Massachusetts (pt. I): Rain, The Hiker Chapel, Rain and the Cookie Lady
After Bear Mountain, CT, I entered Massachusetts, and immediately had 2 more mountains I needed to get myself over. I specifically remember this day. It was raining nonstop. My backpack, in addition to my feet, felt extra heavy that day (likely due to the recent resupply of food I had from Salisbury and because, despite my backpack rain cover, water was soaking into the fabric of my pack, weighing it down). At the top of the second peak, despite the fact that I had made it through the hard part, I felt so tired that I sat down. Three hikers, one-by-one passed me. First was Bambi. I remember he was in a good mood. Despite the rain he was cheerful and talked with a smile and a laugh about the misery of the rain. Then Cookie Monster passed, pointing out where I had accidentally dropped an item in my weary stumbling’s. Finally Lawsuit came by, asking if I was a SOBO or a NOBO hiker. I kid you not, I was so tired I couldn’t find the word, so I just pointed in a direction. That way… no… wait.. that way… (On a future day, Lawsuit referred to me as “the hiker who did not know which way she was hiking”)
That was the first day I remember really really feeling like I was dragging on the trail—and I blamed the rain. The rain does a lot more to a hiker than just get them, and all their stuff wet. It turns the once nice trail slick, forcing us to now calculate every step we take. The rain makes it so that we are no longer only fighting gravity to pull ourselves up a mountain, but now we are fighting with the mud trying to suck the shoes off our feet with each step. And to top it off, the weather steals away the views at the peaks of each mountain, the rightful reward we are supposed to get after a long, hard, and arduous climb. Our clothes were soaked, our backpacks now rubbing the wet material against our skin, creating rashes that day after day, even after the rain stops, would continue to get irritated. Our socks absorbed so much water that each step, even if taken on relatively “dryer ground”, felt like we were squelching through a marsh, and our feet absorb so much water that prunes are not even an adequate comparison, and on top of that, it creates a pain I did not know would occur from wet feet (I spent that night googling trench foot).
The day continued to drag until the veryyyy veryyyyyyyyy end of my day, where I stumbled upon a trail magic. There I was given food and drink (it is also here that I believe my steadfast hold-out against soda was broken, and I have since continued to drink soda when it is offered to me at trail magic (but only at trail magic)), and most importantly, cover from the rain. It was like in the movies or books. This trail magic revived me and I hiked 5 more miles after this!
Great Barrington’s Hiker Chapel
It was also at this trail magic that I learned about Great Barrington’s Hiker Chapel. The chapel is just off the Appalachian trail, and is fairly basic by the worlds standards, being a small building with simply four walls and a roof, electricity and a port-a-potty outside. But to hikers, that is everything we need. This chapel (which has no religious affiliation) was built as a memorial to three people who died in a tornado, and it was recently purchased by a husband + wife combo who hoped to use the space as a location to give trail magic and as a spot where weary hikers can rest overnight. I found the whole story of the place really amazing, and if you are interested, here is the link to the GoFundMe where Sue and Marc explain the history of the chapel in more detail and explain how they currently use, and plan to use, the space for hikers.
I stopped by the hiker chapel the morning after the long, weary, wet day I described above. Sue and Marc were there; they cooked me a tasty breakfast sandwich, gave me coffee and cookies (and if you read the link to the chapel, you’ll understand when I say that truly, Sue’s cookies were to die for). This bolstered me for the long day of hiking in the rain I had before me.
After leaving the hiker chapel, I came upon Bambi again.
Now that I finally had a chance to talk with him while having a clear state of mind, I learned that he was a NOBO thru-hiker who was adding entertainment to his hike by spontaneously completing “challenges” as he hiked. That day was a “banana challenge” where all he could eat that entire day was bananas (not only does this make it hard to get enough calories, but it meant he was carrying many more pounds than normal in order to have enough bananas to fuel him through the day). I learned that he and his tramily had done many other challenges like this, including a snickers-day challenge (it was what you think), and that he was carrying with him two painted rocks that he had found on the trail and named “Rocky” and “Rockstar”. I took him as an example of who I may turn into after being on this trail for 4 months, finding and creating entertainment were and when I can. We hiked together for the rest of, what turned out to be, a really enjoyable day. That was until the rain came back with a vengeance 1-hour out from our end goal of the Upper Goose Pond Cabin…
The Upper Goose Pond Cabin is a fully enclosed shelter run by the AMC with caretakers that live there over the summer and make pancakes each morning for hungry hikers. Not only this but the cabin, which sits right next to a like, has canoes that hikers can use. Sadly, by the time Bambi and I arrived to the cabin, all the interior beds had already been claimed and the lightning storm wiped away all plans of us going out onto the water. The saving grace of the night, at least for myself, was that a fellow thru-hiker worked for Nestle and had donated a giant gallon sized ziplock full of hot chocolate packets. I was soaking wet, sad that there were no inside beds for me and that I would, once again, have to set up my tent in the rain… so before I did that I decided to sit inside with my soaking wet shoes and socks taken off, and I drink three cups of hot chocolate.
The following morning I headed out with plans to end my day in Dalton, Massachusetts. Along the way, I was excited to be able to stop by the famous “Cookie Lady“. The Cookie Lady lived right off the trail and is well known to AT thru hikers because she bakes and hands out free cookies to thru-hikers. Also, when the season is right, hikers can grab a bucket and harvest fresh blueberries from her bushes.
While it is not yet blueberry season, the cookie lady and her family did not disappoint. Outside her house was a large box filled with cookies, and her son grabbed us all a fresh, cold, homebrewed hibiscus lemonade–all on the house (we had the option to donate to her on venmo @ATblueberryhill)! The sun peeked his shy face out for a moment, a moment that us hikers gratefully took advantage of by laying out our gear to dry and soaking in the sweet rays.
Than it was time to move on. I wanted to make it to Dalton that night before the post office closed because I had three important packages in the mail waiting for me: a new pair of shoes, and a box of homemade cookies and brownies baked and mailed to me by my ever supportive mother, and my bounce box.
But that is for my next post…
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