About the Author, Leah LaRocco: “Hi there, I’m a Long Islander who lives in Franklin, Tennessee. My first love was the ocean, but growing up camping and hiking around Vermont also contributed to a deep appreciation for the mountains. Public lands are some of my favorite places to hike and Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a regular weekend getaway. I work full time, but believe dreams and passions can and should be pursued outside of the everyday 9-5. As a naturalist, I hope to convey how incredibly healing the woods, water, and wildlife can be when we make the choice to step outside.” Find her via her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Website.

Click on Leah’s name above to read more about her adventures!

Day 1 on Trail, Pawling NY to Ten Mile River Campsite, 10 miles

It was so awesome of my parents to drive up here to drop me off. We had lunch in Pawling, an absolutely adorable town, before I headed off into the pastures that began this section of trail. The sun was shining and the clouds were puffy. What a day!

The hike today was slightly more challenging than what I do on the weekends, but not nearly as bad as Georgia was. I saw several groups on trail and whenever I got to a shelter there were a lot of people hanging around.

Crossing into CT was pretty awesome. A state line on the first day felt good. There were a lot of trail boards above the boggy areas and they were pretty slippery so I had to be really careful. It’s a miracle my ass didn’t end up in the mud. The woods were pretty with ferns, red efts, frogs, and birds. Lots of really cool fungi to see right now too. I’m going slow enough that I can see every mushroom, haha!

I decided to go further than I’d originally intended because of the amount of people at the shelter. By this time of day my leg was done. It was hurting pretty badly, but I knew I was close. The Ten Mile River shelter was packed with a big group, so I headed onto the camping area .1 miles down the trail. Best decision ever. I was the only one there and the camp had a bear box and a privy, plus it was right next to the Housatonic River. I ate my dinner sitting on a bridge above the water, watching the birds swoop down for insects. Got a good night’s sleep to the sound of the river.

Day 2: Ten Mile River Campsite to Mt. Algo Shelter, 9.1 miles

The knee was bothering me from the get-go today even though I did all the stretches and really worked out the knots in my leg last night. Freaking IT band. This is beyond frustrating. My pain level has been manageable, but it still sucks to be going so slowly. I’m really happy to be out here and am trying to take it for what it is at this point and not stress about miles because I physically cannot do the distances I am typically capable of right now. I want this to heal, but I don’t know how that will happen walking over these mountains. If I was in normal shape this wouldn’t be a problem, but these are the cards I’ve been dealt at the moment.

My first stop of the day would be the Bulls Bridge Country Store. They are super accommodating to hikers and I had a good coffee and picked up some peanut m&ms while charging my phone.

Today was seriously challenging. There were steep climbs and descents, like sit on your ass and slide down so you don’t kill yourself hills. The trail had red efts (newts) all over it. I counted 77!!! They were the perfect diversion to keep me going. Count, struggle, newt, struggle, 64, 65, 66…little breadcrumbs that pointed the way.

A couple of views were really pretty, but my concentration was on my footing, so much so that I missed a CT/NY sign. The trail crosses the state line 3 times.

My aim was the Mt. Algo shelter, but I also wanted to go into Kent. The road crossing is .3 miles from the shelter and then a mile into town. I ditched that idea due to threats of thunderstorms and my sole goal was making to the shelter before the rain, which thankfully, I did. As I’m writing this, there is an absolutely thunderous downpour happening outside and I could not be more thankful to be dry. The frogs will be so happy. They are everywhere! I see them hopping across the trail and hopping right into the streams before I scoop water.

I met a thru hiker named Hippie who has an awesome dog. He’s also staying here tonight and it’s been great to have conversation this afternoon since I got here around 2. As we were sitting here talking, a huge rat snake came gliding toward the shelter. It was probably about 4 1/2 feet long and most likely frequents here because of the mice. I said I’d rather not have him in the shelter so I tried to move him with my trekking pole. No matter how much I tried to get under him and make him change direction, he just kept trying to get in on every side. Hippie came out and tried to and we both finally succeeded in getting him to head toward a big log instead. The snake was docile, thank goodness, but hopefully he won’t come back tonight. The dog will be sure to alert us if he does.

I love being out here so much. I desperately want to continue. If I’m feeling horrible tomorrow I might take a zero in Cornwall and rest even though that’s the last thing I want to do right now. I have 11.4 miles planned tomorrow, which seems like a lot considering that I did 9 today and feel like my leg got hit by a tractor.