Massachusetts and the Footbridge That Started it All
The footbridge that crosses I-90, the Mass Pike in Massachusetts, is what started my fascination with the Appalachian Trail.
Way back in the late 1970s, my family moved to Acton, MA. Dad was in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base following a tour in Germany. My sister had just graduated from high school and chose a college in western New York state.
The route between our new home and her college was pretty much a straight shot across I-90. We made many trips back and forth, always crossing under the AT footbridge.
The first sighting…
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I first noticed the bridge, but I was probably around seven. While the bridge now has a huge, reflective sign announcing the trail and the town, back then I remember seeing a small “Appalachian Trail” road sign.
To little me, that was a big word. I asked what it said and either my parents or my sister answered.
Heading east, it became a landmark signaling our journey home was almost at an end. Heading west, it meant we still had a day of driving ahead (the maximum speed then was 55mph). Either way, I always noticed the footbridge with the sign and wondered what it would be like to stand up there as traffic whizzed underneath.
A seed had been planted.
When we moved away, we drove west under the footbridge for the last time as a family and the trail moved to the back of my consciousness. It wasn’t until my own college years that the memory bubbled back up again when some college friends tackled the Appalachian Trail and shared their experiences.
Having done some hiking in college, the thought of thru-hiking seemed like an amazing adventure. But, “real life” took priority. Job, marriage, kids, caring for aging parents—those were far more important than taking a long walk in the woods. When my kids were young I wasn’t interested in hiking or camping because of the whining and dirt and overall stress of making sure someone didn’t drown or walk off a cliff.
Rollie and I and the kids did, however, make many trips to New England, often traveling the Mass Pike. The first time I pointed out the footbridge, he said, “Yeah, I hiked that section in high school. We were on the bridge waving and someone in a car mooned us.”
We crossed that bridge when we came to it.
In July, Rollie joined me for a few days of hiking. After a night at the hiker cabin at Upper Goose Pond, we crossed the Mass Pike footbridges (one each over the eastbound and westbound lanes). I stood waving and almost every car and truck driver waved back, some beeping as well. Thankfully, no one mooned us.
On the first footbridge over I-90 in Massachusetts, at long last.
I crossed those bridges on foot at long last, 45 years after first seeing them. Little me has come a long way indeed.
Highlights of Massachusetts
This sign is at both the north and south ends of the trail in MA, a reminder of who was here first.
Cliff walking over Mt. Race and Mt. Everett summit was made more interesting by an incoming thunderstorm. I made it over both and into the Hemlocks Shelter just before the deluge began.
Thanks to the heavy rain, the trail was a creek again the next morning. This would also set the stage for more mosquitoes in the coming days.
My husband joined me again for the weekend. I was thrilled to have my hiking buddy back after not seeing him since the first week of June. He lost gallons of sweat thanks to wearing long sleeves and pants in the hot, humid weather, all because of the hordes of mosquitoes.
Rollie has his bug net on and long sleeves and pants thanks to those pesky mosquitoes.
We soothed our mosquito bites, rinsed our sweaty hair and cooled off in Upper Goose Pond. We also stayed at the cabin which has caretakers who fixed the hikers pancakes the next morning. Quite a few hikers enjoyed the rustic cabin (no electricity or running water) and spent the evening chatting, playing games or reading by the the light of their headlamps.
That’s Rollie swimming in Upper Goose Pond.
The cabin at Upper Goose Pond was a real treat on the trail.
Missing hiker found
While at the cabin, we heard the fate of the hiker, Rob Kerker, trail name Steady Eddie, who had gone missing in Vermont following the heavy rains in early July. His body was found a mile and a half downstream from where (it is assumed) he attempted to ford the swollen stream.
The next afternoon, I checked the shelter log at October Mountain Shelter, looking for friends and…found an entry from Steady Eddie.
Rest In Peace, Steady Eddie.
Will work for food
The Cookie Lady offers free cookies (more about that in my next post on trail magic). She also offers a great dinner all for the trade of a little work on her blueberry farm. Picking blueberries for an hour in exchange for a burger, salad and chips was certainly a good deal!
Quite a bit of the next section was bog walks with assault mosquitoes. I wore my bug suit daily. Walking right through the towns of Dalton and Cheshire made it easy to grab something fresh to eat and avoid having to eat dehydrated food for a few meals. In Cheshire, the Father Tom Campsite provided a grassy area for tenting complete with running water and charging stations for our phones and bicycles to get around town.
Hiking to Mt. Greylock for sunrise was on my list of “must do.” Thankfully, the weather cooperated. I woke up a little after 3am, packed up, put on my headlamp and headed for the summit. The morning was unusually cold, only 42 degrees, so the warmth provided by hiking was welcome.
After 20 minutes of hiking I came to this sign.
The memorial tower at the summit of Mt. Greylock.
Sunrise. That’s Mount Monadnock (NH) at right.
Almost to the state line!
As I crept closer to Vermont, the trail began turning to mud. Just a preview of things to come.
These are the times when a hiker is thankful for rocks on the trail.
We experienced some amazing trail magic in MA. I’ll talk about that in my next post.
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