Week 2: Salisbury, CT to Dalton, MA (1498.7- 1568.7)
CT & MA
Start: Salisbury, CT; Mile 1498.7
When we last left off our hero had survived the terrifying images that some rustling leaves in the middle of the night can invoke. The adventure continues from there in the small town of Salisbury, where I ran into Packs and Sin Nombre again while re-supplying at the market. Packs informed us a storm was a-comin’ in a little more than 2 hours. That left plenty of time to get to the first shelter on the trail so I got in my rain gear and hastily left town to beat the rain. No such luck! The rain started before I even got to the trail. Getting caught in the rain is inevitable when you are hiking for several months at a time, so it didn’t fuss me much. No rain; no pain; no Maine. Roan is a trooper and we kept moving to stay warm and reach the first shelter. I was pep-talking her the whole way.
You can do it, buddy!! You’re the toughest trail puppy! You and me, Roanie Baloney! You’re the best……… A-ROooooooUND! No one’s ever gonna bring ya down!!!
The rain was coming down hard and we were both pretty soaked. I finally saw the sign to the left of the trail for the shelter. Huzzah!
We did it, Roanie! We’re going to get you warm, dry and into a sleeping bag soon! Hang in there, my little beagle buddy!
Except that wasn’t true because I went a mile down some fool side trail in the pouring rain only to end up at a garage on private property. Curses! We had turn around.
Ok, buddy, just a little further! You got this! You’re the best………..A-ROooooooUND!
Somehow I managed to walk past the first shelter sign and 1.2 miles later we arrived at the 2nd shelter. A family was inside, drying out and warming up in their sleeping bags. The rain had stopped and the sun was out. Despite the favorable change in weather the family was heading home and abandoning their backcountry weekend plans. It wasn’t just the rain, but their sweet pitbull had taken a fall on the ledges at Lion’s Head and had a cut above his eye. Poor fella.
It was the last shelter before the CT/MA state line, so I told the parents some jokes and crossed CT off my comedy-on-the-trail list. After drying out, napping and eating lots of snacks from my food bag we moved onto Sages Ravine Campsite. Holy macaroni was that place beautiful. There was a flowing stream, with waterfalls and swimming holes, surrounded by a pine needle carpet forest. It was 65 degrees out, so I’ll have to come back some other time when it’s hot enough to swim.
In a span of 16 hours I had a bear scare, been caught in a rainstorm, gone the wrong way in the pouring rain, told jokes to a soggy family, crossed another state line and set up camp in a forest paradise. The AT, man – phew!
NOBO? SOBO? IDK.
The next day I camped just north of Homes Road with the intention of hiking 8-9 miles north the next morning and hitching into Great Barrington at the second highway crossing. After hiking about 2 hours I passed 2 hikers, Zen Master and Pantz, and asked how far the next shelter was to gauge how close I was to the highway crossing. “You just passed it- it’s behind you,” they said confused. “You’re going southbound.” Whaaaaaaaaaat?!!!!! We spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out where I went wrong and how this possibly could have happened. It was weird, confusing, surprising and amusing. I shrugged it off and figured well, if you’re going to be out in the woods for months at a time, you’re going to get lost at some point. I decided to continue south and hitch into Great Barrington from there, do my town errands, figure out where I went wrong and start over tomorrow. The founder of Patagonia Yvon Chouinard once said,
“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong,”
and with everything that happened in the past 36 hours- I had definitely, officially earned my adventure merit badge.
Destinations from Conversations
After completing my laundry and resupply errands I stopped at Fuel Coffee Shop in Great Barrington to figure out where I went wrong and how to fill in the miles I missed without backtracking too much. Shout out to Fuel for offering to be covertly dog-friendly. A father and his teenage daughter sat nearby and asked about the trail. The father asked if I was worried about my safety, being alone. This is a common question and I’m glad I get asked about it so frequently, because it gives me an opportunity to dispel myths and turn the attention on this subject right back where it belongs.
“The truth is it’s not the men you don’t know that you need to watch out for- it’s the men you already know. The men that make the world unsafe for women aren’t boogeymen or strangers that jump from bushes, they are acquaintances, co-workers, friends, or friends-of-friends.”
He seemed surprised but nodded in agreement and said, “You seem like you’d be ok out there. You seem like you don’t take a lot of shit.” Now I was the surprised one. I had no idea how he arrived at that conclusion from our brief conversation, and I didn’t know how to respond except to pause, then agree; “I don’t.” What else is there to say?
There were several interesting folks at Fuel. A man approached me to ask if he could take a picture of Roan, because his hobby was illustrating dogs with bow ties. He showed me his sketch pad and his story checked out. His name was Andrew and he had hiked the trail and done other, amazing things like spend the summer in Alaska working on a fishing boat. I had always wanted to go to Alaska but it never occurred to me to spend a summer there, working and exploring. That’s now the plan for next summer- figure out a way to work and live in Alaska. Thank you, dog-in-bow-tie illustrator for inspiring my next great expedition!
The last person I met at Fuel was Jeff, who offered to give me a ride to the Eastern Mountain Retreat. It was near his friend’s house where he was going to do some yard work for them as a favor. He picked me up in his silver delivery van. On the way there he asked if I wanted to go to a BBQ. YES. If the question is BBQ, the answer is a solid yes. We stopped at the GB Co-op and picked up some salmon and veggies. Fun fact: both Fuel and the Co-op accept “Berkshares” which are Great Barrington’s own currency.
Not Just Me
The next morning I hitched a ride to Homes Road and started over. I met three retired slack-packers who were also heading NOBO. I told them about my accidental SOBO yesterday and we made conversation as we hiked. When we reached the Ledges (mile 1524.4) there were two blazed trees: one to the left and one directly in front of us. The leader of the retiree gang thought we should go left. Feeling unqualified to disagree based on yesterday’s experience I followed the leader. You know how this ends. Lather, rinse, repeat. At least it wasn’t just me who got turned around in this stretch. It’s amazing how different the trail looks coming from the other direction. So much so that you might not realize you had hiked it twice already within in 24 hours.
Upper Goose Pond Cabin
This place- oh, man. It’s one I would come back to, for sure. It’s the AT’s hottest club and it has everything. A bunkhouse, a washing station with soap, (Wash your hands with soap, hikers!! Hand sani will not stop noro from spreading!) a porch, a fireplace, a pond, a dock, canoes for paddling around – AND, a caretaker who makes you pancakes and coffee in the morning!!!!! I hiked the 10 miles to get there from Shaker campsite and arrived by 11 am. I spent a perfect day lounging on the dock, taking a dip in the pond and paddling around with Tangerine. His paddling skills are way better than mine. He owns a canoe at home and gets to practice frequently. This day at UGPC is definitely in my top days on the trail. It was so, so good. After a glorious pancake breakfast I weighed my pack. My base weight (everything but food, fuel and water) is 16 lbs. Not bad. GPS might be proud!
My parents drove 2.5 hours to visit with me in Dalton, MA! I saw Tangerine when I was heading into town that morning and convinced him to come along to The Donut Man for a donut. I thought it referred to one guy, like “He’s the Donut Man. He is known for his donuts” but it was more like “That’s The Burger King. He is King of all burgers.” It was still great to have donuts, iced coffee and sit under the shade of an umbrella. My Mom made tuna fish sandwiches, which are a fave of mine (They’re not you’e average tuna fish sandwiches. These taste like home). We mostly just hung out and then they drove home. They drove 5 hours in one day just to have donuts and tuna fish sandwiches with their smelly, dirty daughter. That’s love, readers. And that’s where Week 2 Ends. With Love.
Thanks for reading! Check out next week’s post for another state line crossing, many moose photos, the one small, simple pleasure that makes me really happy, and more fraternizing with the locals!
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