Wishes… - #9f: Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve Hike

What started as a fun and impromptu hike, turned into a very unique and unexpected experience for us two girls. And inadvertently accomplished one of my bucket list items.

Warning: Lengthy post loaded with pictures.

All Pictures are courtesy of Smitha.

When my dear friend Smitha called me up in the afternoon on Saturday, August 7th, 2020 for a hike at one the closer locations to my home, Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown, I said yes immediately. For, I have been meaning to hike this particular trail for a while but could never make it.

Well, as fate had designed it, we could not go to Wadsworth Falls as well. Recent Storm Isais that happened on Tuesday (Aug 4, 2020), caused a live wire situation and the park was closed for safety reasons. A quick search got us to two trails closer by and we voted to try Ragged Mountain Memorial Preserve.

Having explored it very very briefly a couple weeks ago, I was prepared a bit for the trail to be rocky which was preserved a natural as it can be kept. After a bit of discussion, we agreed and finally reached the location. PS: We did miss-enter the GPS location so we had to drive another 5 miles to reach the actual location.

Before I proceed further with our adventure, I want to point out a few things:

1) This would be my second hike in three years. With Cancer, it's treatments and now post-recovery phase, I had to first build my strength. That is why this comes under my bucket list for me.

2) This would be my first hike that would go up a mountain most part rather than have flat areas in between. 

3) I was tagging along with post-Cancer side-affects too - knee pains, unable to squat lower than half my body length, vertigo, slightly off center of balance, and 25 lbs over weight than my normal.

4) We were supposed to see the reservoir once we reach the top, take a few pictures and come back.

5) We were supposed to be on a sort of easy trail amongst the ones shown on the map.

That said, after checking the map, we decided to take one trail that would loop around and come to Wassel Reservoir in a shorter distance. Note the highlighted area in the map below, that we originally started with - Blue and Red marker trail.

It started on pretty decent with the elevation gradually increasing. Of course, there were stones and with the storm, we had branches, leaves and debris along too. What we didn’t expect were fallen trees, huge rocks to be climbed, valleys to delve into, slippery slopes to evade, and all the while trying to keep to the trail.

The adrenaline created bubbled us with excitement; some precarious places in the trail only pumped it more. It was at a level neither of us ever experienced. Encouraging each other, not wanting to turn back (well, going back would have been more difficult), we pushed on and moved on, until we reached a junction, where I made a decision to cut through to Blue and White marker trail so we don’t have to go further into the Blue and Red trail that only kept becoming trickier and trickier.

Little did we know that we only made our journey all the more harder. Nonetheless we finally came to the junction where the Blue and White trail would meet with the Blue and Red trail. A fellow hiker thought we were lost (you can see him in the background of the pic below), but he confirmed our next choice. Take the Blue trail to the Wassel Reservoir.

Another 0.7 miles of trekking in the rocky, branches and trees filled path, again a few valleys to go down and rocks to climb, we reached a junction where we could further continue to the Reservoir on the Blue trail, or take the Blue and Orange trail to our parking lot. We decided together to take the Blue and Orange trail since it was already 6pm and we didn’t want to stay inside the forest when it was getting too close to dark.

I managed to keep my mask on for at least a little over half the time. After that I had to give it up cause it became very wet with sweat. Eek!

We kept on moving, at this time mixed feelings of hope and fear added to the adrenaline and excitement; hope to reach parking lot soon, fear of stuck in dark there. That is when we realized that we were literally living the life of Santiago from Paulo Coelho's 1988 novel The Alchemist. Just as Santiago's journey gives me different perspective of his ideal destination; brings several people on his way that change his course; our journey and destination also changed, varied, giving us a different perspective at every turn.

Having read The Alchemist; which was a gift from another dear friend, Preethi; last year, I never truly understood Santiago's journey towards finding his treasure, until we went on this hike.

As we were trekking along the Blue and Orange trail, we suddenly realized that the markers were gone and we were on a forest path but not sure if that would take us more deeper into the preserve or put us on the right track. I believe this was one spot were we truly were afraid, that we were lost, no one in sight to ask for help, and no markers to guide us. 

To keep our moods light my friend bursts out, "Bolo Siya Raam! And let's move on" (= Hail Sri Ram). And I added "Hey Ram! Kuch tho raasta dikha do. (=please show us a sign!)". You can see how thick the forest looks in here. Smitha quoted Frost at this point. From his famous poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:, although in our tired and hazy mind we were thinking it was Wordsworth. :P

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep

Anyways, a few minutes after our hail to Lord Ram and quoting Frost, we heard two young women coming in our direction but on a different tangent. We shouted towards them asking help to get on to the right track. With their help we managed to finally get back on to the lost Blue and Orange trail. We were not that off, but were glad to be on a trail that had markers. 

Again we felt we were living the life of Santiago where he comes across people who guide him along in his journey. Or may be god helped us in mysterious ways. Who knows, but in the end we prevailed and reached our parking lot. Although the destination changed, the journey certainly was interesting.

We climbed rocks, found hidden bridges, crossed fallen trees sometimes or went under them other times, and kept on with this adrenaline laced hike without giving up, encouraging each other all along. 

Filled with tons of conversation, singing songs aloud at times, we had so much fun taking pictures too, even when we were trying to come down a slippery slope or climb a precariously steep hill. 

The best part of the entire trekking was finishing it off with yummy home-made vegetarian pulao and kheer payasam. Oh my, we hogged on the food like it was the last morsel on the earth. 

The entire experience left us with an immeasurable feeling of fulfillment when we finally reached our car. Haven't had such gratifying feeling in my life in a long time. This was one adventurous unforgettable hike, which was no doubt exciting, can still feel the aches and pains. With an encouraging buddy on your side this hike was worth doing it.

A huge personal achievement for me, and a strong assessment that I am very much being successful in my road to recovery. Another tick off my bucket list!


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