Friday, December 4, 2015

Day 112: Vermont and the Long Trail!

June 27: I woke up and started hiking by 6:00. Jiggs was still fast asleep when I left, but I figured he'd be catching up soon with his big mile days.

It wasn't much more than an hour later when I arrived at the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts. The observation tower at the top was closed due to renovations. I've been here three times now, and not once has that observation tower been open. I was starting to have my doubts it if was ever really open!

I did, however, walk into Bascom Lodge. Mostly, I wanted to look through the gift shop for postcards, but when I arrived, I saw no gift shop. I asked a guy who was working there about it and he said it hadn't opened yet and opened this closet thing which had everything stuffed into it. I guess they pull it out for display in the lobby when the "gift shop" opens. So then I asked if there were postcards anywhere on the premises that I could buy, and he said he could do that, pulling out the postcard rack from the closet. I picked a few, paid for them and was on my way. Nice of him to "open" the gift shop for me. =)

I continued down Mount Greylock, and another hour or two later, I crossed a dayhiker who was hiking southbound who'd just seen three (THREE!) bears! He "warned" me about the bears and to be safe. Why? Were they aggressive? No. In fact, they ran away from his as soon as he showed you. "You mean you scared the bears off?!" I shook my head sadly. "It would have been nice to see them myself." =)

I was a little amused at his apparent fear of bears and wondered where he was from. Did they not have bears there? So I asked him, where you from?


I happen to be quite familiar with California having spent the first 20-odd years of my life there. It's also a very big state!

"What part of California?" I asked.

"Fresno," he answered.

"I'm so sorry to hear that," I told him.

"Ah, you're familiar with it, then?"

I laughed. Not super familiar (thank goodness!), but I'd driven through a few times on my way to Yosemite and told him as such, explaining that I grew up in California. His fear of bears surprised me even more--he had a whole bunch of them in his proverbial backyard!

"Where in California?" he asked me.

"San Luis Obispo." I answered.

"You bastard!" he exclaimed, clearly in envy. I laughed. That was funny. =)

So we talked about California for awhile and eventually went on in our separate directions, although I kept my eyes open for three bears that I knew were in the area. I never saw any of the bears, though.

As the trail approaches Highway 2 between Willamstown and North Adams, it passes a water treatment plant and I started hearing enormous bang-like explosions. I don't have a clue what they were, but it was an odd thing to be hearing and continued to increase in volume the closer I got to the water treatment plant. After passing it, the sound started decreasing. BOOM! Boom! boom! What the heck is going on over there? I once heard that some farmers will generate large booming sounds at randomly-set times to scare off birds and such and I wondered if something similar was happening here. To scare off birds from a landfill I couldn't see? To scare off a problematic bear in the area? I don't know, and I never did find out what those booming sounds were for.

Where the trail crosses Highway 2, a police car had stopped in the intersection and was directing traffic off of Highway 2. I couldn't figure out why. Was there a wreck further up Highway 2 I couldn't see? Some sort of construction project temporarily close the road? No idea! Never did find out either. This area seems to be full of mysterious sounds and activities!

Upon reaching Highway 2, I took a detour off trail into North Adams to resupply. Along the way, I passed the entrance for the airport which was packed with people and planes flying around all over the place. It looked like there was some sort of event happening at the airport, but once again, I had no idea what. Seemed to be the story of my life today!

I resupplied at the Shop and Save. I spent a couple of hours there resupplying, repacking the week of food into my pack (enough to get me to Rutland a little over a hundred miles away) and eating lunch. I remembered shopping here two years earlier when I started hiking the Long Trail. Amanda and I had driving here for me to supply myself, then I walked back to the hotel. And from the hotel, I walked to the start of the Long Trail. Essentially, my Long Trail hike had started at this supermarket. On Walking 4 Fun, however, I started it at the hotel, but the truth was, I started walking from here.

The memorial at the top of Mount Greylock--the highest point in Massachusetts.

After resupplying and eating lunch, I walked back to the trail. The policeman who'd been directing traffic off of Highway 2 was no longer there and traffic was flowing smoothly again in both directions. Back on the trail, I followed it through a small neighborhood before it ducked back into the trees again and steadily climbed to the Vermont border.

Weather forecasts had called for rain starting at around 4:00 so I'd been hoping to finish my day's hiking by then, but I was running late and the weather was turning decidedly uglier.  It hadn't started raining yet, but it would and I was in a race to beat it to the shelter!

A few more miles, and I arrived at the Vermont border which also marks the beginning of the Long Trail. I could follow that trail and finish at the Canadian border less than 300 miles away! But no, I'd be hiking to Maine nearly 600 miles away. I started joking with other thru-hikers along this stretch that they should just go to Canada. Then they could tell people that they hiked from Georgia to CANADA which sounds a lot more impressive than saying you walked from Georgia to Maine.

And for the next hundred or so miles, I'd be hiking this trail for the third time! The first was during my 2003 thru-hike of the AT, then in 2013 during my thru-hike of the Long Trail. And now in 2015 for another AT thru-hike. I kind of liked the idea of just skipping ahead. I didn't need to do it a third time. I was hiking this trail for photos to use on Walking 4 Fun, but I have photos for this hundred miles of trail which I took in 2013!

But I didn't really want to use duplicate photos for a hundred miles of trail either. No, I'd hike it again. One last time. (Pray, God, let it be the last time!)

View from Mount Greylock

At the border I met a family of three who had just completed the Long Trail and were clearly in good spirits over their success. I took a group photo for them posing with the sign that marks the start/end of the trail and chatted for a few minutes and congratulated them on their success. I knew what it felt like--I'd done it before just a couple of years earlier, after all, and it's no easy feat! =)

A short while later, I pulled into the Seth Warner Shelter which I was disappointed to see absolutely packed with people. It looked like a girl scout troop had invaded. (They weren't girl scouts, though--that was just my first impression since there were so many young girls there.) I was a little annoyed too. Large groups like that aren't supposed to fill up the shelters. Outside of the shelter, it looked like a troop of boy scouts had invaded. The area was crawling with probably 30+ people between those two groups!

However! It had not yet started to rain! I was still dry! For the time being! =) It was close to 5:00 now and the rain had held off long enough to get me to the shelter, but it wouldn't hold off much longer.

The group in the shelter was quite friendly and asked if I wanted to squeeze in. There were already NINE people in the eight-person shelter, and they were offering to make room for me?! I was astounded! Granted, four of them were cute little kids and didn't take up as much floor space to lay down, but it was still a very crowded shelter. I wasn't sure I even wanted to be in such a crowded shelter. Well, I didn't want to be in such a crowded shelter, but it turns out I didn't want to set up my tarp and sleep in the rain overnight even more. =)

I hadn't realized it until one of the moms in the group pointed out that I was the only guy in the shelter. Oh my goodness! She's right! I'm sharing a shelter with nine girls! That'll make a good story! =) I'm totally going to brag about that to every thru-hiker I meet. I won't tell them that four of them were kids, four more were their moms, and one Long Trail thru-hiker who had just started her hike today.

I squeezed into the shelter between Erika (the Long Trail thru-hiker who had just started her hike) and one of the parents. One of the kids was shifted to sleep along the open edge of the shelter rather than lengthwise with the rest of us.

The parents had started cooking dinner and were complaining that they had brought too much food and asked if I'd like any. Well sure! I didn't even have to cook dinner now?! I'm loving this group! =) And I got to eat quesadillas for dinner. I hadn't had quesadillas in a long time! Although admittedly, in the back of my head, a voice was chastising me for not eating the food in my own pack. My pack was super heavy having just left town with a week of food, and it wasn't getting any lighter by not eating the food in it!

The shelter had a bear box for hikers to store their food, but there was a lock on it and nobody knew the combination. We couldn't use the bear box. I wasn't going to lose any sleep over the matter, but the lock was one of those with four digits. You line up the correct four numbers and it'll pop right open. So the kids wanted to figure out the combination. They were pretty clever too! They started with "obviously" guesses like 1111, 1234 and other common patterns. When those didn't work, they tried some other clever guesses like 2243 (the elevation above sea level of the shelter) and 1599 (our official distance from Springer Mountain). They searched the register for hints or clues--maybe someone wrote the combination down--but they struck out there too.

As clever as they were, however, none of it worked. The bear box was locked closed. The only solution left at this point was a brute-force attack: try every combination possible until you hit the right one. It has to be one of 10,000 combinations (0000 to 9999) so it is a limited number and quite possible to break into with such a brute-force attack, but it would likely take time. A couple of the kids started working on that, but they were free to quit at any time and eventually they did. We never did get the bear box open. What sort of surprises would have been it? We'll never know....

Later in the evening, Jiggs showed up. Which surprised me--I had assumed that he passed me when I spent two hours in town resupplying and eating lunch and was 10 miles ahead of me by now. Jiggs, of course, was immensely disappointed to find the 8-person shelter already packed with 10 people, but the large group with kids welcome him in too! Nooo! Now I can't say that I spent in a shelter full of JUST women anyhow! It'll ruin my story! On the other hand, squeeze 11 people into an 8-person shelter is quite an accomplishment in its own right. =)

The only floor space at all that was left was along the open edge of the shelter, and that's where Jiggs set up for the night. I didn't realize it then, but he didn't carry a tent or a tarp so was completely dependent on shelters to stay dry in inclement weather and had we not made space for him, he'd have hiked on to the next shelter seven miles away. "And what would you do if that shelter was full?" I later asked him. He shrugged his shoulders.

I suspect very much that the shelter would have been full as well. It was a Saturday when a lot more people are out and about and ever since we merged with the Long Trail, there's been a lot more hikers in general. The trail was bursting at the seams full of hikers.

Hear the BOOM?!

Crosswalk near a school. How cute! =)

Interesting potting plants at the Shop and Save! You gotta be careful that these pots just don't run off with your plants!

In the register at the MA/VT border, I taped this photo into the back calling it "trail porn." =)

We've reached the Massachusetts/Vermont border! Woo-who! Eleven states done and just THREE to go!

The Vermont border also marks the beginning of the Long Trail.

Me with my girls. *nodding* (That's me, the second from the right resting my head on my hands.) Jiggs would be in that sleeping bag in front of me if he hadn't gotten up to take this photo. There are two more people on the left that didn't quite make it into the photo!


Sharon Madson said...

Great story! Can't wait to walk this one virtually!

Anonymous said...

The loud bangs you heard near the water treatment plant may have been from a shooting range which I noticed on the map, maybe 300' SW of the water treatment plant. For my AT virtual hike I first read each blog post then look at the corresponding photos on Walking4Fun and also follow that days journey on a trail map via the website. Triple the fun!
- Bon Echo