AT Year 9 Section - NY, CT, MA Bear Mountain-Harriman SP, NY to North Adams, MA
Thursday, July 5 - Day ZeroI've heard it said that the most difficult part of running a race is getting to the starting line. This is the first year in which I was completely responsible for getting myself to and from the trailheads. I spent the preceding year thinking about this. I investigated public transportation options, but the logistics, expense, travel times, etc. were daunting. I wanted to be on the trail as quickly as possible. Last year, I had gotten a one way car rental from the Newark airport for my return trip. I was under the impression that one way car rentals were only possible from major airports. On a whim, I decided to investigate this further, and found one way rental options through Hertz from my home in Rock Hill, SC, to within 20 miles of where I would start at Bear Mountain, NY. I also found one-way options for the return trip where I hoped to end up in North Adams, MA. Both these options were less expensive, and/or less complicated than ANY of the public transportation choices I had investigated. The only drawback was that the these were 24 hour car rentals, meaning I could not waste any time getting there and back.
I picked up my car the morning of July 5th, and drove all the way to Mahwah, NJ, where I had reserved a motel room for the evening. My plan was to turn the car in on morning of the 6th and get transportation to the trailhead. I was a little nervous, because I hadn't been able to confirm transportation from the car rental location in Upper Saddle River, NJ, to the trailhead at the hiker parking lot at Bear Mountain-Harriman SP, NY. I wasn't too worried, though, as I planned to drop the car off early, and figured I could hire a local taxi.
I arrived at the Super 8 motel in Mahwah around 8:30 p.m., settled in, double checked my pack and wrote down phone numbers of local taxi services from the phone book. I hoped to be back on the trail by 10:30 tomorrow morning.
Friday, July 6 - Day 1 - Bear Mountain-Harriman SP Arden Valley Rd. Parking to Campsite beyond West Mt. Shelter (13.0 miles)
I arose early, anxious and eager to get started. I ate breakfast in the motel, and prepared for an early departure. I knew the Hertz location was not far away, and arrived before they opened. As I prepared to drop the car off, I suddenly realized that my AT trail guide was not in my pocket. I remembered looking at it while I was lying in bed at the motel, and knew I must've left it. I can do without some things, but the trail guide is NOT one of them, so I headed back to the motel to retrieve it. The clerk let me in the room. I found the guide, and headed back to the Hertz location to arrive just as they were opening. I placed a call to a local taxi service, who gave me the number of another service they felt might be a little closer to my location.
The taxi arrived after a short wait, and I was driven to the trailhead by a friendly, talkative local who had been driving taxis in the area for 12 years. He wasn't sure how to get where I needed to go, but put Arden Valley Road into his GPS. I knew it intersected Hwy 17 near Tuxedo, NY, and that the trail crossed at that point. It was only about a 20 minute drive. I was a little surprised that the driver had never heard of the Appalachian Trail, and had no idea that people hiked long distances on it. He had many questions, which I happily answered as we traveled. We found the location, and I recognized the exact spot where I had ended last year's hike.
|A VERY Wet Start|
|A Rainy Path|
|Passing the Island Pond|
|Approaching the 'Lemon Squeezer'|
|Blazes at the Entrance|
|Fresh Squeezed Lemonade?|
|Out of the Squeezer and Into the Pitcher|
|The 'Easy Way' - Unfortunately NOT for Me|
|Open Area Beyond the Fingerboard Shelter|
|My Designated 'Lunching Rock'|
|My First Stream Crossing of the Day|
|The William Brien Memorial Shelter - Fit for a Caveman|
|Trail Work Area - Thankful for the Volunteers!|
|View From Black Mountain Summit|
|First Day Action Shot!|
|My First Campsite!|
This was an eventful day of hiking, with many people encounters, along with scenic viewpoints along the way. I took my time getting up, since I had the initial goal of doing only ten miles. I ate a breakfast of cold Mountain House granola, with my special 'rocket fuel' of Swiss Miss cacao mixed with coffee to drink - yum!
|A Beautiful Morning on the Ridge of West Mountain|
|Heading the Right Direction!|
|The Next Climb - Bear Mountain|
(Observation Tower Visible on the Summit)
|Following a Road Bed Before the Climb|
|Stairway to Heaven|
|Memorial Bench to A Fallen Ranger|
An observation tower sits on the summit of Bear Mountain, and I crossed a few parking lots, with many tourists, hikers, bicyclists, etc. I also was delighted to find two vending machines which accepted credit cards. I immediately guzzled two Fuze Green Teas, and a flavored water beverage. I sat down on a bench to rest, and noticed an asian looking female tourist with a camera. She seemed to be taking a particular interest in me, moving around for photo ops. I did my best to act natural and nonchalant, but it is difficult when someone is staring, and pointing a camera in your direction. I really don't think she intended to be rude. I momentarily imagined I was a celebrity being stalked by a paparazzi! :-) I went up the tower to check out the view, and saw the NYC skyline in the distance, which was truly amazing.
|MANY People on the Trail|
|Observation Tower on Bear Mountain|
|The NYC Skyline in the Distance|
|Hessian Lake Recreation Area|
|Saturday In the Park ( 'I think it was the 4th of July' :-)|
|Concession Stand In the Park - Yay!!|
|Pausing to Enjoy Non-Trail Cuisine|
'The Song of the Open Road'
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
|Swimming Pool Below the Trailside Museum|
|The AT Goes Right Through the Museum|
|Dedicatory Plaque to Walt Whitman|
After passing through the museum, which was well-worth the time, I crossed the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge. There were boaters and kayakers in the water below, with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. On the other side of the bridge is a steep mountain, and I had a brief flashback to the brutal climb I encountered in AT year 8 at Lehigh Gap, PA. Thankfully, after crossing the river, the trail heads down the road to the left before ascending the mountain at slightly less severe incline.
|Crossing the Hudson River|
|Scenic View of the River - Boaters and Kayaks Below|
|Approaching Highway 9 and the Appalachian Convenience Store|
|At the Graymoor Ball Field|
(A Neat Combination of AT and Christian Symbolism)
|My Campsite Next to the Horse Shoe Pits|
|Thru-Hiker 'Time Shift'|
Sunday, July 8 - Day 3 - Graymoor Spiritual Life Center to Clarence Fahnstock SP Tenting Area (13.8 miles)
The hiking distance yesterday ended up being longer than originally planned, and the distance today ended up being a little shorter. This is OK as far as I am concerned, because my preference is to 'play it by ear' when possible. Besides, over the course of my journey, the daily distances seem to have all averaged out nicely. Compared with yesterday, today was to be dull in terms of sights and events.
|One of Not Many Views Today|
|Crossing a Board Walk|
|Frequent Ancient Stone Wall Boundary Markers|
|Small Stream Crossing|
|Canopus Lake and the Clarence Fahnstock State Park|
|The Designated Hiker Tenting Area in the Fahnstock State Park|
|My Open Campsite|
Monday, July 9 - Day 4 - Clarence Fahnstock SP Tenting Area to Morgan Stewart Shelter (14 miles) I got up early after a night filled with 'crazy' dreams. I returned to the restroom area to fill up with water, after which I ate breakfast back at the tenting area, and visited with a SOBO thru-hiker, 'Mizman'. He had been a NOBO, but changed his plans to do a flip flop after needing to drop off the trail because of injury. He said being a SOBO felt a little weird. I assumed the 'bubble' for SOBO hikers was not as big, plus he was now running into hikers he had known when he was a NOBO, but heading the opposite direction.
|Beautiful Morning Hike on the Ridge Line|
|From Shenandoah Mountain|
|Flag Painted On the Summit|
|Bridge Over Brook Before Hortontown Road|
|The Fully Enclosed RPH Shelter|
|Furnishings Inside the Ralph's Peak Hiker Cabin|
|The Owl Observing an Unfortunate Hiker?|
|From the Next Mountain|
|On the Descent to Hwy 52|
|Arriving at the Deli|
|Passing a HUGE Old Maple Tree|
|View From the Top of Mt. Egbert|
|My Tent Pitch Near the Morgan Stewart Shelter|
|Huge and Deep Fire Pit in Front of the Shelter|
Tuesday, July 10 - Day 5 - Morgan Stewart Shelter to Wiley Shelter (16.6 miles)
I got up before 6 a.m., and visited with 'Chad the Dad' at breakfast. This was to be my longest day so far, and I wanted to get an early start. I broke camp around 7:30, but before doing so, I asked 'Chad the Dad' if he would snap my picture, which he kindly did in front of the shelter.
|Preparing to Head Out in front of the Morgan Stewart Shelter|
|Open Trail Near Nuclear Lake|
|Passing Nuclear Lake|
|The North End of Nuclear Lake|
|Crossing a Bridge into a Swampy Area in the Pawling Nature Preserve|
|Boardwalk Through the Preserve|
|Nearing Highway 22|
|Fence Style and Wooden Water Tower|
|New Mown Hay|
|This Backhoe Seems a Bit Out of Place|
|Big Brother is Always Watching!|
I made camp and walked to the water source down the trail. The water source for the shelter is an old style pump, which appears to have been built over an enclosed spring. I could hear the water gurgling below the pump. A sign next to the pump indicated that the water was contaminated with coliform bacteria, and needed to be treated and/or filtered. I filtered some water, and was happy to find it both cold and refreshing.
|The Pump and Enclosed Spring|
The loud group near the shelter seemed to have taken over the picnic table by the shelter, so I cooked supper at a fire ring next to 'Chad the Dad's' campsite. 'Chad the Dad' had gone ahead and contacted another thru-hiker acquaintance, 'Mad Max', who agreed to meet him in Kent and split for a room there. It was only a short distance to Kent, and he was intending to get an early start in the morning. I know how problematic a stress fracture can be, if that is what it was. It can become a chronic condition, and/or result in more serious injury if not treated properly. He was also concerned, but thought he would likely be able to continue his journey after a day of rest and recuperation.
Wednesday, July 11 - Day 6 - Wiley Shelter to Schaghticoke Mt. Campsite (9.5 miles)
I woke up early, concerned for Chad the Dad's leg. I saw him leave around 6:30 a.m. heading for Kent, and a 'zero day'. I bid him farewell, and said I might see him down the trail, since I was also going slow. I ate a breakfast of Oatmeal, and refilled with some of the excellent pump spring water. I broke camp at 7:45 for a relatively short hike, but with two intervening climbs at Ten Mile Hill and Schaghticoke Mountain. I decided to take as many breaks as I wanted today.
|Adding Another State to My List!|
|View from Ten Mile Hill|
|Breaking at the Ten Mile River Shelter|
|Easy Hiking Along the Ten Mile River Bank|
|Ten Mile River Sights and Sounds|
|Crossing the Ned Anderson Memorial Bridge|
|Ascending Schaghticoke Mountain|
|Scenic Viewpoint to the West from Schaghticoke Mountain|
|A Particularly Verdant Blueberry Bush|
|Path Along the Ridge|
|Another Viewpoint to the East|
|Schaghitcoke Mountain Campsite no. 1|
I've noticed the longer I am on the trail, the more efficient I become in getting ready in the morning; packing, loading, cooking, etc., and today was my earliest start of the trip so far. After retrieving my bag from the bear box, I had a breakfast of Mountain House granola and coffee. I broke camp about 7:30 for another relatively short day.
|Nice Day to Begin|
|A Rock Traverse|
|Trail Crossing Sign at CT Hwy 341|
|View From St. John's Ledges|
|Rocky Descent to the Housatonic River Valley|
|Housatonic River Views (Above and Below)|
I arrived at the campsite, which is up a hill about a quarter mile away from the river. The 'Stony Brook', which flows past the campsite downhill to the river, is very nice. I tanked up again with enough water for supper and breakfast tomorrow. Remnants of stone walls are visible throughout the area, with the wall foundation of a larger structure also in evidence. I deduced that there must've been a mill or some kind of settlement here at some point. The campsites are all numbered again, and since no other campers had yet arrived, I had my choice of sites. I decided to make camp at site number three.
|Campsite No. 3 at the the Stony Brook Tenting Area|
(Notice the Hat on the Trekking Pole - my 'standard'!)
Friday, July 13 - Day 8 - Stony Brook Campsite to Cornwall Bridge, CT- (3.5 miles) (Motel Resupply)
For some reason, I've always assumed that my trusty Nemo sleeping pad would never leak. Unfortunately that assumption was proven incorrect, as it had sprung a leak, and most of the air was leaking out overnight. It had probably happened a few days earlier when I made the grave error of laying down on the pad on the ground outside my tent. :-( Anyway, I decided I would try to find the leak and repair it once I arrived at the motel today.
|Morning at the Riverbank|
|Fly Fishermen on the River|
(Deer Visible in a Field)
|Old Silo Scenery|
|Arriving at CT Highway 4|
|Crossing the Housatonic River into Cornwall Bridge|
|The Hitching Post Motel|
|A Comfortable Little Motel Room|
|The Country Store in Cornwall Bridge, CT|
|Finding and Fixing the Leak in My Sleeping Pad|
(...and feeling like a genius!!)
Saturday, July 14 - Day 9 - Cornwall Bridge, CT to Belters Campsite (11.2 miles)
I succumbed to the temptation, as I sometimes do, of staying up late watching movies in the motel room, and didn't sleep much. My bedtime on the trail typically can be as early as 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. My biological clock still demanded I arise at the usual 6 a.m. time. I decided to walk down to the Country Store for breakfast, but it wasn't open until 8, so I returned to the motel, packed up, and checked out shortly after 8 a.m.. I stopped at the Country Store for a breakfast sandwich on the way out of town. I sat down to eat at a picnic table outside, before heading up Highway 4 to the trailhead. Small town New England is very scenic. It was a nice morning, so I took a few pics on the way out of town.
|Scenic View on the Way out of Town|
I order a new 'AWOL' NOBO trail guide, and just tear out the pages I need for the particular section I am planning to hike. This year however, I apparently missed the pages containing information for the cities of North Adams and Williamstown, MA, where I hoped to end my hike. The English hiker was carrying the full AWOL guide, and he kindly let me write down the phone numbers of a few motels. There were three motel options in Williamstown and one in North Adams. Williamstown was the less expensive of the two, so I thought I might call them first.
|The 'Lemon Squeezer Lite'|
(Above and Below)
|View of A Distant Motor Racing Track|
|A Miserable Campsite|
The most bothersome aspect of this hike so far have been the murderous encounters with insects. Nothing I do or wear keeps them from attacking me, and this particular campsite is THE MOST mosquito infested place I can remember. These aren't normal mosquitos either. These are large mutants, which attack in swarms even if I've doused myself in five different kinds of repellent. I was barely able to exit my tent to cook supper, before jumping right back in- zipping up as quickly as possible to wait out the siege until morning.
|A Clue Perhaps!? ;-)|
It rained in the evening, and I awoke around 5:30 a.m., packing all my wet things as quickly as possible. I hoped to get going before the mosquitos discovered I was out of the tent. Alas, they had been patiently waiting for me on the screen all night, and were now ready for breakfast. I complained about the mosquitos to some departing hikers. One of them answered with a short, three word reply, "try cedar oil". I have never heard of it, but at this point I am willing to try anything, so cedar oil will be on my equipment list next year.
|Agricultural Lands For the AT|
|Fields to the Left|
|Beautiful Flowers Along the Road|
|Trail Marker on the Housatonic River Bridge|
|Crossing the River|
|Distance so Far|
|Just Down the Road from the Trail Magic|
|Walking Through Falls Village and the Power Plant|
|The Amesville Iron Bridge Over the Housatonic River|
|Great Falls in Falls Village, CT|
|View From Mt. Prospect|
|Fantastic Surprise Vista and Field at Rand's View|
|Billy's View (Lunch Stop)|
|First Unofficial 1500 Mile Marker|
|Second Unofficial 1500 Mile Marker|
|Third 'Official' 1500 Mile Marker|
|Open Path Near Salisbury|
|View In Front of the Riga Shelter|
|My Spacious Campsite Near the Riga Shelter|
I have gradually become more and more flexible with my daily plans, often changing on the fly if circumstances dictate. Readers of my blog may have noticed this gradual evolution in approach. I made the decision to make this a VERY short day, even though my original plans called for it to be fairly short anyway. My original destination at the Glen Brook Shelter had three big climbs: Bear Mountain, Race Mountain, and Mt. Everett. My energy was depleted after the first two climbs, so I decided to skip the last one and head for a designated campsite off the main trail.
|Trail Sign at Riga Junction|
|Cloud Shrouded Views on the Ascent to Bear Mountain|
|So-Called Observation Tower Atop Bear Mountain|
|Bear Mt. Summit View|
(Highest Point in Connecticut)
|Sages Ravine Brook|
|Many Little Waterfalls and Pools on the Tumbling Brook|
|Cooling My Feet in One of the Larger, Deep 'Swimming Holes'|
|I love Mountain Streams, and This was One of the Best!!|
|View From Race Mountain Summit|
|A Difficult, but Rewarding Ridge line Traverse|
|Another Ridge View|
|North End of Race Mountain Ridge|
|My Nice Campsite Adjacent to the Tent Platform|
Tuesday, July 17 - Day 12 - Race Brook Campsite to Tom Leonard Shelter (16.2 miles)
I arose early in the morning for a slightly longer day of hiking. When I went to get my things out of the bear box, I noticed another bag in the box. I then saw another tent pitched further up the hill. I figured they must've arrived late, because I hadn't heard a peep.
|Rocky Climb Up Mt. Everett|
|Foggy Mt. Fire Tower Footings|
|Views From Mt. Bushnell|
(Above and Below)
|Jug End View|
|Nice Flat Pasture Land|
|Shays Rebellion Monument|
|Trail Along the Housatonic River|
|Kellogg Road Bridge Over the Housatonic|
Wednesday, July 18 - Day 13 - Tom Leonard Shelter to Shaker Campsite (11.2 miles)
|The Tom Leonard Shelter|
The day was nice and relatively cool as I began hiking. I passed a few lakes and ponds with good climbs in between. One of the passages is through an area called the 'ledges'. but I couldn't quite figure out how it earned its name. There are two shelters along the way: the Mt. Wilcox Shelter South and Mt. Wilcox Shelter North. These shelters are within 3 or 4 miles of each other, and I stopped for lunch near the northern one.
|First Little Pond|
|Scenic Trailside Views|
|Another View of Benedict Pond|
Thursday, July 19 - Day 14 - Shaker Campsite to Upper Goose Pond Cabin (9.9 miles)
It was a rather cold, but peaceful night, without any sign of bears. The general temperature is clearly changing as I head north, and I was amazed that I could see my breath when I got up. I also saw that two other hikers had made camp in the area. They must've arrived late, and though I can't be certain, they may have been reassured to stay when they saw my campsite. My goal for today was the second shelter north, and I intended to get an early start.
|Climbing Cobble Hill|
|The AT Stand on Jerusalem Road|
(Visible to the Right)
|Boardwalk Beyond Jerusalem Road|
|Old Stone Chimney Near Upper Goose Pond|
|Upper Goose Pond Cabin|
|Homey Interior of the Cabin|
|The Dock (Beach) Below Upper Goose Pond Cabin|
I was very early with plenty of time to look around. I cleaned myself up, and hung my damp clothes on the front porch to dry. I headed down the hill to check out the 'beach'. There is a dock with a canoe in front of it. The pond is idyllic- perfectly clear, and teeming with fish. It felt wonderful just to sit on the end of the dock, dangling my feet in the water watching the fish swim by.
|Upper Goose Pond as Seen from the Dock|
|Many Fish in the Clear Water|
|A Brave Chipmunk in Front of the Cabin|
An older thru-hiker arrived late in the evening. He wanted to be near the back door of the bunkhouse, where I had placed my stuff on the bottom bunk. He was having difficulty climbing to the upper bunk, so I offered to trade bunks, which he accepted.
Friday, July 20 - Day 15 - Upper Goose Pond Cabin to Kay Wood Shelter (17.6 miles)
I got up early in anticipation of pancakes for breakfast, plus I knew I needed to do a longer day, and this was going to be the longest day of the trip so far. The older hiker in the bunk below me had gotten up even earlier, and was making noise going in and out the bunkhouse door. He wasn't staying for breakfast, so I visited with him a little on the front porch while he packed his things. He was a seventy-seven year old retired farmer from Indiana who was on his fourth complete thru-hike. He had completed his first thru-hike when he was sixty-six, but thought this might be his last one. He was carrying an identical pack to the one I began with in 2010, but had upgraded from. It was a fully loaded Deuter 65+10. I asked him how he carried so much weight, to which he replied, "I would 'rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it". Common sense advice perhaps, but unusual for experienced backpackers who generally want to go as light as possible. He was slight of build, and I thought he must be nothing but lean muscle. He was hiking long days, leaving before dawn and hiking late in the evening, which sounds like farm schedule to me.
|Cabin Caretaker, Catherine and 'Tadpole'|
|Crossing I-90 Massachusetts Turnpike|
|The AT Bridge Crossing|
|A Welcome Trail Magic Marker|
|Good 'Trail Magic'...mmm|
|The 'Cookie Lady' Just Ahead|
|Sign At the Washington Mountain Road Crossing|
I left the 'cookie lady', and proceeded north hiking with 'Acolyte' and 'Pilgrim' for a time. It was a fairly flat hike to Blotz Road, where we stopped to rest at a small parking area on the north side of the road. Just as we stopped a man pulled into the lot, and got out of his car to offer some cold 'trail magic' oranges. I am always craving fresh fruit and vegetables, so this was a welcomed treat. He was a gregarious 'trail angel', and former thru-hiker named, 'Mad Hatter'. He was ex-military as were the three of us, and we had a good conversation. He shared an inspiring video from another thru-hiker of 'ten reasons to hike'. I asked him if he would send me a link to the video, so I could share it, but apparently he didn't get my correct contact information. He also shared a personal story of his own near encounter with death in a climbing accident, and how he came back strong from that experience. He said he was working on a soon to be published book entitled, 'Spirit'. His real name is John McKenna, and I would appreciate having a link if anyone knows of the book.
|Blueberry Bushes on Warner Hill|
|View North form Warner Hill|
(Mt. Greylock is visible on the horizon)
|My Campsite Near the Kay Wood Shelter.|
Saturday, July 21 - Day 16 - Kay Wood Shelter to Mark Noepel Shelter (16.9 miles)
Today was a GREAT hiking day, with good weather, good mileage, good trail encounters, and good views. I got up at 5:45, had a cold breakfast with pop tarts, and hit the trail around 7:30. There was a big climb to start the day, and then it was all downhill to Dalton, MA.
|Entering Dalton, MA|
|Spillway In Town|
|Trail Marker Embedded in the Sidewalk|
|A White Blaze Actually Being Painted!!|
|A Little Trailside Art on the Way Out of Dalton|
|Passing Gore Pond|
(above and below)
At the northern end of the ridge is a rocky outcropping known as 'the Cobbles', with great views of the Hoosic river valley below. I stopped on the way down to call ahead for motel reservations in Williamstown, and to see if I could adjust my car rental forward a day or two since I would be arriving earlier than originally planned. My plan was to pick up the car at the Hertz location in North Adams, which is a couple miles east of the trail. Williamstown is to the west at the same intersection, but has less expensive lodging options. I thought I could probably hike or use public transportation to get to the rental agency. I called the Williamstown Motel, and made reservations for two evenings. The motel offers free transport to or from the trailhead for hikers who stay there, and the friendly clerk said he would pick me up where the trail crosses Highway 2. He said to give him a call when I got close.
|View From the Cobbles|
|The Hoosic River Valley and Town of Cheshire|
|The Road Into Cheshire|
|Hiking Companions - 'Acolyte' and 'Pilgrim'|
|Wooded Path on the North side of Cheshire|
|Along Corn Fields with the Next Climb Ahead.|
|My Final Campsite with My Own Private Picnic Table|
Sunday, July 22 - Day 17 - Mark Noepel Shelter to Williamstown, MA (9.6 miles)
It was still raining heavily when I woke up, so I remained snuggled in my tent, hoping it would subside so I could begin packing up for my last day. I felt no inclination to hurry, as it wasn't a long hike to Williamstown. The rain was still coming down hard when I finally decided to get moving. I walked over to the shelter and spoke with two people there who informed me that the forecast for the day was mostly rain.
My Fitbit had run out of charge again, so I couldn't be certain of the time. I thought I could bring most of my gear to the shelter to pack underneath the awning. I could then leave my tent set up to pack last. I ate a cold breakfast, which is OK since I was out of alcohol fuel. Besides, my matches were soggy and useless.
I put on my rain gear - coats, pants, gaiters, and pack cover, and headed for the climb up Mt. Greylock. Mt. Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts, and I have been hearing about it for many miles. The rain subsided as I went along, but the mountain was completely shrouded in fog and mist, which made for an eery hike. I crossed the road to the summit several times, with signs marking the distance. I also passed a little pond and cabin to my left as I made the ascent. I assume the cabin is rentable, and thought it might be a neat place to hang out someday.
|Road Crossing Sign|
|Misty Pond on Mt. Greylock|
(The cabin is invisible just on the other side)
|Topographical Profile Display|
|War Memorial Observation Tower|
|Unfortunately No Views Today!|
|View to the West From Mt. Williams|
|The Hoosic River Valley from Mt. Prospect|
|AT Year 9 End of the Road is in Sight!|
|The Williamstown Motel|
(Mt. Prospect in the Background)
|My Comfy Room in the Williamstown Motel|
|Storm Clouds at Sundet|
|A Pleasant Evening|
|Conclusion of AT Year-9 in Williamstown, MA|
(Mt. Prospect in the Background)
After being on the trail for seventeen days, I couldn't decided what to do with an actual 'zero day' in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. My body felt like vegetating in bed, but my mind knew there were interesting things to see and do, and downtown Williamstown is just a mile or so down the road. It was rainy outside, so I had a convenient excuse to delay getting up. I finally roused myself to go for breakfast in the motel lobby, and walk into town.
I left the motel around 10:30 a.m. in a drizzling rain. Williams College, an exclusive and expensive liberal arts college, straddled both sides of the road. Most of the campus was across the street on the right, but the Williams College Museum of Art was on left. I planned to stop at the museum, but first I wanted to look around town. I found the main business thoroughfare just past the museum, and scanned for interesting shops to look at or places to eat. It may have been an orientation day for incoming students, because I encountered several guided groups of young people, along with individuals trailing anxious looking adults.
I can never rush through museums, so of course I took time to leisurely wander through the exhibit halls, reading every word while pondering the visual impact. After a few hours, I walked back to the motel, and placed calls to a local bus service to see about getting to the Hertz rental location in North Adams in the morning. It didn't sound difficult or expensive, and there is a bus stop conveniently located behind the motel. I returned to the convenience store to buy some junk food to graze on in the motel room. The same clerk who had hassled me yesterday about not buying beer was there, with loud music obnoxiously blaring from behind the counter. He was considerate enough to turn down the music when I entered, and did not comment on my purchases.
Later, I walked to the Olympic restaurant for dinner, and got a nice discount by showing my room room key. It had been a good day, and I had a pleasant evening doing nothing.
Tuesday, July 24 - Day 19 - North Adams to Home
I got up early after a fairly good night's sleep. My car pick up in North Adams was scheduled for 1 p.m., but I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make local bus connections. I packed up all my gear and had my pack ready to go before going over for breakfast in the motel lobby. I checked out around 10 a.m., and was heading out the door, when the same clerk who had picked me from the trailhead, offered to give me a ride into North Adams.
|Saying Goodbye to My Room at the Williamstown Motel|
|Downtown North Adams, Massachusetts|
|The War Memorial Park in North Adams|
|My Lunch Place Outside of McDonalds|
I walked back through town, and found the road that the motel clerk said led to the Hertz establishment. I had the address, and followed the road across the Hoosic River. There were good views back into town. I was still early, but arrived at the Hertz location around 12:15. The rental business was located in an auto repair shop. I had a twenty-four hour rental beginning at 1 p.m. I was hoping they might let me have the car a few minutes early, but I had to wait. It was interesting in that the chairs in the waiting area were old style barber chairs that had been re-purposed. Sitting in one these old chairs was a little nostalgic. Before returning the car in Rock Hill, I was planning to stop near Roanoke to pick up a set of church hand bells which were being refurbished.
|Bridge Over the Hoosic River in North Adams|
|View Back into Town from the Bridge|
Long distance hiking can be both rewarding and fun, but it is also hard work no matter what physical condition a person is in. Each section hike has its own unique set of challenges. Some of the challenges include: weather, terrain, insects, gear, people encounters, etc. Along with these challenges come unique life lessons. I think the most descriptive word for this year's hike is, 'perseverance'.
I felt that my physical condition heading to the trail was not quite what it should've been. It's not that this hadn't been on my mind. I did a two day preparatory hike on the Art Loeb trail in North Carolina the month prior. This is something I plan to do every year, and I know it helped me prepare, or at least illuminated deficiencies. I also had been doing regular, weekly workouts the preceding year, but many of these had been shorter, strength building routines, rather than building endurance. Long-distance hiking is a sport that requires both strength AND endurance.
One of the blessings solo hiking is being able to hike at whatever speed I choose. I made a conscious decision to just relax, take my time, and enjoy the journey as much as possible. It was somewhat easier to do this year, since I had gotten on the trail so quickly at the beginning of the hike. There was only one day of travel time getting to the trail head, so I had a spare day or two to play around with, and could amble through the woods, stopping to rest whenever the notion struck me. I've noticed that most hikers, especially NOBO thru-hikers who have a time crunch to get to Maine, hike much faster than me. Most of these hikers also have been on the trail for months, and have strong 'trail legs' and stamina. It is somewhat of a cliche, but it is true that every hiker should 'hike their own hike'. Personally, I like the feeling of having no pressure to be anywhere, and just savoring the experience.
Another positive of this trip were the number of off-trail dining and food opportunities available. This was especially evident the first week out, when I was looking to build and maintain strength. I also encountered some nice examples of 'trail magic' along the way. Long-distance hiking turns the human body into a calorie burning machine, and it is very difficult to keep from going into calorie deficit no matter what is consumed. I do believe that these extra off-trail food/calorie options made a difference in how I felt in the latter stages of the hike.
On the negative side, I seem to be a magnet for bugs, and the insects were very bad this year. The Mosquitos, especially those in Connecticut, were unusually aggressive. I prefer not putting harsh chemicals and insecticides on my body. Over the years, I have tried different kinds of repellents. I took several different non-toxic types along, but none of them seemed effective. The mosquitos were so bad at times that I didn't even want to get out of my tent to cook or use the bathroom. Another hiker mentioned cedar oil, and I will plan to try that next year. PLEASE, if you have ANY thoughts and/or recommendations, I would be very happy to hear them.
The number of hikers on the trail has definitely increased over the years. There was a time when this bothered me, and I would go out of my way to avoid human contact. Perhaps I am becoming more of an extrovert, because I found myself actually embracing interactions with other hikers. Although I always prefer peace and solitude, I can usually find it during the daytime. At night, however, it is almost impossible, especially when needing to camp in designated campsites and/or shelter areas.
Finally, I've noticed that the nature and character of long-distance hikers is changing. Just a few years ago, most thru-hikers and LASHERS such as myself, were openly proud of being 'unplugged' and disconnected from the world. Most hikers preferred relying on as little technology as possible, and letting daily events 'unfold'. This ethos seems to have vanished to some extent. Many, if not most, hikers now carry 'smart phones' - texting, listening to music, engaging in social media, and incorporating trail apps that tell them everything from water locations, to when they might have wandered two feet off of the trail, to where bears have been spotted in the past two hours. The unknown variables have disappeared in many instances, along with a few backcountry skills that once were requisite. In my opinion (and this is a judgement), some of the sense of adventure has disappeared. It seems that many people might be just as happy with an Appalachian Trail program for their home treadmills.
As for myself, I will continue to be an oddity- carrying only a flip phone (turned off most of the time), a digital camera, a good (paper) book to read, and a paper trail guide. I don't feel handicapped in the least, and find that I can often access information in my paper guide faster than someone with a phone app. The content of my pack will continue to evolve, especially in terms of lighter gear and food options, but don't expect the latest techno-gizmo alerting folks at home to my precise location, and/or what movies are showing in the next trail town.
When all is said and done, this was a great hike. I crossed several outstanding peaks, including the highest points in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and the lowest point on the entire trail in New York. I passed some significant mile markers at 1400 and 1500 miles, accomplishing my distance goals more quickly than originally planned. I will admit occasionally feeling discouraged, especially the first week out, but I persevered, and felt stronger every day. The word, 'perseverance', often came to my mind while lying in my tent at night or in the morning. There are many scriptures dealing with the subject of perseverance, and this is something I can directly apply to my daily living. I am always grateful for the life lessons on every trip.
Thanks, as always, for reading this chapter of my trail blog. I would love for you to become a blog 'follower', and always welcome responses, thoughts, and questions. With less than 600 miles to go to Mt. Katahdin, I have the end in sight. I know that the greatest physical challenges are yet to come, but my eyes are focused on the prize, and I anxiously look forward to next year.