I had only read that the NET was a hidden gem, but sometimes you have to see for yourself. I tend to find long hikes more meaningful to me. It takes more than a few days to get over the logistics, the equipment, the thrill of being on trail for 10-15 hours a day, to transform and transition into one purpose, to experience 100% joy through hiking, surviving, smiling, and repeating.
For the entire trip, I felt safe on trail, through towns, road crossings, during the day and night and being surrounded by total isolation. Hiking season had ended and I think I counted 5 on-trail conversations- of those, a maintenance worker trying to find a fallen tree, a local who offered me a shower and a bed, and a couple who hiked 100 miles last year who offered me a ride anywhere. I declined, I was chasing daylight, a cold snap, and a storm front arriving on Friday. Not finishing was never an option. I spent 10 of the 11 nights hiking into the night. I stayed in 2 hotels (Hadley, MA & Plainville, CT) and never took a zero day. My calves continue to pay for that!
The continuous ledge and ridge walks, especially through CT were my favorite parts, the river walk-arounds and overflowing vernal pools never excited me, nor did the lack of water through the Holyokes. I will say that Guido’s does have a delicious hot dog and the 90/Mass Turnpike is creepy at dusk! This is a special trail system and I believe a tremendous opportunity for exposure and visibility to the right to farm communities.