Chipping away at Massachusetts – a day by day account
Several people have asked for more day to day details, so for this post I’m actually going to be writing each day and then publishing it at the end so you can get a sense of what some day to day hiking stuff looks like!
Today was a zero day. What does a zero day look like you ask? Well, I was still up pretty early (7:30am). Since we stayed at the community center in Great Barrington, I packed up and went down to the center to use the restroom facilities and charge up my phone. At some point my stomach was growling and I decided to walk out and get breakfast. I ended up at Mickey D’s about a quarter mile down the street and hung out there for breakfast (and second breakfast) for a couple hours. At this point Longspoon and I hadn’t actually decided to zero, but I got a text from him while I was at McDonald’s saying there was a brewery down the road and I knew we weren’t hiking today. At 11 ish I walked to Kmart to grab a few things and then walked down to the brewery.
Spoon and I hung out at the brewery for several hours, chatting with locals and charging up our phones and such. In all it was a pretty uneventful day. A local guy who had just hiked Katahdin a couple weeks before bought us a round of beers and we had a nice, relaxing afternoon.
A nice fellow offered to let us stay at his place and shower and do laundry, so in the evening we rode out with him to a neighboring town and were able to get cleaned up, which was great! Shared a few beers with him and hit the sack.
It’s a hiking day! It’s always hard to get back on trail after a zero. I was moving slowly even though we got up pretty early and got dropped off back in Great Barrington. First order of business was breakfast (that’s always my first order of business in the mornings) so we grabbed some grub at a bagel restaurant. Next was food resupply for Longspoon, so we went to Big Y across the street. I was then ready for second breakfast so I went back to the bagel shop and Longspoon headed out for the trail. I goofed off and ate for another couple hours, again charging up my phone (sense a trend?).
Finally around 2pm I decided it was time to start walking. We were only aiming for 6 miles so I wasn’t too worried but needed to get going. I threw on my pack and stuck my thumb out. A guy from California immediately stopped to pick me up and dropped me at the trailhead. I thanked him, threw my pack on and took off. Something prodded me to feel for my water bottles… One of them wasn’t there. The trail was completely dry between the road and the shelter and I couldn’t head out without both bottles. I had a moment of panic as I realized I might have to go back to town (really not the end of the world but I didn’t want to do it). There was an antique store just down the road from the trailhead so I walked over to see if they had anything. They did have a cooler with some drinks, tiny 16oz bottles of water for a buck each… And a $10 credit card requirement. I ended up buying two snickers bars, 4 post cards, and three bottles of water to make my $10. Now I could finally get to walking.
I walked about a mile and came to a spot by the river where two other hikers were hanging out. Of course I stopped to sit by the water for a moment. This is why it takes me so long to get anywhere. I finally got up and got moving. I walked through a corn field for a while which was neat. One of my favorite things about being up here is the varied terrain. Eventually, I started climbing, and I actually love that too. I missed climbing actual mountains with views, something I rarely experienced in Virginia.
I passed a day hiker and his giant black Labrador, Odin (yeah, I remember the dog’s name but not the hiker) who warned me about tricky blazes at the top. His words, “When you get to the top and go out on the ledge to see the view, be careful not to start hiking back down in the wrong direction. Keep the sun on your right otherwise you’ll end up back at this bridge having walked a mile in the wrong direction.” He was right. The blazes up on top of this mountain were literally all over the place. Blazes on trees here and there and everywhere, in a completely non-sensical fashion. I followed his advice and managed to head off in correct direction, even though I did get on the wrong trail a few times.
I made it to Tom Leonard Shelter a little before dark to find quite a few people there. Longspoon was already in bed, and I sat around the fire (someone built a fire!) chatting with other hikers for a little while. I had packed out half a bagel sandwich and some marinated mozzarella cheese from the bagel shop I ate lunch at, so I had that for an easy dinner. A little after dark, Rainbow, Captain Planet, and Library rolled in after night hiking a bit. Id been on the lookout for them, since turns out they’d also flipped up to Salisbury from VA like we did. After dinner I got set up and went to bed.
Try as I might, I cannot seem to get myself up and out of camp before 10am. I’m usually awake early, around 7am anyway, but have such a hard time getting going. By the time I woke, used the privy, packed up, got dressed, ate breakfast, journaled a bit, it was 10am.
The water source for this particular shelter was super far away down a very steep hill. Since I was already facing a sightly longer day than usual (11 miles, I know right), I didn’t really want to go down there. I was told there was a water cache at the next road, and Guthooks app told me there was a slowing stream about a mile and a half north. I lost my water filter a few days earlier and has yet to get a replacement, so I needed a nicely flowing source to help minimize my chance of getting sick if I was going to drink untreated water (trail tip: just don’t drink untreated water, ok?). I decided to chance it and took off without filling up. I had about a half liter of water at this point. When I got to the water source, it was flowing alright but what the app did not tell me is that this stream is just one bog flowing into another. So while the water was running, it was flowing out of a stagnant pond into a bog and I was NOT going to drink that without filtering. I decided to hike on to the road and hope the water cache was still there (water cache: when someone leaves water out at a trailhead or on trail for hikers to use when water sources at dry). It wasn’t. There was one small bottle of water there that I chugged being I was already starting to feel dehydrated, but the jugs were all empty.
I weighed my options. I had a nice climb ahead with no reliable water sources for the next 9 miles (turned out to be no water sources, period). I couldn’t hike on without risking severe dehydration, so I decided my only option was to hitch back to Great Barrington (this was the second road crossing that would take you there). I stuck my thumb out and pretty quickly a nice lady named Dianna stopped and asked where I was headed. When I told her I just needed water, she kindly offered to take me to her house instead of me having to go all the way into town. She lived right near the trail and told me she’d actually thought of running a hostel out of her home, but it would have required to many updates and renovations. When she noticed I was trying to fill up all these tiny bottles I’d gotten at the antique shop the day before, she GAVE me a Nalgene bottle. I wouldn’t normally carry something as heavy, but it worked a lot better than those flimsy 16 oz bottles and gave me the ability to carry two full liters.
I made it up to Benedict Pond and stopped for a few hours. Rainbow had also stopped and she and I went swimming in the pond. It was so hot and getting in the water felt so good. Trail tip: if you can time being in New England in the summer time, do so. Many thru hikers don’t get up here until it’s cooler, and they miss the opportunity to swim in all the ponds and swimming holes!
After swimming, I was feeling pretty relaxed and decided to set my hammock up for a bit and nap. Well, I ended up falling asleep and staying that way for quite some time, until Library showed up and I was stirred enough to wake. By this time it was around 4pm and I still had 7 miles to hike. Great. I got packed uo ℗ and headed out. I had hopes that one of the many water sources listed along this section would be clean and flowing, since I still didn’t have a water filter, but had no such luck. Almost everything was dry, and what wasn’t dry was stagnant and pooling. It was very hot in the late afternoon and by the time is gone about 4 miles I was out of water again. Since I’d been rationing water for a couple days now, I was getting to the point of dangerous dehydration. I didn’t know if id make it to camp or not (surely I would have, albeit in a sad state) when I came upon a gravel road with a car and …A WATER CACHE! The car belonged to Fern’s mom; Fern is a thru hiker and was taking a couple days off trail to go to her sisters baby shower. Fern and her mom saved my day with that water, and also gave me a cold Gatorade and some nut butter. I was in a much better place and was able to continue hiking strongly after that.
I ended up at Shaker Campsite for the night. The north has lots of “designated campsites” that actually have privies and bear boxes just like shelters do. This was one such site, and when I rolled in after dark there were a ton of people there, all already asleep. I wandered around as quietly as possible until I spotted Longspoon’s setup. He’s easy enough to find because he always sets up prayer flags. I threw my hammock and tarp how hike fighting off a swarm of mosquitoes. I quickly changed into long pants and shirt, not that it did much good because the little bastards can bite you right through your clothing. It was dark and I was beat but I had to eat something, so I sat on the ground in the dark and boiled water for ramen while swatting mosquitoes.
I awoke knowing I needed to go to town. Not only was my debit card situation still a mess, but my battery pack had stopped working and my phone was nearly dead. I also needed to make some phone calls, namely trying to locate a missing package at the post office. I walked about three miles and got into the town of Tyringham. Rainbow and Captain Planet also went there needing a resupply, bit ya such a small town that they don’t have a grocery store. We managed to snag a ride to nearby Lee, where they ran a few errands then we all met at Bucky’s Tavern for a burger and a beer.
I used Buckys as home base for the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out my stuff. I spent an hour on the phone with someone at Wells Fargo, and they only advice they could give me was to get to the nearest branch. That was in Bloomfield, CT and I was in Lee, MA so it wasn’t exactly convenient. Not to mention I couldn’t use my debit card so I had no money to get a bus ticket or an uber ride or anything. What I did have was an awesome friend in Winsted, which wasn’t too far away, so if I could get there I had a place to stay until Monday and a ride to the bank then. I was mulling over my options and discussing a hitchhiking plan with a local couple to get down to Hartford area and had just about decided to try my luck with that plan. I walked to the bar to pay my tab, and an older man approached me. Without saying a word, he grabbed my wrist and shoved a bill in my hand. I looked down and it was a $100 dollar bill. By the time I gained my composure he was walking away. I said, “Wait!” and he turned around. “Just take it and get what you need to get done, stay safe out there.” I asked if I could at least have his name and he replied, “No” and walked out. Now I had the money to get a bus ticket, and a place to stay and a ride to the bank on Monday. When they say the trail provides, they aren’t kidding.
I got a ride to the bus stop from another local and got into Springfield, where I called an Uber ride to a brew pub where I was meeting my friend. I got to spend a couple days relaxing with him and his family, then was able to get to the bank and back to the trail on Monday. It turned out to be a pretty perfect weekend.
Monday evening when I got back into Lee, I ended up going back to Bucky’s. I had planned to get a late lunch and a couple drinks here while figuring out what I was going to do hiking wise, but I found out they didn’t serve food after 2pm. I had a couple beers and decided to order a pizza from a local spot the bartender recommended. After a couple more beers the pizza finally showed up. Apparently they had someone order a pizza and not ahow up for it so they brought me TWO pizzas. I attempted without any luck to give it away at the bar. I was sitting there contemplating what I was going to do when who walks in but the nice older gentleman who had given me the money for the bus ticket two days earlier. His name was Doug, I found out, and we shared a couple more beers with he rest of the folks at the bar.
Longspoon walked in and we decided to walk to Upper Goose Pond cabin for the evening. I packed out the pizza that was left over to share with other hikers at the cabin and we decided to pay up and start walking. I asked the bartender for my tab and he said $6.50. Wut. That’s one and a half Angry Orchards. I’d had at least 8. I told him this and he shrugged it off. Then as we were cinching on our packs, a guy at the bar offered us a ride to the trailhead. Not sure it luck could be any better, and we finally got back on trail and hiked into the dark to upper goose pond.
Current mileage: sitting at mile 1577.5 in Cheshire, MA (you’re correct, the blog doesn’t quite get you up to date to here… Basically we just hiked for a few days)
Places I’ve stayed: mostly in the woods. Haven’t spent much time indoors during this section – most notable place was probably the cookie lady’s but that was still outside
Wildlife seen: a few chipmunks and squirrels, but we heard a wild pack of coyotes singing the other night and that was pretty awesome
What I’ve been reading: still A Cold and Broken Hallelujah
What I’ve been listening to: lots of stuff, music this stretch instead of an audiobook
Notable accomplishment: hiking 10 miles in 4 hours and 15 minutes to get into Dalton
Trials I’ve been facing: Relentless mosquitoes, heat, dry water sources, and loneliness
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