|Red Eft stage of the Eastern Spotted Newt|
|Four Red Efts|
|This explains the mileage confusion|
Right off the bat, I nearly stepped on a newt. And another one. And another one. It was Newt City. It was the highest concentration of newts I'd ever seen up to that point, but I would see something even more amazing later in the hike.
The previous day I had considered trying to make it to Kelton Road, but there was were some map discrepancies about how much farther that would be (2.7 or 4 miles?). The first sign at the trailhead said it was 2.7 miles. A second sign said, "New M-M North 1.3 mi. longer." Ah, that explains it. OK, so four miles to Kelton Road.
Back to the wildlife. You know what I didn't see? Deer. Not one. Back home in Fairfield County, Connecticut, it's pretty hard not to see a deer. They're on the trails, in people's yards, and along the streets. Here's a video I took this summer back home featuring a doe just standing there munching greenage right in front of me while I stood there with my two dogs. But up here in the Quiet Corner I didn't see a single deer in four days. Why? I imagine there is a lot of hunting in this more rural area. And not as much food, especially under those dark hemlock forests where plants grow very slowly, if at all. People don't appreciate how much deer food is in a backyard.
From Richmond Road, Section 18 crosses over a series of hills, none of which are very steep. The trail alternates between dry hilltops, old farming plateaus, rocky ravines, and mossy valleys, so there's a lot of variety. The first was Mallard Hill, where the trail emerged briefly onto the powerlines, providing a view of Richards Reservoir back to the west. That was the only vista for the day.
Then the trail dropped down into the mossy Tully Brook valley and followed the scenic brook for a good ways.
The next hill was Mayo Hill, and that was a pretty good climb. This was the highest point around, so I made sure to text my progress to my husband, because it looked like the rest of the trail may not have coverage.
The trail followed an old road at the top, and I was so distracted by the scenery I missed the left turn off of the road and instead followed the old road down the hill for a good ways before I realized my mistake. One thing about hiking in the bright light of mid-day is those white blazes tend to get lost in the sun patches. So back up the hill I went, sigh.
According to the map sign posted as you approach Kelton Road, the next section was also new. This was a day where the trail tread was not always well defined, presumably due to the reroutes and lumpy ground. I really had to focus on the blazes and had to stop from time to time to look for the next blaze.
When I finally came out onto Kelton Road, the road where I had thought to get picked up the previous day, I was surprised to see how not drive-able it was. It was a good thing I had abandoned the idea of trying to get picked up on this road because I would have arrived exhausted, with darkness approaching, only to discover that Kelton is not a drive-able street and I wouldn't be getting picked up. Also, no cell phone. What then?
|" Rest Area - Sitting Rocks"|
|Heading up the first hill|
|Looking back towards Richards Reservoir|
|Canada Mayflower berries on the dry hilltop|
|Heading down towards Tully Brook|
|Lycopodium - Clubmoss|
|Tully Brook crossing|
|Mayo Hill and the left turn I missed|
|I wondered about those yellow areas labeled "sand"|
Kelton Road looks like a place where 4WD trucks go to play. This is where hiking maps, and Google Maps, failed. I wanted to know if it was a road I could get picked up on, and the maps were misleading. The AMC map used the same road symbol for Kelton that they used for Richmond Road and many other unpaved but drive-able streets. It should have a different symbol. The NET map didn't show anything at all because it has no detail. The M-M Guidebook map I didn't even look at because the trail was rerouted. And Google Maps showed it as a drive-able street.
|Kelton Road - not drive-able!|
|Sand and more sand along Kelton Road|
|Pond along Kelton Road|
|Take a closer look|
|There were nineteen newts|
|One of the Red Efts|
|What the heck is this?|
|The frog never moved|
So Kelton Road turned out to be pretty memorable, but eventually the trail turned off the road and headed east towards Route 32 through the forest. No more hills to climb.
For a time it followed a stone wall where the land on the opposite side of the wall had been selectively logged and offered a marked contrast to the dark forest the trail ran through. The logged area was bright and sunny and filled with brush and saplings. Great wildlife habitat.
It was a fairly easy walk down to Route 32. Although the trail tread is not well defined in some spots, I could always find the next blaze.
It was when first heard the cars on Route 32 that I had a sudden rush of emotion: I had made it. The New Hampshire border was just beyond this highway and I was almost done walking across Massachusetts.
And there it was, Route 32 and the Royalston Falls entryway and I was done with Section 18. Let Section 19 begin. Here comes New Hampshire!
Royalston Falls is a great destination for a day hike. Near the parking area is an old cemetery. It reminded me of the cemetery way back in Guilford at the base of Mt. Totoket, the one where I accidentally left my trekking poles behind but was able to recover them several days later right where I had left them. That was in 2012, shortly after beginning this sporadic New England Trail journey.
The path heading down into the ravine is wide and well traveled. Not too steep, but it dropped down a lot further than I expected.
When the trail reached Falls Brook, the forest suddenly felt enchanted and I half expected to see Galadrial, Lady of the Golden Wood. The Royalston Falls shelter was perched high over a foot bridge that lead across the babbling brook. A masterpiece of twisted tree roots guarded the bridge. Moss-covered rocks and trees lined the ravine. Wow.
There was a magic to the place. I crossed the foot bridge and was met with a sign enticing me to go to the falls. I hadn't planned on it. But the hike was nearly over, and then what? The car ride down I-91 through Springfield and Hartford during rush hour traffic. I took a right onto the Tully Trail and headed for the falls.
Tully Trail was gorgeous and the Falls were more than I expected. The footing is a bit tricky on the Tully Trail due to all the boulders and roots, and I was by myself with no cell phone coverage, so I took it nice and slow. I'm good at breaking my ankles is all I'm saying. The falls are viewed from above. You're walking along the trail when the ground in front of you abruptly drops away and the river falls into the deep chasm below you. Iron railings bolted into the rock were appreciated.
The side trip was worth it. I headed back up the Tully Trail to rejoin the NET at the footbridge and shelter.
Now. Just a bit further to the New Hampshire state line. This part of the trail looked much less traveled, but it was gorgeous. What a day. I was almost there and everything was great. Then I took a few steps the wrong way and realized the blazes were off to the left. I did a quick pivot, stepped on the root of a yellow birch, and when I did, my foot slid down the length of the root and I was suddenly on my butt.
|Dark side of the wall|
|Bright side of the wall|
|Rout 32 and Royalston Falls|
|Winterberry along Route 32|
|Miss Susannah, died 1827, age 16|
|Royalston Falls Shelter as seen from Tully Brook|
|Tree root art|
|Time for a little detour|
|Back to the NET|
Not a bad fall. Except when I tried to pick up my trekking pole, my hand hurt. In a bad way. I switched to the left hand. I passed a rock arch in the river. Very cool. But when I tried to hold the camera with my right hand, I couldn't. This was not good. What did I do to myself?
And suddenly I was at the New Hampshire border. Yeah! It was marked by a simple notice tacked to a tree. I struggle to take a selfie with an injured right hand. My growing concern over my hand took away some of the joy at reaching the border. But not all of it. I had walked all the way across Massachusetts, except for the Connecticut River crossing, which I kayaked. And I was done with the official part of the NET. The rest of the trail was the M-M Trail, not the NET.
|Welcome to New Hampshire|
|Mountain Laurel thicket|
|Falls Brook as a pond|
|Waiting for a ride Greenwood Road|
|Falls Brook pond on Greenwood Road|
Back in Connecticut, they took an X-ray of my hand and told me it was a Boxer's Fracture and I would need a full cast. Go figure. I got all the way from Long Island Sound up and down those trap rock cliffs without a mishap. And then break my hand about 0.1 mile from the official end of the NET.
But I had adventure, and that was the goal