Dodging Raindrops Like Pros (Days 120 to 125, Great Barrington to North Adams)
Start: MA 23 / East Mountain Retreat Center
Finish: Bushcamp just shy of Cooper Brook
AT Miles Hiked Today: 16.6
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,545.6
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 643.5
Reindeer and I had the whole retreat center to ourselves last night, so it was nice and quiet – we slept great! I woke up in the early hours to heavy rainfall outside, and that rain continued through the morning. We stayed in bed extra long, hoping the rain would taper off, but it kept storming outside. Getting wet on day one of a section really sucks, because it’s tough to dry clothes and shoes on the trail. Plus, we didn’t get a chance to do laundry in Great Barrington, so if our shirts get wet, we will smell like wet dog all day.
But, the rain just kept on falling. We sighed, packed up, and walked out of the retreat center at 8:30.
It was a mile and a half back to the trailhead, and as we walked, the rain lessened, then stopped! We got to the trailhead at 9:15 and started hiking for real.
It was foggy and damp, but it felt like the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than the last few weeks. What a relief! We weren’t sure how water would be on trail, so we each packed out two liters. Turns out there’s water everywhere on trail today. Doh, carrying huge water weight for nothing.
There’s good elevation change today as well. As I mentioned in my last post, we are finally starting to get back to the type of hiking we did down south, with good elevation throughout the day. Hopefully the views return soon as well!
About 10 miles into our day we came to a road with a snack booth nearby, run by two young men. Reindeer and I each picked up a soda and a few snacks, and enjoyed them on a bench nearby. Excellent midday break!
We packed up a few liters of water from a nearby stream, and got to a good camp spot about 5 or so miles later. The terrain today was so much better than I could have hoped for – soft pine needles, mostly not rocky, really nice walking overall. I’ll take good terrain over flat elevation any day!
We got lucky with the rain today, but I’m lying in my tent as it rains outside. Hope we can dodge some raindrops tomorrow as well.
Start: Bushcamp just shy of Cooper Brook
Finish: Bushcamp a quarter mile shy of Cady Brook
AT Miles Hiked Today: 15.2
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,560.8
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 628.3
It continued to rain into the night. I heard a few loud THWACKs on my tent, and I assumed it was just rain falling off the trees. Turns out it was birds pooping on my tent. I had no fewer than 15 separate white crap marks on my tent this morning. Reindeer has a giant tarp and was set up 5 feet away from me, and only has 2 on his tarp. I’m sure they’ll wash off eventually, right?
We got rolling around 7:15, and by then the rain had completely stopped. It was legitimately chilly this morning! I had goosebumps in camp while eating so I threw on my puffy jacket. It felt awesome to be hiking in the cool morning.
It was really easy walking this morning – relatively flat, stable terrain again. We started the day with a downhill to the Mass Turnpike. Once again, I’m amazed at how loud cars are, vs the soft clack clack of trekking poles and foot steps in the dirt.
On the other side of the turnpike was a foam cooler filled with soda and beer! I drank a Mountain Dew. The beer was a 7.5% double IPA. Another hiker rolled up and grabbed one. I’m not sure if I respect him or pity him. Probably a bit of both. It was 9am.
Our one big climb of the day was right after that, 900 feet. Some climbs you have to fight for every step, but this one was over before I knew it. Soft terrain, well graded slope. Massachusetts, you are turning out to be a real treat!
It was dark and overcast all morning, but not rainy. The trees were dense on all sides, which meant at times that it felt like dusk on the trail. I almost wanted to pull out my headlamp! Very dim.
Walking through this section is very different from the trail South of here. Each step is soft, on a bed of pine needles. Roots stick up every few feet on the trail. It is beautiful walking, but if you don’t watch out, the roots will send you sprawling.
Around 1 we reached the famous Cookie Lady house. She is a trail angel who cooks cookies for hikers when they stop by! She also sells farm fresh hard boiled eggs. Reindeer and I each had two eggs. Just as we got under cover of the porch, it started to really rain again. Man, we are dodging raindrops in this section so far. It’s nice to get lucky and stay dry!
We got to 15 miles in around 3:30. There was no use in doing more miles, as we already have reservations in North Adams for Thursday and Friday. We could make it there on Wednesday, but it’s nice to have days like today with the afternoon off. Plus, I guess we did walk for 8 hours today, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty. 8 hours of walking! That’s a full time job.
We set up camp and took a nap, then got back up at 5 to eat dinner, and we were back in bed by 6. We amused ourselves by saying lines from The Room (written by, directed by, and starring Tommy Wisseau) but eventually we called it quits and just went to sleep at an absurdly early hour.
Side note: God, I smell so bad right now. It’s gotta be the combination of damp air and sweaty clothes from the last section. I’m sure we could sleep with our food bags if we wanted, the bears wouldn’t dare come close to our hiking clothes.
Start: Bushcamp a quarter mile shy of Cady Brook
Finish: Bushcamp next to Cheshire Cobble
AT Miles Hiked Today: 15.6
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,576.4
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 612.7
We got absolutely dumped on last night. I woke around 4 to rain hammering on my tent. The rain lasted until around 6:30. But once again, we avoided getting wet! As the rain moved off, that was the end of the rain for the entire day. We are professional rain dodgers this section, as it has rained out for three straight days but we haven’t gotten wet at all. Awesome. Reindeer says that we are really lucky, but I told him it’s because we are professional raindrop dodgers, which sounds much more impressive.
We set out around 8am, getting a later start than we usually do. It was bordrline chilly again today. I like to think that we have left behind the 90 degree temps for good!
Everything was wet. We had water dripping from all the trees onto us as we walked. The boards put in place to keep hikers from trudging through mud became slick and dangerous. I’ll take wet feet over a broken arm any day! I walked on the mushy ground instead of on the wet boards.
Again, super easy walking today! We got to Dalton around 11am. The trail goes right through town, so we decided it would be rude not to patronize a few local businesses. We found an open shop named Angelina’s (the name of my older sister! It’s meant to be!) and grabbed a few subs and some mozzarella sticks.
We felt lazy after eating, so we swung over to a coffee shop and messed around on their WiFi for an hour. We rolled out of town around 1, and didn’t realize until we started walking that we both had massive stomachaches from lunch. The climb out of town was slow and ponderous, but we made it up the one large climb left on the day.
Lots of water flowing once we made it up to the ridge! It felt good to see water flowing again, after how dry it was in PA and NY.
We decided to pull up a few miles short of Cheshire tonight. The trail goes right through down and next to a Dunkin Donuts that we want to hit for breakfast. We found an awesome campsite right next to a rocky outcrop named Cheshire Cobble. We ate dinner out on the rocks and enjoyed the view.
A few different groups of locals came up while we were up there, and Reindeer and I decided it would be quieter hanging out in our tents. We crashed around 7, looking forward to bagels and donuts in the morning.
Start: Bushcamp next to Cheshire Cobble
Finish: Bushcamp a mile short of MA Route 2
AT Miles Hiked Today: 14.9
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,591.3
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 597.8
Alright, before anything else: As Reindeer and I were falling asleep last night, a guy and girl came up to the scenic overlook, on what I can only describe as the worst first date ever. She had a super high pitched voice as she sat on the overlook laughing and yelling. Neither of them knew that we were camped about 15 feet away from them. They stayed for over an hour. She kept telling this poor guy about all the other guys she was “talking to” (read: hooking up with). The guy knew one of them and he was apparently married? Reindeer and I had no choice but to listen to every word. We got all the juicy gossip.
After over an hour (and well past hiker midnight), the two turned to leave, but the girl saw our bear bags hanging in the trees and screamed “OH MY GOD WHAT ARE THOSE?! THEY WEREN’T THERE WHEN WE GOT HERE!” They both started inspecting our bear bags. Now, Reindeer and I faced an interesting dilemma. The two somehow still hadn’t seen our tents. Do we yell at them that they are our bags, possibly scaring this poor girl off the cliff? Do we let them mess with our food bags? If we make our presence known, we have to admit that we have heard them whispering sweet nothings to each other for the past hour. I kind of wanted to yell in a scary voice YOU’RE NOT ALONE! just to see what would happen. But, I didn’t want to get shot by a local, so I passed.
We fortunately didn’t have to make the choice, because the dude decided that it was probably just “gear that people hung to keep it away from animals” (so close!), and they noisily tramped back down the mountain.
Anyway, due to that, I had some trouble falling asleep. It was touch and go all night. Lots of rolling over. In the morning I didn’t feel too rested, but I did get to watch the sun rise over the mountains to the east around 6am.
Reindeer and I packed up and headed towards town!
It was a rocky but super short walk into Cheshire. We were there before 8! We killed an hour at the Dunkin Donuts, then decided we should get up and over Mt Greylock.
It was interesting climbing the mountain. It started out similar to Virginia, with open fields leading up to the mountain. Then Reindeer said it reminded him of Georgia, with pretty rocky terrain. Once we got up towards 3,000 feet, it reminded me of the section around Clingman’s Dome, with mossy pine trees closely packed around the trail. Very cool! It felt good to do a 2,000+ foot ascent for the first time in a while. The trail was no joke either. It was mostly slippery rocks and parts of the trail were flooded from the recent rain. I accidentally stepped in a mud puddle and soaked my left foot.
About 80% of the way up we came to a parking lot with trail magic! A group of former thru hikers and people interested in the trail have been going around doing magic for the past few weeks. They had hot dogs and soda, and we all swapped stories for a half hour. It felt good to sit after getting our heart rate up climbing the mountain.
We got to the top and it was packed with real people. There’s a road that will take you directly to the summit, so lots of activity near the top.
Reindeer and I slowly picked our way down, and found a nice flat spot to bushcamp about a mile out from town.
One last anicdote from today: It’s happened to every hiker. You get your food bag hung and you think you’re ready for bed, only to walk back to your pack and find you forgot to put some snacks into your bag before you hung it. It’s enraging! But, no one to blame but yourself. You have to do the walk of shame back to your food bag to take it down, put in your food, then hang it again in front of the whole camp. Usually it’s me that does this, but tonight for the first time it was Reindeer! So I got a picture of it.
The next two days will be a luxurious Nero+ Zero. What’s the earliest we can conceivably check in at the Holiday Inn tomorrow morning? We will likely be there by 8, so we are hoping to score some free breakfast. Wish us luck.
Also: the countdown continues. Under 600 miles left until Katahdin.
Start: Bushcamp a mile short of MA Route 2
Finish: MA 2 / North Adams, MA
AT Miles Hiked Today: 0.9
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,592.2
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 596.9
We were up early, anxious to get into town. After about a half mile of hiking downhill in the woods, we came out into a residential neighborhood and street walked the rest of the way to the turnoff to town. The time? 7:30am.
We tried hitching for about 15 minutes with no success, so we sighed and started walking to town. Each time a car would pass we would halfheartedly stick out our thumbs. After a few minutes an electrician’s van swerved over to the side of the road and offered us a ride! So we saved a few minutes of road walking, lucky us.
We got to the holiday inn around 8am. I went in alone, without my pack on, hoping that I was more presentable to the front desk and maybe they would let me check in despite the ridiculously early hour. To my surprise, it worked! We got the room!
We went upstairs, dropped our stuff, grabbed some breakfast at the restaurant downstairs (alas, no free continental breakfast – damn!) then went to run errands and resupply. Our plan was to get errands out of the way while we still felt motivated then do absolutely nothing for 48 hours.
We got back to the room and did absolutely nothing the rest of the day. Ordered pizza and ate that for lunch and dinner, watched two movies (fast and furious 7, and some crappy Bruce Willis movie about clones or something?), then we split a 6 pack of beer and fell asleep early.
Start: MA 2 / North Adams, MA
Finish: MA 2 / North Adams, MA
AT Miles Hiked Today: 0!
Overall AT Miles Hiked: 1,592.2
Miles To Go Until Katahdin: 596.9
We slept in until around 8 today then walked down to an adorable local cafe / diner nearby. Reindeer and I were the only people under 60 in the entire restaurant, including the waitresses and cook!
On our way back we got to check out the local architecture. There’s clearly a lot of history here, with tons of old churches dotting the skyline close to downtown.
We got back to the room and drank tea all day, and bombed through the first season of The Expanse on the Sci Fi channel. Really good show! It reminds me of Battlestar Galactica.
We ventured down to the pool area, and found that the hotel has a sauna. Well, of course we were going to use the sauna! It was my first time in a sauna, and I guess I always knew that saunas are hot, but man, they get hot as hell! I quickly departed.
Very relaxing day, all things considered. We got to play a few games of ping pong, but other than that did zero physical activity all day.
Hopefully we will be able to get to Hanover in 9 days. The rest of the trip is finally taking shape. I booked a flight out of Manchester NH for a wedding in Wyoming in early September, and it looks like I’ll be finishing the trail towards the last week of September.
Until next time, happy trails!
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