The day starts when you wake up. Breaking down camp, what to eat, look at the maps, see where the hikers are going today. All of us are transients on a trail that goes only two places - Springer Mountain in Georgia or Mount Katahydn in Maine. But for us, the five Ridgerunners, we call a 53 mile section of Connecticut and a 12 mile section of Massachusetts home. Our campsites include: Ten Mile, Stewart Hollow, Pine Swamp, Limestone Springs, Sages Ravine, Race Brook Falls, and Hemlocks (just to name a few). And each one of these serves as a destination at a day's end of a hike.
Our hikes vary from day to day as much as they do in location, an 8 mile hike to the Stewarts Hollow lean-to or a weeklong stay at Sages Ravine with a 12 mile day hike loop. Our friends; the thru hikers, day hikers, section hikers, or overnight youth groups, and our never ending nemesis: the anti-Leave No Tracers are always inhabiting the trail and keeping our job fun and interesting.
We share the trail with not only human inhabitant but we coexist with nature as well. The possibility of running into a hear is always on our minds, or listening for the every-ready rattle of the endangered timber rattlesnake. For some of s this is more of a chance of excitement than others. Finally, getting to see first hand what one of these species looks like in its natural environment is the chance of a lifetime, as it not only provides to our own education, but also will in turn provide towards the education of others.
A bike from point A to point B is never just a straightforward walk. There's always someone to talk to along the way, and boy do some of them love to talk. Topics can range from the need to have picnic tables at every campsite, to their work life and even to their home life. Some need directions into Salisbury for a sandwich at the IGA; some need moleskin for their tired and blistered feet. Most are just happy to run into someone who might know the weather, and whether or not the Red Sox are still in first place.
The most challenging part of the day is water. Estimating if you have enough to make it to the next stream, hoping that the stream isn't dry when you get there, making sure that you have enough water left at camp to make your gourmet macaroni and cheese (with Tuna fish in olive oil) for dinner. But paradise among paradise is finding a bit of river that's deep enough to swim in. It serves as both a shower and a cool down, it's truly heaven.
Life as a Ridgerunner is never a glamorous job. Though we have an official looking shirt, by the end of the week when we come out of the woods we are just as tired and sore as every other hiker who's been on the trail. We've cut small blow-downs, removed trash, hiked many miles and talked to dozens of people, all for the purpose: so that others may hike.
Written by: Matt Chaput, Ridgerunner