Friday, September 22, 2006

On the AT - Upper Goose Pond Cabin to Pittsfield Rd., MA

September 22, 2006 | Miles: 11.0
Start: Upper Goose Pond Cabin
End: Pittsfield Road, The Cookie Lady’s House
Beautiful and fall-like
After a wonderful breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes (thanks Jack! What a treat!), we headed back to the trail around 9am. This morning didn’t quite feel as cold as yesterday, although it could have been due to waking up after our nice, cozy (if noisy—Jack snores!) sleep in the Upper Goose Pond Cabin’s bunkroom…and we again had bright, clear blue skies. Today’s trail conditions could be summarized as wet and muddy sections interspersed with roots and rocks, but it really was a pleasant day in the woods. This section of Massachusetts has been quite nice. We crossed the bridge over the Mass Pike and wandered up and along a ridgeline, once again being treated to a few beaver ponds on the way.

Although we were pretty tired from yesterday’s hike, we made good time for our 11 miles today, making it to Pittsfield Road by 2:30pm. We wandered down the road to “The Cookie Lady’s” house. The couple who owns the house, which also has a blueberry farm, have been feeding hikers cookies for years, and let them get water from their spigot, relax at their picnic table, and sometimes do shuttles. We were treated to some wonderful cookies (Yum!) and “The Cookie Man” nicely offered to take us back to our car in Tyringham. After relaxing a bit, enjoying a few handfuls of wonderful high bush blueberries, we had a nice ride back to the car… This was a great 3-day/2-night trip, even though I had anticipated that it was only going to be 2-days/1-night! It was fun to be hiking, great that Ryan didn’t have any pain, nice to chat with the thru- and section-hikers we met, and even good to be smelly again :-) Now we’re scheming how we can get more miles in this season before the snow flies!

The flora and fauna highlight for today was that we saw a porcupine! It was in the woods a few yards from the trail, and didn’t seem too interested in the smelly hikers taking its photo. It’s the first porcupine we’ve seen on the trail. Pretty neat.

After a not too late night at Goose Pond cabin followed by the extremely loud snoring of the caretaker, Traveling Jack, we hit the road at 9:00 am. Unfortunately, the cabin is .5 from the AT, so we had some walking even before we were officially on the trail. It was cool again, actually it was a perfect, crisp, clear fall autumn morning.

Massachusetts is pretty mellow. A couple ups and downs but nothing big. Lots of little beaver ponds. But, we’re fairly certain that we would find it less pleasant if we were thruhiking still, since we would be in Massachusetts in early August…lots of mosquitoes.
So, I was definitely tired today, but no pain again. Knees and back both felt great. I’ve got a small thing in my shoulder, same thing that bothered me last year, but it’s my top priority for my massage therapist. (Yup, I’m that bourgeois.) I can work it out pretty well, though.

It was three full days back on the trail, and they were awesome. Couldn’t have been better. So, I just have to keep up with my exercises, and we should be out hiking every weekend. I can’t wait.

Oh yeah, we saw a porcupine today. Funny looking critter.

Today’s song: “C is for Cookie,” Cookie Monster – we ended our hike at the Cookie Lady’s house. She has been handing out cookies to thruhikers for 20 years. Her and her husband have a blueberry farm with very tasty high bush blueberries. Nice people. He even gave us a lift back to our car in Tyringham – 18 trail miles south. Yup, we walked a lot more than planned.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On the AT - Great Barrington to Upper Goose Pond Cabin, MA

September 20, 2006 | Miles: 5.1
Start: MA 23, Great Barrington
End: Mt. Wilcox Shelter North
Nice and fall-like
It's interesting what evokes an emotional response... we've been out hiking on the trail a few times already this year but something about going by "the rock" just past Blue Hill Rd. this morning really made us emotional. The spot where we decided to stop last year, where Ryan said "enough." To walk past it and up the trail was something. Wouldn't have thought it would mean so much to pass it by, but symbolically it was important...and on we went...

It was a mellow day for us, but our first day on the trail as an overnight with big packs. It's feeling like fall. Cool and crisp, with some of the trees changing too. Very nice. Had lunch at Benedict Pond, and passed a few other woodland ponds as we meandered to the shelter. Got here at 1:30, just before the rain hit. It's clearing up now, but just in case, it looks like we'll be in the shelter tonight...and likely early in our bags too. Brrr! Snowman is starting a fire to keep us warm, and another hiker, Ramps, has joined us. All in all, a wonderful day in the woods, and great to be out :-)
Flora and fauna notes: 26 orange salamanders, many toads and many cool-looking purple mushrooms.

today was our first backpack on the at since last year. our route also took us past the place we stopped last year - the rock. it's a faceless rock in the massachusetts woods. but, it's an important spot for us. i remember sitting on that rock last year knowing that i wouldn't get to see what was around the corner. today i did. needless to say, it was pretty emotional.

our hike was great. short but great. a good first test with the full pack. even with only 1 night of food, it's heavy. backpacking is hard. i felt great. i could have kept going, but stopping for the night was the better choice. another shortish day tomorrow. so, we'll see how i feel. but, i'm very optimistic. made a decent fire the off and on rain showers. hairball would have been proud. danielle brought the wrong sleeping bag. i hope she doesn't freeze.

Song of the day: Boogie on Reggae Woman, Stevie Wonder.

September 21, 2006 | Miles: 14.0
Start: Mt. Wilcox Shelter North
End: Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Gorgeous! Cool.
Well, remember how last year on the second day, our schedule went out the window? Today was very similar.... we had a nice morning hiking through the woods, scaring up a few grouse along the way and enjoying the woods. We went through some beautiful meadows and over a few nice bog bridges alongside some swampy fields. A great morning to be out. Anyway, we made our 7 miles to the car by 12:00, and Snowman really wanted to keep going. I was concerned that it would be pushing it, but he said he felt great, so after a little cajoling, we picked up some food at the car, and kept going... the next 7 miles were not quite as flat or smooth, but we made it here by 4:00. Upper Goose Pond is gorgeous, as the trail skirted its edges for the last mile or so... the cabin is set up in the woods, with a caretaker, above the lake. Travelin Jack is a fun character, sharing lots of stories and food! Great fun. After a filling dinner with lots of extra snacks, we are inside by the fire. Ramps is here too, as is a SOBO and 2 friends of Jack's. Lots of fun, and a gorgeous day. Bright blue skies and cool. Couldn't ask for a better hiking day! And even better, Ryan felt great. I'm a bit tired, but it's great to be out! :-)
flora and fauna: closed gentian-neat purple flower, endangered-,2 grouse, chickadees, one garter snake.

perfect weather
the plan was to hike 7 today. but, in a strange twist of at fate, i felt great. no pain. it was really quite awesome. so, really i have nothing to complain about today.
our car was parked at a road 7 miles from the start. so, we stopped, ate lunch, and i convinced danielle to keep walking. the best part was we were able to resupply at the car. kinda neat. of course, the 7 miles before lunch were easier than the 7 miles after lunch...reminded me of our 2nd day on the trail when we extended our plan and the pm was harder. but, really it wasn't that hard. see, i'm not complaining.
upper goose pond cabin is awesome. big fire in the fireplace and i was greeted with a beer from the caretaker. hiking is the best thing ever.

Song of the Day: Transcendental Blues, Steve Earle

Monday, September 18, 2006

On the AT - Grange Hall Road to Church Road, Cheshire, MA

September 18, 2006 | Miles: 11.5
Start: Grange Hall Rd., south of Dalton
End: Church Rd., Cheshire
Started off cloudy, turned into bright and sunny and warm
Back on the AT for us! We’re on vacation this week, and are doing pieces of the trail in Massachusetts, based out of Mim’s house, which is fun. We chose this stretch between Dalton and Cheshire since Patch said it was “flat.” Well, I’m sure his brain thought it was flat, but there were definitely a few bumps J Especially to those of us who haven’t hiked much this summer!

Still, we had a great day. Didn’t get the earliest start—well, which isn’t really new for us—and the taxi driver dropped us off at a different starting point than expected, which added a few miles, but we were still done by 3:15. Not so bad for 11.5 miles! The trail today took us through the town of Dalton for a mile and a half road walk and then up onto a nice ridge, where it dipped and turned, through some beautiful woods. We had our afternoon snack by a pond, the swamp maples just starting to turn, showing off their fall foliage. I picked a few blackberries that had ripened in the sun near our rocky perch, and which we enjoyed with our molasses cookies. Yum! It was great to get out on this gorgeous day, and even better was that Ryan felt good. Very exciting, especially as we’re hoping to get in a short overnight later this week :-)

As always, it was good to be outside and we’re happy to be back on the trail!

Sunny, Warm
Well, we’re back at it. Best of all, we’re on vacation. Certainly, there are more glamorous places to go on vacation than western Massachusetts, but there are still many miles to be done. And, as I said today, “Hiking is really fun when it doesn’t hurt.” So, that’s the good news of the day, no pain. Anywhere. Sure, tired feet and legs, but we walked 11.5 miles. Plenty of stretching is in order for tonight. We feel like we’re getting back into it slowly, but today was great and we’re very excited looking ahead.

So, like I said, we’re on vacation. Spending time with Danielle’s grandmother in Williamstown and using it as a home base for our hiking operations. The logistics are much more difficult since we’re not just walking north, but it’s worth it. Today, we drove our car to the finish point and had a taxi take us to the start. This worked out great, even though he dropped us off about 2 AT miles south of our plan. But it was fine. It gave us time to get a couple miles in before the long road walk through the town of Dalton.

The hiking today was fairly mellow: a couple little bumps that we would have barely noticed if we were in real hiking shape. We met a group of 10 or so headed south—the Monday Mountain Boys, a hiking group in the Berkshires of retired men who hike every Monday. The oldest of which was 80. That seems like a good goal.

We have a few more days to plan for later this week, including a short backpack. It won’t help us get a lot of miles done, but it will be great to be out camping again. It’s much easier to just carry the light daypack, but I’m really looking forward to it.

So, the AT was good to us today. Hopefully, that will be the story moving forward.