Massachusetts

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.

magical ferns

A good look at Mt. Greylock in the distance

You wouldn't believe how flat the trail is in parts of Massachusetts

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!)

Hurricane party at Bigglesworth's house with T-Mellow

Bigglesworth hooked us up with some Maryland hospitality! Old Bay liberally applied!

Bigglesworth had that grill out before it was even done raining. It was amazing.

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!

Replicating the pose of the smallest hiker sign ever

Marie saw her first wild beavers in Massachusetts. Four in one day! And one of them was mad

Coach is looking mean with the new mohawk and some war paint.

Tag, Coach and Effect. Rob at the Birdcage was handing out free mohawks, of which these were just three. One guy we talked to who was hiking north told us that he ran into six guys, five of whom had mohawks.

This is a nice dirt road that was washed out in the hurricane. There were lots and lots of places with damage, and being on the trail we didn't see the half of it. Vermont was hit really hard, as was upstate New York where Bigglesworth lives. They ended up closing the trail in all of Vermont for some time

A beaver eating lunch! We got a really good look at him, and then when he saw us he let us know he was upset by slapping his tail on the water

 

 

 

 

A serendipitous meet up at the road side on a very hot day. Apparently the mohawks didn't scare the locals too much!

 

The aquablaze!

 

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The Land of Cabot Cheese and Ben and Jerry’s: VERMUD!

Note:  This update was written by Marie about a week ago and reflects back to Vermont, which was the third state she was in.  She’s now in New Jersey which is state #7!  There will be several posts coming that will look back, as there is a backlog of posts both of us want to do.  The photos are pictures that she took.  -Jeff

 

My first official day of rain was in Vermont. It was the day I hiked Killington. I think I did about 15mi that day. The rain was relentless. We’re not talking a sprinkle. It was a steady rain.  I got to the top of Killington after a couple of hours. I was dreaming of my instant Lipton chicken noodle soup the whole way. The shelter at the top is a really old one made out of stone. The locals go there in the winter and trash it, so the Green Mountain Club is thinking of tearing it down. The roof has a few leaks and it’s a lot of trouble for them to maintain. There was a really nice ridge-runner camped out up there. A girl! It was really nice to spend that hour and a half talking with her. She was trying to get motivated to get out of her sleeping bag and do some trail work. Meanwhile I changed into dry clothes and got in my sleeping bag to eat my soup. Some section hikers came in and said their thermometer read 45°. Off the mountain I think it was in the 60’s. The one driving force that day was my plan to go into Rutland that night and stay at the 12 Tribes Hostel. I had my first real river ford that day too. The Gould River. Normally it is easy to cross by jumping on the stepping stones. But b/c of the rain (it had been about 20 hrs of rain), the river was swollen well beyond what most people see. It was up to my mid-drift. Luckily, after that ford I only had another couple hours before I got to the road crossing. There’s a really great trail angel in that area who’d left his phone number in one of the shelters. I called him and he picked my sorry butt up and all my soaking wet stuff off the side of Rt 103. When we got to the hostel he actually walked me in to make sure there was space for me before he took off! All the girl’s beds were taken but I was able to sleep on the futon in the girl’s room.

The Southbound Crew at the Long Trail Inn, courtesy of Marie's old boss. From left to right: Tag, Effect, Bobwhite, Denim Chicken, ShugKnight, Coach and T-Mellow

Valerie

Some of the guys under their tarps after the rain. Not too many of them are carrying tents.

Ahhh! The 12 Tribes. Good people. I stayed there this past winter with some friends when we skied Killington. So it was only befitting that I stayed there again after hiking that “Beast of the East.” I met some really great girls who were hiking North. We hung out that night and the next day. It was amazing to have some girls to hang out with! One of them, Sweet Tea is doing a flip-flop. So I will hopefully see her again when she comes down to Front Royal, VA after summiting Katahdin. She’s the first Christian I’ve met out here, too! Did I mention the 12 Tribes make amazing food??? Wow, I was so glad to be there.

Ver-mud.

The beaver had enough!

The hikers have dubbed Vermont, “Vermud.” The whole trail becomes a river in that kind of rain and the earth stays soggy for days. It’s the kind of mud that sucks your shoes a bit off your foot when you step out of it. Vermont is also the land of delicious farm stands. One in particular was so worth the .4 off trail. The lady is known for her homemade pies. I downed a small berry pie with some local yogurt on one fine sunny day. I think it was the same day I had a breakfast sandwhich and ice cream at a general store that morning. On one of the first glorious field walks in VT, I came across a burnt-out Nobo. “Beautiful field, isn’t it?” says I.  “Oh, there are tons of them, you’ll get sick of them” says disgruntled Nobo. Well, I never got sick of seeing those rolling Green Mountains from the clearing of those farmlands. It was beautiful every time.

Two Months Down, 1/3 of the Trail Complete: BYE NEW ENGLAND!

Wow! I’m glad to be out of New England. It was beautiful, and I have many highlights, but it so nice to now be in New York! I’m getting so much closer to the South and my favorite stopping ground, the Blue Ridge Mountains! New York promises to have many short, steep climbs and rougher terrain than what I’ve hiked in Vermont, Mass, and Connecticut. All the Northbounders warned us for weeks about the PA rocks. Supposedly, Pennsylvania is very rocky: not steep at all, but basically a lot of boulder hopping. Hopefully that will be a good break for my knees, but a work out for my ankles: might have to switch from my light-weight trail runners to my ol’ concrete shop work boots.

 

Atop the White Mountain's Presidential Range


As you can see, I’m already looking into the future. I’d say the new stage of thru-hikerdom has kicked in. The first couple of weeks I was just getting used to the idea of committing months to this trail. I refined my pack contents a bit and got used to telling people my name is Bobwhite and I plan to hike to Georgia. That first month and a half, I was focused on trying to get through those killer mountains: long days of brutal up and down. Now I’m two months in. I know fully I’m a thru-hiker. I could care less how dirty I get while on the trail. I can break down camp with my eyes closed. I stuff my face with four solid meals a day. When I go to a grocery store for re-supply, I know exactly what I’m after. Everything is very streamlined and many of the details are now a non-issue or trivial. In some ways, sadly, I’m coming to terms with one of the most important aspects of this hike: it is a LONG-distance hike. I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.  To be precise, from this point, I still have 1437mi to go. Whew! Yeah buddy. I’m still determined to do it in one shot, this year. So, now I’m running numbers to get my daily mileage average to finish mid-Dec. It’s kinda disgusting, except for the fact that the trail is easier than the Northern section!

Powder River continues to be my greatest support. He has hiked probably half of all this with me, over 3 visits. He is a constant encouragement and reminds me that the hike is fluid, and it doesn’t do me a lot of good to stress over mileage. We’ve realized that pretty much everyone doing the Trail Southbound this year is male, 25, with long legs, a running or wilderness background, and few distractions. These boys are FAST. The few women I’ve met Sobo are also really fast, or ok with yellow-blazing (skipping trail via hitches).  So, Powder keeps telling me not to compare myself too much to these guys, b/c compared to the average thru-hiker (me) they are way above average: they are crazy and hiking crazy miles every day. 25mi a day is standard for them. I’m at about a 15-17mi avg. Some of them have paced a bit with me. Hiking near me has meant guaranteed trail magic for them in the way of food. The latest from my folks and family best friends the Walkers. They came up to CT and put on a massive hiker feed. It was two nights of awesome homemade food and slack-packing one of those days.  My best buddies, Coach, Tag, Effect and T-mello are still somewhere in the vicinity so I’m sure I’ll run into them again. And so the harder work begins of staying positive and motivated.  Cold weather is looming in my mind. But thoughts of the glories of VA in the Fall keep me going for now!