Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Hampshire Part 2: Up We Go (August 17th-18th)

I awoke bright and early on Moosilauke morning and was one of the first to leave the hostel. I popped into Jeffers Brook to say hi to Pants but was too eager to get up the mountain to stay long. I started my climb and the energy I had was indescribable. I have never been more excited to physically exhaust myself. And physically exhausting it was. I usually have a rule with mountains - don't stop till you get to the top. The Whites were an entirely different playing field so I assumed this rule would have to be tweaked. But I had so much adrenaline coursing through my veins I didn't stop once through the entire four and a half mile ascent. It was a fairly steep and rocky trail, but wasn't horrible, though it did seem to last forever. I finally got to a part that flattened out, and a sign indicating a side trail to the south peak. That meant the north peak (true peak) had to be close!!!

I practically started sprinting down the trail. Moosilauke was the first time we were going to be above tree line and I couldn't wait to take in these views (the treeline is the edge of a habitat in which trees are capable of growing.  I was currently in an Alpine climate, which is the highest elevation that sustains trees.  Higher up it is too cold. This is different than a bald - if interested click here ) I became more and more eager as the trees became smaller and smaller. At this point I truly was running, winding and wheezing in a travesty of enthusiasm to get to the top. I finally burst out into the open air and saw the north peak looming in front of me. Slow down there killer, you still gotta climb up that. I started making my way when a tiny French Bulldog began trotting along next to me. I paused to search the trail for it's owner, when a younger guy came up behind me. Relieved there weren't wild French Bulldogs roaming the mountain, I continued up the trail, bulldog in tow. Will, his owner, said it was fine as long as I kept him from falling off the mountain. So I completed my summit of Moosilauke with a dog named Pimpsy. At the top we sat to the side of the summit sign and waited for Will. There was currently a large group of college students crowding the summit, but I was fine in my corner, taking in all that I had accomplished. The Whites were going to restore my love of hiking.

Not that I had quit loving it, but after five months I was getting a bit sick of it. But not out here. The feeling you get after climbing a mountain is unlike any other. The complete joy and happiness I experienced at that moment is indescribable. Pimpsy didn't appear as touched as he relocated rocks from one pile to another pile. Will finally arrived and we chatted for the better part of an hour waiting for the crowds to clear. Will and Pimpsy were peak baggers. There are 42 peaks in NH over 4,000 ft, and they were trying to climb them all. Eventually we made our way over to the summit sign and took turns taking each others pictures. At no point did any other hikers I knew come up, but it was starting to get a bit cold and cloudy, so I didn't want to wait any longer. Deciding it was time to make my way down, I said goodbye to Will and started my descent.

I walked along the ridge for a bit before the AT turned off to a steep drop. One of the trickier things about the Whites was that the AT was not the most dominant trail. In fact, it was hardly marked. There were numerous trails weaving throughout the Whites, with names like Glencliff Trail and Beaver Brook Trail. In the Whites, rather than being its own separate entity, the AT simply coincided with one of these trails. You had to constantly pay attention to what trail you were suppose to be on that also happened to be the AT. At this particular moment the AT was following Glencliff trail but turned right onto Beaver Brook trail at a four way junction. There were still white blazes, but few and far between. The park is very popular and does not necessarily cater to thru hikers for lodging or hiking.

I switched trails and hooked right down a flatter path, and was alarmed to see a large rabbit galloping towards me down the trail. The trail was very narrow and I really had no where to go to get out of its path, so I was hoping it would soon see me and swerve, but it came closer and closer. I started to panic and lift my leg to let it by, but it ran smack into the bottom of my shoe. Oh my God I just kicked a bunny. He looked a bit startled, as if he had just noticed me for the first time. He then quickly ran behind a bush and paused there panting and looking terrified in general. What the hell little man? I offered him some words of comfort before warily continuing down the trail in the event there was some giant Liger lurking around the corner to cause such panic in this rabbit. I proceeded slowly but no threat presented itself, must have been running from a hawk.

I made my way down to Beaver Brook Shelter to have lunch and gear up for the real descent. The 1.5 mile hike down to Kinsman Notch was known to be the steepest on the AT. In fact many hikers slack pack Moosilauke going south out of Kinsman so they are climbing the north side, making it less dangerous. I prefer my journey to be one continuous flow north, so down the slide I go. Roller, Sunkist, Pants and White Wolf all made it to the shelter and we began our slippery descent. I say slippery because the trail follows alongside Beaver Brook the entire way down, but it is so steep it basically becomes a waterfall, making the rock faces we are expected to climb down very slick. This was the first time on the trail where I stood at the top of something for entire minutes, pondering exactly how I was suppose to get down without dying. This would have been much easier if I didn't have 30lbs on my back. I was beginning to see why people slack packed this part.

It took me just as long to climb the 1.5 miles down the north side of Moosilauke as it did to climb the 4.5 up the south side. Good grief.  I was beginning to wonder how I could have my mail forwarded to the mountain, as I was clearly never getting off it, when I finally burst onto the parking lot of Kinsman Notch.  That all being said, it was probably one of my favorite miles on the trail.  Hiking down next to a waterfall was a beautifully terrifying and thrilling experience and I would recommend it to anyone, unless you have vertigo.  We lurked around Kinsman for a bit before getting a ride in the back of a truck into North Woodstock.  Roller, Sunkist, Pants and I were going to stay in town that night, get shuttled back out in the morning and attempt to slack the 16 miles between Kinsman and Franconia Notch, going back into N. Woodstock from Franconia.  I say attempt because there have been several hikers who have tried to do this stretch in one day and ended up having to stay at Lonesome Lake Hut three miles short of Franconia.  It was going to be a tough day with climbs over Mt. Wolf and the Kinsmans (known to have the most broken arms on the trail).  But if my dad did it, which he did, I had to do it, right?  We said goodbye to White Wolf who was heading to the next shelter, and would meet us in town via Franconia Notch the next night.  My first day in the Whites had been an awesome success and I was off to finally meet up with my dad. 

Steep climb down Moosilauke

The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to start the slackpack.  I went across the street to the deli to order some breakfast sandwiches and ran into Slowfoot, who was also gearing up for the slackpack.  Apparently Miss Janet was staying at the same hotel as us and was dropping Slowfoot off at Kinsman. I called and canceled our shuttle as Pants and I hopped in her crazy van with Slowfoot.  Miss Janet is somewhat of a trail personality and we first met her back in Erwin, TN.  She was now up north making the rounds at the hiker hostels.  She dropped the three of us off at Kinsman Notch at 6:30am wishing us luck.  We immediately started our steep and horrible climb up Mt. Wolf.  A quick break was had at the summit before beginning our descent to Eliza Brook Shelter (the last free shelter in the Whites).  Headin Out was there and together we took off for our climb up South Kinsman Mountain.  It was tough and long.  And extremely steep.   I put my trekking poles away as I had no need for them during the hand over head rock climbing.  Just when I was starting to wonder if the mountain was growing as I was climbing it, I finally reached the south peak.  The views were worth it.  I could see the north peak ahead of me and started to make my way there, rewarded again with breathtaking views.  It was difficult to tear myself away from the scene, but I still had five and a half miles to hike, and I'm slower going down mountains than I am going up. 

Climb up Kinsman

 I finally made my way down the steep descent to Lonesome Lake Hut.  Now, some info on the huts: The huts are not shelters.  They exist only in White Mountain National Park and are operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC).  They are actual buildings with heat, electricity, running water, and bunks.  There are 5-6 employees stationed at each hut known as the 'croo.' They are usually younger, college kids working for the summer etc... and are responsible for the upkeep of the huts and the care and feeding of its guests.  Notice I say 'guests' and not hikers.  The cost to spend the night in one of these huts is around $80-$100.  The patrons of these huts are usually people who want to get out and see the Whites, do a bit of hiking without having to worry about dealing with camping.  Now there are no roads to the huts, so the visitors do actually have to hike to them (and the poor croo must pack in and out all supplies and trash).  The hut visitors usually take short three mile side trails to the hut they are staying at, hike around that area, then head back down the next morning.  People out for multiple day trips will just hike between the huts, which are about five to seven miles apart. If you are following the AT, it is about an 8 day hike (for a thru, not a normie) from Franconia to Gorham if you want to avoid wasting time with side trails down to roads. I have yet to meet a thru hiker who has actually stayed in the huts as a guest for three reasons: you have to make reservations far in advance, and it is difficult for us to gage when we will be somewhere.  They are $80-$100.  And we actually enjoy camping.  I'm not sure if these people paying all this money are aware they can just bring a tent and enjoy the Whites for free, but they can.  It is a bit trickier though to camp throughout the Whites, and now that you understand the huts, I will explain why most thru hikers dislike them.

Before the AMC took over, there use to be shelters in the Whites for thru-hikers, like the rest of the AT.  Those have since been wiped out and replaced with these expensive huts OR designated campsite areas that you also have to pay to use.  There 'officially' is nowhere free for a hiker to stay, unless they stealth.  Stealthing is tricky as there are rules in the Whites.  We are not allowed to camp above treeline, within an FPA zone (designated by signs) or within 1/4 mile of a hut, an official campsite, or within 200 yards of water or the trail.  Whew.  Anything else is fair game.  The huts offer Work For Stay to thru-hikers, each hut will take around five to six thru hikers a night. They have to do some light work (wash dishes, sweep etc.), they then get to eat the leftovers of dinner (which there always are, the croo has to pack everything out so they view hikers as garbage disposals) and then we can sleep on the dining room floor after all the guests have gone to bed.  Essentially we are treated like dogs.  A lot of hikers take advantage of these huts for the free food and the floor so they don't have to search for stealth sites.  Unfortunately it has created a sort of competition among hikers to get there first, since each hut only takes so many.  If you get turned away, well you have a long night of hiking ahead of you since you can't tent near the huts.  The AMC has made it very difficult for thru-hikers in the Whites.  In addition they have made it very crowded.  Like the Smokies and the Shennies, the Whites are a very popular park, but the huts have made them very accessible so they are overrun with people. 

Pants and I had our first hut experience at Lonesome Lake.  Most hikers don't bother trying to do WFS at this hut, as it is only three miles to Franconia Notch.  You can hitch into North Woodstock from there, which is the last resupply stop for thru-hikers before heading into the meat of the Whites, so most of us are keen to get there.  We were curious about the huts and wanted to stop and see what they were all about.  Plus we were told during the day they sold soup, baked goods and lemonade.  We came upon Lonesome Lake and were immediately overwhelmed.  There were people everywhere.  I mean small children running around, moms yelling, teenagers looking bored and angsty at the fact they were dragged into the woods.  Pants and I popped into the hut to take a look, it was larger and nicer than I expected.  Two croo were busy preparing dinner while another, I presume guest, was reading at a table. We helped ourselves to the self-serve lemonade and plopped a dollar in the basket.  We sat down and took in the scene, watching the scores of people lurking around the lake.  Ready to leave, we thanked the croo for the lemonade and headed out the door, dodging children and overweight dads left and right. We had three miles left to hike down to Franconia Notch, where I presume most of these people hiked up from.  During our gradual descent we began an interesting discussion that I invite you all to participate in.

My experience in the woods has led me to believe that our culture (human culture) has made the natural wonders of this planet too accessible to the general public.  The huts have provided a refuge for those who want to experience the beauty of the Whites, but are fearful of their power.  They invite people to come out here, who, otherwise would never be here.  As a result, I turn the corner in the woods and encounter giant propane tanks.  Our strong desire to experience this natural wonder has prompted us to make it as accessible as possible, and as a result, detracts from the very beauty that drew us to it in the first place.  Giant buildings on top of mountains so people don't have to camp.  Roads and trains to the top of mountains so people don't have to climb.  Call me elitist, but I believe that if you want to be on top of a mountain, you should have to climb it.  I have had so many people say to me "I could never physically do what you're doing." Well, you could.  You just don't want to.  And that is totally fine.  But I feel that the total awe and power that one experiences from standing atop a mountain should be reserved for those willing to make the mental and physical sacrifice of climbing it. 

It is disappointing for those who have worked very hard, I mean extremely hard, to experience nature in the least impactful way possible only to see it tarnished by the constructions of man.  Constructions whose sole purpose is to make it easier for man to be there.  Well I got here fine without that road and I don't need that building so why must they exist? It is going to be difficult to sustain the natural beauty and wonder of these places if we continue to make them easier and easier to get to. Now I realize that the AT itself is an impact on the environment I am trying to experience, but where do we draw the line?  99% of these people wouldn't be here if they didn't have these huts to stay at or the roads that wander so close to them.  This topic was again brought up during the cluster fuck that was Mt. Washington, which you will hear abut later.....I know there are many who may disagree with me and that's ok.  I think it's a very interesting topic and I open it to you all and welcome any input or feedback you may have:)

Pants and I discussed this for the few remaining hours of our hike when we finally came to Franconia Notch.  We called Miss Janet to come pick us up and got back to town. We got to the hotel just as White Wolf was hiking in, and the three of us joined my dad for dinner and a game of pool at the bar down the street.  He beat us twice (and by us I mean the three of us on a team against the one of him).  We had a late night and went to bed not looking forward to all the chores we had to do the next day before hiking out.  We had an eight day stretch ahead of us through the rest of the Whites and we were planning to do it all in one go, fully immersing ourselves in them before surfacing in Gorham on the other side.  The good chaps at the Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glencliff gave me a list of solid stealth sites so we could avoid the huts and the people and just enjoy the mountains.  The few mountains we had done thus far had proved challenging, but worth every step, and I was pretty sure it was only gonna get better.  

Lonesome Lake
View from Kinsman

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Hampshire! Part 1: Aug 13th-16th

We woke up after our first night in Hanover rested and relaxed.  They even had giant white robes for us to wear:)  I got up early and went across the street to grab a coffee and a pastry and called my dad.  I planned out my five day hike from Hanover to North Woodstock, where I would finally meet back up with him.  We then went about the process of doing laundry and resupplying.  The hotel unfortunately didn't have guest laundry, so we had to walk down to some senior citizen community center that let hikers do laundry.  It was across from the grocery store so I knocked that out of the way, then we headed to the pizza place to claim our free slice (and many more).  I spent the rest of the day at the library, wandering around town and swapping out my summer gear for winter.  It was August, but the Whites were gonna be cold...

We ran into Headin Out and Taggin Along in the hotel lobby and they gave us the sad news that Taggin Along was getting off the trail since her hip wasn't getting better.  She looked devastated and started crying as she was talking.  My heart really went out to her as we said our goodbyes.  I can't imagine having to get off so close to our goal.  We woke up the next morning ready to hike and execute our five day plan to N. Woodstock. We had to walk through town past the senior citizen center laundry mat, and right behind the ball field and into the woods.  After getting water at Mink Brook, we started the climb up Moose Mountain to Moose Mountain Shelter, our home for the night.  If you're gonna name a mountain Moose Mountain, there ought to be a moose or two on it.  The shelter was quiet save for one other older guy, Solo, who was actually from MN but living in Arizona. I chatted with him for a bit before going to set up my tent and make dinner.

I woke the next morning hoping to get in 18 to Hexacuba Shelter.  The shelter was .3 off the trail, so I had no intentions of actually going there, but at least wanted to be in that general area.  I climbed over Moose Mountain North Peak and straight up to Holts Ledge which was a 'precipitous drop-off' with a nice view.  Pants and I took a break before making our way down to Grafton Turnpike.  Right near the fork in the road, a man named Bill Ackerly lived.  We had been told he likes chatting with hikers, gives them ice cream and soda, lets us help ourselves to water, rest, chat or perhaps play a game of croquet.  Intrigued by the variety of offerings this elderly gentleman seemed to advertise, we made our way to his large blue house. Unfortunately Bill Ackerly was not home.  He had left a note on the top of a cooler of soda indicating he was sorry to miss us but to make ourselves at home on the porch.   We hung out a bit and had lunch and I noticed a newspaper clipping about him tapped to the window.  It made me even more sorry to have missed him as he sounded like a very sweet and interesting man.  We finally left to begin our giant climb up Smarts Mountain.  Pants got ahead of me and landed himself in a bit of a predicament.  I came across him standing in the middle of the trail spasing out.  Two SoBos stood on the opposite side a bit confused as well.  Apparently he had sat down to take a break and unknowingly put his pack in a wasp nest.  He realized this once he started getting stung repeatedly at which point the spasing out started.  He was now in the process of trying to remove his pack, and various items he had taken out, from the wasp area, but seemed to be struggling.

The two SoBos and I  took turns navigating ourselves around the trail to avoid the entire fiasco.  I positioned myself up on a ledge out of harms way and offered my vocal support of his efforts.  Unfortunately the angry wasps started coming towards me, at which point I immediately left and told him I would meet him on the ridge.  I mean who puts their pack in a wasp nest?  I got up to Lamberts Ridge and waited for the wounded solider to return from battle.  He arrived angry and defeated and five wasp stings deep.  We took a break and put some ointment on his stings.  Unfortunately we were sitting on a ridge and had to finish the steep and rocky climb up Smarts Mt.  Pants beat me to the shelter at the top, since I climbed the fire tower before it to get a view, and a view it was.  I made my way to the Fire Wardens Cabin north of the summit, which was used as a hiker shelter.

There was one other hiker there, a SoBo named Gritz.  We spent some time chatting with him as he gave us a bunch of info on the Whites.  Pants decided he was going to stay, hoping it would remain a quiet night.  I at least wanted to get down Smarts and try to get within a mile of Hexacuba.  I bid them goodnight and started my descent.  The north side of Smarts was much more gradual than the south side and I flew down it pretty  quickly.  I also passed five SoBos all going up it, which meant Pants quiet night wasn't going to be so quiet.  I tried texting him but didn't get service.  He'd find out eventually, when his shelter got invaded by SoBo's, who seemed to be outnumbering the NoBos lately. I finally arrived at South Jacobs Brook at the same time as Solo.  The shelter was only a mile up the hill and he was headed there.  I saw no reason to do that, and instead found a nice little spot up above the brook.  I settled in for a nice quiet evening to myself and fell asleep to the sound of the flowing brook below me.

The next day was going to be a tough one - only 16 miles, but it included climbs over Mt. Cube, Ore Hill, and Mt. Mist.  Turns out Pants had ended up leaving the shelter when all the SoBos started rolling in and camped about a mile behind me.  He passed me in the morning while I was packing up, after which I started the steep climb up Mt. Cube.  I took a brief break at the top to enjoy the view before making my way down.  Right before the trail emerged onto NH25A, I found a nice little spot to have lunch.  The problem with having lunch under the canopy of trees is you can't really watch those lurking clouds, so while I was about to spread my Nutella upon my wrap, it started pouring on me, seemingly out of nowhere.  Annoyed, I packed up to start hiking, I'll just eat later.

I crossed the road, like three minutes later, and the sun was out shining and smiling. WTF?  Must have been just one asshole cloud.  I made my way to a flat rock and proceeded to re-continue my lunch.  It started raining again.  God must hate sandwiches.  Since I wasn't being allowed a proper lunch, I just shoved a plain tortilla in my mouth like a neanderthal, packed up and started climbing Ore Hill.  Of course the rain went away when I started walking but I didn't dare try stopping again.  I made my way up to Ore Hill campsite when I surprisingly ran into Squatch. Hiking south again, film camera at the ready, we sat and chatted for an hour, him capturing all on film of course.  The clouds started making some rude noises, forcing us to go our separate ways.  I trudged my way up Mt. Mist, excited to be done with my last climb of the day.  Now my original plan was to skip the Hikers Welcome Hostel in Glencliff, which would be down the road I was about to come across and go straight to Jeffers Brook Shelter, a mile up the hill on the other side.  But Squatch, who had just spent a few days there, told me I really shouldn't miss it as it was an awesome place to hang out.  I contemplated these options during my descent when I remembered a text DS had sent me earlier.  Her and Gribley were a few days ahead due to our extended stay in VT.  Apparently about a 1/2 mile before the road here, a wasps nest was in the middle of the trail and a lot of hikers had been getting stung.  Shit.  I forgot to look at what time it was when I was at the top so I didn't know how close I was to the road (Since I've been hiking so long, I can usually gage very accurately how far I've gone based on how long its been).

I started walking a bit faster, very wary of any wasp activity.  I guess my plan was to run really fast when I spotted a wasp?  All the sudden I felt a sharp pain in my ankle. RUN!  I sprinted down the trail but my ankle kept getting stung.  There was a wasp stuck in my shoe.  When I reached down to fish him out my other ankle got stung.  This was horrible.  I ran the remaining 1/2 mile to the road pissed off and in pain.  My ankle throbbing, I paused to look at it swelling up.  Yeah I wasn't climbing up any hill to any shelter and slowly hobbled my way down the street to the hostel.  I walked in the door and was greeted by several other hikers who had just survived similar attacks.  I went around back and found a ton of hikers who I hadn't seen in awhile hanging out.  Ranger Bill, who I hadn't seen since the Shennies, Roller and Sunkist, who I hadn't seen since NY, and White Wolf who I hadn't seen since the Doyle in PA.  Headin Out (minus Taggin Along), Slowfoot and Solo were all there too.  Squatch was right, this was a chill place to spend the night.  It was run by former hikers, there was a bunkroom upstairs or you could just put your tent up if you wanted.  They had an awesome shower and laundry room set up outside for us, as well as a giant covered picnic table and fire pit.  Fat Chap shuttled me and White Wolf into town to grab some dinner at the deli and gave us a little tour of the area, which included stops at a rock that looked like a face and a missile that was positioned in front of the church to look like an obelisk.  We spent the  rest of the night listening to Bag of Tricks tell trail stories of his days with Baltimore Jack. All these guys are considered 'trail legends' so to speak.  All older guys who have hiked the trail numerous times, like to drink and have fun and have continued their existence in and around the trail.  It truly has become a part of who they are.  I was glad I decided to stop and got the chance to meet some of them.  Pants never showed so I assume he went on to Jeffers Brook.  I finally made my way over to my tent to get some sleep as we all had a real challenge/treat the next day.  The first mountain in the Whites, Mt. Moosilauke!  From where I was I had about 5.5 miles of climbing to do the next morning.  The elevation profile looked like I would be walking straight up into heaven.  I was a bit nervous but thrilled to finally be here.  I had been looking forward to these mountains for awhile.

View from Smarts

Chillin at Bill Ackerly's house

First day out of Hanover, up we go!

View from M. Cube

Camping solo by Jacobs Brook

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sorry I Ate Your Wedding Chocolate: VT Part 3 (Aug7th-13th)

We woke the next morning excited for town (as usual) but unsure of exactly how many miles it was due to AWOL's error.  If definitely ended up being more like seven miles instead of five, but eventually we arrived at US 4.  When I got to the road, I didn't see Pants, so I assumed he already got a hitch in.  I stuck out my thumb and immediately got picked up by a french lady who had been living in the area awhile.  Just as I was putting my pack in the trunk, Pants came stomping out of the forest, yelling at me to wait.  Apparently he had stopped in Churchill Scott Shelter and was actually behind me.  He swooped in the car and we asked to be dropped off in the center of town near the Walmart.  Rutland is one of the larger towns we hit on the trail, pop. 63,000, so it actually has some stuff.  We went straight to the Subway as we were starved and that was the quickest way to get food in our bellies.  Afterwards we thought we might check out this Yellow Deli hostel nearby.  We weren't planning on staying, but were hoping to procure some showers and laundry.  We wandered over and walked into the cafe at the bottom.  We talked to a man who lead us upstairs to the hostel part to show us around.  I noticed everyone there was wearing mu mus of some type, and after talking to the guy a bit more it became apparent that we were in some type of "spiritual community."

We started our laundry and showered and passed our time in the common area and the rooftop patio that had a hammock.  This hostel was really nice....Pants and I weighed the pros and cons of staying.  It was a nice, clean hostel, the hammock out back was perfect for a lazy afternoon of reading, they made really good food and smoothies downstairs at their cult cafe, and we could go see a movie, a real treat:) Cons: well, it was a cult.  But Pants and I both agreed we were impervious to cultish wooing, so we pretended to drink the Kool-Aid and decided to stay.  I did as intended, lounge in that hammock all afternoon, until we decided to go to dinner downstairs.  It was delicious, and our new cult friends gave me some banana milk to try which was excellent.  During dinner, we got a text from Gribley and DS, they had made it to town.  They had just resupplied and were next door at the bar eating dinner.  They didn't want to stay at the cult and were going to take the bus back out to the trail and camp just out of town.  We grabbed a beer with them, but had to say our goodbyes early since we were heading to the movies to see Ted (which was hilarious, I really need to acquire some of Giovanni Ribsi's dance moves).  After the movie I went back to the cafe to have a cup of tea and try to get caught up on my journal which is a losing battle.  One of the elders was at a table next to me going over a bunch of stuff with a young girl.  I noticed she had been there all day working, but she wasn't wearing the smock, so I assumed she was in the process of joining their community.  He told her she would be sleeping in the hostel that night, when another girl came over to say that the hostel had filled while she was working and she would have to sleep on the couch.  The girl looked really bummed, I mean she had worked all day and wasn't even getting a bed.  I felt bad for her so I offered her my bed, I'm used to sleeping on the ground anyway.  I finished my tea and went up to claim my couch.  It was actually a decently comfy couch and I slept fine.

The spiritual community we stayed with
The next day we ate delicious muffins the cult made for us and we said our goodbyes.  We were gonna take the bus over to the mall to go to the EMS.  I had bought some new insoles at the one in Manchester Center and they had cracked already, and my hiking shirt was basically a few pieces of thread hanging off my body.  We got there right when they opened and the girl was really helpful in finding me the right Superfeet. We grabbed the bus back to the center of Rutland and switched lines to get dropped off at the trailhead.  We hopped on and at no point did any other passengers get on, so we just told the driver we wanted the AT trailhead on Rt. 4.  She said she knew where most of the hikers got off, so I sat back and waited for our arrival.  Instead, we flew past the trailhead and she deposited us at The Inn at Long Trail, about a mile past the trailhead we wanted.  The problem was, most hikers don't go into town via hitching off Rt. 4.  They cross the road, hike another two miles to a 1/2 mile side trail that leads you straight to the Inn. Hikers usually stay there and take the bus in and out of town.  She assumed that's what we wanted to do and when we explained that we actually needed the trailhead a mile back, she said we could either stay on the bus while she finished her loop and she would drop us on the way back, or we could get off and wait and she would grab us on the way back.  Well in 30 minutes we could just walk the mile down the road so we decided to get off. 

Most hikers would just say screw it and hike the 1/2 mile side trail back to the AT, skipping those two miles.  But Pants and I were intent on hiking every step of the AT, so we wanted to get back on where we left off.  After we got off the bus we turned around to face the Inn and noticed it had an Irish pub attached....we hadn't had lunch yet...we thought we might just pop in for a beer and a burger and then head out....Well obviously we never headed out. McGrath's Irish Pub was a really fun and super hiker friendly place.  We hung out there all night and watched the Olympics, retiring later to one of the rooms at the Inn, which had an awesome hiker rate.  The owner told us the longest a hiker has stayed was 2 weeks or something crazy.  We had no intention of doing that, but we did just take an accidental zero.  Well if you want to get technical, our total millage for the day was -1, as the next morning we had to walk down the road just to get back to the trail.  I blame the bus driver. 

We had an awesome breakfast in the pub the next morning and hit the road, then the trail.  We had to pass through Gifford Woods State Park, which was full of car campers.  Never having been a car camper, and most obviously not one now, I never understood the appeal.  I realize there are many who don't understand the appeal of what I'm doing, but if you want to go camping,  you want to get out and enjoy nature I assume?  You're gonna park your car next to your tent and sit next to a bunch of other car tents and walk over to your coin-op showers?  To each their own, but I'm telling you, the places roads don't go are far more amazing than anything you'll see sitting in your tent site #12 next to your car in your state park.  And if you're concerned about having to carry your stuff, well then don't bring so much shit.  You don't need it.  We always see these weekend warriors out with these 70lbs packs, all the thru-hikers wondering what the fuck they have in there?!?  My pack is under 35lbs always and if I can survive on that for 6 months, I'm sure you could make do for a weekend.  Just give it a try is all I'm'll be worth it. If you want to go camping that is. 

We exited the park and strolled around Kent Pond until we came upon a very quaint little scene.  The AT crosses the property of Mountain Meadows Lodge.  We came across their boat dock and decided to have lunch up on their grassy hill, where there were two beach chairs calling our names.  We ate a leisurely lunch while looking at the pond, then I proceeded to explore the property.  They were also a small farm with a variety of animals, including a small pony, goats, a sheep and a fat pig named Alice.  While I was admiring the animals I heard someone call my name from a window. Headin Out and Taggin Along where up in a room.  They had gotten there yesterday and were zeroing today to rest Taggin Along's hips.  SOS and Trail Momma were there too.  They said the place was empty but for them and asked if we were staying.  Pants and I looked at each other skeptically....well we hadn't planned on it, but now that you mention it....

We got our room, this place was so mom and pop they didn't even have keys to the rooms. We immediately noticed some delicious looking chocolates on the dresser.  We quickly popped them into our mouths as we laid back to watch an episode of 30 Rock.  All the sudden some random girl just walked into our room and looked surprised to see us there.  She explained she was having her wedding here this weekend and that she had put some stuff in the room and if we wouldn't mind just leaving it be.  We told her we didn't notice anything and she motioned to the chocolates that used to be on the dresser.  Apparently we ate her fancy monogrammed wedding chocolate.  She looked annoyed.  But look lady, if you don't have these rooms booked for another 2 nights you probably shouldn't be leaving stuff in them.  I was told to go to this room, there was chocolate, I ate it.  Sorry.  The annoyed bride to be left and Pants and I continued our laziness in peace, getting up only to greet the pizza guy.

Mountain Meadows

The next day when we realized it had taken us 3 days to go 4 miles, and we vowed to actually make an attempt to get out of VT.  We packed up and began our climb up Quimby Mountain.  The only thing I have to say for Quimby is DANG.  And I thought I was a bitch.  Pants and I recovered on a boulder at the top.  It started to sprinkle so I moved on.  Pants, the most exhausted I've seen him, seemed content sitting in the rain.  I made my way down to Stony Brook Shelter and had some lunch.  the rest of the day was boring and uneventful, mostly because it rained all day.  I finally made it to Winturri Shelter, happy with my 15 mile day and ready to get out of the rain.  I ate dinner with Longstride, Silvergirl and Count Chocula while waiting for a break in the rain to set my tent up when Pants finally arrived.  The water source there was rubbish, a pool that had a small flow over a rock that I was able to pipe with a leaf but it still took forever to fill.  Camp chores done, (at this point dinner is considered a camp chore as I never look forward to what I have to eat) I retired to my tent ready to finally warm up. 

Orange guy

I woke up the next day with my heart set on doing 20 miles to Happy Hill Shelter.  That would put me six miles outside of Hanover and (drum roll please) NEW HAMPSHIRE!  Looking at the elevation profile, that looked impossible as the entire day was a mini roller coaster.  I counted 12 peaks (albeit small ones) to climb over before Happy Hill.  Constantly going up and down is often more exhausting than just a few big climbs.  Regardless, I thought I'd give it a shot.  I informed Pants of my plans and bid him adieu.  I climbed Ascutney Mt. with ease, struggled a bit more on the steep Dana Hill and began my mini roller coaster over three nameless peaks.  I stopped atop the 3rd to have lunch with a nice view.  The entire lunch break was spent watching a very suspicious looking cloud creep closer to me.  The leaves were acting suspicious as well, blowing around and what not.  Not wanting to get caught in the rain with my lunch goods spread about, and starting to feel like a nut job sitting there by myself giving the trees the evil eye, I ate quickly and moved on.  I can absolutely not wait for the day when it starts raining and I can say to myself "Well I guess I'll go inside."  When I can sit and enjoy a meal without having to watch every movement of some dark lurking cloud.  Anywho, I made my way down to Cloudland Rd. and had a nice field walk up the hill to Thistle Hill Shelter.  I blew past the shelter planning on getting water at the bottom of the hill at Dimick Brook.  It was 3pm and I was a little over 8 miles from my goal, totally doable.  Pleased with myself, I continued my descent down Thistle Hill, which included brief interruptions by two smaller hills.

I climbed up and over Bunker Hill, and slowly, a horrible pain started happening in my shoes.  Every step I took was resulting in severe toe pain.  Along with the insoles, I got new boots in Rutland.  That coupled with the fact that I had been walking in wet socks all day resulted in some serious chaffing of my toes.  Trying to break in new boots and new insoles by doing 20 miles with wet socks was proving to be one of my poorer decisions.  I tried to ignore it but every step I took was painful.  It was only 5:30 and I was just four miles shy of my goal, but I decided I needed to stop.  Just as I stood there making that decision it started to downpour. Awesome.  I made my way to the stream at the bottom of the hill to fill up on water and looked for a flat spot to camp.  I crossed some treacherous looking bog boards over another stream and found a flat spot on top of a ridge.  I went about the unfortunate business of setting up my tent in the pouring rain.  There really is no way to do this without getting everything you own soaking wet.  I thought briefly about limping my way the 4 miles to the shelter, but my feet were on the verge of tears.  So I put up my tent and crawled in and went about the process of drying myself off.

Like most hikers, I have a very small one man tent, so my pack doesn't fit inside.  It lives under the vestibule, so it is covered from the rain, but sits outside on the ground.  The one complaint I have about my tent is that the footprint (or groundcloth) is the exact size of my tent body.  I wish it would extend out to the area covered by the vestibule too.  That way, when I unknowingly set my tent up in moose poop, as I had just done, I would just have to clean off the bottom of my footprint, and not my pack and all of the items I have taken out and placed next to my pack.  It was dark and rainy and in the spastic setting up of my tent I had done something horrible to myself.  I was now sitting in the rain, in moose poop with bleeding feet.  Things have been better.  But the faint glimmer of light that was town tomorrow gave me the calm patience to slowly clean off my things, dry myself off, make some dinner and go to bed.

Around 11:30pm I was awoken by loud, boisterous drunken laughs.  I was camping about a 1/2 mile from a road, which led into West Hartford and under I-89.  I never normally camp so close to roads, but my feet were killing me and if I went on I would have had to walk at least another 1.5 miles, because once I got to that road I had a mile road walk ahead of me, including walking the I-89 underpass.  Camping near roads is one thing, camping ON roads just really isn't an option.  Unless I really want to get the feel for being homeless and sleep in the underpass, but I prefer to contain my homelessness to the woods.  So I had camped, by myself, near a road and there were now drunk locals wandering towards me.  I contemplated my options.  Well, they could be nice drunk locals, politely apologize for stumbling upon my camp and waking me up and go on their merry way.  Or they could be crazy killers out to rape and pillage.  My overactive imagination went with the latter.  I did a weapons inventory:  a small Gerber blade, 2 trekking poles and a small stash of moose poop grenades.  My best option to avoid these foes was to leave, quickly. 

I packed up my wet, shitty stuff quickly by red lamp so they wouldn't see my light, getting nervous as they were getting closer.  I figured I would just walk farther into the woods, back over the rickety wooden planks I crossed before.  They probably wouldn't come that far in and probably don't have the coordination required to cross the bog boards.  As I was hiking deeper into the woods, I laughed at the irony of the situation.  When I started this trip, many moons ago, I was a bit nervous to be in the woods by myself, let alone in the woods at night by myself.  Now here I was, four months later, hiking deeper into the woods by myself at night to feel safer.  I feel completely comfortable and safe in the woods, day and night.  The only scary thing out here is us.  In fact,  I think the only truly terrifying thing about the natural world is us and the things that we conjure.

I walked about another 1/2 mile deeper into the woods until I felt certain I was far enough back.  Exhausted, I set up my tent right on the side of the trail, didn't bother to stake it out (it's semi-free standing), didn't bother with the rain fly or the air mattress, just put my sleeping bag down and went to bed.  I got up at 5am to pack up, though it would have been nice to sleep a little later, but being my tent was practically on the trail and there are some early birds out there, I thought I should get out of the way.  I was also ready to pound out these 10 miles and get to town.  I hiked back to the road, turned right and began my road walk through West Hartford.  Obviously nothing was open as it was 6am, but I was a bit dismayed to learn I would have had a place to stay in town for free. There was a sign making business that had a sign (shocking) indicating hikers could camp in back and have access to their water and bathrooms. I could have avoided the entire rainy moose poop drunken local fiasco if I had just walked the 1/2 mile into town.  But how was I to know a random sign store would let me sleep in the safety of it's backyard. I made a mental note for my next thru-hike (yeah right) and continued to the I-89 underpass.

I made my way to Happy Hill Shelter and paused to break without bothering to go in the shelter.  I hobbled the remaining 4 miles down Happy Hill to Elm St. in Norwich, VT.  From here it was a bit over two miles of road walking.  Down Elm St. for one mile, then east on Main St. for 1.4 miles right over the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire.  Like the PA/NJ border, the line was actually on the bridge.  Main St. would lead me straight into the center of Hanover and Dartmouth College.  But before I did any of this I decided to stop and see what the hell was going on with my toes. It was truly becoming unbearable.  I plopped myself down right on the side of the road, took off my boots, peeled off my socks and recoiled in horror.  My pinkie toes had been replaced by 2 bloody stumps. Most of the skin had been completely chaffed off.  I immediately went about the process of cleaning them, applying antibiotic and wrapping them.  I then decided to forgo putting my boots back on and hiked the 2 1/2 miles in my sandals.  I would never normally do this, they are flimsy and offer no support considering the weight I'm carrying, but I couldn't stand the thought of putting my boots back on.

Just as I was finishing up my impromptu foot servicing, an older guy started walking down the street towards me.  He had no pack, but had a long beard, and was wearing hiking clothes and crocs so I assumed he was a hiker.  His name was Semper Fi and had already been in the area for three days.  He walked with me all the way into Hanover, telling me everything I needed to know about the town. He thought it was the most hiker friendly town he had been too. Hikers got free coffee and donuts at the bakery, a free slice of pizza at the pizza place, the Mountain Goat Outfitter gave hikers a snickers bar and the Dartmouth Outing Club (which actually maintained the section of the trail north of Hanover) let hikers use their building as a post to store packs while in town and had computers for us to use as well.  The only negative was that there really wasn't anywhere affordable to stay.  The only hotel, the Hanover Inn, which was conveniently located in the center, catered more to the rich Dartmouth parents and not the hikers.  But the DOC had so kindly put together a list of 10-12 locals who would let hikers stay at their homes for free.  Semper was staying at Wayne's, who actually lived back in Norwich and was the first house I passed coming out of the woods.  Normally there is a free bus that runs between the two towns but not on weekends, which it was, which is why he was walking.

We got to the bridge and I took my first joyous steps into NH!!  I asked Semper to take a picture of me with the border sign, but being an older gentleman that has never touched an iPhone, I later saw that I ended up with two close ups of his nose instead.  Oh well.  I was in NH and nothing could ruin the happiness that gave me.  We finally arrived in Hanover, which was the most adorable and quaint college town I ever did see.  Right in front of me was the giant grassy mall, to my right the Hanover Inn and Main St. which was full of restaurants, shops and co-eds milling about.  Semper and I parted ways and I migrated towards a bench in the mall.  I just wanted to sit.  I found who other than Spirit also having a good sit.  She had been in town a day and was staying another to see a chiropractor about her hip.  Everyone was falling apart.  Good thing we only had the hardest section left.  She handed me a list of strangers I could go stay with, and while normally I would be thrilled to have a house to stay at for free, at that precise moment as I sat with my bleeding feet, soaking shit covered gear and puffy two hours of sleep eyes, I was really craving my own nice personal space.  Not a cult, not a pub, not a wedding animal farm, just a nice normal hotel room.  I can honestly say that was the moment I was starting to get a bit tired of the hiking and camping portion of my hiking and camping trip across America. 

Rather than make any decisions I continued to sit in the grass and wait for Pants.  I know he had gotten to Thistle Hill Shelter just when it started to rain and assumed he just stayed there, which meant he had farther to hike today.  When he arrived I learned that he had actually left and camped literally on the south side of the stream I had crossed and tried to camp by.  He had found a flat spot up the hill a bit so he wasn't right on the trail, but that means I walked right past him during my retreat from the drunks, and again in the wee hours of the morning.  We had a good laugh at this after which Pants stopped and said to me "You look awful."  I told him the Hanover Inn was $170, then showed him the list of people we could stay with.  He could tell by the look on my face that I was ready to just fork over the money to have my own space for a night and just rest.  The fancy hotel it was.  We were excited to play 'real people' for once instead of the usual 'Can I put my tent up here?' We decided we would stay two nights to rest up before the Whites.  Even though I was currently exhausted, the nervous excitement I had for the Whites was building up inside me.  But first, I had to clean the moose shit off my stuff. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We'll Just Pretend We Didn't See That Sign (Vermont : Aug 4th-6th)

After the phenomenal sunrise on top of Bromley, we all contemplated going back to bed, but we were up so we ought to get hiking. The morning flew by quickly. Pants and I hiked past Mad Tom Notch, up Styles Peak, up Peru Peak and landed at Griffith Lake for lunch. This was an awesome site, tons of tent spots right on the lake, a nice fire pit and a privy. Since the elevation profile showed an easy afternoon, we decided to take a long lunch here. Very few hikers walked by as we swam and did crossword puzzles all afternoon. Around 3pm, when we were thinking about packing up, the sky started to darken and we could feel a storm coming. Looking at the sky, it looked like it would pass quickly, so our options were to start hiking now and deal with it, OR we could quickly set up our tents and wait it out. We got our tents set up just in time for the nasty storm that blew over the lake. It lasted about an hour, and I spent that time making warm whiskey drinks and finishing my crosswords. By the time the storm passed it was already past 4pm, I was a couple hot toddies deep, my tent was cozy and I wasn't going anywhere. Pants agreed and we called it a seven mile day. This would not be the last single digit day in VT for Pants and I.

To make up for our short day we vowed we would do a 20 the next. It looked like it would be an easy 20, with only one small climb over Bear Mountain (yeah another). We got an earlyish start, went past Baker Peak, past a few shelters and after Big Black Branch Bridge (say that 3 times fast) decided to have lunch at a stream. We tucked ourselves deep inside the trees and took our shoes off to soak our feet. After lunch Pants got hiking a bit earlier than me, but I eventually pulled myself away from the cool water and started hiking. I made my way up to White Rocks Cliff, where I encountered some bizzare rock sculptures on the trail that must be from the aliens.

On my descent, right outside Greenwall Shelter I ran into a group of young guys wondering where they could find water, as the shelter was known to be dry, and currently was (if you are wondering how I know these things, my guidebook indicates if a water source is reliable or not, this year it's safe to assume all unreliable sources are nonexistent, so plan ahead). I asked if they were going north or south, confused by this, I pointed in the two directions. They indicated south. I told them it was three miles to the stream where I had lunch.  They looked distraught, and I asked why they didn't get water at Bully Brook, which they would had passed, and I was about to in a mile and a half. Instead of answering my question they proceeded to bitch about why "they" didn't put water up here. They? You mean nature? No one's in charge of the water kid, it's either here or it's not.  I gave them a liter, knowing I could get more at the base and wished them luck.

On my way down to Bully Brook I passed an entire group of Jewish kids wearing black pants and panting up the hill. They all asked how far it was to the top, I tried to say as encouragingly as possible it was only a mile, most of them weren't carrying anything, let alone water. Even further down I found two kids slumped up against a tree. I asked if they were alright, they said they were fine and wanted to know how far the shelter was. I told them a little over a mile and warned them about the water. A bit further down I ran into who I assume was their leader, who seemed to be struggling with another kid who was insisting on wearing his pack slung on one shoulder like a book bag. He was too cool for hip belts. I smiled sympathetically and snuck past. I was ready for amateur hour to be over.

I ran into Pants at Bully Brook (full of water!) and we started our climb up Bear Mountain, if you could call it a climb. Thank you to whoever was in charge of that bit of trail. It was the most elegantly switchbacked climb, I hardly had to exert any effort. We made our descent down the less than elegant north side to Minerva Hinchley Shelter. The only other hiker there was Falls, who we met in NY and hadn't seen since. It stayed just the three of us all night, with a few trail maintainers roaming past (to whom I thanked for the awesome trail). After a very stormy night I packed up my sopping wet tent, chatted with the ridgerunner who had stopped by and headed on my way. We were aiming for Cooper Lodge Shelter that night, 16 miles away. That would set us up for an easy 5 miles into Rutland, VT. I stopped at a nice view that unfortunately looked over the Rutland airport and headed down to Claredon Shelter for lunch. After lunch I headed up and over Beacon Hill and landed on Keiffer Rd. I found Pants trying to dry out his tent on the deserted gravel road. We crossed a small grassy area and came to Cold River Road. Here is where things got interesting.

A sign at the road crossing directed us to take a road walk detour for the next two miles, as the original trail was closed due to damage caused by Hurricane Irene. Now the ridgerunner that morning said without saying that the trail was still kinda passable if we wanted to check out the damage. Even though we were told a couple of bridges had been washed out, we figured we could deal with that and it would be worth it seeing what the hurricane did to the woods and the trail. So, we pretended we didn't see the "Warning Trail Closed" sign and made our way down the trail. The maintainers had done a pretty good job clearing the trail, but the woods looked pretty demolished. Trees and branches were blown everywhere. There were a few times where we lost the trail because it had been washed away, but otherwise we could find our way ok. We had to cross one stream that used to have a footbridge, and the bridge over Robinson Brook had been wiped out, it's sad remains scattered about. The maintainers had set a 'replacement bridge' there, which was basically a ladder laid down over a fallen tree, but I can't complain as I wasn't even suppose to be there.

We finally emerged on the other side of the Hurricane Irene section right before Governer Clement shelter. We ran into DayGlow, who had taken the detour, and seemed pretty bummed when we told him it was passable. I can't imagine what it would have been like for the hikers out in that. Living outside for the majority of the last 5 months, I have developed an immense amount of respect for mother nature. She is powerful, does not care about you or your agenda, and my current life is completely controlled by her. She decides where I go, how long it takes me to get there, and how comfortable I am during that journey.

We arrived at Governer Clement in the late afternoon and decided to push to Cooper Lodge Shelter. AWOL (our guide book) said it was 6.8 miles, but a sign in the shelter said it was only four, and that was backed up by a SoBo who had just arrived. Apparently AWOL messed up, the shelter was only 4, but the road after, US 4, was two miles further than what the book stated. So we started our climb up Mt. Killington, trusting AWOL was wrong and we wouldn't end up night hiking. The climb up Killington was insanely steep, but I enjoyed taking my time and watching the sun slowly set through the trees.

I got there before dark, unfortunately the shelter was full of some child group of some sort, but there were tent pads high above the shelter far away from them. There were two other hikers, a section hiker and another lady named Bluebird who was hiking the Long Trail. She had the same tent as me, but really had no clue how to set it up. Pants and I helped her get situated and spent dinner answering all her questions. She was genuinely eager to learn and seemed very appreciative to find people willing to take the time to teach her. We all eventually drifted off to bed. Pants and I were heading into Rutland the next day with plans to simply resupply then hitch back out, but a very friendly cult and an Irish Pub had other plans for us...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vermuck: July 30th-August 3rd

Pants and I milked our check-out time, finally packed up and made our way down to the Price Chopper to resupply.  We managed to hitch a ride, which was nice since it was a two mile walk.  We got distracted by the AYCE Chinese buffet next to it, but finally got our food and headed back to the trail.  We had gotten about two miles, right in front of Sherman Brook campsite, when Pants realized he had left his phone at the hotel.  Since we were only two miles out he decided to turn around and go back. We called from my phone to make sure they had it, then he turned around to retrace his steps back to North Adams. It would end up taking forever, as he had to hike two miles back, then hitch the two miles back to the hotel. By the time it was all done he only made it back to the campsite where he realized his phone was gone. I continued on my way, and crossed into Vermont on my own.

Vermont has 150 miles of trail, and the first 105 of it is concurrent with The Long Trail, another long distance trail that goes into Canada. The two things that were most apparent throughout Vermont were the crowds and the mud. VT was where us NoBos really started running into SoBos. The mashing up of the NoBos and SoBos, the Long Trailers and all the Boy Scout troops made for a crowded and muddy trail. The second I stepped into VT I stepped into a pile of mud, and that is what I walked in for the next few weeks.  Luckily that first night I didn't hit the crowds.  I walked past Seth Warner Shelter, hoping to make it another seven to Cogdon, when I saw something very bizarre. A herd of what I swear to God were slate grey horses ran across the trail. The section of trail I was on was extremely dense and overgrown, I wasn't on private land. That coupled with the fact that they seemed very scared of me and ran away at first sight told me they weren't domestic. But as far as I know there are no wild horses in Vermont? I later found out that Warrior saw them also, so I'm not the only one at least, but I've yet to talk to another since her who has seen them.
Sunset over the pond

 After my random wild horse stampede, I made my way down to Roaring Branch pond to get water. I walked over to the outlet and noticed a perfectly lovely campsite right by the water. There was a cool breeze blowing through it and I would be able to watch the sunset across the pond. I hung a clothesline, set up my tent and watched the sky darken while being serenaded by the bullfrogs in the pond (who I later wanted to kill when they didn't realize the curtain had closed and the show was over). I got up early the next day hoping to put in some decent miles to catch up with Gribley and DS. It wasn't long before I came to another pond, a very swampy one for which the ATC had built a boardwalk for us to walk on. The only problem was the grass was so overgrown making it hard to see the boards, and one misstep would land you neck deep in murky swamp water. I was slowly making my way when I heard something make a sort of hissing, clicking noise at me.

I turned towards the pond and saw an otter swimming violently towards me. For a brief moment I stopped to watch the cute little otter, until I realized she was angry at me and wanted me away from her home. That crazy otter bitch jumped up on the wooden planks and started chasing me. "I'm going! I'm going!" I yelled at her, but I could only go so fast for fear I would fall into the swamp. This was a trap! Why would the ATC lead me here? They were probably in cahoots with this otter to keep the thru-hike finish rate low. The swamp was probably full of all her hiker victims, who she chased into the swamp, captured and murdered to feed to her crazy otter children. I finally made my way off the boards and far enough away from the pond and away from the lunatic otter. It should be made clear that the bears and snakes are not what you should be worried about out here. It's the turkeys and otters. Those are the only two creatures that have aggressively attacked and CHASED me down the trail. I just think the order of threatening and dangerous species needs to be reorganized is all I'm saying.

After my encounter with Otterzilla, I kept my head down to avoid making eye contact with any other psychotic creatures and hiked. I made my way over Harmon Hill and started the rocky descent down to VT 9. Going down the hill I probably passed nine SoBos. It is so weird running into SoBos (they start in Maine, typically late June or July as its too cold in ME to start any earlier, and finish in winter down south). The SoBos are still in the beginning of their journey, and look fresh, clean and plump. Their gear and their feet aren't being held together with duct tape. While we look at them in awe, trying to remember back to the days when we were still wide eyed and excited, they look at us with a sort of horrified fascination. We NoBos are scrawny, weathered, dirty and exhausted. We have been out here five months to their one, and they view us with an apprehensive curiosity that says "Is that what I'm gonna look like?" The SoBos running into the VT NoBos had the misfortune of meeting us at our crabbiest. We were ready to get to Maine. It was getting closer, but still just out of our reach. Instead, we were in this muddy, viewless state full of PUDS and people ( PUD: Pointless Up and Down). We were concerned with nothing but cranking out miles and getting to Katadhin. One SoBo even wrote in a shelter register "Remember NoBos, it's smiles not miles." yeah yeah

The one good thing about having SoBos around is the exchange of information. It's nice to get a heads up on what we have coming up, town info etc... and vice versa. We also got a lot of info on The Whites. It's the hardest part of the trail, and something most NoBos have been nervous about. But the SoBos fresh off them got us excited (with the exception of one dickbag at Cogdon who was all cocky about being done with them, telling me in some snot tone "Yeah the Whites were really fucking hard, so good luck girl." Well the last 1700 miles were really fucking hard so good luck ass). But for the most part SoBos are a pleasant bunch, even if they are going the wrong way.

I continued past the SoBos and right before the road some angel had left a 6-pack of Long Trail Ale as trail magic. That, or someone lost a 6-pack.  Either way I grabbed a bottle and made my way across the road to enjoy it by the river. I found DS and Gribley lounging and the three of us shared my beer and had a long lunch. We chatted with other NoBos as they passed and played with a chipmunk I named Alvin. Eventually we figured it was time to join our cohorts and make our way up to the ridge. We passed Melville Nauheim Shelter, and crossed over Hell Hollow Brook, where we ran into some kids out hiking with their mom and were passing the late afternoon catching frogs. We finally got up onto Porcupine Ridge and mentally prepared ourselves for the long 6 mile stretch of absolutely nothing. We made it about halfway when we found a flat spot and the 3 of us decided we would just camp there. Gribley was coming down with a nasty cold and I was really bored with the trail and sick of looking at it. I was totally zoning out and slipping into la la land.... (Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for choosing the Appalachian Trail. If you would kindly start moving towards your packs the captain has turned on the fasten hip belt sign. All portable electronic devices should be stowed in their plastic baggies at this time. Please keep all hands and feet inside the trail at all times. Emergency exits are located once every five days. In the event of turbulent weather, DO hike faster. There will be a beverage service provided throughout your hike, simply follow the steep blue blaze path .3 off the trail where you will be led to a trickle of water coming out of a rock. There is no meal service. Our current heading is set for north, approximate in-hike time: 6 months, 5 days, 4 hours and 22 minutes. Today's in-hike movie will be: "Boring Endless Trail" starring a tree, a rock, and another tree. We hope you enjoy your time with us at Appalachian Trail, and good luck staying dry....)

Needless to say I was ready to stop. We set up camp, made a fire, dinner and some tea and supported Gribley as he coughed his way into the night. We got a late start the next morning, which gave Pants time to magically appear. Gribley was sounding a bit better, but we were still only shooting for Story Spring Shelter, a mere 12 miles away. We took some time at Glastenbury Mountain, where there was a lookout tower you could climb to get a view of the surrounding mountains. The three of them stayed there to have lunch, but I moved on to have a more peaceful lunch away from the billion flies and boy scouts swarming the tower. I found a flat spot a mile down the trail. I can't say much for the flies, but the boy scout situation was improved dramatically. We all plodded along, took a break at a view after Kid Gore Shelter, where Pants decided he would stay and cowboy camp. Gribley, DS and I moved on to South Adler Brook, got water and were hoping to find a stealth spot before the shelter, but we were hiking in some crazy dense jungle and there was hardly a trail let alone a flat clear spot to camp. We got to the shelter and the entire world was there. I mean WHERE were all these people coming from??? The three of us set up our tents in a corner, cooked dinner and went to bed.

View from Glastenbury Mt.

Pants arrived the next morning before we had packed up, he and Gribley took off before DS and I and we didn't see them all day. Her and I made it to Stratton Mountain for lunch. There was another lookout tower to catch a view, and CheeseTowel were there along with WhiffleChicken, Xango and PeterPan. WhiffleChicken and co. challenged the 4 of us to come up with the 10 body parts with only 3 letters (ex. leg). We in turn challenged them to name the 10 countries with only 4 letters. We continued this game all the way down the mountain to Stratton Pond, which turned out to be an amazing swimming hole. The 7 of us laid in the sun as a few other hikers came and went . Around 3pm we all decided to get hiking and Peter Pan had another game to pass the time, Contact ( if you want to know how to play, it's hard to explain and I don't feel like it, but it's fun).  We flew 5 miles and finally stopped to take a break at a stream where I impressed everyone with my pack-on limbo skills followed by a Whiffleball lesson from WhiffleChicken (note that Whiffleball is best played in open spaces where there are no trees for the ball to bounce off and hit someone in the face).

Not long after the stream we came across William B Douglas Shelter, one we were set on ignoring as it was a half mile off the trail. But at the side trail was a note from Gribley that he and Pants were down there, and that considering how crowded the trail was, this might be a nice, quiet option. And he was right. The rest wanted to keep moving (to the insanely crowded Spruce Peak Shelter) while DS and I headed the .5 to William. The four of us had the entire site to ourselves and had a nice quiet night sitting around the giant fire Gribley had going and playing Contact, which DS and I quickly taught them. The next day was a town day, we were all headed into Manchester Center. Pants had started hiking before I was even up. DS, Gribley and I didn't get started till around 9. We had an easy six miles down to the road and the three of us managed a hitch pretty easily. A thru-hiker from last year picked us up, a really nice guy who gave us some tips on the upcoming section, and $20 to put towards breakfast. We got dropped off in the center of town (M. C. was pop. 2,000 so most everything was in the center) and immediately walked across the street to get bagels and coffee.

Sunset from Bromley
Afterwards we all went our separate ways to do various chores. Pants had already eaten and was at the outfitter. Gribley still wasn't feeling amazing so he and DS were going to stay in town and went about trying to locate a room. I headed over to the laundry mat, which was as fun as a laundry mat can be, stopped into EMS to grab some fuel and headed next door to the Price Chopper. There were hikers lurking everywhere, packaging up their food and charging phones. I ran into WhiffleChicken dozing off in the cereal aisle, and the two of us finished packing up our food with the Georgia Boys out front. Running out of things to do, we decided we should start hiking. It was already almost 5pm, so the goal was Bromley Shelter only two miles out of town. The uphill passed quickly as we chatted. We ran into a local day hiker who recommended we go another mile to the top of Bromley Mountain. You couldn't tent, but there was a ski cabin left unlocked you could sleep in, and the sunset was suppose to be beautiful from up there. We took his advice and finished our climb up the mountain after getting water at the shelter. Pants and Warrior were already there, and the four of us made dinner on the quiet mountaintop while watching the sunset. Pants gave a wake up call at 5am exclaiming the sun was rising, and we proceeded to do the same thing over breakfast. Even though it was a muddy, crowded start, Vermont was turning out to be not so bad....
Pants and Warrior watching the sunset while WhiffleChicken plays Whiffleball

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Town Hopping Massachusetts (July 23-29th)

The four of us woke up the next morning ready to get to town. Great Barrington was our destination that night, 15 miles away. DS had decided to do some work for stay at a farm nearby and wouldn't be joining us. Not really looking to do any farming, I packed my stuff and started my trek to the brewery. The beginning of the day was pretty easy as we maneuvered our way through the ravine. We had climbs over Mt. Race, and a steep never ending one over Mt Everett before we landed at Guilder Pond Picnic Area for lunch. Pace, Hungus and I had a nice lunch with Prometheus and a few of his friends who were picking him up. Pants had plowed ahead trying to catch up with me, not realizing I was actually behind him. He'd figure it out.  After lunch the 3 of us had an easy 8 mile stroll through fields until we arrived at US 7, ready to hitch into town. Pants met us at the Travel Lodge, and we all quickly showered and did laundry so we could head across the street to the Great Barrington Brewery. B1 and a couple of his friends who were hiking with him for the week showed up and we had a long night of tasting beers and eating food.

We tried all of them...
Unfortunately I went to bed early because I wasn't feeling too well. In fact I hadn't been feeling well for a few weeks and was having trouble keeping down food. I felt fine otherwise, just every time I would eat it would come right back up. It was starting to make me feel pretty drained, so Pants and I decided to zero the next day, hoping a day of sleep was all I needed. We said goodbye to Pace and Hungus the next morning as they headed out the door, and I proceeded to lay in bed and watch Law and Order all day, emerging only once to walk across the street and resupply at the Price Chopper. The rest did me good cuz I woke up the next day ready to hike. Pants and I headed out of Great Barrington with no real plan other than to hike north. We hitched a ride from a couple in a red van who were in the area dealing Japanese antiques. They were interested in our adventure and seemed bummed we only needed a ride four miles up the road.

Using leaves as pipes to get water
We got dropped off at the trailhead, crossed the Housatonic River (again) and started the gentle climb up East Mountain. DS had left the farm and apparently Gribley had caught up with her and they were only a bit ahead of us. We were warned by hikers ahead of us that MA was dry dry dry, and it was proving to be true (I have since learned that July was the hottest recorded month in US history, great time to be living outside). Pants and I made our way up to Mt Wilcox South Shelter. The water source there was a tiny, stagnant puddle, so we decided to push the two miles to Mt Wilcox North Shelter. The shelter was .3 off the trail and someone had left a note indicating the water was dry. It was already getting late so we decided to just give up and go to the shelter. It was an ok shelter, and no one else had bothered to make the trip down so we had the place to ourselves. We set up our tents but made dinner in the shelter, before we were once again chased back to them by the infernal pest that is the mosquito.

The next day we planned to do an easy 14 miles to Upper Goose Pond Cabin. UGP was a half mile off the trail, but we were told it was worth the walk. It was a hiker cabin right on the lake, had plenty of tent platforms or a bunkroom in the cabin if you preferred. There was a caretaker who lived there permanently and made pancakes for all the hikers who stayed. There was also games and a canoe we could take out, all for free:) The hike there was easy, there was a nice breeze, very few bugs, and the trail was pretty quiet. Still no water anywhere, but you can't have everything. We passed an old chimney ruin from days of yore, and came upon the turn off to the cabin. The HH and Spirit were sitting on the porch and the told me DS and Gribley had set up their tents in the back. I made my way back there for the reunion, the four of us hadn't been together since NYC. They had gotten there early in the morning and decided to stay since it was so nice. Towelie and Cheesewater had made their way there as well and abandoned any plans to go further. They told us the sad story of Slugger having to get off the trail back in CT due to a broken foot. We never like to hear of anyone having to get off for an injury. It's one thing if other opportunities arise or you just lose heart and motivation, but if you are still really dedicated to being out here but your body just won't let you, it can be very depressing for a person.

Pants and I set up shop and enjoyed the rest of the night, drinking whiskey and eating dinner and watching Cheesewater fish (he carries a small fishing pole). I finished an entire book ( My Side Of The Mountain- the main character, Sam Gribley, is where Gribley took his trail name from. It's a cute story about a kid who goes to live in the woods, we all took turns reading it). We all woke up the next morning to pancake chaos. Since we were tenting in the back we didn't realize how many hikers were staying in the cabin. There were probably 20 of us sitting around eating pancakes. Eventually we put the pancakes down and started hiking. The six of us set our sights on Dalton, MA, the next town a mere 20 miles away, which the trail went right through. Pace and Hungus had gotten there yesterday and were zeroing today to await our arrival.

The 20 miles to Dalton were smooth and easy. It was a relatively long and flat section with little to see so we all blew through it with ease, and arrived in Dalton around 5pm. We headed over to the Shamrock Inn, where Pace and Hungus were staying. Towelie, Cheesewater, Pants and I all shared a room. DS and Gribley hadn't arrived yet, and they had mentioned they might camp at Levardis (the trail goes through Dalton and right past his house, he lets hikers camp on his property for free). When DS and Gribley arrived they decided to share a room with Pace and Hungus, and the 8 of us hung out on the porch of the Shamrock Inn drinking beers and eating pizza. While most of us crashed around midnight, Towelie and Cheesewater decided to go to the bar, and didn't come home until 4am to entertain me with drunken shenanigans, which involved attempting to eat sandwiches, attempting to properly go to the bathroom, and attempting to lay down. None were done successfully.

Cheese wearing his rain jacket as pants while doing laundry
The next morning was a slow start. I managed to get up and get laundry going, then headed over to the coffee shop for a breakfast burrito. I came back to switch laundry and hung out in their lounge while waiting for everyone else to emerge. The Shamrock is super hiker friendly and though they needed us to be out of our rooms by 11 so they could clean, they let us hang out in their lounge until our laundry was done.  While Pace and Hungus hiked out, the rest of us sat around procrastinating. It was finally decided that we should go to Batman instead of hiking. The problem was there was no movie theater in this tiny town, but there was a bus stop in front of the Shamrock. We would take that to Berkshire Mall in some other town we didn't know the name of, go see Batman, and take the bus back to Dalton and hike out four miles to Crystal Mountain Campsite. A marvelous flaw proof plan. Well everything went according to our agenda (Batman was awesome) and we headed back to the bus stop after our movie. Here the flaw revealed itself...our movie got out at 5:38, the last bus to Dalton was at 5:30.

So now we were stranded in this random town at this random mall, with all our packs, far away from the trail. Plan Fail. A bus pulled up and I got on to ask the driver how close she runs to Dalton. She said she could take us to route 9. From that point it was 2 miles down route 9 to Dalton and the trail. We would just have to hitch from there. There did not seem to be any taxis in this town nor did we want to pay for one. So we hopped on the bus, and got off right in front of McDonalds on route 9. Towelie decides to go in and get food while DS and I perused the drive thru line to see if there were any pick ups we all might be able to hop into. No luck. We decided our best bet was to split up into twos (no one is gonna pick up six hikers with packs) and walk down the road to hitch. DS and I immediately ended up ditching the boys, knowing the two of us will get picked up quickly without them;)

We let the boys get a bit ahead, and as predicted, a nice couple let us hop in the back of their truck and deposited us at the front door of The Shamrock. We waved to the boys walking down the road as we flew by:). We figured we would walk up the street to Mill Town Tavern and grab a beer while we waited for them. They all finally trickled in, eventually having gotten rides. The Olympic opening ceremony was on (very bizarre) and the bar was full of hikers so it was clear we weren't really going anywhere. DS and I may have gotten a ride first, but Gribley definitely won, some guy who couldn't give him a ride (a former hiker I believe) gave him $65 while he was hitching. Gribley put it towards the bar tab which was steadily growing (enforcing the stereotype that if you give a bum some money, he will most likely spend it on booze, though he did give $20 to the guy who ended up giving him a ride).

After we took multiple shots of Jack to celebrate America, it occurred to me that we were becoming ever more intoxicated, it was nearing midnight, and we had no where to stay. The Shamrock was full we new from this morning. Everything we owned was in our packs in the corner of the bar, which would eventually close and make us leave. So this is how drunk homeless people feel.  I realized Tom Levardis was just down the street. I would assume he normally prefers hikers to ask permission first before just squatting in his yard, but he was probably asleep. I figured I could go set up my tent all quiet and stealthy while it was still kinda early ( it was midnight), then go meet everyone at Jacks or Jakes or whatever the name of the next bar we were going to was, and when I was ready to pass out at 3am I could stumble back quietly to my ready made home in this strangers backyard without waking anyone up.

I put my plan into action. I walked up to Levardis, went around back, noticed 4 or 5 other tents, presumably with sleeping hikers in them, then spotted Towelie and Cheesewaters packs against a tree. They apparently had the same idea but got distracted by the bar before they got their tents set up. I went towards the back of the yard to put my tent up ever so quietly, but I'm sure it was the kind of "quiet" drunk people think they're being when they come home late and start eating Cheetos while tripping over furniture. I also decided it was a good idea to blow up my neo-air (not a quiet process) so I could pass out in comfort. I then proceeded to pass out. After I had constructed my home and bed, I was enticed by how comfortable it looked and no longer had any desire to stumble my way halfway across town.

I woke up at 4am to go to the bathroom and noticed Cheesewater passed out in the grass. Apparently he and Towelie never did get around to setting up their tents . I didn't spot DS, Pants, or Gribley, but my 4am half drunk brain couldn't be bothered to look too hard. I woke up again at 6am, and conceding that I wouldn't be getting anymore sleep with this hangover, coupled with the fact that I had set my tent up in someones yard whom I had never met, I thought it best to pack up and move out.  It didn't take long to get my crap together, and while doing so did a quick check for the other three. CheeseTowel (quicker to type) were sleeping beauties in the grass, but no sign of everyone else. I started to get a bit concerned for their whereabouts, wondering if they had drunk night hiked into the woods. Other than the Shamrock, which we knew was full, and Levardi's, there was nowhere else to stay in town. Unless, that is, you count the parking lot of the church, because that is apparently where they ended up. After several phone calls and finally being assured that my friends were safe in God's front yard, I decided against going to breakfast. What I really needed to do was get the fuck out of Dalton.

The trail went through a residential area for about a mile before it finally crossed into the woods. I hiked about another mile until I found a giant flat rock where I decided to post up and make some coffee and breakfast. I had failed to do any sort of resupply in town before I stumbled back into the woods that morning, but I still had about a day and a half's worth of food, which would hopefully hold me until North Adams, just on the other side of Mt. Greylock. I made some coffee and oatmeal then laid out my Z-Lite and took a nap on my new rock home. Two hours later it was time to start hiking. Gribley, Pants and DS were still in town trying to find the will to walk, CheeseTowel were going to get slack packed south over Greylock and stay in Dalton another night.

I hiked on past a dried up spring (anticipating this I carried a shit ton of water from town) and arrived at Crystal Mountain Campsite just in time for the rain. While debating putting up my tent and just slapping a big old F on this day, Gribley appeared and we decided we would at least go to Cheshire, another town 5 miles away that the trail walks through. Another thing Mass. seemed to have in common with PA (besides the utter lack of water), was that it turned us from wilderness hikers to vagabond travelers, as the amount of small towns we passed right through was getting out of control.

The rain started coming down hard, but Gribley and I didn't notice as we lost ourselves in conversation. We also didn't notice where we were going. We all the sudden looked up and realized we were no longer on the AT, but in some random clearing in the woods. Not knowing how we got there, we started to backtrack. Gribley stopped to go to the bathroom while I tried to find our way back to the trail. I found some stone steps that I honestly couldn't remember if we went up or not, but they plopped me right back on the AT. We must have accidentally turned onto some blue blaze trail.
I called back up the hill to Gribley that I had found the AT, and Gribley surprisingly called back from farther up the trail. He had found his way back to the AT via some fern patch and was now walking towards me as I walked towards him. The conversation that ensued was as follows:

Gribley: "Which one of us is going north?"
Me: "I don't know"
G: "Well we are on a hill, but I can't remember if we were going uphill or downhill, do you?"
M: "I honestly don't"
G: " How the fuck did we get off the trail?"
M: "No clue"
G: "Which way do we go?"
M: "No idea"

With our conversation solving no problems, we started hiking up the hill, based on no real evidence that it was the correct way. It was raining, we were hungover, had clearly entered some alternate universe twilight zone in which the last 30 minutes of our hiking experience had been erased from our minds, and we just needed to get moving somewhere.  Gribley stepped over some rock that he swore looked familiar, and not long after, we got to a vista that also looked suspiciously familiar. At this point it dawned on us to check our elevation profile. Based on the time, we had to be close to Cheshire, and the last few miles were downhill to town. We realized we had just climbed back up the mountain we had just climbed down. We promptly turned around and hiked right back down it, again.

We eventually made it to the Main St of Cheshire, MA, pop. 3,000. The trail kept going down Main St then turned right down Church St., right in front of a little deli called Diane's Twist. The rain had let up and Diane, an adorable older lady, made us a couple sandwiches which we enjoyed on the one picnic table she had. It started raining again mid sandwich, but we didn't even care as we finished our lunch in the wet rain. We decided to go wait out the weather in St Mary's church down the street.
St Mary's has two "hiker rooms." There are no beds, you just put your pad on the floor, but they are always open to hikers. We had access to the bathrooms as well (no showers). Other hikers were already in there, mostly ones who had also stumbled the 7 miles or so from Dalton. Gribley, who is a very devoted Catholic (and attended the seminary for a bit) decided he would stay the night so he could attend mass Sunday morning, something he rarely gets to do. He stripped off his wet clothes and laid down to take a nap. I , incapable of making any decisions at this point, sat around in my wet clothes starring exhaustedly at a wall. A few minutes later DS walked through the door. She was unsure of what she wanted to do as well, but knew she wanted food.

I agreed to accompany her to Cobbleview Pub and Pizzeria, down the street and around the corner. I was too lazy to even change out of my soaking clothes, but I did put on a jacket and go to the bathroom to try and wipe the mud off my legs and feet ( It is amazing how my threshold for physical discomfort has increased, I hardly notice nor mind when I'm sopping wet anymore). Unfortunately there was a wedding going on in the church, and the only bathrooms were the ones we were also suppose to use. I smiled as politely as I could to the guests in the restroom in a way I hope conveyed "Sorry your wedding experience is being invaded by mud people." We cleaned ourselves up best we could and headed out the door.

We walked into Cobbleview and sat ourselves at a hightop when it dawned on me, Jesus, it hasn't even been 24 hours and I have managed to walk to another bar in another town. This hike is turning into a pub crawl. I ate a brownie and some hot chocolate while DS went to work on her burger. We sat around a bit, watched some Olympics, and chatted with Warrior, Ducket and Spirit who were also there (and staying at the church). We made our way back just in time for the wedding to get out so we could be in the way of the fancy guests in their dresses filing out the back door. I snuck back into the hiker room, which was starting to smell pretty ripe as it filled with wet hikers and packs. I looked back out to the church common area and through the spattering of wedding guests it looked like they were setting up for some type of Sat.night raffle. Yeah....wasn't about to stay here. I put my wet socks and boots back on, said goodbye to everyone and headed to the woods.

I thought I would go to Mark Nopel Shelter, about five miles away, when some SoBos gave me the heads up there would be an entire troop of boy scouts there that night. Not interested in having anything to do with that, I pulled up about two miles short of the shelter, halfway up Mt Greylock. Mt Greylock is the highest peak in Massachusetts, and I had at least got the toughest part of the climb out of the way. Though I was honestly in some exhausted zombie daze that I hardly realized I was climbing. I put my tent up right next to the trail in a small clearing. DS had also left the church but only made it a mile out of town. Pants eventually showed up at my site around 9pm and called it quits as well. The lesson of the day was hiking hungover in the rain sucks and should be avoided. You will most likely end up sleeping on a random rock, getting lost in the twilight zone, and have to zombie hike 1000ft up a mountain to get away from an Asian wedding/raffle combo. You will also wake up with slug tent the next day.

Now I realize "slug tent" is not a common problem for those of you out there who usually sleep in buildings, but for the rest of us, careful measures should be taken to avoid it. If you wake up in the morning to find your tent completely covered in slugs (they really like tents) as Pants and I did the next morning, take the time to extract all offending slugs from your tent. If you do not, and you roll up your tent with slugs still attached, you will squish their slimy sticky bodies and their smelly guts will get all over your tent and incubate as you hike all day long. Squished slug guts do smell, and stain, and you will have to sleep in slug tent. Take proper precautions people.

After Pants and I de-slugged, we headed up the rest of Greylock, which really wasn't so bad now that we were at full operating capacity. Normally when you climb a mountain, it is pretty quiet and peaceful at the top, as there are not a ton of people out there trying to climb up mountains. There are, unfortunately, a lot of people willing to drive up them. A lot of the highest peaks have roads leading to the top of them, culminating in some building or lodge of some type that usually has a snack bar so the tourists can come inside and grab a sandwich after they climb up whatever ugly tower was put at the top and then hop in their cars and drive back home and brag to their friends how they were on the top of so and so mountain. I'll take refuge in these buildings and I'll climb up the tower with the rest, but I would rather they just not be there.

Mt. Greylock tower
Pants and I headed into the lodge to make some lunch in their covered porch so visitors could enjoy the view without being touched by the weather. We decided to eat the food we were carrying rather than buy their $10 grilled cheese. We milled around waiting for the rain to clear with Warrior and Spirit, then went to climb the tower. Once we got down the tower, it was a bright sunny day, the crowds were moving in and we decided it was time to get down the mountain. North Adams was six miles away at the northern base of Greylock and we needed to go there to get resupply. We made our way down the mountain to Phelps Ave. pretty quickly. We followed the road for a half mile before it intersected with MA 2.

We looked at our map, the Price Chopper was about .7 away, but we noticed the Holiday Inn was just another 2 was already 5pm.....It didn't take much to convince ourselves to continue our town hopping and get a room.  In fact we were treating ourselves since the Holiday Inn was much nicer than the motels usually available to us.  We hitched a ride to the Holiday Inn (don't ya love that sentence) with a nice guy pulling out of the gas station.  We quickly showered and walked over to the Mexican restaurant to grab some grub, after which we headed to the movie theater to get our Ice Age 4 on.  We spent the rest of the night watching HBO (True Blood, WTF is happening?) and sleeping in our own giant comfy beds ( a rarity since we are usually sharing rooms with many more hikers).  The rest was much needed after the craziness of the last few days.  DS and Gribley camped right before town and were coming in the morning to resupply.  We decided we would resupply at the Price Chopper on the way out of town as well, then we were all headed out of Massachusetts and into Vermont!
In case you get lost