Magical Massachusetts

Our AT journey has brought us through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, and we can say with some confidence that none of those states compares with how great Massachusetts has been. Each day has either had some kind of Trail Magic or a highlight of the journey thus far. Plus it doesn’t hurt that the rocky trail has been replaced by soft pine needles, making it seem like we are walking on a great shaggy beast. As we make our way into the more difficult terrain of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, at least we’ll have some great memories of amazing MA to keep us going πŸ™‚
We left Salisbury, CT on the Summer Solstice, which is known as the longest day of the year, and less known as Naked Hiking Day. So take caution if you hike on June 21, as you may see some hikers wearing nothing but backpacks! Although the sun was shining and the temperature warm, we decided to skip this tradition. Wearing 30-lb packs in nothing but birthday suits sounded like it might be quite painful on the shoulders and hips. But still, HYOH ?

We leisurely hiked to our nearby destination, the Bassie Brook Shelter, enjoying the sunshine and low humidity. In spontaneous fashion, Chris busted out his harmonica for the first time and, accompanying him on guitar, we made up songs about the black flies buzzing about our heads.

Around dinner time we were joined by another thru-hiker, Picasso, who shared with us some tips on how to liven up meals. After 5 straight weeks of instant mashed potatoes for dinner I am pretty desperate for something new. Amazingly Chris could probably eat the stuff for the next 5,000 meals! Day 44 on the trail wrapped up nicely with the sunset around 8:45pm. Of course, all 3 of us were fast asleep already ?
Woke up the next morning to find Picasso already packed and gone by 5:30am. With 3 mountains to conquer that day we also got an early start, not wanting to waste a beautiful 45th day on the trail. Right away it was up and over Bear Mountain, the tallest (and final) mountain in Connecticut. Finally a view!

Down on the other side was the CT-MA border. Happy to be in our 6th state of the journey, we started up the next “hill,” Mount Race with full strides. Immediately it seemed like the terrain changed. Tall pine trees next to gushing rivers, cool breezes through rustling leaves overhead. We could tell we were going to enjoy our week-long stay in MA.

Mt. Race was a steady 3-mile incline, and no easy feat. However, about 3/4 the way up we heard something that distracted us from the hiking. At first I thought someone was blaring a radio, but as we continued to ascend it sounded more and more like a tuba being played in the woods. Still up we went, with the sounds of a woodlands minstrel drawing us towards him. Finally we rounded the corner to see exactly that…a man on the edge of the mountain with a full baritone tuba facing out towards the view and playing a Bach concerto for the world to hear.

I think we were a little stunned to see such a sight in the middle of the woods, but it was a lovely break to stop and listen for a few minutes until he finished his piece. He didn’t even notice us until we applauded! Roger, aka Professor Beautiful, had hauled his instrument up the mountain to perform in his favorite forest setting. We chatted for a bit about the AT and his daughters past thru-hike experience, and he played us a summer melody as we hiked away. We were liking MA already!

We could still hear the tuba almost all the way up the rest of Mt. Race which was a treat for the ears. And at the top was a treat for the eyes…a panoramic view of the entire valley! After seeing not much more than green trees and rocks for days, a stunning view like that was amazing. Even better (or worse) we could see our next challenge…Mt. Everett, a short but steep 1,000 foot climb up with an equally steep climb down. Even though these are tough, we prefer the shorter steep inclines rather than long and meandering ones that take all day.

It was definitely rocky and tough in the afternoon sun, but amazingly Mt. Everett wasn’t too bad. A few sections had wooden steps bolted into the rocks to help hikers get up steep sections which was helpful. As we neared the summit, the trees became small and stubby,offering little to no shade on the hot day. And without any views there was no reason to linger at the top. Instead we continued on down the other side.
At the bottom was a little park maintained by the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club), with a cooler full of cold water. We eagerly drank and filled our bottles before moving onto the nearby Glen Brooks Shelter. The forest floor was covered with soft, red needles and it smelled of fresh pine and hemlock, so we decided to set up our tent in such a beautiful area. We met a few new hikers, Beaker, J, and 1st Seargant, and even saw some of our other hiker friends, Laurie and English Detective. We all ate dinner together and traded hotel horror stories.

Day 46 began with some lovely Trail Magic…an invitation from our friend to stay at his house that night (complete with home cooked meals and a shower!). We had met “44,” a section hiker, back in the beginning of PA and when he left the trail at the Delaware Water Gap, had encouraged us to give him a call once we neared Great Barrington, MA. Our first 7 miles flew by as we hiked through gorgeous red pine forests and sheep farms, down rocky ledges, and past a monument for Shay’s Rebellion.

At the Rt. 7 road crossing we walked toward the grocery store where we would meet “44.” The 3-mile walk seemed daunting until a passing car pulled over and the driver, a past thru-hiker, offered us a ride to town. We are always blown away by the kindness of strangers, and the way hikers help each other out on and off the trail.
After a quick resupply and lunch at the grocery store, “44” offered to help us “slack-pack” the next 8 miles. We took the essentials (water, snacks, raingear, map, phones, etc.) and let him bring the rest of our heavy stuff to his house. Wow, what a difference! We practically were able to run up the mountain in record time. At the summit we ate our sandwiches and celebrated crossing our 500th mile on the trail! We had beautiful views of the valley we had crossed, including Mt. Everett and Mt. Race.

At the next road crossing there was “44” who brought us into Monterey, MA along with Laurie and English Detective. We ate turkey burgers, green beans, and (thankfully not instant) potatoes and enjoyed the company of our trail family from the very beginnings of our journey.

Day 47 arrived with smells of coffee and pancakes waking us up. We packed and headed downstairs where “44” had a delicious spread waiting for us…bacon, yogurt, pancakes, fresh fruit, coffee, and juice! It was great motivation to head back out to the wet and rainy trail. After carb-loading and learning about some history of the area, we said our goodbyes and started hiking. It was muggy and humid, surprising after last nights rain. I was just saying something about the weather when all of the sudden we heard a storm sweeping through the trees overhead like a freight train! We scrambled to put on pack covers and ponchos before getting drenched!

But it felt amazing! The cold drops were refreshing, and the wind blew away the stale air. We were laughing and smiling as the morning rain spurred us up the MA mountains. When it tapered off the sun came out shining full force as if nothing had ever happened. We passed picturesque farmlands, rolling hills with red barns, and ponds with mountain backdrops.
We even met No Rush near one of the shelters! If you read some of my first blog posts, we had met No Rush back in our first week on the trail. He seemed like a character and he entertained us with his good humor, optimistic outlook, and general shenanigans. Well, he’s turned into something of a mascot on the trail…everyone has met him! And he is embodying the spirit of HYOH by taking his time (goes about 3 miles a day, hence No Rush), carrying meditation crystals and incenses, and literally stopping to smell the flowers. Every time we encounter him or hear of someone else’s encounter we have to smile.

At the N. Wilcox Shelter we took a nice long lunch break, drying out our clothes and gear from the morning storm. It was a great day for some wildlife, so I leisurely stalked newts and Chris chased butterflies and toads hoping to catch a perfect shot.

The day was beautiful and we felt great as we donned our packs and hit the trail. We each even had headphones on, rocking out to tunes to put a little extra pep in our step. About a mile down the trail we rounded a corner where we could make out a car and some people standing through the trees. Trail Magic? Wait…is that…Mom?!…Papa?! Holy crap!!

I couldn’t believe my eyes at first, but sure enough, in the most epic surprise ever, my parents had been at the road crossing for a few hours, waiting to greet us! They had a table set up with fruit, cheeses, cookies, and home baked goods, and a cooler full of sodas, coffees, juices and chocolate milks. My mom was even wearing a pair of wings and a halo like a true Trail Angel. We were completely shocked to see them, and it turns out that they had been tracking our movement on our Spot GPS to know exactly where to meet us!

We were happy to eat our fill while chatting and hanging out, and I even got to watch my folks deliver some Magic to some other hikers that arrived…Packrat and Captain Kirk. We laughed about how long they had waited while we were chasing bugs and newts just a mile away. It was a truly awesome event and we were sad when we finally had to move on. Thank you again Mamabird and Papabear! What an amazing 24-hours it had been!

After a few more miles we reached Shakers Campsite, where we joined Captain Kirk and Packrat, Fairy Dust and Ramsey Bolton. The trail Magic was the hot topic of the night and we went to sleep with smiles on our faces ☺️

Day 48 arrived with great hiking weather, which was nice for the hefty climb first thing in the morning. After a couple miles of dewy grasses and leafy ferns we arrived at a farm stand on the side of the trail, which used the honor system of leaving cash in exchange for snacks and farm goods. We hung out with Fairy Dust for a bit, eating Doritos and duck eggs and taking pictures of the cute cows!

It was good energy for our climb up Mt. Baldy. It was steep and long, but we were proud to not stop until reaching the summit. We are hoping that our “trail legs” are on their way, a term used to describe how hikers can walk uphill 20 miles without feeling tired. Obviously everyone has different limits to their strengths, but we are in much better shape now than when we first started!

After another 5 miles on surprisingly rocky and root-covered trail, we reached the Upper Goose Pond Cabin, a favorite among thru-hikers. Nestled a half-mile off the trail, the cabin holds up to 20 people in its loft bunk room, has canoeing and swimming available, and an onsite caretaker makes fresh pancakes in the mornings.

The pond was not hot nor cold, it was just right, and swimming is almost as good as a free shower! We met a bunch of other hikers: Monkey (who had met my parents), Dirty Harry (from Australia), Matador, Carbo, Tinman, Kaliedescope, and Hoops. We also saw Packrat again, Fairy Dust, Pollen Moon and Pigpen. The bubble of northbound hikers from Georgia is catching up to us!

As promised, Day 49 began with hot pancakes and coffee on the early side of 6:30am. It was good to get up so we could beat the heat of the summer, especially since we had an 18 mile day ahead of us. Before leaving we got to weigh our backpacks and were shocked to learn that mine weighed about 37lbs and Chris’s weighed 38lbs! We know it’s because at our last resupply we shopped for groceries before eating, and therefore shopped with our stomachs and bought way too much. Lesson learned…eat before buying groceries!
At our first break of the day we ran into Packrat on the trail, and she showed us a plant called Indian Cucumber that grows on the trail. She taught us how to identify the leaves and we learned that when pulled up correctly, the root of the plant could be eaten! It was sweet and crunchy…our first foraging experience on the AT! It’s crazy to think that with a little more knowledge we could be filling our bellies constantly with certain plants and roots that we walk past all day.

We arrived in time for lunch at the home of the Cookie Lady, a sweet, hiker-friendly, family-run blueberry farm. The Cookie Lady greeted us with freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies, and we purchased sodas and candy bars from her. It was a beautiful farm complete with blossoming flowers and blueberry bushes (although not quite ripe yet). But the sunshine was being slowly overwhelmed with dark clouds, so we moved on to the Kay Wood Shelter before the skies opened up.

Along the way we were treated to northeastern views of the mountains yet to come, including Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in MA. We didn’t beat the rainstorm, but it was cold and refreshing, and it caused the bugs to disappear for a while.

The shelter was empty except for a ridge runner who had brought Snickers bars! We enjoyed his stories about black bears and moose before drifting off to sleep.
Which brings us to today, Day 50, a short morning jaunt into Dalton, MA for showers, laundry, and Wi-Fi at the Shamrock Inn, joined by Packrat, Carbo, and Fairy Dust. Massachusetts has been full of magic, new friends, and trip highlights and we’ll be sad to cross the border into Vermont in couple days. But that means we’ll be another state closer to our goal! Until then…smiles and miles!

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Comments 3

  • Backfire : Jun 28th

    You guys are doing great. Having fun and getting the miles done.

  • Linus : Jun 29th

    we passed you guys on the trail the next day from Upper Goose and also Pack Rat later that day!
    We’re sectioners, here’s my writeup of the next day πŸ™‚ the cookie lady was our shuttle driver but i didnt even realize she was the cookie lady till after!

  • Ellybones : Jul 11th

    Could you please leave a note in some trail logs for Picasso to contact me if he lost a cap. Black Harley Davidson with Cancun Mexico in the back.
    I gave him a ride to a trail head in Woodstock Vermont.


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