Let me start off by saying that I forgot to mention that I made it to Connecticut. I met up with my father around Kent CT and we ate with people in pink polo shirts and khakis. When I left the next morning from the trail head the heat was just as oppressive as it was the day before. I climbed up and over a mountain right off the bat and was instantly soaked in sweat. A new addition lately has been these little tiny flies that circle inches in front of my face. Occasionally one of them strangely decides it is going to fly directly into my eyeball. At this point I slam my eyelid shut, which kills the kamikaze bug and then I stagger around as I try to remove the corpse. Sometimes the dead bug finds it's way under an eyelid which is gross in so many ways, but what can I do. Now picture this scenario while climbing down steep treacherous rocks and you can get a felling for my situation.
Thankfully, after the first climb of the day was a very long flat section that followed the Housatonic River. I found a nice little sandy spot along the shore that was perfect for lounging and swimming.
After a long break cooling off and sunning myself I headed back down the trail again with my halo of little bugs dancing around my face. Then I heard a rumble. Then another one closer. The trail started to head up to a ridge and according to my guide, it was going to be up there for a while. I didn't want to be caught exposed up in the high elevations with an electrical storm overhead, so when I came to a road crossing I decided to try and find cover. Then the storm hit.
I really thought I was going to be struck by lightning and turned into a charred croissant. As luck would have it though I passed a house that had a huge party tent on the lawn with people waving me over. Not wanting to be rude I took cover with them. There were about 25 people underneath. They were concluding a weekend get together where they shared all sorts of different skills, from making brandy to identifying a deer tick in its nymph stage. They offered me food and were incredibly welcoming. As the storm increased in intensity the tent started to become unstable. They manned the edges of the tent to hold it down in the high winds, as I ate a carrot.
Eventually the storm blew out as quickly as it blew in. They concluded their weekend get together with a circle and a song. Great group of people.
I set off to get back on the trail and quickly was picked up by some departing guys from the group. They said to hop in and they'll take me back to the trail. About an hour later and driving back and forth down the same road I was dropped off pretty much in the same spot where they picked me up. Good thing too, where their 1980 map showed the trail, was not actually where it was. The intention was there and it was cool to talk with them anyways.
Hours of hiking later the day started to wane and I was getting tired. The trail took me past a hydro electric plant where I saw two familiar faces sitting on the lawn. It was a couple I met way back at the Franciscan monk campsite called "The Noddleheads", "Rigatoni" and "Angel Hair" individually. They convinced me to camp there with them for the night.
Before dawn we all broke camp and set off early to beat the heat. Twelve miles flew by and before I knew it I was in the town of Salisbury CT sitting a french bistro eating french toast and drinking a hot chai latte all before nine o'clock. On my way out I saw this big statue with the name French on it. My kind of town I guess. My Noodlefriends had to resupply so I was hiking alone again and the trail was steep, very steep. It went up several large mountains and at one point I was convinced it was not going to end. It was just going to keep going straight up without ever reaching a peak. I could have sworn that I passed that tree already and that rocked looked pretty darn familiar.
I was wrong though, which is extremely rare, I did reach the peak of the never ending mountain and was rewarded with views of nothing. Great, now down the other side of never ending mountain. There was an upside to never ending mountain, which I think is it's official name by the way, when I reached the bottom I also reached the end of Connecticut and was now in Mass-a-chew-zits baby!!
One more mountain I climbed and then called it quits for the night at a beautiful campsite in an old hemlock grove. The ground was covered in soft fluffy needles and there was a cool wind blowing. Perfect.
Again I was up early and moving before the sun broke the horizon. The trail became very rocky and descended rapidly before crossing a road which led to Great Barrington Mass-a-choo-sits. It was three miles into town and I was debating whether or not I really wanted to go. A guy driving a truck filled to the brim with manure stopped and offered me a ride. Who would turn down a ride like this, so off to Great Barrington I went. The first thing the guy said to me when I got in was, "Huh, you don't smell that bad." I took great pride in that comment from a man driving a shit truck. He said he has picked up some hikers that smelled worse than his "load" in the back. He then drove me right to a restaurant he recommended and said adieu.
I got a ride back to the trail after I fully stuffed myself and resumed hiking. I called it a relatively early day at a place just off the trail called East Mountain Retreat. They offer hikers a room to stay in with mattresses on the floor, a shower and laundry, oh and you could get a pizza delivered to it. Sounded excellent to me and to make it better "The Noodleheads" showed up a few hours later. After showers and pizza we gabbed away until tiredness drove us to call it a night.
In the morning we all hitched into town to have breakfast and then we went our separate ways again because they were going to spend another night at the retreat. I stopped and got a coffee at a gas station and then slowly walked down the road thinking about how long it was going to take for me to get a ride back to the trail. Beep Beep. I turn around and see my father in the RV. He just happened to be driving down that exact road at that exact minute. That is more than a bit crazy. I hop in and he gives me a ride the couple miles back to the trail. Crazy.
Up and down through moist boggy terrain the trail took me, my posse of little suicide gnats always nearby. Late in the afternoon I came to my destination for the day, a place called Upper Goose Pond cabin. It is basically a shelter on steroids. It has a caretaker who makes pancakes and coffee in the morning and is situated right along the shore of Upper Goose Pond. When I arrived I set up my tent in the back and then jumped directly into the pond. The water was amazing. The cabin slowly filled up with all sorts of hikers as the day wound down. When darkness came the sounds of fireworks could be heard echoing across the pond as the outside world celebrated the 4th of July.
Daylight came and I crawled out of my tent and packed everything up. I made my way to the cabin where the caretaker already had pancakes waiting. I ate my share and headed off. Shortly I came to a road crossing where I met a father and daughter who stayed at the cabin last night. They said they were waiting for a friend who was going to take most of their gear so they could go fast and light, called slack packing. They offered me to do the same thing. So when their friend Harriett showed up we unloaded the majority of our gear and headed back into the mountains.
We spent the whole day hiking together. "Ten Year" is a section hiker who every year spends three weeks doing the AT, slowly making his way closer to Maine. This time his daughter Adele hiked with him for most of the trip and this was the last day of this year's trip. I think in some ways it is much more difficult to hike this trail in sections like some do. Once their bodies start getting into hiking shape they have to get off only to start over again next time. I give him a huge amount of respect for the task he undertaking.
When we reached our destination twenty miles later in the town of Dalton we met up with Harriett and had dinner together. We toasted to the end of their journey and making new friends. Congratulations "Ten Year" on finishing this leg and good luck Adele on thru-hiking next year.
|Ten Year, Harriett and Adele|
The next day was a short trip to meet my father the next town over, only ten miles away. There I got new shoes and he cut my hair. If it looks crooked or patchy blame him. Instead of just resupplying and immediately doing another long section, we planned on me slack packing in the morning and then getting picked up again the next road crossing fourteen miles away.
So I set off with only water a little bit of food and very little gear. The trail went up from the very beginning and didn't stop until I reached the peak which is Greylock Mountain, the highest peak in Massachusetts. There sat a beautiful monument that had something to do with war. Also, there was a lodge with the ability to get food. I went directly to the lodge and inside was greeted by several thru-hikers I knew including "The Noodleheads". I sat and had a bite to eat with them and then we all took off together down the other side of Greylock. Unfortunately it didn't last long, they held up at the shelter on slopes of the mountain while I continued down to meet my pops again.