Massachusetts milestones: 400 miles & one month!

July 21, 2018

Day 27 Mt. Prospect stealth camping, CT to Glen Brook Shelter, MA (17.8 mi)

 

Easy waking this morning down into Salisbury, CT. Our first water stop was a spigot in the center of a cemetery. We stopped here and chatted with my dad, drank morning smoothies, and filled up with water.

After Salisbury we had our first big climb of the day to Lion’s Head. It was quite the climb, but the descent was even harder. It was quite steep and technical. Then we stopped for water near a shelter and chatted with a few other hikers.

 

We continued on to summit Bear Mountain. The summit was pretty cool and you could really see some nice views. Again, the descent was steep and treacherous! But at the bottom near Sage’s Ravine Campsite was an absolutely beautiful fairy tale-esque stream. It pooled and babbled and had small waterfalls all along the way, it was absolutely stunning and felt magical. As we crossed the stream, we entered Massachusetts! 4 states down! 10 more to go :)

We had two more back to back summits to finish our day, Mt. Race and Mt. Everett (the final 5.8 miles). The climb up Mt. Race was super fun and easy. It wasn’t steep, but it was full of rocky outcrops, cliffy, and had multiple false summits. It was the first time it really felt like we were on a mountain. The views were stunning and I felt so incredible!

 

So far, the day had been perfect! The weather waffled between slightly too hot and absolutely perfect depending on shade or cloud coverage. The grey rocky outcrops looked like impressionist paintbrush strokes. The mossy rocks were filled with light, color and shadows.

The decent from Mt. Race got quite technical and steep at times and my knees started to really feel it. I struggled on this decent. There had already been a lot of descending today, and by the time this one came I was hurting. I felt stiff with my poles trying not to slip as I put one foot in front of the other cautiously.

At the bottom of Mt. Race, we had a shorter climb, but it was our tallest and steepest peak of the day, Mt. Everett. I took a gel at the bottom, knowing the descent was going to hurt, a lot. I could feel myself starting to bonk. It was 4:00 pm, it was hot, and I felt done. I put in one earbud and listened to some music on this last summit and descent. The climb was rocky (reminded me of PA) and had some cool steps drilled into the bigger rocks which were super helpful. The climb was absolutely straight up, no switchbacks at all and you could see very far ahead of you (up) which was interesting.

 

I enjoy climbing in a strange way. It doesn’t hurt my body like going down does. I’m not afraid of falling, I’m more relaxed, and I can power through them fairly easily.

 

The descent was a whole different ball game though. While this one wasn’t as steep as the others, or as technical, it was the end of the day and I was stiff on my poles and had a hard time going down gracefully. I felt choppy and like I was pounding my feet and poles into the ground for stability and balance. My feet really hurt from this. The focus I needed to maintain while going down was also taxing.

 

Once we got to the bottom there was a parking area and picnic tables and someone had left like 20 gallons of water for thru hikers! What amazing trail magic! We rested there, I had my afternoon smoothie and we loaded up on water so we wouldn’t have to filter from a stream at the shelter, which was only 0.5 mi from away.

We got to the shelter, ate dinner with some southbounders and Didgeri, set up tent and looked at tomorrow. Looks like water sources are all dry so we will need to carry quite a bit and stop in Great Barrington, MA to replenish halfway.

 

Day 28: Glen Brook Shelter, MA to South Mountain Wilcox Shelter, MA (20 mi)

 

Started at 7 am. Ridgy morning with a long steep descent into Great Barrington, MA. We had just enough water to get us the 8 miles into Great Barrington. We got a ride into town from a nice local shuttle driver, Joe, who took us to the natural foods co-op. We got delicious vegan bagel sandwiches from the deli along with other drinks and snacks. We refilled our water and headed back for the 12 mile afternoon portion.

 

It was much hotter. It was noon. We had 2 miles of flat, hot, exposed, pasture-y walking before we hit the first climb. The climb was broken into two smaller sections, with some flowy flatter trail in between.

 

We took a nice break at an overlook on the summit and relaxed with NO BUGS!

 

Then we pushed on for another 3.5 miles on the ridge to an ice gulch area. There was no snow or ice, but there was a shady spot next to the deep ravine in the middle of the woods, so we plopped down and ate some snacks and took a shoes off break.

 

After the ice gulch, we had two miles of downhill that were flowy and awesome! It was nice to descend and not be clutching my poles and watching every step with caution. I actually, turned on some music and ran down the next two miles all the way to route 23 where our shuttle driver, Joe, said he had cached some water for us hikers this morning. Thank goodness he did because every single water source was totally dry.

I thought of my family a lot today. I had special little moments for each one. Tomorrow is Shelley’s birthday and the first song that came on when I put in my headphones was “No One” by Alicia Keys. I always think of shella when I hear this song! “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers came on and I spent some time thinking of Jamie. We recorded ourselves singing this song acapella when she graduated college... I have no idea where that recording is! We have a long history of recording songs together! Lol.

 

Whenever I see birch bark and birch trees it reminds me of my dad. We don’t have birch trees in Texas, so I remember him teaching me about the tree and the special paper-like bark whenever we would go up to Wisconsin to visit Grammy. It makes me smile because I get to see the birch bark all the time out here and it reminds me of being a kid up north with my dad.

When we got to the water cache we only had 3.3 miles left, pretty much all of it climbing with some flat sections in between climbs for breathers. Whenever I get to the last 3 ish miles, and especially today, I channel the many walks my mom and I have done in the neighborhood that are 3-4 miles. I try to think about how fast those walks isles to feel to help get me through the last miles of the day. Thinking about the walks with my mom in our neighborhood are very vivid memories because it was so habitual. Now it seems far away, but I visualized it and the last 3 miles today started to feel easier. Love you mama!

1.4 miles away from our shelter we saw a spot that was pretty ideal for swimming in. It was a pond with very easy access, so we decided to take an evening dip. It felt good to submerge ourselves in water even though it wasn’t very cold or clear. Still totally worth it.

We pushed on to the shelter, and there were tons of mosquitoes! We lit three incense sticks at the entrance of the shelter and it worked wonders. No one else came to the shelter and it was pushing 8:00 pm, so we decided to just set up our tent in the shelter!

Day 29: South Mount Wilcox Shelter, MA to Upper Goose Pond Hiker Cabin, MA (16 mi)

 

In the middle of the night last night I woke up as startled as ever. I woke Jamie up and we both listened to what sounded like claws digging and big animal movement. I was certain it was a bear because of all the warnings of bear activity in the area. It sounded so close, like it was right on the other side of the wall of the shelter. Jamie made some movements as I got my headlamp out, and Jamie’s shifting on his sleeping pad was loud enough to scare the animal away and we heard it run away.

 

I turned my headlamp on, but couldn’t see much as I was shining it at a tent screen. I really couldn’t go back to sleep and was ready to just pack up and start hiking. It was 2:15 am, and Jamie convinced me to try and go back to sleep. Every leaf rustle had my heart racing and it took me hours to fall back asleep.

 

The shelter is also a lot darker than when we sleep in the tent outside, and I slept in a lot more than usual this morning. I was so tired from not really sleeping the night before.

 

When we did finally wake up, we agreed that it looked like porcupines likely live under the shelter and that what we heard was probably a porcupine and not a bear after all.

 

We hit the trail around 8:00, and I was about to drink my morning smoothie when it made a loud POP as I opened my bottle. This happened to Jamie outside of Greenwood Lake, NY and his smoothie was super tangy and we both agreed that it somehow had started to ferment. I tasted my smoothie and Fresh Feet smelled it and we agreed that it was probably best to not drink it. This was such a bummer because we would be hiking through a very dry section again and I was counting on the calories as well as the hydration, and now I had to carry the extra weight out also.

 

About 3 miles into the hike we crossed a dirt road and we saw a sign that said “trail magic, breakfast! —>”. We went to the parked car where it looked like a tale gate and there was a full blown breakfast feast buffet brought to us by the family of one of our fellow hiker’s, E.T. (It was a surprise for her too!). They had mimosas, fruit, Gatorade, water, and lots of other non-vegan breakfast items. We sat in some chairs and chatted with the other hikers and I was able to get in some fresh morning calories. Thank you trail magic!

We were sort of in touch with our buddy Conor, who was helping us with our resupply, but cell service was really bad all day today for the first time all trip.

 

We got about 7 miles into the hike and we arrived at a small farm stand/AT trail stand that some kids ran in the front of their house. There was a picnic table so we sat, had some of our food, refilled with water, and trekked on. We had about 3 miles to go until we were to meet up with Conor.

We found Conor at the top of a 2 mile climb! Yay! We had about 0.2 to hike to his car, where we took a break and feasted on fresh fruit and kombucha. Best trail food! Thank you Conor!! Fresh Feet also got new shoes (Hoka Speedgoats) and is quite happy with them! He also got a new bite valve which Conor picked up at REI to replace the leaky one! Yay!!

Conor hiked with us for a while and the miles flew by as we caught up with each other. Then he got to his bike and biked back to his car. It was so wonderful to chat with him - he’s such a great guy and had driven all over the state for us today! We are beyond lucky to have such wonderful friends in our lives.

 

We had 2.2 miles to go until we arrived at the infamous Upper Goose Pond Cabin. The cabin sits on a beautiful pond (0.5 mi off trail) and has a rotating caretaker. The caretaker makes a pancake breakfast for hikers and there are bunk beds upstairs. We swam in the pond, (our way of bathing), ate dinner (quinoa and beans... not enough), and hit the hay early. It would be nice to get into town on the earlier side tomorrow, so we plan to scoot out of here as early as possible in the morning.

 

Oh! We hit 400 miles today! Woohoo!

Day 30: Upper Goose Pond Cabin, MA to Dalton, MA (21 mi)

 

Phew. Today was long. Another 12 hour day of hiking. The terrain today was mostly flat, flowy, nice trail. A few small climbs, tiny technical sections, but overall easy walking. There were quite a bit of boardwalks through swampy sections as well as beautiful piney forest sections. The morning was wet and drizzly, but it never rained.

We were so glad to have stayed at the hiker cabin last night because it absolutely poured all night. I didn’t get much sleep between the sound of the rain, other hikers snoring and the fact that I woke up thinking it was morning and did a double take at my phone which said 11:00. I repeat, Eleven o’clock PM! Whoa. I woke up again at 4:00 am with really strong chest pain that didn’t go away until about 5:45 when I finally got up and went outside to use the outhouse. I think it was heartburn. Such a strange way to wake up.

 

I felt really tired today. I lacked energy. Maybe I didn’t have enough to eat for dinner yesterday? I also think it was largely due to my overall sleep deprivation. I keep waking up in the night and not being able to get long restful sleep.

 

I had no cell service for most of the day, but a few days ago a buddy, Chris Baccash, had mentioned he might be driving through the area today and would love to cross paths. I turned my phone on and got a little bit of service at one of the shelters where we stopped for a break and he called a few seconds after I turned my phone on saying he could be at the next road intersection!!! I texted him the coordinates because maps weren’t loading on my phone. As we popped out of the woods we saw a car with a bike rack pulling up on this random dirt road in the middle of western Mass. The timing couldn’t have been more impecable and what a treat to get to visit with him and his girlfriend for a bit! They brought us some trail magic (a gallon of water, shelled pistachios, apples, and a beer!). It was so incredible to have them bring us these treats, catch up with each other and the whole visit made the day super special and doable!

We finally made it to Dalton, MA where we stayed at the Shamrock Inn. I picked up some delicious vegan sandwiches at a deli on my way in. The deli closed at 7:00 and it was 6:45 and there weren’t many other restaurant options. The vegan works panini hit the spot. We will try to do laundry in the morning since we got here too late to do it tonight.

 

Day 31: Dalton, MA to Mark Noepel Shelter, MA (14 mi)

 

Very late morning, 11:00 am hit the trail. It was hot. We had a medium climb a flat top and a descent down into Cheshire, MA. Easy walking on piney trail. We took a long break in Cheshire at some picnic tables in the afternoon and all the hikers slowly filtered in for the evening. We were going to have a short day today since we had heavy packs due to our resupply (THANK YOU LIBBY!!!), but we downed some Gatorade and eventually decided to push on to the next shelter, 5 miles up trail (4 of which were climbing miles). Glad we pushed on because we have our tallest summit thus far in the morning, Mt. Greylock, and I am grateful to have a good chunk of the climbing done today. Tomorrow will be a lot of downhill and we are expecting a full day of rain which is a bummer for our summit.

 

Day 32: Mark Noepel Shelter to North Adams, MA (9.6 mi)

 

We got a pretty early start today because we shared a shelter with some other hikers and one of the older men snored A LOT. It was irregular and sounded like sleep apnea. It was nearly impossible to sleep. We were both sleep deprived, but got up and began the summit up Mt. Greylock.

I think we were both expecting a much steeper and more treacherous summit, but it felt easy. 3 miles of mostly up and we got there. There was a lodge at the top and we went in to fill up with water and caught ourselves chatting with some other hikers (E.T. & Wayward) and having some good convo. They were taking a zero day up there to sit out the rain. We had decided to take our zero down the mountain in a town, North Adams. We debated changing our plans so we could skip hiking in the rain, but ultimately decided to press on (the zero was needed in order to have a good night’s sleep, not to bail on potential nasty weather).

The summit had a cool monument tower and we got some moments of sun before the entire area was in a total cloud. We didn’t get a view, and about 20 minutes into our descent the clouds opened up and it absolutely poured on us. We were soaked. We had to be careful of slippery rocks and I slipped a few times which was scary. 3 miles until the next shelter.

 

We got to the next shelter (off trail 0.6 mi extra) and changed into warm/dry clothes as we were both starting to feel really cold from our soaking wet clothes and the drop in temperature. We still had about 4 miles left to go. I changed into a dry sports bra, dry long sleeve wool shirt, and put on my buff and rain jacket. Left the feet and shorts sopping wet because that was inevitable, but warming up my core made a huge difference. By this time the rain had let up a bit and the rain jacket would now be sufficient (no point in putting it on earlier during the downpour).

 

We were so glad we did the outfit change when we did as the rest of the descent felt much better (not so tense and shivery). It was a much easier descent than I thought it would be. I was so worried it would be steep and filled with rocks which would be slippery. The elevation profile made it seem very steep. Luckily it was mostly pine needle trail and switch backs. The trail turned into a flowing river at times and our feet were completely submerged in water, but otherwise the descent into town was easy.

 

We stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride easily into North Adams, MA where we will shower, rest, and be dry for our zero day tomorrow! Yay! I am so in need of some good sleep!

 

Day 33: zero day in North Adams, MA

 

Slept in! Thank you black out curtains and comfy king sized bed in a temperature controlled room! Amazing how much sleep you can get in those conditions! HALLELUJAH!

 

We ate a few meals at a good restaurant that had some delicious vegan options on the menu. My favorite was the marinated tofu sandwich which was SO tasty!

 

Fresh Feet offered to push me around in a wheelchair at the MASS MoCA which was amazing! So much color and stimulus for us to take in! It was such a treat! I got to be off of my feet AND soak in one of the most beautiful art museums! It truly was world class.

Packed up our stuff and got to bed at a reasonable time. We finished the Handmaid’s Tale 😶! I feel glad to be done with the show though. I feel free from TV! I feel rested and ready to hit the trail tomorrow! We will enter Vermont after a 4 mile climb out of MA :)

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