Trail Run 16:12:49  49.4 mi (19:42 / mi) +9364ft 16:42 / mi
shoes: La Sportiva Bushido
After nixing our trip to Maine, broots and I went in search of a closer-to-home adventure and ultimately landed on the Robert Frost Trail in Massachusetts - half the drive-time, and the trail runs right by his dad's house, so we could spend a bit of time with him, too.
We drove up Friday afternoon and dropped a cache of food in the woods around the halfway point. Other than that, we were about an unprepared as we've ever been for a self-supported adventure. We hadn't looked at maps or elevation profiles. We didn't have a great sense of trail conditions or water sources or re-routes. We knew the trail was blazed orange, so we figured we'd just follow along until we reached the end at Ruggles Pond - somewhere between 42 and 50 miles away, depending on which report you read.
We opted to go south-to-north because we knew that the Holyoke Range - the start of the southern end - would be a challenge so we wanted to get it out of the way. We didn't think about what the terrain might look like on the northern end...
We set off just before 5am and were above the Notch at sunrise. Twelve years ago, we hiked the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (now the New England Scenic Trail) - ~135 miles across the state, from the CT/MA border to the top of Mt Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. Then, the stretch from the CT river to the notch took us the better part of half a day and beat us up pretty good. We were surprised to cover it in about two hours this time around, with little fanfare.
We settled into a good rhythm - shuffling flats and downs and hiking the ascents - and figured we'd continue on with that until we couldn't run any further, knowing neither of us had trained for a 50-mile day.
Trail re-routes and storm damage had us pulling out the AllTrails app several times, and we ended up adding a bit of mileage here and there when we got off course, but overall the first half was totally smooth. We got to our cache right around noon, 23.5 miles in, and treated ourselves to a couple Absolute Wilderness cold-water meals.
We were aware that the area was in a serious drought, but we had done okay to that point. Around mile 28, though, we were out of water and kept finding all the creeks running dry. When we hit the 50k mark, we paused to evaluate our options. We had just entered the 6.3-mile push to the summit of Mt Toby, and the map showed very little in the way of water crossings (whether or not there would be any water in the crossings). So, we veered off-course a bit, to where a swamp was marked on the map, and luckily we were able to find a small trickle leading into it. Crisis averted.
We reached the top of Mt. Toby and took our second 15-minute break of the day, this time to fix up our feet and look at the map to figure out the final 10-12 miles. And I'm glad we did. What we had anticipated to be a relatively mild finish ended up including two steep ascents - the first only a couple hundred feet, but the second up ~1300 feet to the summit of Dry Hill. Good to be able to wrap our heads around what was coming.
We texted the Ballantines, who were generously meeting at the finish with hot soup and a ride back to the car, to tell them that this stretch may be a little slower than we'd thought, and then we set off. We were moving better than we'd expected by that point - still running the flats and downs, and hiking efficiently otherwise. We lost the route for a stretch as darkness fell, and then again when the trail was blocked by a whole bunch of downed trees - Brent speculated that a small tornado/derecho had come through during a storm the previous week. AllTrails helped us right ourselves several times. The big ascent ended up offering several cliffy ledges to climb - slow but fun - and a few false summits. Finally, when we thought we couldn't possibly climb any further, we pulled out the phone again and discovered that we were officially at the top.
From there, we shuffled the final 1.5 miles to the gate at Wendell State Forest, where we expected to see Kate and Jason. Instead, we found four camp chairs set up around a big pot of soup, but no people. We wandered around for a bit, and then guessed correctly that they had probably walked down the Ruggles Pond and the "official" finish of the trail. Sure enough, we spotted their headlamps a half-mile down the road, and they joined us for the final few hundred meters to the water.
Despite a few issues, this ended up being a GREAT day. The trail was fun, the weather was lovely, and the foliage was popping. We each had a couple low moments, but they were short and never at the same time. And our bodies held up far better than we expected. I picked up a couple blisters on my heels in the final few miles, and we've been gingerly walking down stairs the last 36 hours, but we're both otherwise unscathed.
If we had wanted to push against the clock, we definitely should have gone north-to-south - it's a much more forgiving route. The FKT travels that way, and also cuts off the 5+ miles of the Holyoke range west of the Notch.
Next time :)