The Mountains Get Taller
The four of us got an early start, this time to beat late afternoon thunderstorms. After less than a mile of walking I came across an etched, wood 1,500 mile sign attached to a tree. Wow, I’ve hiked the Colorado trail distance three times!
Connecticut is so good at signage in camping areas. Each has a map and wooden signs for features like the bear box and wash pit. The vista points also have signs.. The descent was gnarly as it had a couple steep, rocky drops.
Shortly after Bear Mountain we came upon the Massachusetts state line. I’ve been in the state before, a visit to Boston, but never hiked in it. We took a groupie and an extended snack break. The trail continued into Sages Ravine, which was absolutely beautiful. The stream wound among moss-covered boulders and often formed deep pools. We stopped to clean off in one such pool. I sat beside a jet of water that tickled the bottoms of my feet when I lowered them in.
Next came the ascent of Mt. Race. The trail wound along the edge of the mountain, offering fantastic views of the New England countryside. Raptors swirled on thermals far overhead. The actual top was hard to determine, one of many flat rocks amongst stunted trees. Afterwards, the trail descended less than 500 ft. before climbing Mt. Everett. Wooden steps were bolted into the steeper sections of rock so the climb to the summit went quickly. I had a snack and waited for Hobble-It and All The Way.
The descent of Mt. Everett was gentler than I expected. The three of us met Serendipity near Glen Brook shelter. The camping was my favorite, pine needle covered ground. We didn’t even go to the shelter as the privy, bear box, and water were all close to the trail. Sonic camped prior to Mt. Race. If there were thunderstorms they passed us by.
I had a leisurely morning, sleeping in until after 6 am and cooking my oatmeal. Usually I cold soak it these days. Then it was an eight mile hike to US 7. A half mile from the road crossing we came across trail magic from a group called the Sheffield Trail Angels. It was outstanding! I particularly enjoyed the fresh watermelon slices and dill pickle spears. My friends had grilled burgers.
It was Hobble-It’s birthday and her sibling Heather met us at US 7. They drove us to the Great Barrington Travel Lodge where All The Way got a room. He graciously let Serendipity, Hobble-It, and I use his shower. Then we drove to the downtown, stopping at a cute yellow coffee shop that had smoothies. I got one with blueberries, peanut butter, and oat milk. The shop owner gave us free trail mix when he heard we were hiking the AT.
Heather and Hobble-It drove to pick up Sonic while Serendipity, All The Way and I went to the outdoor store. It was a fancy store and didn’t have any stove fuel, though All The Way got a nice fanny pack. In the meantime I noted that it was getting later and we still had a lot to do, would we hike out that afternoon as planned? Serendipity immediately caved, checking on hotel availability. She loves to stay in town. I was on the fence, but easily swayed.
I am learning to ride the current of trail experiences. Since the end is closer now there is a subtle urgency to reach Katahdin, yet the fun is all in the journey.
We all met at Baba Louie’s for a late lunch. Money Stache and Hot Mess were already there so they sat with us for a bit. Hot Mess has a foot stress fracture and is getting off trail for 10 days. She gave us food and her fuel canister. I hope she heals during her break! The restaurant had an amazing homemade sourdough gluten free pizza crust. Sonic and I swapped a couple slices with one another. My pizza had sweet potato, parsnips, and fennel along with the cheeses, very unique.
Sonic and I wandered around downtown while the others resupplied. We found postcards, took photos on rainbow crosswalks, and got ice cream. Back at the hotel, I shared a room with Serendipity and Hobble-It. Money Stache crashed with the guys.
Papa Joe, a retired local who offers donation based rides, gave us a shuttle back to the trail. All The Way, Hobble-It, and I were the first group. Joe got into shuttling when he helped a hiker he saw on YouTube. His service grew by word of mouth. He compiled interesting statistics on his riders: the male vs. female ratio (33% latter), direction of travel, and the packs people carry. I was surprised Osprey beat out Hyperlite as the most popular pack.
The three of us hiked a mile of flat before we headed up hill. It was cool in the forest. We discussed using smoothies to boost our calorie intake post trail, until our hiker hunger wanes. Near the top of a climb we talked with a south bounder named Mickie D. He warned us about insect swarms ahead. Serendipity and Sonic caught up and we put on insect protection.
At Tom Leonard shelter, we stopped for a snack break. I felt so happy and couldn’t help smiling as I walked along. We had lunch and filtered water at the next stream. Shortly after we came upon trail magic from a nice couple who hiked the Long Trail and met thru hikers on the first third.
I hiked with Serendipity for the last four miles. We chatted about yoga and listened to several Krishna Das songs. It was fun to chant while hiking. We stopped for the day at Shaker Campsite. I made grits for dinner followed by a fancy and delicious blueberry peach crisp that my sister added to my last resupply box.
The day started with an almost immediate climb to Tyringham Cobble, a hill separated from the mountain behind it. On the way down, I ran into a guy giving a woman a trail tour. He pointed me out and said “that’s a thru-hiker”. I said “from Georgia” and felt like a wild creature being observed in its natural environment.
I hiked within range of Serendipity all morning. We did 12 miles before 1 pm and reached the Berkshire Lakeside Lodge. My resupply box was there and I reorganized it into my pack while the rest of our trail family arrived. We all ate lunch in the lodge’s breakfast room.
I spent the afternoon hiking solo with a newly heavy pack. Actually, it wasn’t too bad, especially since I kept my water load light, refilling from a gurgling stream. I listened to “The Two Towers”. It felt fitting to be striding in the woods as in the book characters ran across the countryside and rode through the forest on an ent.
We camped at a farm run by the “Cookie Lady” family. When I arrived the others were eating cookies and drinking lemonade. A lady named Ruth brought me three warm gluten free cookies which I happily ate along with my dinner. Dark blue storm clouds appeared on the horizon so I pitched my tent in the grassy yard next to Sonic. Soon we were pelted with rain drops, but it didn’t last long and my tent felt cozy.
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