Note: Marie was in Massachusetts nearly a month ago! It’s amazing how far that girl has walked. Right now she’s in Pennsylvania, and her birthday is coming up soon! -Jeff
On my first day in Mass, the Trail took me through a 1950’s suburb. It was surreal. All the houses and yards were the same. And it was very quiet. No one was walking around. No one seemed to notice that people were walking 2,000 mi, some of which through their town. After the trail passes those rows of houses, it ducks up this hill next to a chain link fence edging someone’s yard. The trailhead is virtually unmarked. Do the people of North Adams ever go hiking? The trail starts climbing immediately after passing the water treatment plant. There were signs everywhere: no camping, town watershed. Do the people of North Adams know they drink water that runs off one giant mountain, Mt. Greylock? (In some of the camping areas along the Trail, there will be similar signs to protect a spring/small stream: no camping or brushing of teeth in proximity to the camp watershed.) There is a reason the trailhead is unmarked. The people of Massachusetts don’t hike up Greylock, they drive their cars! All the better for us, I guess, there trail was pretty quiet and there was ice cream up there at the Bascom Lodge. The Greylock Ridge was very nice. That night I wasn’t without company, however. I thought I’d walk into an empty shelter. I was walking down the side trail and came up on the side of the shelter. I turned to look in and there were not just a couple of people, but probably 20! It was an orientation group of Yale freshmen. Ha ha! They are a very inquisitive bunch and had a bunch of questions for me. They were very polite and made sure to say me a spot of my own in the shelter. I noticed none of them had tried to start a fire and it was a bit chilly, so I made one. But they didn’t gather around. They were in the shelter. Funny, with any group of hikers the place to hang is around the fire. They just didn’t know. It was fun to hear their excitement for starting college and changing the world.
The other highlight of Mass was a trailtown called Dalton. There isn’t a hostel in town. But word spreads quickly on the Trail amongst the thru-hikers about the “Birdcage.” Rob Byrd is a trail angel who takes in many hikers, washes their clothes, gives a clean towel for a shower, and a mattress to sleep on. He has beds in his basement and garage loft. It was regular Sobo gathering at his house. We met Sobos we’d heard about but hadn’t met yet. Some came back up to Rob’s after passing Dalton by many miles b/c they needed a place to stay to rest an injury. All my Sobo buddies were there and many of them camped out at Rob’s for several days during Hurricane Irene. (By the way, the Nobos are all gone now. It’s a Southbounders’ Trail now!)
Powder took me and T-mello from Dalton to a friend’s house near Albany for our Hurricane party. Bigglesworth is a good friend of ours. Powder met her during his thru-hike. Wow! She pulled out all the stops for us. I’lI leave it to the pics to tell the story of the food she made for us. The funny part about staying with her during the storm is that she’s off the grid. No power or running water normally! And the day after the storm when we set out to leave, we realized we were in a valley surrounded by some rivers that flooded the worst in the area! So many roads were closed down. New England was hit really bad with the rain. The people there hadn’t seen their rivers flood like that in a really long time. We saw the water line marked in the reeds and by eroded land for many days forward. The Housatonic was one of the worst. But we made it back to the Trail eventually that day and were relieved to find that not many trees had blown down on the path. We always seem to be in the right place at the right time. We had already finished VT, and it was the one section we heard they closed the AT! They closed the whole state for many days after the storm!!!! The storm did slow me down though. I’ve done a few zeros and low-mileage days the past week or so. When my folks met us in CT, Powder and I took a day off to raft down some of the Housatonic with T-mello. He had shin-splints and decided to aqua blaze. Being the purists that we (Powder and I) are, we didn’t skip any trail, but it was sure worth the zero! Probably the best zero!