail on Sunday, and it was solo.

We just couldn’t pass up this amazing November weather. The temperature climbed into the low 70’s (Fahrenheit) on both days and the sky was a brilliant blue with awesome sunshine. It was very uncharacteristic for this month, and it was likely record (or near it) warmth for New England. It was quite a contrast from the late-October snowstorm 10 days ago.

Debbie and Laura have had the Tunxis on their to-do list ever since running the Shenpsit Trail together back in June. They have tackled several other BBHT’s together this year including the Menunkatuck and Nehantic trails. They are regular running partners and make a good team.

The Connecticut Forest & Park Association calls the “mainline” section of the Tunxis 38.5 miles. Their actual GPS results read closer to 34 miles, but who is counting? The trail is rugged in the north on the Massachusetts border where they started, and eases up a bit as it goes south where there are more dirt roads in the second half.

CFPA’s Walk Book and website description are as follows:

Towns: Southington, Wolcott, Bristol, Burlington, New Hartford, Canton, Barkhamsted, Hartland

Trail Overview:The Tunxis Trail is the backbone of a larger trail system that consists of 19 trails and totals just over 83 miles of interconnected hiking adventure.  The trail system generally traverses the western ridge of the scenic central Connecticut valley.  The southern trailhead of the Tunxis Trail is in Southington and the trail runs north to the Massachusetts state line. The trail is interrupted near the Wolcott/ Bristol line and resumes in Plymouth. The Tunxis Trail and its myriad of adjoining trails offer a wide breath of loop hiking options and traverse a variety of terrain and landscapes.

The southern end of the Tunxis Trail is typified by woodland paths that travel through the top and sides of the Central Valley’s western wall.  The trail offers several outstanding views, including Julian’s Rock and Norton Outlook. The side trails in this southern region vary in length from a half-mile to just under five miles and travels over diverse terrain.  The mid-region of the Tunxis is primarily in the Town of Burlington. Features of the trail system in this region include the challenging Mile of Ledges, the historic Tory Den, connecting trails to other trail systems in Sessions Woods Wildife Management Area and Nassahegon State Forest, and opportunities to explore lands protected by the Burlington Land Trust. There are ample opportunities for loop hikes, longer distance hiking and shorter family rambles.

The northern section of the Tunxis Trail traverses some of the most beautiful woodland that can be found in Connecticut. Highlights include the Indian Council Caves and Pine Mountain, where 180-degree views provide prime hawk-watching during spring and fall migration. The trail crosses and sometimes follows several woods roads and old fire roads, passing along picturesque mountain brooks. Located primarily on Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) lands and Tunxis State Forest, the trail in this region climbs steeply near its northern terminus to meet the Connecticut-Massachusetts state line and crosses for a short distance into Granville State Forest in Massachusetts.

Lee-Stuart Evans’ site has an even better description with other helpful details, so be sure to check it out. There time of 7h 33m 33s knocked nearly 45 minutes off the previous best female FKT. They had another great run. Debbie was pretty knackered afterwards and has proclaimed that she is ready for some “offseason” rest. It’s been quite a year for her. This was her 17th FKT of the year of which at least six were ultra distance. Check out her list.

When Sunday’s weather looked even better than Saturday’s, I had to get out for my own adventure. However, I was slow to plan and didn’t decide until 9:00 A.M. on Sunday. I didn’t feel great and was lacking some motivation, but I knew that I could be passing up the last (and one of the best) good weather days of the year.

So, I announced my intention after breakfast and hastily pulled together the necessary gear. Debbie did the Pachaug Duathlon two weeks ago, so she had the lowdown. All I needed was a quick debrief and a few minutes with some maps. I loaded the courses on my Garmin Fenix 6s, threw my bike in the back of the car and headed east for Voluntown.

I dropped my bike at the western trailhead (the run route is shaped like a horseshoe), locking it to the steel gate at the end of the trail. By the time I got everything sorted and made my way to the eastern trailhead, it was past 11:00 A.M. I actually had a “false start,” missing the first left hand turn off the dirt road at the start. I had only gone 1/4 mile or so, so I turned back to start over. My official start time was 11:14 A.M., which is really late for me. Most days, my run is finished by 6:30 A.M. Starting close to noon is not playing to my strengths as an early riser.

The CFPA description of the Pachaug Trail follows:

Towns: Voluntown, Sterling, Griswold

Trail Overview: Primarily a woodland trail, the Pachaug Trail extends from Green Fall Pond in Voluntown to Pachaug Pond in Griswold. It passes ponds, streams, rock formations, travels through stands of conifers and hardwoods, and features a rhododendron sanctuary. It is almost entirely within Pachaug State Forest. There are side trails, connecting trails, and crossover trails that provide many options for further exploration. The crossover trails connect the Pachaug Trail to the Nehantic, Quinebaug, and Narragansett Trails allowing for great loop hiking opportunities.

Longer backpacking trips can be achieved by linking the Quinebaug, Pachaug, Nehantic, and Narragansett Trails. Four overnight shelters in the State Forest can be used by backpackers on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more info on the backcountry shelters and to reserve a space, click here.

Again, Lee-Stuart Evans’ site offers a helpful guide to the Pachaug Trail.

I started strongly running the first five miles in around 45 minutes, but it didn’t take long for me to slow down. Miles six through 10 were tough, but then things improved for me again. I picked up the pace from 11 through 15, but partially because the terrain was more runable. Then, I really fell apart and miles 16 through 22 were a humbling experience culminating with the “walk” up Mount Misery. You couldn’t have scripted it better. I died three deaths on that hike up the aptly named hill. It’s one of the high points on the trail at 441 feet. You read that correctly. My house is at 590 feet, nearly 150 feet of elevation greater than Mount Misery, but at the 22 mile mark of this so called run, I was dead on my feet.

I survived the descent and was able to pick up the pace a bit in the last few miles with a modest sprint that helped me just beat Debbie’s time from two weeks ago by 51 seconds. That gives me bragging rights in the household. I was hoping to go so much faster, but yesterday this was all I could muster. I still had to ride my bicycle back to the car, and since I hate running, it st be a surprise that the bike ride was my favorite part of this run!

Seriously, I do like these duathlon creations, so after a moderately quick transition, I pushed it hard on the 7.3 miles back to the eastern trailhead. Half of the distance was on busy roads in the fading daylight, and half of the distance was on rough gravel (dirt road). My ethic with these duathlons is to carry everything on the bike that I finish the run with. I don’t leave any gear behind even though one could drive back to fetch shoes, packs, etc. I like my runs to be unsupported when possible and my bikes to be self-supported.

I ran the Pachaug Trail in 4h 32m 38s. My bike leg was 29m 41s. The total time including transition was 5h 08m 41s. Debbie’s total time was 5h 16m, so now I really have bragging rights in our household!

New England Trail Adventure “Again”/Mattabesett Trail E2E

Yesterday, Debbie and I finished the job that we started back in June. The goal back then was to run/hike the entire New England Trail (NET). In June, we added a little spice by first running the New Hampshire Metacomet-Monadnock Trail from the summit of Mt. Monadnock to the start of the NET on the NH/MA border. We did the M-M, and then continued on the NET all the way until we reached Long Island Sound. It was a 242+ mile journey.

The Connecticut section that goes from the MA border to the Sound is also known as the “Connecticut Ultra Traverse” or the CUT112. The CUT is made of three trails, the Metacomet Trail, the Mattabesett Trail, and the Menunkatuck Trail. One of the quirks of the NET in CT is that it has a spur. That spur is the rest of the Mattabesett Trail and it goes from the intersection with the Menunkatuck in North Guilford to the Connecticut River in Middletown. So, it is impossible to do a self-supported thru-hike without backtracking.

So we returned to run that last section of the Mattabesett. I was only up for a half adventure, but Debbie wanted the full experience, so she actually ran the entire Mattabesett from Meriden to Middletown, which is no easy feat. I had no desire to repeat the first half of the Mattabesett that I painfully experienced in June. I only wanted to run the part I hadn’t seen, so I met her in Guilford after dropping her off at the start of the trail.

The Connecticut Walk Book description of the Mattabesett Trail described in the reverse direction from where she ran it:

Length: 60.8 miles

Towns: Guilford, Durham, Madison, Haddam, Middletown, North Branford, Wallingford, Middlefield, Meriden, Berlin

Trail Overview: The Mattabesett Trail (Mattabesett is the Indian name for Middletown) roughly forms a large horseshoe beginning at River Road in Middletown and extending to the Berlin Turnpike in Berlin. The trail begins traveling in a southerly direction, gradually becoming more westerly and finally, assumes a northerly direction. The trail is one of the first trails conceived of by early Connecticut trail builders and remains a popular and highly visited trail today.

The eastern sections of the Mattabesett Trail contain high ledges and bald knobs with vistas of the Connecticut River. A picturesque terrain of tumbled ledges, frequent brooks, shallow bogs, vernal pools, mountain laurel, and hardwood forest add to the trail’s beauty. The western sections offer some of the finest ridge walking and cliff views in the state as the trail traverses the southern end of the traprock ridges that extend north into Massachusetts. Some of the notable features hikers will encounter include the Chinese Wall in Middletown, Pisgah Mountain in Durham, Bluff Head in Guilford, Beseck Mountain in Middlefield, Mount Higby in Middletown, and Chauncey Peak and Lamentation Mountain in Meriden.

The trail connects incredible open space across its length. State forest and parks, land trust preserves, municipal parks and important conserved land are all linked by the trail. The Reservoir, Bear Hill and Seven Falls sections at the eastern end include 5 miles of loop trails. The trail intersects other major trail systems and offers additional loop opportunities in Millers Pond State Park and Mica Ledges in Durham, the Rockland Preserve in Madison, Braemore Preserve in Guilford, and Giuffrida Park in Meriden.

The Mattabesett Trail is part of the 215 mile New England National Scenic Trail (NET). The NET was designated as a national scenic trail in 2009 and connects from the Long Island Sound to the MA/NH border. The NET is comprised of the Menunkatuck, Mattabesett, Metacomet and Metacomet-Monadnock Trails. A detailed resource for hikers is the NET Map & Guide. For more info about the NET visit

I wasn’t up for running 60+ miles, but I figured that 30 was doable. I opted to mix in a little cross-training and speed work instead. So, after dinner with the kids and her parents, we spent Saturday night at the Schieffer’s in Prospect. Mr. and Mrs. Schieffer had a bunch of Sunday chores lined up for the kids, so they were also in for some hard work. Debbie and I got up at 3:15 A.M. I drove her to the northwestern terminus of the Mattabesett, which is at the intersection with the southern terminus of the Metacomet Trail at Rt. 15 and Spruce Brook Rd. It’s a nondescript spot on a normally busy road, but we had it all to ourselves early yesterday.

She started running at 4:03 A.M. and didn’t stop until 7:16 P.M. when we reached Middletown. That was about 15 hours and 13 minutes of elapsed time. It was about an hour slower than her goal, but that can partially be explained by a number of wrong turns, a significant trail reroute (that we didn’t know about and had us running confused in circles), and less road running. Regardless, she set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) for a woman and mostly had fun doing it. I think that when she finished, she was knackered and momentarily questioned why she puts herself through so much pain. I guess we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t question the rationale of our endurance sports. She has had one heck of a year. She hasn’t raced one ultra (they were all cancelled), but her list of FKT’s is impressive. Most of those efforts have come on the amazing Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system.

For extra fun, she has been participating in The Connecticut FKT Challenge. It’s a somewhat arbitrary “competition” meant to draw more interest to Connecticut’s awesome trails and to support the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). I can’t object to that worthy goal! The challenge, made of a list of 16 tough CT trails is self-described this way:

Everyone will receive a medal for their efforts even if they don’t complete all 16 of the trails. Those who complete all 16 in their entirety, which is almost 600(!) miles, will receive a specially designed Connecticut FKT Challenge Buckle from Ragged Cuts. In addition, to make it easier for you to complete or do as many of these trails, you can signup with a partner or teammate or you can simply run them all as an individual. Both you and your teammate have to signup, but can split up the trails however you like during the challenge. We will also be awarding a prize to the runner who we feel has overachieved and gone the most out of their comfort zone on a single FKT push.

On the event page, they are listed in order from least difficult (still hard) to most difficult (wicked hard):

1. Menunkatuck
2. Natchaug
3. Saugatuck/Aspetuck(combo)
4. Nehantic (out and back) 
5. Pachaug 
6. Quinnipiac
7. Mohawk 
8. Nipmuck 
9. Tunxis 
10. Mattatuck
11. Mohawk/AT Loop 
12. Shenipsit 
13. Metacomet
14. Connecticut AT 
15. Mattabesett
16. Connecticut Section of NET

She needs to complete as many as possible during the official summer season from 20 June to 22 September. She has a week to go and I wouldn’t put it past her to knock another one off the list. She did several of these in 2020, but before the official start, including the NET. She even did a few before 2020. Regardless of this recent “competition,” all told she has done 12 of the 16 (counting overlaps) and set FKT’s on 10 of them. Bravo.

Yesterday’s weather was perfect for running. She started with a light jacket, removed it after an hour, and didn’t need it again. She started with her UltrAspire Lumen 600 waist light as planned, and sadly, finished with it (the last 15 minutes) too. I didn’t want to start my own adventure until daylight, so I spent the first 2.5 hours crewing for her. Since her run was “supported,” I was able to provide aid. After seeing her off at the start, I drove south to Guida’s on Rt. 66 where I dropped off two bottles of water and an energy bar just before the trail crosses the road. Then I continued on to Rt. 68 where I left three bottles of water and a bar right before the trail crosses the road.

From there, I returned to meet up with her on Bell Street around the nine mile mark. I waited for a short period of time before she popped out of the woods after about two hours. The sun was coming up. She ran the asphalt section up Country Club Road. I went ahead in the van and parked at the dirt turnout where the trail goes back into the woods. She dropped her light, filled her hydration pack, grabbed some food, and then took off. She planned to make use of the two subsequent “aid stations” and then continue to Guilford where I planned to meet back up with her. She was in good spirits and moving well.

Once I said goodbye, I drove to CFPA headquarters in Rockfall, just a few miles away. Behind CFPA is the Highlawn Forest Trails.

The Connecticut Walk Book description is:

Length: 3.5 miles

Towns: Middletown, Middlefield

Trail Overview: Situated behind CFPA’s headquarters, the Highlawn Forest is a gem on the Middletown/Middlefield town line. The trail system winds through a second growth forest, on what were once open farm fields, and features conifer plantations, mixed hardwood forest, and red maple swamps that support a diverse array of wildlife species. The trails follow many old fire lanes from the time the property was a tree farm and offer multiple loop opportunities.  These flat and gentle trails are great for young or beginner hikers. The property also features an outdoor amphitheater, pond, large vernal pool with an observation platform and a universal access trail.

The Highlawn Forest is protected and will never be developed thanks to the Camp family who placed a conservation easement (held by CFPA) on the property in 1987.

I’ve hiked there before and yesterday, I went after the FKT on a two mile section of trail called Camille’s Loop. Since I was planning to run sub-7 minute miles on a rocky trail, I opted to scout it first by jogging a loop while listening to a podcast. Unfortunately, my hardest fall of the day came on that warmup when slightly distracted, I caught my toe on a rock. The sun had just come up and it was still darker than I would have liked, but I had an aggressive agenda in order to get to Guilford in time, so I gave it a go and paid the price. I cut up my left knee (for the fourth time in a month) and cut up both hands. I stopped the bleeding on my right hand by wrapping it in leaves.

I was still up for the FKT attempt, so despite the bleeding, I gave it a go and was pleased with the outcome, covering the loop in 14:41. It wasn’t quite sub-7 minute miles, but it was close enough. Back at the van, I changed my shirt, and headed to the intersection of Wiese Albert Road and Foot Hills Road in Higganum, where the Mattabesett crosses. I dropped off two large bottles (3 liters) of water and a 550ML bottle of pickle juice. It thought this would be more than enough fluids for the two of us, but I miscalculated.

From there, I drove to the eastern terminus of the trail on River Road in Middletown. I scoped the finish, switched to cycling gear, and packed my UltrAspire Epic XT full of water and more food for both of us. I had my own emergency gear, plus my running gear. I locked the van and rode 10 miles to Coghinchaug Regional High School in Durham which borders Field Forest. I had been in touch with Debbie by text message and was also tracking her by monitoring uploads from her Garmin inReach Mini GPS, so I knew that if I pushed it, I could squeeze in another run of my own.

I locked my bike to a fence at the edge of Field Forest and went after an FKT on the short Field Forest Trails. I won’t create FKT routes on such short trails, but my policy is that if the route exists, I’ll go after it, especially if it also helps me knock off another Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail. I have the goal of hiking all 825+ miles of them. I’m well on my way.

The Connecticut Walk Book describes the trail:

Length: 2.2 miles

Towns: Durham

Trail Overview: Towering tulip poplars, shaded woodland trails, a vernal pool brimming with aquatic and amphibian life, streams harboring fish, wild turkeys, red-eyed vireos and pileated woodpeckers, views of the traprock ridge, and magnificent trees- you may be lucky enough to encounter all of these on your visit to the 152-acre Field Forest owned by CFPA.

This property was given to CFPA by Howard Brigham Field, Jr after his death in 1999. Mr. Field was a conservationist and longtime resident of Durham who loved the property and wanted it to be protected in perpetuity for the community. Members of the Field family still maintain an important connection to the property today.

Stone walls, cedar posts, and remnants of wire fencing indicate that the property was once agricultural land. Abandoned at the end of the 19th century, the farm fields subsequently grew into forest. Today, the dominant ecological process is forest succession. The wooded property consists of a variety of mixed hardwood trees which provide important wildlife habitat. To learn more about management of the Field Forest, click here.

The FKT is on an 1.5 mile point-to-point route. I didn’t have time to scout it, so I saw it for the first time as I was running it. I wasn’t that fast, but posted a 10:16. I jogged back, briefly getting lost (how did that happen?) and switched back into my cycling gear. I was cutting it close to meet up with Debbie on time. I flew down Rt. 17 and then onto Rt. 77. It was 5.6 miles and with about a mile to go, I got a text from her that she was coming down the Bluff and would be at the road crossing soon. I messaged back that I was close. A minute later she said she was at the road, and then she called. I answered from the bike and told her to get moving and I would catch up. She decided to wait until I got there so that I could fill her hydration pack and transfer some food.

Once she got what she needed, she headed up the trail. I had to change my shoes again, lock the bike and my gear bag (cycling shoes and helmet) to a tree, transition to running again, and settle down after pushing to get there in time. It took me more than five minutes to sort this out and I figured I would catch her quickly. It turned out that it took me nearly two miles to catch up to her. She was running strongly, and I was hurting. When I caught up, we were happy to see each other and chatted about our respective morning adventures.

As noted, this Mattabesett run was marked by some wrong turns, course confusion, extra mileage, and a lot of suffering. It warmed up and I consumed my water quicker than planned. Our worst turnaround/confusion came after Mt. Pisgah when we didn’t realize we were on a newly marked section of trail.

It wasn’t until we backtracked and reviewed a posted trail notice that we were in fact ON COURSE, but thought we were off because the new route didn’t match our physical map OR the digital maps (including GPX files) online.

I guess no amount of preparation is ever enough. We should make it a habit of researching the latest trail conditions. I had loaded the GPX file on my Garmin Fenix 6s and it was wrong, even though we were right. An encounter with four hikers/dog walkers resulted in further confusion. We saw them once, and then again 45 minutes later and it made us think we had gone backwards on the course, or just gone in a big circle. The course does double back and the hikers insisted that WE were NOT on the Mattabesett Trail. Well, they were right, because they also didn’t know the trail had been rerouted.

Anyway, those challenges are all part of trail running, especially this version of it where you have to find your own way on marked (sometimes) trails. The last water drop turned out to be short of what we needed to make it to the finish. She was fine nursing her water, but I had to fill two bottles in one of the only running streams we saw all day, and thankfully we had some chlorine tablets to treat it. After waiting 30 minutes, I was able to quench my thirst. Even with this extra supply, I still had to mooch water off of her to make it to the finish. At times, I was dragging and she was pulling me along. At the end, I think it was my encouragement that helped her make it to the finish. We are a good team.

The up and down nature of the course was relentless. She gained more than 11,000 feet and that is with a high point of just over 900 feet. Those stats prove just how undulating Connecticut trails are. In addition to the vert, the Mattabesett is loaded with rocks and roots. It is a true New England trail. Heck, that is probably why it is called the New England Trail!

When we got to the finish, we changed clothes, wiped down, and hit the road. We had a convenience store stop for a post race supply of chips and Fritos, and then headed back to Guilford to get my bike. We were back in Prospect before 9:00 P.M. and in need of some rest. The kids were happy to see us. We decided to stay the night. Today, we got up early so that they could drop me off at work in East Hartford by 7:30 A.M. and then get home to start the kids’ “virtual” school day soon after.

This was just another normal 2020 weekend for the Livingston Family.

Shenipsit Trail Duathlon

A long solo adventure on the Shenipsit Trail is just what the doctor ordered. Now that I did it, I’ll probably have to see a doctor! Actually that isn’t true. I’m fine. I’m just dehydrated, sun baked, tired, and sore after finishing what I call the Shenipsit Trail Duathlon.

Photos - 1 of 16

I was overdue for a solo adventure. After working the last few weekends, yesterday, I didn’t think about work once. All I could focus one was staying on my feet. It was a well-needed break from the day to day. I’ve been on the Shenipsit Trail many times over the last 25 years, but I had never run all of it end-to-end in one shot. With the Shenipsit Striders, I’ve done half of the route on several occasions when the E2E is held in its usual post-Thanksgiving spot on the calendar. Memorably, 10 years ago, Art Byram and I were the only ones to do the 2nd half/southern section finishing in the dark. A year later in 2011, Dave Merkt, Tony Bonanno, and I did the northern half and again finished in the dark. Dave went the whole way and we helped him get to the finish alive.

Photos - 2 of 16

Back in the spring, Debbie did the full trail with Laura Becker. Several others had done FKT’s including Steve LaBranche, who ran (supported) a stellar 9h16m02s for the 50 mile route in April. After Debbie and Laura’s run, I knew I had to go back and give it a shot, but I was determined to do it unsupported. After our New England Trail E2E, I knew I had the endurance to push it.

Photos - 7 of 16

Yesterday, I started on Steve’s pace, but by the 10 mile mark, I had blown up and knew that it was going to be a very long day. I started at Gadpouch Road in East Hampton at 6:20 A.M. Thankfully, I drove out to Greaves Road in West Stafford on Friday night to lock my bike to a tree at the northern terminus. Debbie and Laura were at it again. They drove to the White Mountains on Friday afternoon and ran the Pemi Loop at the same time that I was on the Shenipsit. Our kids were with my parents at the beach. We are headed there soon as a beach day sounds nice.

Photos - 5 of 16

I used my Garmin Fenix 6s and the PacePro feature with the Course loaded and it was really cool, but by the time I had fallen an hour behind, it became tedious to pay attention to the buzzing of the watch. Even still, I enjoyed testing this feature and can see its possibilities. One thing it isn’t good at is knowing the terrain. The algorithm can factor distance and elevation (hills), but it doesn’t know anything about rocks and roots on the trail. News flash: there are many rocks and roots on the Shenipsit Trail.

Photos - 6 of 16

Yesterday, there were also a lot more leaves, branches, trees, and other debris than usual. It’s only three weeks since Tropical Storm Isaias wreaked havoc on Connecticut. I paid the price. I had to climb over or around a lot of blow-down. The trail looked like fall with all the previously green leaves that fell in the storm, littering the ground. They were orange or brown. There were so many sticks on the trail that it was maddening. I made three significant wrong turns, and a bunch of minor ones, but in total, it probably only cost me 10 minutes. In most cases, a tree with the Blue Blaze had been felled, or I missed a turn when a tree was blocking it. Between the Garmin and some backtracking, I got it figured out. The trail will improve over time. Nature will heal it, but the dedicated trail maintainers from the Connecticut Forest & Park Association will also have their work cut out for them. Shout out to them!

The CFPA’s Walk Book description is excellent:

Towns: Portland, East Hampton, Glastonbury, Manchester, Bolton, Vernon, Tolland, Ellington, Somers, Stafford 

Trail Overview: The Shenipsit Trail system extends from the Cobalt area of East Hampton north to just shy of the Massachusetts border in West Stafford. The trail traverses the Meshomasic and Shenipsit State Forests on trails that are primarily woodland paths and offer several outstanding views. The Shenipsit also connects to the trail systems in Gay City State Park in Hebron, Case Mountain Recreation Area in Manchester, and Valley Falls Park in Vernon. Points of interest along the Shenipsit Trail include spectacular views of Great Hill Pond and the Connecticut River, excellent views of Hartford from the summit of Case Mountain, a junction with the Hop River Rail Trail in Bolton, scenic sections on the banks of the Tankerhoosen River in the Belding and Tankerhoosen Wildlife Management Areas in Vernon, and excellent views to the west, north, and southwest from the fire tower on Soapstone Mountain in Somers. The trail also crosses conservation lands protected by the Kongscut Land Trust and the Manchester Land Trust.

Photos - 9 of 16

The idea of doing the trail solo unsupported and as a duathlon is just something that popped into my head. Debbie and I love combining a cycling with our trail running and I like these mixed adventures more than her. She is fine as long as there is an hour or less of riding. For me, the longer the better. I have no problem pedaling no matter how badly my legs are hammered. I even thought about a bigger challenge. You have to ride by Crystal Lake and come very close to Lake Terramuggus. A lap of each would add about 9,000 yards of swimming. Of course, swimming after running is a cramp-fest waiting to happen and would have been quite dangerous without a spotter/boat along side. I thought about it, but then discarded the ideas. The challenge of yesterday’s adventure was enough and it was on par with our 2017 Long Trail Monroe Skyline ++ “duathlon.” We finished that one in the dark around 9:00 P.M. as well.

Photos - 10 of 16

Yesterday, it took me 11h19m50s to run the trail. I changed my shoes, shoved the run gear in my pack (I used my UltrAspire Epic XT again), and departed Greaves at 5:57 P.M. This was much later than I hoped, but that is how it goes. I had a route back to East Hampton mapped in my mind, but altered it slightly to cut a few miles off. I had lights, but the moon was only a little bigger than a crescent and I knew I was going to spend more than 90 minutes in the pitch black. The good news is that the last bit is quite rural. I got the busy roads, routes 190, 30, and 85 behind me while it was still light or at least partially light. The ride ended up being 38 miles and it took me 2h49m55s. The route is hilly, especially at the end when you have to climb Clark Hill. That hill hurt.

Photos - 11 of 16

I have faster bikes, but I rode my Seven Evergreen XX, which is by far my most comfortable bike, and was a perfect choice for a bike ride after running 50 miles. Total time for this adventure including “transition time” from start to finish was 14 hours and 26 minutes. My original goal was to do the whole thing in 12 hours, which was probably a pipe dream, even on a cooler day. I don’t plan to do it again, so someone else will have to give it a try.

Photos - 12 of 16

Other than the challenging trail conditions, my other big issue was the heat. It got up to about 90 degree Fahrenheit and I think I boiled from the inside out. I decided to carry everything and not stop. You pass some stores and restaurants (particularly in Vernon), but I decided to just carry it all, including more than 5 liters of water. I always have an ID, credit card, and $20 cash on these trips, but kept it tucked away. I had two HydraFlask bladders including one with a hose, and I carried two 550ml UltrAspire bottles. I had two more bottles with my bike. That’s a lot of water to carry and it still wasn’t enough. I’m sure carrying a heavy pack with my food, water, and gear caused me to slow considerably. It got lighter as the day went on, but I was parched. I had my Katadyn BeFree filter with me as a precaution, but opted not to take the time to treat water. It’s been very dry, so the only good stream running was the Tankerhoosen. I could have filled up at Belding and I could have gone over to Snipsic Lake, but the water was pretty stagnant and I wasn’t keen on drinking it. It’s one thing to treat water from a mountain stream, it’s another to treat water that flows out of Rockville!

Photos - 13 of 16

I saw a lot of walkers, dog walkers, and hikers, but no trail runners. Surprisingly, I didn’t know anyone that I passed. In Tolland, I passed a couple walking their dog. It was in the heat of the day and they said, “Good job.” All I could muster was a surly, “This sucks” as I shuffled along the old rail bed along the lake. They knew I was half-joking and  remarked that it was quite hot and said, “You are doing awesome.” I thanked them. That perked me up a bit. On the long dirt Shenipsit Lake Road, I passed a house that had a sign out front. It said, “Don’t Give Up.” I’m sure it was in reference to other challenges in 2020, but it became my mantra for the rest of the run. I kept repeating it out loud. I wish I had stopped to take a picture, but I’ve got the picture in my mind. I took very few photos yesterday. I was exhausted.

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 8.54.42 AM

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 8.56.42 AM


By the time I got to Shenipsit State Forest and Soapstone Mountain, I was in agony. The last 10 miles were awful and felt like they would never end. I put one foot in front of the other and blocked out the pain. I missed having Debbie as my teammate. It would have been nice to have some encouragement and someone to pace with, but solo adventures are special in their own way.

Photos - 14 of 16

Finishing the trail felt great, but I knew that I still had to ride back to the car. I had to go right through Bolton (less than a mile from my house), so I knew that for some reason, if I had to bail, I could just ride home and get the car on Sunday. I also thought about stopping at home to get some extra lights, but I knew that if I went home, there was a chance I would throw the towel in. I also wanted a truly unsupported adventure. The good news is my light batteries made it to the finish, I drained the two bottles of water on my bike, and I got it done.

Photos - 16 of 16

After retrieving the car in East Hampton, I called the kids to catch up. Shortly after, Debbie called from the car. She and Laura were on their way back from New Hampshire. They had a great adventure of their own. By the time we met back up at the house, it was 10:30 P.M.

Now, we are headed to the beach!

Appalachian Trail (a Connecticut Story)

Our summer of adventuring continued yesterday in the northwest corner of Connecticut. Debbie and Laura Becker set out to run the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). On a very hot and humid day, there was a lot of drama, and most of it the good kind.

Favorites - 7 of 32

Favorites - 2 of 32

It was disappointing for Laura to stop after 34.1 miles (of 51.6), but lessons were learned, and as I told her, “she will live to fight another day.” Debbie forged ahead and finished in 14 hours and 32 minutes or so. The plan was for them to stick together, but Laura struggled with stomach issues throughout the run and the combination of nausea, dehydration, hunger, and fatigue finally did her in. The rest of her story is for her to tell, but I assure you there is no “quit” in this woman. She fought through the adversity and ultimately, it was not her decision to stop. She would have kept putting one foot in front of the other, and would have walked for as long as it took to get to the northern border. However, with health, and longer term goals in mind, I called a technical knock out (TKO) before she could start another brutal “round.”

Favorites - 8 of 32

Favorites - 1 of 32

So how did we get the point where we were standing on the side of a mountain debating what to do next? In late May, Debbie and Laura ran the Shenipsit Trail end-to-end. They have done a lot of training together in 2020 and that run was a big one for the two of them. Laura was a very helpful on our NET Adventure and she has continued to build her trail strength. She joined us when we returned to the Menunkatuck Trail to figure out what it really looks like (in daylight). She even did the bicycle ride back to the trailhead. I figure that after a few more of these trips, she will be an official member of our family.

Favorites - 25 of 32

The two of them wanted to take a step up in trail difficulty. Originally, they planned to run the 62 mile Metacomet Trail, but Debbie and I just did that as part of the NET and after further discussion, they settled on the Connecticut section of the AT. This hilly segment has nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain on rocky and challenging terrain. The high point is the summit of Bear Mountain at 2,316 feet which comes very close to the finish. Much of the ascent is done on hills that peak out around 1,200 feet, so “undulating” would be the best way to describe the route. Relentless is another good definition. Both Laura and Debbie are signed up for the Connecticut FKT Challenge, which ranks this trail the third toughest in the state. Debbie has now done about 11 of the 16 listed trails, though many of her runs predate the window for this particular competition. I’m conflicted as to whether we have to turn FKT’s into a “race,” but if the challenge gets more people to explore the trails of Connecticut then I’m fine with it.

Favorites - 22 of 32

Favorites - 23 of 32

Debbie was strong all day. Despite no races in 2020 she has made the most of these “do it yourself” (DIY) adventures, and with four months to go, I’m excited to see what she may do next. Over 22 years of trail and ultrarunning, she has experienced her own share of bad days. Yesterday, she suffered in the heat (and dealt with some ugly chaffing), but she was able to pick up the pace and finish strongly. The original plan was for the two of them to do the run self-supported, but as soon as I met up with them to provide aid, it became a supported run. Given how dry it has been, they didn’t want to take chances with finding available water sources, so on Friday, Laura cached water (only) at three different spots on the trail. They had a water filter with them, but leaving their own water was a wise decision as Saturday turned out to be one of the warmest days of this already hot summer. I was doing my own thing (more on this later) when I got a text message from Debbie requesting that  I meet them with more water near Sharon Mountain. I had dropped them off at the New  York border around 5:15 A.M (we left Bolton at 3:30 A.M.) and stayed in the area just in case they needed help. I wasn’t planning to see them until the finish in Sage’s Ravine, but after she reached out I altered my plans. Debbie continued on her own and I walked with Laura back to the car.

Favorites - 21 of 32

The fact that Laura stopped also changed the FKT type to “supported” as her teamwork with Debbie is considered assistance, much like it were a race. Regardless of all these definitions,  it was a hard run on a blazing hot day. Laura’s husband Steve Becker was very supportive. He had intended to come to the finish with me, so when plans changed, he met Laura and me at the Route 44 road crossing. Laura and Steve waited with me until Debbie arrived, before heading home for some much needed rest.

Favorites - 24 of 32

Favorites - 26 of 32

I located a Mexican restaurant in Salisbury and placed an order over the phone. Debbie had mentioned that she wanted something “savory” for the finish and the fact that Picante’s was only 1.5 miles from where I was parked was perfect. In their parking lot, I pulled all the gear from the back of our Subaru Outback and laid it out on the ground. I had been living out of the car all day and it was a mess. While I waited for the food, I rearranged and repacked everything. I even figured out how to get my bike into the car, as I didn’t want to drive up the dirt Mount Riga road with it bouncing on the hitch mount rack. I picked up the order and stashed it away for later. As I started up the mountain, I spotted our teammate Paul Nyberg’s truck on the side of the road. I saw him earlier when he met up with Laura and me on Route 7. The original plans for the day included a two-man ride up and around Mount Washington State Forest (in MA). Paul ended up doing the ride solo, and as I was making my way to the border as the sun was setting, he came flying down the dirt road one his cross bike.

Favorites - 27 of 32

Favorites - 28 of 32

We had a great chat about cyclocross, work, COVID-19, the economy, health, and life. It was awesome as the two of us hadn’t seen each other in quite some time. I kept glancing at my watch and occasionally checked the Garmin tracker to see where Debbie was. Our inReach Mini is OK, but not foolproof and there had been lags between updates. With the spotty cell coverage, our telecom strategy was far from perfect. I think Paul and I chatted five minutes too long. By the time we parted, Debbie was making her way up Bear Mountain and neither of us remembered how fast that last section can be. I also think that at that point of the run, she was absolutely flying.

Favorites - 29 of 32

Paul and I parted and I parked at a turnout near AMC’s Northwest Camp lot, packed a ruck, including some watermelon for Debbie, and walked in. It was about a mile of walking to intersect with the AT. I located the border using my  Garmin Fenix 6s and Google Maps and made a makeshift “finish line” but dragging  my heel in the dirt. I walked north a bit but it was getting dark so I didn’t go too far. Apparently, I stopped 50 feet short of the Sage’s Ravine sign. I’ve been there a few times, but at the end of a long day, I was confused. I waited and waited. Debbie’s final text read, “In bear” which I interpreted to mean on Bear or climbing up Bear. It turned out that she was already over the top and roaring down the hill towards the finish.

Favorites - 31 of 32

After 20 minutes I thought she should have been there already. My texts back to her failed to go through, so I started walking south (uphill) on the trail and yelling her name. I yelled her name for another 20 minutes before she finally called. Miraculously at that moment, we both had a cell connection. She was frantic and worried about stopping her watch at the right finish line. She knew she was on the AT and I knew I was on the AT, but we couldn’t figure out where. It seemed illogical but she described where she was. After a few more texts and phone calls, she shared her location with Google Maps and it was clear that she had already passed the border and was more than a mile into Massachusetts, headed for Vermont! The AT crosses the border and then hooks right, paralleling the border for a mile or so. It turns out that the signage indicating where the CT/MA border is located, is nowhere near the spot where the trail crosses. That’s nuts. It isn’t our only gripe about the publicly available info. We LOVE the Connecticut Forest & Park Association, but the Walk Book mileage is wrong. It says the trail is 56. 6 miles long, whereas the AMC Connecticut Chapter info describes the more accurate 51.6 mile distance.

All Photos - 1 of 1

I was hoarse from all the yelling, but she would never have heard me as she was more than a mile away. This was a ridiculous situation and it wasn’t until 9:00 P.M. or so that we finally found each other. She had been wandering around for more than an hour and we both got munched on by mosquitoes. At one point she ran into some hikers, but they actually pointed her in the wrong direction. Thankfully when she first passed the sign in the ravine, she had taken a photo, so we have adequate proof within a minute or so of her true finishing time. After we finally figured out where we were in relation to each other, she had to come back south (all uphill) to meet me. In reading through prior FKT reports (after the fact), we realized that just about every previous runner indicated that they were confused as to where to stop. I’m embarrassed that we fell into the confused camp, but you just aren’t thinking straight in these circumstances. We intend to make some clarifying comments on the FKT site so future attempts get this right without all the confusion. “People, use the first Sage’s Ravine Sign (with the other locations listed below) located a short distance past the official border as your stopping (or starting) point for any FKT attempt!”  We were both tired and frustrated when she got “back” to the state line, but the watermelon helped relax us. We still had to walk a mile back to the car, which means her effort ended up being more than 54 miles. As I’ve said many times, in trail and ultrarunning, mileage doesn’t matter. What’s another mile, or two, or three?

Favorites - 30 of 32

We changed our clothes, sat in the car, and devoured our burritos. They were fantastic. Picante’s gets five stars from us! We have had countless adventures together and this one is just another great one to add to the list. It would have been even sweeter if Laura and Steve were with us. We could have eaten vegan burritos (and gluten free for Laura!) together. With a few more brains to do math, we might not have lost 90 minutes wandering around the CT/MA border in the dark. Once refueled and hydrated, we got rolling again. I drove us back down to Salisbury. We stopped at a lovely spring to fill our water bottles, before reconnecting with Route 44 for the drive home. It took a little under two hours and we were in bed by 11:45 P.M.

Favorites - 32 of 32

So far, I’ve only described my interaction with the two main protagonists in this story. While they were in the woods, I had some fun of my own. Without the early-afternoon plan change, I might have done even more exploring (including some with Paul). As it was, I still squeezed in some “exercise” of my own. After my last activity was logged (the hike in and out of Sage’s Ravine), my Garmin “Training Status” was indicated as “Overreaching.” That’s probably true.

What it doesn’t indicate is how sore my feet are. They still haven’t recovered  from the NET run. My right heel has some bruising that was made worse by the northwest Connecticut rocks. My right Achilles continues to bug me,  and though I’ve indicated I need a few weeks off from running, this time, I’m going to take my own advice.  The plan is to hike a little and then stick to riding for the rest of July.

Favorites - 4 of 32

Going back to the pre-dawn hour, after I dropped them off at the border, I drove to Macedonia Brook State Park. It was my first  time there. I didn’t realize that they had an organized race there before, but apparently that is the case. I did the loop trail, which is also part of CFPA’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail system. Here is the official Walk Book description of the trails in the park:

Macedonia Brook State Park is situated on 2,300 acres of rugged terrain in Kent, less than a mile east of the New York border. The bulk of the property was originally gifted to the State from the White Memorial Foundation of Litchfield in 1918. The land was once the domain of the Scatacook Indians. After Kent was settled in 1738, the native inhabitants and settlers shared the area in harmoniously. During the Revolutionary War, Scatacook volunteers operated a signal system along the summits of the river valley.

A primary commercial activity in Macedonia was the iron industry. The Kent Iron Company’s iron furnace operated both in Kent and the village of Macedonia. Today remains of a forge and a stamping works are still visible at the southern end of the park. In 1865, competition from larger mines forced the Macedonia furnace to close. Many years later, the National Park Service established a Civilian Conservation Corps camp at the park to undertake park improvements.

The park has 11.5 miles of foot trails, all originating at the graveled park road (Macedonia Brook Road). Several side trails cross or connect with the blue-blazed Macedonia Ridge Trail, an oval loop encompassing much of the park. In general, trails east of the park road are not as steep as those to the west. The Macedonia Ridge Trail offers outstanding views of the Taconic Range and Catskill Mountains from Cobble Mountain (elevation 1,380’), located on the west side of the park. In the valley below, numerous streams tumble into Macedonia Brook, which wends its way south through the park and is flanked on both sides by peaks and ridges over 1,000 feet high. Numerous springs and streams in the park add to the great hiking experience.

Favorites - 6 of 32

It’s 10 kilometers of rugged, rocky, and steep climbing and descending. There are short runnable sections in between sections of tough singletrack. I took Lee-Stuart Evans’ advice and went counter-clockwise. It was safer to climb the worst of the rocks rather than descend them. At the top of Cobble Mountain, I had a spectacular view as the clouds were below me. I was running all out but still wanted to stop and take a photo. The problem was that my iPhone was stuck in the front pouch of my hydration belt. I gave the zipper a tug and it broke off leaving my iPhone trapped. I eventually got it out, using the pliers on my Leatherman, but that wasn’t until I was back at the car. Thankfully, a few miles away on the NY side of the border (where the AT briefly curls), Debbie and Laura were ascending a different hill while experiencing the same clouds. They got a photo of the early morning beauty.

Favorites - 5 of 32

Despite a few brief wrong turns, I knocked out the loop in 1:06:19, good for 4th on the Strava list that includes runners from the 2018 and 2019 editions of the race. My run was unsupported so I think I can post it to the site with confidence. I ran hard, didn’t fall, and felt good. Thankfully, I brought enough clothes for multiple wardrobe changes because I was drenched in sweat. I changed up and drove back towards the AT before eventually heading north, the direction of the day. I got some nice photos at the Macedonia Road crossing before continuing on to Bull’s Bridge, and then through Kent. Kent Falls State Park is officially closed during the pandemic, otherwise I would have stopped. It is one of Connecticut’s most visited parks.

I made my way up Route 7 to the Pine Knob Loop Trail, yet another CFPA trail that I would do for the first time. Here is the CFPA info:

The Pine Knob Loop Trail is located in Housatonic Meadows State Park and Housatonic State Forest on the west side of the Housatonic River, north of Cornwall Bridge. A short and challenging trail, it coincides with the Appalachian Trail for a portion of its length. Hikers will enjoy beautiful vistas over the river valley. The trail is accessible from the state park’s campground and group camping area via unmarked trails. For more info on Housatonic Meadows State Park, click here.

Favorites - 9 of 32

Favorites - 10 of 32

Once again, I went counter-clockwise. The unsupported FKT was a fast 32:12 but I figured I could beat it. It turns out that some guy (as posted on Strava) ran like 25 minutes as part of a much longer run, which seems crazy, but possible. After all,  I’m not that fast! Anyway, I’ll submit my time of 29:19 for the 2.6 mile loop and see what happens. I made a few wrong turns, but that didn’t cost me five minutes. This loop was also very hilly and rocky. I enjoyed it and also liked seeing all of the day hikers. The trail actually overlaps a bit with the AT, so for a few minutes, I was on the AT headed south. Laura and Debbie were still many miles south of me at that point, so there was no chance of an encounter.

Favorites - 11 of 32

When I finished around 9:45 A.M. the temperature was really rising. In reviewing this data, Strava indicated that the pair of shoes I was using have more than 500 (trail) miles on them, which is not good. No wonder my feet are sore. I made another wardrobe change and headed north again. I drove to Beckley Furnace Industrial Monument in North Canaan. This was a first time visit for me and I wasn’t disappointed. There were two interpretive volunteers sitting under a picnic table umbrella, and they talked my ear off. One of the volunteers was an elder gentleman who was extremely knowledgeable.

Favorites - 15 of 32

Favorites - 13 of 32

Given my metalworking background, I could have listened to him all day, but it was 85 degrees (and getting warmer by the minute) so I had to cut our conversation short. His assistant was a young high school intern who is a descendant of the clan that created this  nearly 200 year-old iron furnace, mines, and related enterprises. I plan to return with the kids as there is a lot to learn. I took some photos, checked out the display they had set up for visitors, and grabbed some brochures. As I said, we will return.

Favorites - 14 of 32

I  locked my Seven Evergreen XX to  an electrical conduit on a nearby park shed. I left a bag with my cycling shoes and helmet. Then, I drove 11 miles around Canaan Mountain to the start of CFPA’s Iron Trail. Here is the Walk Book description:

The Iron Trail runs through Housatonic State Forest and the Canaan Mountain Natural Area Preserve.  From the southern terminus at a metal gate on Canaan Mountain Rd in Canaan, the trail heads north and west to the State’s Beckley Iron Furnace Industrial Monument on the banks of the Blackberry River in North Canaan.  The trail mostly crosses through mixed hardwoods— including white oak, black cherry, and beech—punctuated by islands of pine and hemlock.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the area was regularly cut to produce charcoal to feed nearby iron furnaces, including Beckley.  Repeated coppice cutting has resulted in many multiple trunked trees.  Visible in a couple places are flattened areas where mounds of wood were stacked and “cooked” with slow, smoky fires to produce charcoal.  About halfway along the trail is a pile of stones that was probably once the fireplace of a collier’s hut.  From Wangum Rd the trail follows a broad woods road bounded in places by stone walls.  Upstream of a narrow brook crossing there is a beaver flowage.  Upon veering west, the trail narrows and winds through thick woods while skirting the edge of Canaan Mountain.  The last three-quarters of a mile descend to Beckley Furnace along a narrow charcoal road.  The upper part features beautiful rock outcroppings on the upslope side.  Pieces of slag from the furnace can be found on the lower part of the trail.  Pass slag piles overgrown with vegetation just before crossing the Blackberry River and arrive at the stone furnace stack which produced iron between 1847 and 1919.  Picnic tables and interpretive signs make this a nice spot to spend some time learning about a part of Connecticut’s industrial history.

I had print outs for three more possible FKT’s, but by now, the temperature was approaching 90, my feet (especially my right) were aching and each successive run was getting slower. Thankfully, I was only going one way. The out and back record is a stout 58 minutes. I wanted to at least make it to the northern end in 29 minutes, but alas, it ended up being a painful 32:42. So, this is another case where the calculated Strava segment is faster than what is officially noted on the FKT site. I’ll debate whether I submit this one or not.

Favorites - 12 of 32

Favorites - 17 of 32

When I got back to my bike, the information volunteers had moved into the shadow cast by the large furnace. They were smart! I ended up riding back to the car in the peak noon heat with the sun beating down on the road. The climb up Canaan Mountain was hard but the farms and fields that I passed were lovely. I have to explore these roads again. The plan was to meet up with Paul as we had gotten in touch, but when I was making my way up the mountain, I got the first text message from Debbie indicating their struggles and the request to meet them with water. She also suggested that ginger ale might help settle Laura’s stomach.

Favorites - 16 of 32

Favorites - 18 of 32

It took me nearly an hour to get back to the car and then 10 minutes to conduct another wardrobe change. I dug some food out of our cooler and ate it on the way back towards Falls Village. I stopped at the Mountainside Cafe, a restaurant I knew well. Debbie and I stopped there in 2017 on our ill-fated Mohawk Trail/AT Loop Misadventure. It was good that Debbie returned to the Mohawk in 2018 to get the job (that I couldn’t finish) done. It was take-out only so I called from the parking lot. I ordered three ginger ales and they had a nice locally sourced craft version in glass bottles. They delivered them to me out front and I got moving again. After a little driving around to figure out where I could get closest to them, I parked at the AT trailhead on Route 7. I packed a ruck and hiked south until I met them a mile or so down the trail. That’s the point at which the earlier part of this story began. With my individual pursuits for the day paused, and a raincheck from Paul issued, I became the “crew chief” again, which was fine with me.

Favorites - 19 of 32

Favorites - 20 of 32

I know that if either or both of our kids were in tow for this trip, there would have been a lot of complaints. Thankfully, they were spending another long weekend of “summer camp” at Debbie’s parents house. During this summer of cancellations, this has been a fun substitute for them. We did FaceTime with them this morning and they are having a blast. Apparently their Satuday consisted of climbing fences, skateboarding, go-karting, truck washing, bickering, bike riding, and chores.

Sunday will be about recovery as tomorrow is another important workday. I’m motivated and ready.

Some more AT resources:

AMC Connecticut Chapter AT Page
Appalachian Trail Conservancy Site
CFPA AT Page (with some erroneous data)

Full Report: New England Trail End-to-End Adventure

“Have a great vacation!”

Those were the words of several of my HORST Engineering colleagues as I prepared for a week away from work. When I heard, them I graciously thanked them but thought to myself, “you have no idea…”

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 132 of 133

Now, looking back on an adventure that just ended early Tuesday morning, I’m gaining the perspective that I need. This was a trip like no other before it. This blog dates back to 2006 and from “day one” it has been called “Life Adventures.” That spirit predates the Internet era as I have been adventuring for a lifetime, but only documenting it in this format for the last 15 years. I’m fortunate to have spent 21 years sharing these journeys with Debbie. She is a powerful woman with a similar desire to spend a maximum amount of time in nature while testing her own limits. We have a long history of adventuring together and this most recent trip feels like a high water mark, but we have said that about past trips and somehow we continue to raise the level.

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 12.03.20 PM

A Prologue post shared two days ago provides some basics on the trip, but much of it will be repeated here. Feel free to refer back to the shorter version for some additional photos and information including the background behind the New England Trail. It would be helpful to glance at it before digesting this longer post. This full report will cover each day of the adventure, discuss our preparation, gear choices, and get into so much more. I mainly write these for myself so that I have the history, but my children, the rest of my family, and so many friends and strangers have benefitted from following along. As always, thanks for reading.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 97 of 133


In 2009, the New England Trail officially became a National Scenic Trail. That was four years after we completed our Long Trail End-to-End hike and not long after I joined the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA). Debbie and I had both been on the Board of Advisors of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) dating back to the early 2000’s. She is still on the AMC BOA and I am currently on the Board of Directors. Regardless of these titles and roles, we have been AMC and CFPA volunteers and supporters for a long time. Since CFPA and AMC are the National Park Service’s partners in managing the NET, we were exposed to the process from consideration to designation. In 2014, we attended the Gateway Dedication in Guilford. At the 11 year mark, the NET finally got a revamped website and mapping system…this week. It literally launched two days after we got back. I knew it was coming, but we weren’t going to delay our trip for a new website. We have been working with the old site for a few months and used it (on our iPhones) extensively during the trip, but it is nice to see the overhauled site now.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 8 of 133

Though the NET officially starts at the New Hampshire/Massachusetts border and goes south through MA and Connecticut until it reaches Long Island Sound, we opted to add to the route. We hiked to the summit of Mount Monadnock at Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, and then started our run to Chittenden Park on Long Island Sound in Guilford, Connecticut. So, the route included the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail in New Hampshire and the NET in MA and CT. We covered more than 242 miles with more than 41,000 feet of elevation gain in just under 5.5 days.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 5 of 133

Ever since the 2005 LT hike, we have yearned for another thru-hike adventure. Over that period, we had two children, got them to join us in our adventures, competed in hundreds of endurance events, and biked, hiked, and run all over the world. We also completed hiking all 67 New England 4,000 Footers and then started the list over again with the kids; that quest continues.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 9 of 133

This year was supposed to be a big year of trail running and ultrarunning. I had a few years following a broken leg suffered racing cyclocross, where I didn’t run as much. In 2019, I regained some of that running fitness and Debbie and I decided to aim for some big goals. Even though the Hardrock Endurance Run was cancelled in 2019 (too much snow on the course), she needed a new qualifier to go into the lottery for the 2021 race. The logistics around qualifying are a bit messed up as the COVID-19 Coronavirus crisis has resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 race as well. That means when she does requalify, it will likely be for the 2022 edition at the earliest. She is fortunate to have finished the race in 2017 and based on the current rules, has a better chance of getting in compared with someone who has never run it before.

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 12.31.12 PM

While we were running the NET, we learned that the Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run was also cancelled, which is a real bummer as it is our favorite race and this is the first time in its history that it will not happen. We have only missed one since 1999 when Debbie ran ULTRA-TRAIL Mt. FUJI.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 10 of 133

The race we chose was the Bighorn Trail Run, a 100-miler in Wyoming. We have never been to WY. The race was supposed to be last week, but of course, was cancelled. I kept the time off and instead, we did the NET. We wanted to use the fitness that we have been building. All of the lead up races were also cancelled. They included Tammany 10, Traprock 50K, and Run Ragged. Once it was clear that this year would be very different with few or none events, we shifted our focus to the surging  popularity of Fastest Known Time (FKT) adventures. We have dabbled with the FKT concept for more than 15 years, but we never participated in the original Internet discussion boards. We were doing big day and multi-day adventures in the mountains (primarily of New England) before people used GPS and other technology to record, document, and share their times. Examples include many of our 4,000 footers which we did as trail runs or fastpacking adventures. We were covering the distances in a fraction of “book time.” Regardless, we kept some spreadsheets but without the GPS technology or our monitoring of the FKT boards, we weren’t really tied into the community.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 31 of 133

That changed a few years ago as we noticed a shift towards these do it yourself adventures. Without a big number, course markings, aid stations, or the other support that comes with a race/event, it felt more like our training runs of the past. With the logistics and navigation, these efforts were like the adventure races we did in the early 2000’s. Adventure racing peaked years ago, but when we did them, we loved them. Debbie did some of the multi-day stuff with other teammates, but my preference was to stick to one-day “sprint” events with her or one other teammate. This year, we pursued FKT’s on many of our favorite local trails. We weren’t traveling far from home, so it was fun to push ourselves on routes we already ran on a frequent basis. Those include the Nipmuck Trail, Natchaug Trail, Quinnipiac Trail, and Shenipsit Trail.

Speaking of inspiration, the NET has never been about a speed record. The new website demonstrates all the wonderful virtues of this trail, including the connection between art and nature. Ben Cosgrove is one of our favorite musicians. We met him because he was an NET Artist-In-Residence (AiR). The AiR is a program that started in 2012. Ben’s video offers a great summary of the NET.

I mentioned adventure racing and our other do it yourself (DIY) adventures. I recently finished The Last of His Kind, David Robert’s biography of Bradford Washburn. Washburn is one of my all-time favorite explorers and photographers. His feats in the mountains are a legendary source of inspiration. A Washburn aerial image of the Franconia Ridge hangs in our foyer. I also recently listened to a great podcast about Ernest Shackleton. I’ll listen to or read anything about Shackleton as I learn something every time. There has been a lot of controversy about Colin O’Brady, the Antarctic explorer, but whether you like him or not,  I’ve enjoyed his conversations with Rich Roll. I constantly take in a lot of exploration and adventure related content and it has fueled my outdoor passion. Debbie even remarked after we finished that this made her “feel” like a National Geographic Explorer, which is saying something about the significance of the adventure. There aren’t too many feats yet to be accomplished but an explorer is always pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 33 of 133

The timing of this trip also presented the opportunity to disconnect from the stress of the pandemic, and economic crisis. During the trip, we had very little connection with the outside world. We had to preserve battery life and our cellular connection was intermittent. I left my iPhone in Airplane Mode for 99% of the day. We would reconnect to update our position on an app like All Trails, or to check the NET website, search Google Maps, or research a question. I didn’t use Facebook at all and only posted on Instagram one time. Each day, I uploaded activity to Garmin Connect and that automatically populated my Strava feed which I edited and added photos to. Aside from that, there was little communication with the outside world. We had a tracking link for the Garmin Explore website that a handful of family and friends monitored. Long days were an opportunity to relax the mind and set aside worries. We were confident that our kids were safe with their grandparents Paul and Barbara, and having a blast.

So, it turned out to be quite a vacation!

In addition to the help we got from friends at AMC and CFPA, we did substantial research. Through the FKT site, we learned about Lee-Stuart Evans’ 2019 E2E. He did the official NET from MA border to the Sound. Lee-Stuart has been a guest on the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast a few times. Episode 38 covers his NET trip in depth. We subsequently read Lee-Stuart’s blog post, and then spoke with him. He was helpful in the latter stages of our preparation and stayed in touch during the trip, periodically texting us with tips and advice. His time of 5 days, 19 hours, 50 minutes is stellar. Though Lee-Stuart has a playful manner and his self-deprecating humor makes him sound “slow,” my assessment is that he is also a fierce competitor. His NET FKT preparation was thorough and his past experience is substantial. His website is a great resource for anyone planning a fastpacking adventure. It also has in-depth information about Connecticut’s trails, and particularly the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. He hails from England and has explored all over the world. We knew that besting his time wouldn’t be easy. Keep in mind that he is still the record holder for the solo supported E2E, but for the moment, our time is now fastest overall.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 30 of 133

We did a bunch of other research regarding fastpacking gear. Good resources include Greenbelly, Adventure Alan, and iRunFar. We also did substantial research on technology. In the end, Debbie’s older Suunto Ambit failed and didn’t make it to the finish. The memory was full and the battery died and it made no sense to waste our precious little backup battery chargers on it, so it ended up being dead weight. My newer Garmin Fenix 6s was fantastic and prior to the trip, I learned it’s functions from two great resources, the DC Rainmaker Fenix review and HikingGuy Fenix review. We also acquired a Garmin inReach Mini and to learn the functions, we went back to the DC Rainmaker for his in depth Mini review, and also the HikingGuy for his in depth review.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 21 of 133

I could do an entire post just on the Mini. In the end, my assessment is that it is a quality device in a small package, but with limitations for a trip like ours. I tested it over the course of a few weeks and was comfortable that we had it working well. However, there was no way to simulate the all-day conditions of our trip. Even though we had data logging set for every 1 second (uploading set for every 30 minutes), the GPS track we got was far less detailed. A post-trip phone call with Garmin customer service confirmed these previously unknown limitations and though they were apologetic, didn’t have any solutions for us. We spent a lot of time and energy keeping the Mini charged and running. We had one mid-trip failure where it shutdown during an attempted recharge, but after a restart, we got a new track started almost immediately. We figured we had the GPS detail we needed but that wasn’t the case. It worked well as a live tracker at the 10, 20, or 30 minute intervals, but we were not able to synch (with a cable) after the trip and export the 1 second data. It just didn’t exist. Thankfully, I used the Fenix 6s to capture each day’s (six of them) activity and we have detailed GPX files. The plan was to use the Fenix daily and turn it off during sleep, while letting the Mini run continuously.  Between the two devices, we got what we needed, but for the cost of the Mini and the Iridium subscription, we are not satisfied.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 22 of 133

We were aware that the NET isn’t a great trail for thru-hiking. The new website stresses that “stealth camping” is discouraged and Leave No Trace (LNT) is encouraged. The good news is that we always strive for LNT and have taught these principles to our children and other Scouts. As for the camping issue, though we were on the trail overnight, we didn’t really “camp.” We merely rested. We used a small tarp, ultralight sleeping bags, and ultralight sleeping pads. We had no more than 10 pounds of gear each, including these items, and didn’t have a stove. We spent 3-5 hours a night resting before we got moving again. I realize that you wouldn’t want hundreds of people doing this along a trail that goes through public and private lands, but alas, there were two of us and I don’t see a surge of NET thru-hike activity coming. I hope that the NET can develop more overnight accommodations, but it is highly unlikely that there will be a shelter every three to five miles like there is on Vermont’s Long Trail.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 18 of 133

Over the years, parts of the NET have featured races that we know and love. They include, the Lake Wyola Road Race, Northfield Mountain Trail Race, 7 Sisters Trail RaceTraprock 50K, West Hartford Quadrathlon, and the Bimbler’s Bluff  50K. Additionally, we have done numerous shorter adventures on various sections of the trail. In 2019, we scouted the Shutesbury section. In 2016, Debbie did two big days running the trail from Guilford to Rt. 66 in Middlefield, and then the next day going from Middlefield to Castle Craig in Meriden. I joined her for a portion of the trail each day. Our most recent trip to Monadnock was in 2018 with her Cub Scout Den. Over the last few months, we made a few trips to Massachusetts to scout the Connecticut River crossing and the Westfield River crossing. We didn’t know the entire NET route, but we were confident that we had enough knowledge to succeed.

Warmup (Monadnock Hike to Start)
17-June 2020, 10:52 A.M.
1.97 miles, +1,778/-30 feet
1h, 10m, 29s

Debbie spent the two days before our start making final preparations. She took the kids mountain biking at Cowles Park in Granby and then spotted our food cache in a Bear Vault in nearby Suffield. She then transported the kids to her parents’ house in Prospect. I wrapped things up at work and finished packing on the Tuesday night before our start. I had been experimenting with gear for a few weeks and had done several runs with my pack to test it out, so we were ready to go. Laura Becker and her friend Bill Dougherty, drove with us  to Monadnock. On the way we stopped in Hadley to spot the kayak, paddles, pfd’s, a jug of water, and a bag of food. We made it to Monadnock State park by late morning and were on the summit around noon. The short two-mile hike was a nice warmup. After some lunch and photos, we were off. Laura and Bill hiked down and returned to CT with our car.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 12 of 133

Day 1, 17-June 2020, 12:33 P.M.
Jaffrey – Warwick (Start)
30.02 miles, +4,767/-6,785 feet
10h, 28m, 18s

We started the official effort by descending the White Arrow Trail. It was a beautiful day with amazing 360 degree views from the summit. Sadly, we missed the Royce Trail intersection and that became our first wrong turn. We got the situation sorted and were back on track after getting directions from a local hiker. The Royce led us to the M-M Trail. We found the NH section of the M-M too be maddeningly difficult to follow. The white blazes were small, faded, and inconsistent. Turns were not marked clearly. Instead of offsetting the blazes to indicate left or right, they were stacked one on top of the other, making it a guessing game as to which way the trail turned. We pulled the maps up frequently. Navigating the village of Troy was a challenge, but we finally figured out how to get out of the town center and headed in the right direction. Our worst wrong turn was on a long jeep road that crossed a power line. We didn’t realize the M-M paralleled this dirt road. We were only a hundred or so feet from the trail, but the mistake cost us a mile or so, as we diligently backtracked in order to correct the mistake and complete the route. We went over several smaller peaks, including Little Monadnock. Whenever we looked back to the north, we had great views of Grand Monadnock, where we started.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 14 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 15 of 133

We reached the Massachusetts border near Royalston Falls shortly before 8:00 P.M. The mosquitoes were bad, but we filtered water from a stream, took some photos, noted our time, and then continued south. We stopped around 11:00 P.M. and rested on a logging road turnout. We planned to get five hours of sleep, but despite using our tent poles to support our fly, we were hounded by mosquitoes. This made rest impossible, so we agreed to just get up earlier and start moving again. The decision to bring the fly instead of the actual tent was our biggest mistake. Insects dogged us the entire trip and posed a huge risk because they kept us from getting adequate rest. We had to accept them bothering us when we were moving, but the real frustration came when we were stopped or resting and we couldn’t keep them away. We wore headnets but they were inadequate.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 17 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 19 of 133

Day 2, 18-June 2020, 2:49 A.M.
Warwick – Pelham
43.69 miles, +6,873/-6,677 feet
17h, 04, 39s

The early start was good. We were tired from the prior day descending and lack of sleep, but our legs were still relatively fresh. We still covered a good distance for the day. We ascended Mount Grace and traversed Northfield State Forest. The mosquitoes were terrible. We had a long road run on Gulf Road and then made the big climb up above Farley. We rested at a gorgeous overlook that took in Rt. 2 and the Millers River. Navigating through Farley was fun and the markings were decent. It was a neat town. Debbie faded a bit as we traveled through Wendell State Forest and we made a plan to rest when we got to Lake Wyola.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 23 of 133

There was a lot of fast running and we made good time. Lake Wyola was busy with lots of families enjoying the water. We staked out a picnic table and spread out some of our gear to dry in the sun. We took a quick swim and then laid out our ground cloth (footprint). We took a 20 minute nap, but were awakened by the local police who were investigating a 911 call. It was originating from a location right near our spot. It wasn’t us but they suspected that someone had mistakenly called or crank called. We rested a bit more and packed up for the steady Jennison Road climb from Wyola towards Cooleyville.   The next section of trail had many old wells and foundations.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 24 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 26 of 133

The entire trail is steeped in history. This is something I need to learn more about, but some sections were established by Native Americans and predate the English settlers of New England. The geology is another area to explore. In any case, these old ruins reminded us of Gay City in CT, which is an old abandoned village in the middle of the forest. After the early start, this turned into a long day.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 27 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 29 of 133

The climb up Cooleyville Road was nasty. The mosquitoes were biting us through our shorts and calf socks, decimating the backs of our legs. Debbie struggled on the hill and we agreed that we would get back into the woods and start looking for a place to rest. I was out front and stopped for a few minutes. I noticed that the bugs weren’t bad. When she arrived I recommended that we stop. We opted to skip the tent poles (we never used them again on the trip) and just rest under the stars. The erected rain fly would have only trapped the mosquitoes inside and made us overheat. It worked out and we got solid rest between 9:30 P.M. and 3:00 A.M.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 37 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 38 of 133

Day 3, Part 1, 19-June 2020, 3:24 A.M.
Pelham – Hadley
24.91 miles, +5,161/-6,112 feet
7h, 51m, 52s

We knew in advance that today would be a big day. We had to contend with the Holyoke Range, the Connecticut River crossing, and Mt. Tom. We knew it was going to be hot. We started strongly, taking the trail to Shutesbury Road in Pelham. The NET went on some trail and then back on to roads. The cumulative road running was several miles long and slightly downhill. The downhill grade was helpful because we carried a lot of water. Each of us had two 550ML bottles and a 3L HydraPak.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 40 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 41 of 133

This was our maximum load as we knew that there would be no water on the Holyoke Range. We were hoping to refill at the Skinner State Park Notch Visitor Center but we suspected that it could be closed due to the pandemic. Despite carrying all of that weight, we hammered that section. After Gulf Road and Federal Street, we were back on dirt and headed towards the successive peaks of the range. Long Mountain was tough, but Mount Norwottock was even tougher. It got hot and we were nursing our water. The rock scrambling was intense. Surprisingly, the trail markings were lacking and we struggled to route find over the top of Norwottock and on the descent to the notch.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 43 of 133

It was disappointing, but expected, to find the visitor center closed. There were no bathrooms, no outside water, and no way to charge our devices. We had just enough water to make it over the 7 Sisters, but it was going to be tight. We rested on a park bench behind the building. I recall being soaked with sweat in the midday heat. The six miles of trail between Rt. 116 and Rt. 147 is legendary. Debbie ran “Sisters” for 16 years in a row, but we haven’t done the race since 2014. It’s gotten too popular, with nearly 500 runners competing on the narrow course. The wear and tear on this section of trail has been substantial. Some of her best running has been on this section. The race goes out and back. The traditional finish was right where the NET intersects 116 across the street from the visitors center. So, we know this section well. It is rugged and hilly.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 46 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 47 of 133

The first obstacle is Bare Mountain. Loose traprock litters the trail. After Bare, you tackle Mount Hitchcock. Somewhere up there, we ran into Janice, one of Debbie’s yoga students. The crazy thing is that we also ran into Janice when we were climbing Katahdin in 2017. She insisted that she and her hiking friends were just discussing weird trail occurrences and the fact that she ran into us randomly in Maine.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 48 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 51 of 133

We had a fun chat on a steep slope. From there you go up and down traversing the ridge before descending to Taylor Notch. The final push is to the summit house on the top of Mount Holyoke. The views from the top were spectacular. Last year we took the kids on a hike to the summit. It’s a great spot. Normally you can access bathrooms, but everything was closed, which was what we expected. On the descent, I was slow, but Debbie was strong as usual. She knows that section of trail like the back of her hand. By the time we got to the bottom of Skinner State Park, I was hurting. We had a mile or so of road running to get to Mitch’s Marina where our kayak was stashed. We rallied and pushed to the end of stage one for this day.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 49 of 133

Day 3, Part 2, 19-June 2020, 2:36 P.M.
Hadley – Easthampton (Connecticut River Paddle)
1.79 miles
41m, 16s

The Connecticut River crossing gets a lot of attention for good reason. Sadly, the NET simply ends on Mountain Road in Hockanum. It restarts on North Street in Easthampton. AMC strongly discourages swimming the river. We gave it some thought. On at least two scouting missions, we explored the more narrow section of river off of Titan’s Pier Road. We considered ways to float across with the help of inflated dry bags. I made a list of criteria to deal with the river crossing and that helped us determine the best method.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 55 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 60 of 133

  • Safest – though I’m a strong and experienced open water swimmer, Debbie is less so. Swimming with gear would add to the challenge. As it turns out, we reached the river on a Friday afternoon and it was jammed with boats and personal watercraft. Swimming, even with float buoys for identification would have been very dangerous. If we got there in darkness it would have been ridiculously challenging. The narrow point at Titan’s Pier Road is down a steep embankment. The climb out on the west side of the river would be near the power plant and train tracks. There was no clear exit. There is a strong current, so chances are you would have to start much farther north if you planned to get across without floating down river and forcing a backtrack.
  • Quickest – we didn’t want to waste a lot of time and energy. Lee-Stuart Evans did his own analysis in 2019 and opted to call his wife Shona for a ride. He made a wise choice. The NET site recommends a ride sharing service unless you can hitch a boat ride across the river. That is a definite option, but timing is critical.
  • Human Powered –  we didn’t want to take a car or a boat. We wanted to get across with human power which was part of our own self-supported approach.
  • Least Energy – swimming would take a lot more energy than paddling. Paddling probably took more energy than driving or hitching a ride, but it was manageable.
  • H2O Quality – in hindsight, now that we have seen the river up close, swimming it would have been disgusting. There appears to have been a massive “die off” of river fish. We saw dozens and dozens of dead fish floating and this was just in a 1.8 mile stretch. There were probably hundreds. The river reeked and these bloated fish were belly up. It was not a pleasant site or smell for a couple of vegan adventurers. Debbie, who was in the front of the kayak, was appalled. I dealt with it OK and just told her “not to look.”
  • Keep Gear Dry – with the kayak, we were able to secure our gear and the risk of getting it soaked was much lower. We ended up going another 10 miles on our feet and it would have been miserable if we were soaked.
  • Don’t Trespass – all of the property bordering the river on the east side is private property, including Mitch’s Marina. The properties on Titan’s Pier Road were all marked with No Trespassing signs. We didn’t want to trespass and didn’t want to establish a route or method that was risky or unrepeatable. In the end, we politely asked permission from the gracious folks at Mitch’s Marina to leave our kayak there, and they obliged.
  • Repeatable – our assumption is that our respectful approach with Mitch’s Marina will pave the way for future attempts.
  • Fun – a human powered crossing that minimized risk was bound to add a fun twist to our already amazing adventure.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 61 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 63 of 133

The folks at Mitch’s Marina allowed us to use their hose to refill our bottles and bladders. We arranged our gear, unlocked the kayak and launched it from their boat ramp. We stopped at Mitch’s Island as we paddled south. We cooled off in the river and rinsed off the sweat and grime. As noted, the river was teaming with activity. Day campers were all over the island. Music was blaring from boats and flotillas formed with hundreds of people partying on the late spring Friday afternoon. We continued south to the Manhan River Boat Launch. We secured the kayak, paddles, and pfd’s there where it was picked up by my parents Lynn and Stan. We could have locked it to a another tree, but since it was a busy public launch, it made more sense for them to rendez vous and collect it.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 65 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 66 of 133

Day 3, Part 3, 19-June 2020, 3:47 P.M.
Easthampton – Holyoke
10.17 miles, +2,802/-2,260 feet
5h, 02, 39s

We swapped outfits and with fully loaded packs, headed up Mount Nonotuck on our way to Goat Peak, Whiting Peak, and Mount Tom. The late afternoon heat was hard on us and the extra weight made for slow going. The trail repeatedly makes its way to the western cliff edge and grew tiresome as it wound its way south on the ridge. The footing was poor as the soil was rocky and dry. At one point, we bumped into fellow ultrarunner Brian Rusiecki who was out for a late-Friday afternoon training run.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 68 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 69 of 133

He remarked how hot it was and we chatted for a while. It’s funny that we saw Brian because we have bumped into him in random spots before. One time, we were hiking in the White Mountains with the kids and heading over the Garfield Ridge early one morning. He came around a corner as he was running a Pemi Loop. He is part of another strong running couple. He and his wife, Amy, who is the Race Director of both 7 Sisters and the Vermont 100, are longtime friends from the New England trail running community. In 2018, Debbie joined the two of them for a Quebec trip to Ultra-Trail Harricana.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 70 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 71 of 133

We said goodbye to Brian and continued for several more miles before eventually deciding to break for the night. Around 9:00 P.M. we found a breezy spot at a nice overlook. We had a great sunset and the location wasn’t too buggy. Our sleep wasn’t great and we decided again to get an early start. Even though we set our alarm for 2:00 A.M., we didn’t need it to get up.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 73 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 75 of 133

Day 4, 20-June 2020, 2:30 A.M.
Holyoke – Bloomfield
36.93 miles, +6,575/-6,345 feet
17h, 52m, 57s

At the beginning of the day, we wound our way off of the ridge and down to the valley again. Off to the west was the Westfield-Barnes Airport. We were soon able to hear traffic as we knew that we were approaching Interstate 90, the Mass Pike. It was a long way off and seemed like we would never get there, but we eventually emerged from a wooded section on the south side of East Mountain. We crossed some train tracks and then climbed some concrete barriers.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 76 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 77 of 133

On the other side was a tunnel under the highway. There was rubble, graffiti, and trash. It was an odd scene as traffic buzzed by on the road above us. It wasn’t very pretty, so we moved through quickly. This was the second Interstate we crossed on the trip after passing under Interstate 91 in Easthampton on the prior day. In addition to these interstate highways, on the trip we crossed I-91 a second time, went under Interstate 84, came close to Interstate 691, and passed over Interstate 95. We passed under or over many other major state roads including Route 2, Route 20, Route 5, and Route 15. These are some of the busiest roads in the northeast, which makes the New England Trail a really interesting track. You are never far from the hustle and bustle of civilization.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 78 of 1332020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 79 of 133

The woods after the I-90 crossing were ugly and damp. We pushed on as day broke and eventually made it to Route 20 in Westfield. We were starving and in need of some food to augment what we were carrying. We knew there was a gas station nearby but were thrilled to see that Little Georges restaurant, which is literally on the trail, was open for breakfast. This diner was a classic. They only had outdoor seating, but they had a tent and it was filled with socially distanced locals. They were all men, and they were having a lively Saturday morning conversation. They had fun with the two sweaty trail runners who emerged from the woods to take a seat under the tent with them, but everyone was courteous. The menu didn’t have too many vegan options, but Debbie spoke with the server and she indicated that the cook would whip something up using home fries and “every” vegetable they had in the kitchen. I noticed that the menu advertised “real” maple syrup. I inquired if I could order “only” syrup and the server assured I could. She said they came in small individual bottles, which was awesome. I ordered two with the intention of saving them for a state-line toast.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 80 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 81 of 133

The meal was excellent. In addition too the veggie and potato platter, I had some toast. We filled our bottles and bladders in the bathroom, washed up, and felt satisfied and refreshed. We attempted to charge one of our battery packs in an available 110V outlet, but it didn’t do much in the 30 minutes that we were there. Several of the other patrons inquired how we were going to cross the Westfield River and we said we were going to wade it. We had scouted it three weeks earlier, so we knew what we were up against. One of the guys insisted on driving us around, but we told him we were doing this all on human power. We thanked everyone present before crossing the road to the corner of a church parking lot where the NET ducked down to the river. On the other side of this steep embankment was the gently flowing body of water. We knew from our scouting mission that it wasn’t a pretty spot.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 82 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 83 of 133

The rocks were coated in a slime with a crusty texture that seemed like chemicals from years of pollution. We spotted some small fish swimming in pools so we knew the water couldn’t be that bad. Our original plan was to keep our shoes on as we didn’t want to risk a foot cut or injury that could end our trip in an instant. However, we reconsidered and the goal became to keep our feet dry so that we could run easier after crossing. We removed our shoes and socks, packed them away, and hoisted our packs on our heads. I went first, searching for the most shallow point that was also a short distance. I picked my spot and slowly made my way to the other side. It was up to my waist and the rocks were slippery. It hurt my feet but as soon as I got to a set of dry rocks, I sat down and put my shoes back on. Debbie followed me and it was a bit deeper for her. She steadied her pack on her head until she got close enough to hand it to me. She too put her shoes back on and we followed the trail as it paralleled the river heading west for a ways before finally turning left and going south again.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 86 of 133

We picked up the pace despite carrying a full load of water. Our packs were a bit lighter because our food was getting low. We were about 10 miles from our cache. We made it to Rising Corner near the Southwick, MA/Suffield, CT border around 9:30 A.M. We had already been on the trail for seven hours. We rested at the parking area which was an open field with a NET kiosk and some nice signage.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 87 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 88 of 133

We did our maple syrup toast, not realizing that the actual state-line was still about 1/2 mile south in the middle of the woods. That didn’t bother us. We got moving again and when we got to the actual border, we took photos, noted our time, and marked a waypoint. We had already covered about 130 miles since Monadnock and we knew that there were 112 to go. We had never done the Connecticut Ultra Traverse (CUT) 112, but we knew it was a special event. Though not an official race, the run has attracted a reputation as being extraordinarily difficult. As we crossed the border, the CUT 112 course was ahead.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 89 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 90 of 133

The first part of the trail in Connecticut wound through an archery camp. Then the trail ascended Suffield Mountain. Our cache was stashed in a Bear Vault a short distance up the trail after the Phelps Road intersection. We sat on a log and swapped out wrappers for fresh food. We topped off our water. I changed my shirt and socks. We tried not to linger too long, as this was our third major stop in less than 10 miles after Little Georges and the state-line. Once we got going, we made our way to higher ground again, traversing West Suffield Mountain and Peak Mountain. Somewhere on that ridge, we slowed in the mid-day heat and decided that despite our progress, a nap was in order. We had been moving since 2:30 A.M. and after three days, we were tired. We found a nice view point, pulled out our ground cloth, and laid it flat in a shady spot. We pulled off our shoes, set the alarm for 20 minutes, and dozed off. After the break, we each took an energy bar with caffeine. Last year we attended a sleep seminar and learned from a noted sleep doctor that there was a study with endurance athletes that proved a short nap of 20 minutes followed by consuming caffeine would give you “power boost.” A longer nap could leave you groggy. The caffeine was an option, but it helped. Debbie and I rarely consume caffeine as we are not coffee or soda drinkers. Our only caffeine comes from dark chocolate and green tea, so when we do take it in, it makes a difference.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 111 of 133

We both felt better and descended to Route 20. From there we climbed Hatchett Hill. through Cowles Park, a noted mountain biking spot. We bumped into Michael Amisano, another friend. He and a buddy were out for a ride. He knew that he might come across us because he had seen my Strava posts. We chatted for a while and then continued. All of our stops were thwarting our forward progress. I had sent an email including the tracking link to our friends Ken and Aubrey Schulz, who live in Granby. As we descended to the Farmington River in Tariffville, we bumped into the entire Schulz Family. Ken, Aubrey, and their lovely kids came out to cheer us on. It was a great moment. In a normal year, we spend most summer Tuesday nights with them at the Winding Trails Tri Series. After every race, we have a “Grand Feast.” With the 2020 series cancelled, we will miss them, so it was great to connect by the Farmington. We intended to stop in Tariffville for our fifth stop of the day, so they met us at the town green where we paused again. We used the bathrooms at the Cracker Barrel Pub and ordered cauliflower “buffalo wings” from their menu. I used a couple of outlets in the bar to charge some devices and we hung out at the gazebo on the green.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 93 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 94 of 133

We chatted for a while and it was late afternoon when we got moving again. Once more we had full packs, and the hiking up through Wilcox Park and Penwood State Park was slow and tedious. The Traprock 50K course goes in the opposite direction, but it hurts regardless of which way you are headed. The hills are steep going up and down, and the loose stones make for unstable footing. Debbie struggled through Penwood and the bugs bothered us incessantly. We crossed Route 185 and started up Talcott Mountain around 7:00 P.M. At that point we had been moving for nearly 15 hours. It didn’t take long for her to melt down. She swore she couldn’t go as far as we had planned and we had several strategy discussions as she wallowed in her misery. We were afraid that with all the stop and go on this day that we were coming up short on our mileage goal and that it would impact our overall goal of getting to Guilford by Monday afternoon. It made no sense to push past our limits, so we agreed to stop when we reached Heublein Tower. This also proved to be the best option for an bug free night.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 95 of 133

There were a lot of people watching the sunset as it is a great spot. We only planned to rest for a handful of hours, so we found as breezy a spot as possible a little ways off the trail, and set up our ground cloth. We laid down and there was a mosquito bothering Debbie, so she moved to a different spot with her sleeping pad and bag. I stayed put and proceeded to hear some wild wildlife sounds over the next few hours. On a few occasions I grabbed my bear bell and rang it vigorously.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 96 of 133

That is big time bear country and I had not idea what I was hearing, but it was disconcerting. Each night, when we stopped, we put all our food into one of our dry bags and hoisted it up a tree at least 10 feet in the air with a length of paracord. Every morning, we had been hearing a different pack of coyotes conduct a “kill” but that was always when we were moving. The late night sounds while resting in a prone position were scary and I didn’t sleep much. Debbie eventually returned, and she claimed that this had been one of her better nights of sleep.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 99 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 98 of 133

Day 5, 21-June 2020, 3:15 A.M.
Bloomfield – Berlin
41.20 miles, +6,096/-6,841 feet
18h, 42m, 12s

We departed shortly after 3:00 A.M. and Debbie immediately indicated that she was feeling much better than the night before. We moved quickly on the descent to Route 44 in Avon. After we crossed the road, there was a lovely stream and we purified water, loading up for the day. This was the first water we had crossed since the Westfield area. As we made our way through the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) Reservoir area (West Hartford Res), we were able to push the pace. The trail eventually turned to a wide gravel road and it was runable.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 101 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 102 of 133

We eventually got to the Farmington side of the MDC land and I was showing signs of being tired. It was slow going over Killkenny Rock. When we got to Route 6 in Bristol, I was complaining of hunger and was seeking a restaurant or store to augment the food we were carrying. There was nothing at Route 6, so we pushed past Will Warren’s Den headed towards New Britain. This section of trail has huge rocks and caves. It’s got a lot of history and is the section of trail that our friend Rich Fargo used to run twice a day when he commuted to OTIS Elevator in Farmington from his home in Plainville. Many years ago, we joined Rich for a celebration of his 1,000 commute. I think he worked at OTIS for another 10 or 15 years after that celebration. He is retired now, but is still one of the best runners we have ever known. Rich dominated the New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series for a long time, and is a multiple time winner of the NipMuck Trail Race and Soapstone Mountain Trail Race. He is retired and lives in New Hampshire now, but it was great to think about his exploits as we passed through his “home” trail.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 103 of 133

Thankfully, in that section, we met up with a young hiker by the name of Brandon. He caught up with us and enjoyed keeping pace behind us. He was walking in jeans, but every time we broke into a trot or run, he followed. He and I chatted for nearly six miles. I think I did 90% of the talking, but it was exactly what I needed to get through that section. I was hungry and tired, but turned my energy towards quizzing Brandon about his interests and then teaching him all about the NET, CFPA, AMC, Shenipsit Striders, CT TrailMixers, and just about everything else I knew about trail running and extreme hiking. He insisted he was grateful for the conversation and vowed to buy a copy of the Walk Book as he wanted to finish his section hike of the Metacomet Trail and try out some of the other Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. I told Debbie that he bumped into the right guy (me).

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 104 of 133

When we reached Route 72, Brandon turned back and we turned our attention to finding some food. We had a road run and I had a hard time getting up to speed, so as I shuffled along, Debbie ran ahead. At one point, I saw her pause and turn into a parking lot. When I reached her, she was gesturing towards a large building. The sign said Big Sky, which is the gym chain that Debbie works at in Vernon. This was the New Britain location and at that moment I knew that I had seen the building before. It is clearly visible from I-84 when you are headed east towards Hartford. I had never seen it from this perspective, and there it was in all its glory. Debbie exclaimed that we should stop and if it was anything like Vernon, we would have access to a smoothie bar, multiple energy food options, and bathrooms.

We went inside and it was like an oasis. The gym had just opened a few days prior, having been closed for more than three months during the COVID-19 shutdown. The two staff members at the front desk were awesome. After Debbie introduced herself as a colleague, they took care of us. They made one of the best smoothies I’ve tasted. Debbie had her own. We plugged in some devices to charge and washed up in the bathrooms. Sadly, the showers were closed because of the pandemic, but we had access to the sinks. We lingered for a while, stocking up on energy bars and cookies. I had the most amazing smoothie induced head freeze and loved every second. It was hard to go back out into the heat, but we left with full stomachs. We finished the road section and were back on singlerack headed for Crescent Lake Park.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 108 of 133

This was an ugly section, but we trudged onward with full packs. When we got to Long Bottom Road, we came across Rogers Orchards Shuttle Meadow Farm Store in Southington. It was right at the beginning of a road section, so we stopped running, went inside with our masks and grabbed a lemonade and a single red pepper. Debbie needed some veggies and this would suffice. Back on the road, we ran all the way to start of the challenging Ragged Mountain Preserve. It was a long hot slog up to Ragged Mountain, but we eventually got some nice views looking back over Wassel Reservoir. Somewhere up on the ridge, we stopped for another nap. We laid out on some rocks, removing our wet clothes and shoes to dry in the sun. After 20 minutes, we got moving again as we needed to make it as far as possible if we expected to finish the run on Monday.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 109 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 110 of 133

Once we made it over Short Mountain and through Timberlin Park, we had a long road section. Somewhere in there we passed a house where two parents were playing in a kiddie pool with their young children. Their hose was in the yard and we asked if we could use it. They obliged and we topped off our bottles and bladders. This was the hottest day so far and we were going through our water quicker. After a long road section on fresh pavement, we refilled again at a nice stream before starting the big climb up the backside of Hubbard Park, headed towards Castle Craig. This was a long grinder. We reached West Peak and then were dismayed when the trail descended. That section of the NET may be some of the roughest and most challenging terrain anywhere on the trail. We slid out multiple times on the loose rocks and were vocally frustrated. The trail plunged downward before eventually making a hairpin left and then shooting straight up towards East Peak. I was beside myself, complaining about the trail builders. Debbie referred to this section of trail as “demonic.”

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 115 of 133

It was early evening by the time we made it to the summit. The stone tower is beautiful, but we avoided it as there were a bunch of other hikers hanging around. We staked out a spot on a rock and ate the last of our “dinner” food. Afterwards, we called our children and that boosted our spirits. We learned that they were having a great time with their grandparents. We were tired, but we had to push on. The trail went up and down before eventually plunging towards Merimere Reservoir. While we stopped to refill our water, we heard someone yell at us. He said, “What are you crazy kids doing?” It turned out to be Stefan Rodriguez, a friend from the trail running community. He is a Shenipsit Strider and is well-known for his Ragged Cuts enterprise. He is clever with 3D printing and makes some of the coolest trail running trophies around. It was great to see him. Apparently, we were on his “backyard trail” and he heard about our trek from Art Byram and others. He must have gotten his hands on the tracking link because he was able to figure out where we would be and came out to say hello. That was great. We walked a bit and then said goodbye. The next section of trail ended up being my least favorite on the entire trip. Between 7:30 P.M. an 9:30 P.M, or so, we were hounded by insects (mosquitoes, gnats, and deer flies) as we walked on loose rock on a hard to follow section of trail. We made a few wrong turns and I grew increasingly tired and frustrated.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 116 of 133

We emerged from the Blue Hills Conservation Area at dusk and made our way towards Orchard Road. We were close to a major road crossing at Route 5/15, but I was done. I told Debbie I had to stop and sleep. I was starving and tired. She was frustrated with me as I stumbled through the dark. She eventually said, “Fine,” but insisted we weren’t going to sleep on the edge of the road. We retreated 50 feet back onto the trail and in a childlike fit, I lay down in the middle of the trail. I insisted we were staying put, but after about three minutes and 10 mosquito bites, I changed my mind and said we would keep moving.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 118 of 133

It didn’t get any better. She was capable of running, but I could only walk. As we made our way down the road towards Route 5/15, we both started to look for bail out spots to spend the night. It was residential, but a few miles down the road I spotted a dirt lot that looked like a truck or bus turnout. It appeared to be a great spot to spend a few hours. It was safe and didn’t intrude on anyone’s privacy. We could hear vehicles on I-691 in the distance and it almost sounded like the ocean.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 119 of 133

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 120 of 133

It turned out to be the best spot we slept on the trip. Despite it being in the lowlands, the bugs were manageable and after setting up the ground cloth, we dozed off quickly. We set the alarm for 1:00 A.M, knowing that it was going to be a short night with less than three hours of rest. We hadn’t made it as far as we planned and by our math, had about 45 miles to go to the finish. The goal was still to do this in one big push even though we had not covered 45 miles in a day since the trip started.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 121 of 133

Day 6, 22-June 2020, 1:41 A.M.
Berlin – Guilford (Finish)
51.51 miles, +7,815/-7,789 feet
22h, 38m, 16s

This was to be our final day and we knew it would be a big one. We were slow to get moving and it was 20 minutes before 2:00 A.M. before we really got going. We were able to immediately start running and it wasn’t long before we reached the main road. There was a Mobil station with a large convenience store right on the trail. We stocked up, buying more energy bars, a bag of chips, pickles, water, and some other drinks. Once moving again, we made good time. The Metacomet Trail ended and the Mattabessett Trail started. We made our way up Lamentation Mountain in Giuffrida Park. This is great section of the trail and it was interesting to climb it at night. There is a massive gravel lot/mine on the east side of the mountain. This is easily visible from I-91. We were moving well.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 122 of 133

The next obstacle was Chauncey Peak, which was a real challenge. There was a lot of rock scrambling and Debbie’s light died. At one point early in the morning, she was having a hard time following, and was feeling low, so we agreed to nap again and wait 25 minutes for the sun to come up. We figure it would be easier to navigate. We laid out the ground cloth, set the alarm, and took the break. After the short rest, it was easier to navigate, but the markings were still a bit hard to follow and we made some wrong turns. I was feeling 10 times better than the night before and was pushing the pace. Once we exited the park, we made it to a flat section where there was a mix of road and trail but both were runable. There was a beautiful marsh and we saw several turtles. We eventually made it to Country Club Road and crossed I-91. We know that area well and had been on Mount Higby before. The climb was long and steady and the mosquitoes were bad.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 123 of 133

We stopped at the first high point to have our pickles and chips, a “breakfast of champions” as Debbie called it. The view back to Lamentation Mountain was spectacular. It was crazy to see where we had come from over the last 12 hours. You could also see Chauncey Peak and Castle Craig. We steadily made our way across Higby. We descended to Rt. 66 where Guida’s restaurant sits. Just as we approached the trailhead, I took a hard fall. I came inches from smashing my face into a rock. We both agreed that we had to proceed with caution as we had made it this far and couldn’t risk a trip ending injury.  It was Monday morning and the restaurant was closed. I didn’t want food, but would have welcomed the opportunity to fill up with water. We checked around the restaurant for a faucet but it required a special wrench. We have similar tap at HORST Engineering, but I didn’t have the wrench handy. The adjacent abandoned house had a spigot but the water main was off. The only other building was a tattoo parlor and it was closed.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 124 of 133

We crossed 66 and kept going. This was a section of trail we were both familiar with. We climbed Beseck Mountain. When we made it to Powder Ridge Mountain Park ski area, a familiar runner approached us headed in our direction. It was Art Byram, and he was thrilled to see us. In addition to being the Run Director of the CUT 112 and the principal host of the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast, he is a longtime friend. Art and Jordan Grande have the supported FKT for the CT section of the NET. In addition to being a Shenipsit Strider, Art is also a longtime member of the Silk City Striders. We are members of both local clubs. Years ago, Art and I finished off the southern section of the annual Shenipsit Trail E2E in a nighttime snow squall. We were the only ones to do the southern portion and completed the route. We got to know each other during that long run.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 125 of 133

So, when he showed up to encourage us, that was cool. He followed us for several miles as we made our way to Rt. 157. This turned out to be our hottest day on the trail, which would be a factor as the day wore on. After Reed Gap, we added some water too our bottles and bladders. Just past the location of the Cattail Shelter, we laid down the ground cloth and took one of our naps. I wasn’t as refreshed as I was following prior siestas. The next section through Trimountain State Park turned out to be very difficult with some of the worst footing on the trail. It was as rough as the Holyoke Range and Penwood. The trail twisted and wound its way through woods that had been subject to heavy ATV use. If it wasn’t going straight up, it was going straight down. We got a little break when we reached Rt. 17. The Quick Stop Convenience Store was 500 feet off the trail. We spent some time there, acquiring more water, coconut water, Fritos, a two liter bottle of Coca-Cola, and some other snacks. This would be our final sustenance on the trip. Our packs felt like a ton of bricks after this stop and after a ways, we stopped again to draw down some of the water in an effort to lighten the load.

When we got through Northwoods and on to Bluff Head, Laura Becker showed up to cheer us on. She was hoping to come to the finish, but had an evening commitment and instead, came earlier. This worked out for the best as we were running way behind schedule, at least according to our original plan. Laura was a huge help driving with us to Monadnock and returning with the car. She has been a tireless cheerleader for us. She was Debbie’s partner last month when they set the Shenipsit Trail FKT. Laura’s enthusiasm will motivate you and after she left us, we pushed hard over the Bluff. Unfortunately, we got confused by some markings and a made a wrong turn. Normally, we would brush this off, but I was not feeling good and let the mistake eat at me.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 126 of 133

We were anxious for the Mattabessett Trail to intersect with the Menunkatuck so that we could start the final part of our journey south to the Sound, but the Mattabessett kept winding left and right. It was exhausting and frustrating. We were hoping that the Menunkatuck was 15 miles and that most of it would be runable with the final four miles  on Guilford roads. It turns out that the section was more than 17 miles long and less runable than thought. What we thought was to be a 45 mile day ended up being 51 miles.  The first part of the Menunkatuck was OK and we made good time for a few miles, but eventually, we were back to rock scrambling. At one point, we saw a fisher cat. This was one of the coolest animals we saw on the trip. He made a wild sound and glued himself to the side of a tree after I alerted him to our presence. The cat lifted my spirits for a moment, but my feet were really hurting and I developed a funk.

The darkness made matters worse as we only had one functioning light between us. My light was strong as I had switched to my second battery, but both of her batteries were dead, as was my first battery. Our iPhone batteries were less than 10% and she was using hers to navigate the maze while periodically using the light. Things got tougher from there. I had been diligent about caring for my feet throughout the trip. I had one small blister on my right pinkie toe, but I had taped it and it hadn’t gotten worse. That all changed on the last day. Whether it was the sheer accumulation of miles, or it was the warmer temperatures, or it was the longer day, I don’t know. The end result was that I ended up with two blisters on that toe, two blisters on the other pinkie toe, and a huge blister on the side of my right heel. In addition to the blisters, my feet were burning up from inflammation and bruising. My Lone Peak’s had lost their integrity and no longer offered support, cushioning, or traction. On the few times I logged into Strava, I got repeated warnings: “Time for Some New Shoes.” I was thinking, duh, I know that! I wish I had left a second pair of fresh shoes where we picked up our food cache because it could have made a difference. The trail conditions would have trashed any shoes.

Debbie also struggled with some blisters, but mine were worse. At one point, we were running in an attempt to make up some ground and I felt one of the blisters on my left foot burst. I screamed in agony as I felt the wetness soak into my sock. I was limping and in a very bad mood. Guilford is a huge geographic area and the trail felt like it would never end. We messaged my father, who was scheduled to pick us up. At first we thought we would finish by 8:30 P.M. Earlier in the trip, the goal was 6:00 P.M. and the stretch goal was noon. Now it was past 8:00 P.M. and we had a long way to go. We revised our pick up to 10:30 P.M. and he said he would be there. When you look at the map, you can see the the trail makes a lot of turns, but it was far worse than that. I know we were exhausted and out of light, but we were moving at a snail’s pace. Debbie wasn’t happy with me as I was an emotional wreck, complaining about my feet, my tiredness, and my hunger.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 128 of 133

Unlike me, she showed true grit as a veteran runner with more than 100 ultras under her belt. She has been through the hallucinations and craziness in the wee hours of the night. I have less experience, but we were at an unprecedented point in our travels. Neither of us had been at the 235+ mile mark of an adventure like this. My tears flowed freely and I was mad. It was pitch black in the woods and we resorted to holding hands so that she could follow the trail. We passed through several fields and it seemed like we were going in circles. It turns out that they just looked similar, but our minds were playing games.

Finally we made it to Clapboard Hill Road. I swore I couldn’t run, but I wanted the trip to be over with, so I forced myself to shuffle. Eventually I was able to trot and then run a bit. I went from an 18 minute mile to a 15 and was able to run a 14 minute mile or so. Unfortunately, we made an egregious error missing a fork in the road. We ended up under I-95 when we should have been passing over it. This was at the bottom of a long hill. I threw a fit. We had to walk back up the hill and find the correct turn. After that episode, I was really done, and the next four miles felt like the longest of my life. It was very challenging to navigate through the streets, but we eventually found our way to Guilford Station. It was a surreal moment.

We had the option to climb the stairs and cross the train tracks, or we could take the elevator. I had heard about this anomaly from CUT 112 finishers. We opted for the elevator. Once on the second floor, we took the footbridge across the tracks and then took another elevator down on the other side. After that we were very close to the finish. There were a few more streets to go down before entering Chittenden Park. My vision of what our finish would be like was nothing like reality. I dreamt of finishing with a handful of friends and family (possibly including our kids) cheering. I planned to swim in the ocean and soak my feet in the salt water. I figured we would wash up, change into fresh clothes (which we had packed in my father’s truck in advance), refuel, and celebrate the accomplishment. If it had been six in the evening, all of that may have been possible, but instead, it was midnight and we were on our own.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 42 of 133

When we got to the park, we spotted my Dad’s truck. I had been there before and thought I knew how to cross the ball fields and find the boardwalk that juts out into Long Island Sound. We found the boardwalk and then I had second thoughts. For some reason, I thought there was a different one. We returned to the park and walked along its edge, looking for another opening that went out onto the water. We hadn’t stopped either of the Garmin’s. We returned to my Dad’s truck and since both of our iPhones had died in the minutes following our exit from Guilford Station, we borrowed his. We looked up our position on Google Maps and confirmed with satellite view that we had indeed been on the correct boardwalk. We carried the phone down to the end of the boardwalk, stopped the Garmin devices, dipped our toes into the water, and snapped two blurry photos. One is of Debbie. The other was a selfie with the two of us. It felt like a total buzz kill at the time, but after a few days, I recognize that those few moments won’t define the journey.

We returned to the truck, warned my Dad about the smell, and loaded the most vile gear and our shoes in the back. We gingerly put on sandals and climbed into the cab. My mother sent a few bottles of seltzer for me and some watermelon for Debbie, which were our requests. That was awesome. Within minutes, Debbie was out like a light. I tried to stay awake and chat with my Dad, but it was nearly impossible. Every few minutes I would wake up and say something and then doze off again. We got home around 2:00 A.M. and headed straight for the shower. The layers of grime didn’t come off in one session, but it felt good to clean our feet and apply some bandages. We went to bed and awoke around 9:00 A.M. feeling fulfilled.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 129 of 133

We spent part of the day cleaning up our gear, reading email, and documenting the adventure. I did some work in the afternoon and we had dinner outside at Flatbread. We got two large pizzas and ate one at the restaurant. When we got home, we ate half of the second pizza.

This truly was a team effort. Debbie and I were the core team and we have a long history of leaning on each other. It was unfortunate that so many of our highs and lows were opposite each other. I can’t recall a moment when we were both firing on all cylinders, but that is one of the challenges with a team effort. You may not both be feeling good at the same time and have to be there to support the other. You can only go as fast as the slowest member of the team. We have opposite strengths (she is a super descender and I’m a strong climber), but we are compatible. Beyond our duo, I’ve mentioned how much support we have gotten from others. Though they couldn’t support us directly during the run, they helped with many of the logistics and offered encouragement. Our parents and kids were awesome. My colleagues at HORST Engineering covered me while I was away.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 85 of 133

Laura was there at the beginning and end. Lee-Stuart was a key helper. Bryce Thatcher at UltrAspire helped us decide on the perfect packs. We got cheers on the trail from the Schulz Family, Stefan, and Art.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 1 of 133

Gear List

Screen Shot 2020-06-27 at 4.06.35 PM

My pack weighed 9.5 pounds with all gear, but no food or water. Debbie’s was about 8 pounds. My full pack weight (4L of water and food) was about 21 lbs. Debbie’s was a few pounds less.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 107 of 133

One funny gear story is that Debbie started the trip with two hair ties, but lost them both by the second day. She thinks they fell off her wrist at night. She went the better part of a day without one. She improvised with her Buff, but it wasn’t ideal. At one point, I came across a hair tie on the trail. It was miles and miles south of where she last saw hers, so it had obviously come from someone else’s head. I packed it away and then washed it up. Eventually I presented it to her as a “gift.” She accepted it as it was a good find and she made it to the end of the trip with it.

Hydration & Food

As noted, we are vegan. Debbie did a great job at preparing these items. We had the smaller cache at the kayak in Hadley and the main cache in Suffield. A third would have been prudent. We augmented with the various stops at stores and restaurants. I’m estimating that I burned 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day. I weighed 146.6 pounds at the start of the trip and afterwards, was 140.8. When I rehydrated I gained a few pounds, so I definitely burned some of the little fat I have.  There was no way I could carry enough food to replenish what I was burning.

  • Picky Bars
  • Go Macro Bars
  • Clif Bars
  • Vega Bars
  • Verv Energy Bars
  • Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookies
  • BRAMI Lupini Beans
  • Baruka Nuts
  • Various Mixed Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Vegan Jerky
  • Bananas
  • Fritos
  • Picky Oatmeal
  • Whole Foods Rice & Lentils
  • YumEarth Organic Sour Beans
  • Hammer Fizz
  • Tailwind Recovery
  • Coca-Cola
  • MapleAid
  • Iced Tea
  • Lemonade
  • Smoothie
  • Salt Capsules/Vitamins2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 11 of 133


There were no serious injuries. After my fall coming down to Guida’s, I had a second fall coming down from Powder Ridge. That was scary, but I survived that one too. Debbie had a few falls and smashed her knee once, but she was OK. Sleep deprivation took its toll and caused “brain fog” while dulling our senses. The blisters were bad, but not really until the last day. My right ankle was very stiff and it took a while to warm up after stopping. In addition to the blisters, our feet were swollen and very sore. I had chafe on my inner arms, inner thighs, and undercarriage, but nothing that was debilitating. It was just uncomfortable and likely caused by a profuse amount of sweating, a little rubbing, and a little grit. We got many scratches from the brush, tall grass, and branches. I consider all of this to be normal and manageable.

Flora and Fauna

I’ve mentioned some of the animals we encountered. There were so many more. We didn’t see moose, but we saw moose poop. I think I saw a bear climb a tree, but it could have been a raccoon. I saw a different raccoon. The fisher cat may have been the highlight, but there were some awesome birds too, including several kestrels. Debbie recorded one bird when it woke us up at 1:00 A.M. with its beautiful sounds. The largest snake we saw was about four feet long and it was black. We saw many other smaller snakes and heard even more slithering off the trail into the brush as we approached. We saw one rattlesnake, but it was dead.2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 113 of 133

  • Bear
  • Racoon
  • Fisher cat
  • Deer
  • Frogs
  • Toads
  • Snakes
  • Birds, so many including kestrels, hawks, heron, etc.
  • Worms
  • Salamanders
  • Squirrels
  • Chipmunks
  • Fish
  • Insects

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 127 of 133

In addition to the fauna, we were living in the flora. Some of the trees were immense. We had to climb over many that had blown down. The flowers and particularly the Mountain-laurel, were gorgeous. I think I’ve managed to avoid Poison Ivy. I know I was in it and I’m highly allergic. I either have it and don’t know it, or the other rashes I got are simply worse.


We saw the sun rise and set every day of the trip. That was amazing. In MA, we had some great views of the sky, but as we made our way further south, it was harder to see the stars because of the increased light pollution.


I’ve mentioned the weather several times. The day time temperatures rose into the high 80’s. Most days it was hot and dry. A few of the mornings were more humid. Overnight, the temperature ranged from the high 50’s to the mid-60’s. It was quite warm, even at night. The skies were generally cloudless with a bright sun. There was zero precipitation, which is remarkable


  • Debbie and I were discussing the highlights and lowlights. The main lowlight was the bugs. We wish we had prepared better by carrying the full tent.
  • Another lowlight was the failure of my Lifeproof case on my iPhone. By the end of the trip, the lens cover had deteriorated which made my photos washed out and blurry. I’ll be getting a new case. I’ve had repeated problems with their products. The challenge is there really isn’t anything on the market that protects a valuable phone the way I need it too. With all the running, cycling, paddling, and other outdoor pursuits, their products remain the standard.
  • We never go to convenience stores. Buying stuff there and then having to throw out the packaging with no option to recycle it was painful. There has to be a better way. We felt guilty chucking the bottles and other packaging into the waste bins.
  • Struggling to keep all the devices charged and running was a real energy drain. I hike and trail run to get away from some (but not all) of the technology. The Anker chargers worked well, but we really had no time or ability to recharge them, and when the died, we were stuck. I had ordered a third one that I intended to put in our cache, but it arrived the day after our trip started.
  • The failure of the Garmin inReach Mini to capture the 1 second data intervals was a problem. We paid good money for that device and the subscription, and I was hoping for more. Finding out after the fact that it couldn’t do what we needed it to do was a disappointment.
  • The deterioration of my feet was a problem. They held up fine for most of the journey, but on the last day, I was really hurting. I have some ideas to share in lessons learned.

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 20 of 133


  • I would have to say that I never doubted Debbie’s ability to get through this. On the other hand, a lot could have gone wrong for me. A real bright spot was my ability to actually run after miles and miles and hours and hours. I was pleased with my fitness.
  • Little Georges diner was awesome. Not much more to say about that experience other than to say we came across that place at just the right time. The server’s t-shirt summed it up, “I pigged out at Little Georges.”
  • Seeing six days of sunrises and sunsets was excellent.

Lessons Learned

  • You can never have enough shoes and socks.
  • Bring a tent that is completely enclosed if you want to avoid the mosquitoes.
  • Keep that water weight a few pounds lighter and you will move a lot quicker. A total of 2.5 to 3 liters is about the tipping point. When we carried 4 liters, we were bogged down.
  • My gaiters gave me problems the entire trip. I bought them new after trashing a previous pair at last summer’s Never Summer 100K. They were overly complicated with a hook, zipper, and drawstring. Debbie has handmade gaiters that have lasted years and we simply should have gone to her source. Instead, I bought these new ones on clearance and “paid the price.” I was constantly fiddling with them as the zipper would come undone. By day four, one failed completely and on day five and six I couldn’t wear them at all. This let a little more grit into my socks and could have contributed to my foot problems. I won’t make that mistake again.
  • It’s nearly impossible to communicate with the outside world by social media or other means when you have to put out such effort just to get the mileage in.
  • The mind is always stronger than you give it credit for. If you allow it, your head will give in before your body does.
  • Most people have no idea that you do this crazy stuff and in the end, it doesn’t matter. Do it to fulfill yourself and not to impress others. I think about the people we encountered at the convenience stores. They had no idea what we were up to and so what.

Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 12.54.37 PM


There is no question that Debbie and I have done some impressive endurance events over the last 30 years. Some have been with a number and others have been the DIY variety. For me the hardest races include the events in my Toughest Ten. I’ve got to make a separate list for the DIY stuff, but it includes our two White Mountain Hut Traverses, a few of our Long Trail run/bike adventures, and many of our 4,000 footer run/hikes. It’s hard to rank this effort relative to them because it was different in many ways. The multi-day format made for a lot of suffering. I’ve never been interested in events with sleep deprivation as a factor. I prefer to compete on speed, strength, and the mental fortitude that goes with them. That being said, this effort required all of that and the challenge of doing it for the better part of a week. It was a complete effort. Of course, on Day 6, I would have told you, “never again.” Now, only three days later, I’m dreaming about our next adventure.

For now, we will focus on rest and recovery. We live by the adage Stress + Rest = Growth.

Other than some gear, the food, and a tank of gas, this was very cost effective “vacation.” Wyoming would have cost more, but with the cancellation, most of that investment was refunded. Five nights of sleeping on the ground will pay dividends. I said to Debbie, “With the money we saved on this trip, we already have a deposit towards a stay at the Mohonk Mountain House. Let’s go!”

2020 NET Adventure (Blog) - 133 of 133

Coda: following the publication of this post, we were guests on Episode 83 of the CULTRA Trail Running Podcast. We had a fantastic conversation with host Art Byram. You can find past and future episodes here.

Quinnipiac Trail End-to-End Run

Today, Debbie and completed an end-to-end run of the Quinnipiac Trail. This is Debbie’s “hometown” trail and she trained a lot on it in the late-1990’s and early 2000’s. She grew up in Prospect, a mile from the northern terminus.

Favorites - 1 of 19

Favorites - 15 of 19

The Quinnipiac is the oldest of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. CFPA’s website describes it this way:

Length: 18.3 miles

 Hamden, Cheshire, Bethany, Prospect

Trail Overview:
 The Quinnipiac Trail is the oldest in the Connecticut Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail System. Although essentially a wooded trail, it traverses a series of traprock ridges on steep, challenging terrain. The trail passes through Sleeping Giant State Park, West Rock Ridge State Park, Naugatuck State Forest, and, at its most northern end, follows the rocky ridgeline of the Prospect-Cheshire border. The trail additionally crosses forested property on this ridge that has been protected by the Cheshire Land Trust.

The trail offers a succession of commanding views of the central valley, with ascents of York Mountain in Hamden and Bethany, and Mad Mare Hill and Mount Sanford in Bethany. The trail passes the dramatic chasms of Roaring Brook Falls, which are recognized as Connecticut’s highest single drop waterfall. The Roaring Brook Falls are located 0.2 miles east of the Quinnipiac Trail, on an orange-blazed Cheshire Town Trail. The Quinnipiac Trail also connects to the north end of the blue-blazed Regicides Trail in Hamden, offering additional hiking opportunities.

Favorites - 4 of 19

Favorites - 5 of 19

During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, Debbie, the kids, and I have been spending a lot of time on BBHT’s. We’ve made several trips to the Natchaug Trail, the Nipmuck Trail, and the Shenipsit Trail. I covered a bit of CFPA and BBHT history in my FKT post from a few weeks back. In October 1929, CFPA established a Trails Committee and then in December of that year, established the first four sections of the Blue-Blazed Hiking Trails. The Quinnipiac Trail (listed at 19.2 miles in the Walk Book but our GPS’ measured a bit over 18 miles on today’s run) was the first official trail. There are more than 40 main trails and many subsidiary and spur trails that make up the full 825 mile system.

Favorites - 6 of 19

Favorites - 8 of 19

The CFPA BBHT network is one of the finest in the entire country and are marked with blue rectangular blazes. This trail system offers a great way to explore the woods of Connecticut. I am a longtime CFPA board member and proud of the organizations amazing conservation history. As noted, Debbie would frequently run the Quinnipiac to Sleeping Giant State Park, and sometimes run it there and back. Until today, neither of us had been on the backside of Sleeping Giant State Park. The 3+/- mile section from the summit to Old Hartford Turnpike was tough.

Favorites - 7 of 19

Favorites - 9 of 19

Really, the whole run was tough. We spent Saturday night at the Schieffer’s (Debbie’s parents) house. The kids were thrilled to visit with their grandparents. We got up early, finished packing our gear, and drove to Hamden with our bikes. We locked them to a tree about 50 yards from the southeastern terminus of the trail, and left our helmets, shoes, and a backpack. Then we drove back to Prospect. Then, Mrs. Schieffer drove us the mile down Route 68 to where the trail starts near the Davis Auction on Chatfield Road. The auction is where Momma S (as I call her) has worked for more than a decade. Technically, the trail no longer starts on the road. The Walk Book still shows it starting there with the 0.8 mile road section, but the CFPA website now shows the official start at the end of Cornwall Avenue where there is a trailhead. Either way, this is a special section of road in a special town. I first ventured to Prospect after meeting Debbie in 1999. We were married by Bob Chatfield, whose family name, is on this road. Bob is a Justice of the Peace, but he is even more well-known for being “Mayor Bob” for the past 43 years. That’s right, he has been mayor of Prospect for 21 terms dating back to 1977. That’s quite an accomplishment and he even has a Wikipedia page!

Favorites - 2 of 19

Favorites - 3 of 19

Ironically, he doesn’t live on Chatfield, but rather around the corner on Cornwall. I had to stop and take a photo of his mailbox. Bob married us at White Memorial in Litchfield on October 13th, 2001. I’ve only seen him a few times over the last 19 years, probably at a parade and/or at a funeral. After our run today, I told our daughter that we were on a “date,” and she asked where we went. She was serious. I cracked up and told her we were on the Quinnipiac Trail.

Favorites - 10 of 19

Favorites - 11 of 19

The Fastest Known Time route includes the road walk (run), so we wanted to add the distance and make it official. I’m sure there were less roads, or at least less asphalt, 91 years ago when the trail officially became part of CFPA’s system. The trail is shaped like an L. It heads south from Prospect before turning east. There were two or three other segments where we were on roads and able to pick up the pace. We started right at 7:30 A.M. The first four or five miles are some of the most rugged on the trail, and it was slow going. This section takes you over Mt. Sanford in Bethany, the high point (889 feet) on the trail. There was a nice view, the first of several that we would see on this beautiful Sunday morning.

Favorites - 12 of 19

Favorites - 13 of 19

Debbie had an early mishap. She slipped on a wet rock in a streambed and slammed her left shin into another rock, dunking both feet in the process. This is the same shin she hurt on the Nipmuck E2E run when she slipped on a wood bridge. It took a while for her to shake it off, so I led for the first half of the run where there was more uphill. We knew what pace we had to average based on our target time. As we descended into Cheshire, we were able to pick up the pace and she started feeling better. By the time we got to Hamden, I was the one dragging. Over the last month, I’ve had a sore left glute that causes tightness in my hamstring and calf. When we hit the road section on Nolan Road, Shepard Ave, and the steep Rocky Top Road, I was the one who was hurting.

Favorites - 14 of 19

My calf was cramping and my gait was thrown off. We were moving well on the road, but I was in pain, and was much happier when we got back on the trail. Thankfully, I was able to keep it from getting worse, and managed the leg soreness for the remainder of the run. I avoided falling, which might have been a miracle given how rocky this trail is, but I did suffer a nasty stubbed right toe. I slammed my big toe twice in the last two miles, and it is now blue. I’ll likely lose it again. This is a perpetual problem for me. I pretty much lose it every year.

Favorites - 16 of 19

Until we got to Sleeping Giant State Park, we had only seen five people. There were two hikers at the Route 42 trailhead, there was a runner in Cheshire, and there were two bird watchers near High Rock. It was glorious to have the trail to ourselves. That all changed when we got to “the Giant.” It’s worth noting that in addition to including the road section at the start, we also included the short section of trail that entered the park at the corner of Route 10 (Whitney Avenue) and Mount Carmel Avenue. It goes past the bus stop, turns into the woods, and does a little arc before coming out on Mount Carmel. It is blazed and is part of the trail, but upon further review, it looks like the official FKT route doesn’t include it. It is 0.25 mile and added about 2.5 minutes to our time, but we included it. That’s the thing with these FKT’s; the routes can change and you have to be very specific. I would rather run a little extra and get it right, than cut it short. As soon as we entered the park, we encountered the masses. I wore my Buff to cover my face and we just kept moving. That section of the trail up and over the Giant’s rock slabs is awesome, and hugely popular, even more so during a pandemic.

Favorites - 17 of 19

The park was actually closed for more than a year between May 2018 and June 2019 after it was seriously damaged by a tornado that brought down thousands of trees. We saw evidence of this farther west on the Quinnipiac Trail as the storm had also ripped through the woods, felling many more trees. It took a ton of trail work both in the park and on the Quinnipiac, to make it right again. Today, the park proved its popularity and there were lot of hikers on the trails. In addition to the Quinnipiac Trail, there are many other color-coded routes to explore.

Favorites - 18 of 19

Once we got to the tower on the summit of Mount Carmel (736 feet), the crowds thinned a bit. We still saw people on the 3+ mile section between there and our finish, but there weren’t as many. I was hoping that this section of trail, which neither of us had ever been on, was going to be a bit milder than what we experienced on the 2+ mile climb to the top, but alas, other than the rock slabs, it was nearly as rugged and steep. It went up and down several times, before finally plunging down along the Wallingford border and dumping out on to the Old Hartford Turnpike. When we could finally hear the traffic on Route 15, we knew we were getting close. Debbie absolutely hammered the final mile and I hung on for dear life. It was in the last section where I smashed my toe for the second time and I was doing everything in my power to remain on my feet.

Favorites - 19 of 19

We were pleased with our time, 3:35:11. We made a few wrong turns, and stopped a few times for photos. Plus we did the marked section between the corner of Route 10 and Mount Carmel. The official route on the FKT site omits this segment but it’s on the Walk Book map and it is blazed. Our moving time was measured four minutes faster, but the total elapsed time is the official time. Our pace was 11:56/mile and there was about 4,300 feet of elevation gain. Our fastest mile was an 8:17 and our slowest (going hand over fist up the “forehead” of the Giant) was 17:12. We were happy to be done just as the morning was heating up. It was cool in the woods, but the sun was strong.

A “Double Q” has been done a few times. The best time going south to north, and then back is 9:17:19. That would be hard. We were in no mood to run back today, so we changed up, mounted our bikes, and rode back past the state park. Vehicles were parked for more than a mile on Mount Carmel Road outside the park and across from Quinnipiac University. There was an ice cream truck setting up for the day, and ready to make a killing. We rode over to the Farmington Canal State Park Trail and took it north, back into Cheshire.  The rail trail was also full with recreationalists. It’s nice to see so many people taking advantage of Connecticut’s amazing trails. Once we got off the bike path, that’s where the real climbing begins. Between North Brooksvale Road, Mountain Road, and Cheshire Road (Route 68),  we had a lot of elevation gain on our trip back to the house completed our Sunday sufferfest. When we arrived, we were very happy to see our family. Momma S. put together an amazing lunch, and we chilled out on a glorious afternoon.


Next Page »

HORST Engineering Family of Companies

Cross Spikes™ by HORST Cycling

Follow me on Twitter



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 451 other subscribers