Day mileage: 16.4
AT total mileage: 1,562.5
Time: 6.2 hours
Regardless of being off the trail, my eyes still opened at 5 AM. Habitually checking my phone, I read a text from Dorothy saying they may be hanging around the cabin for a while to meet up with one of Deep Blue's family members who has a boat on the lake nearby. This was reassuring, meaning I could have a more leisurely morning without racing to catch up to them on the trail all day. I fell back asleep, waking up an hour later to shower again and spend some time on my laptop putting new music on my iPod. I had never intended to be the DJ for a group of hikers, so my music variety was solely what I'd want to listen to. I figured it wouldn't hurt any to add in some new music since it's constantly being played through the speaker Rocket carries. I did a load of laundry the night before, washing a bunch of new clothes that my friend Kim at New Balance had sent. Lightweight shirts and a tank top for the hot summer days, as well as some new shorts and socks. I'm excited to have new clothes, and change up the monotony in my wardrobe and thru-hike photographs. Packing up my gear, my great aunt awoke and insisted we stay for breakfast instead of beginning our drive back to the trail in search of food. We ate in the dining room of her retirement facility, and I loaded up on a bacon omelette, fresh fruit, pancakes, an English muffin, a cup of ruby grapefruit, and a pitcher of orange juice, provided when I asked the waitress for a 'bottomless glass of OJ'. After eating we took a photo of my dad, Joy, and myself nearly identical to a photo that was taken 7 years ago when dad and I cycled across the country and stopped by Williamstown. Loaded into the car, we drove through town, stopping shortly at my grandmother's old house and for a moment at the church where my parents got married, then turned south and headed back for the trail.
An hour later and back in the same parking lot Jesse had picked us up from the day before, I unboxed my newly purchased food and repacked my backpack. After putting some thought into his schedule and to-do list, my dad ended up not hiking with me today, instead heading back for home just north of Boston. Either way, it was great to have him hike with me this weekend and to spend the time together. I only wish he could have met Rocket Girl and Legs before heading home. After I hugged him goodbye I hiked up to the trailhead where it crossed Rt. 20, ironically arriving at the same time that Rocket and Finn emerged from the woods, having left the cabin an hour earlier and on their way north. This was perfect timing, and we hiked on together as a group. The pace was set by Rocket, and we made good time up the 1,000' climb into the mountain ridge. Today's terrain would be pretty simple, comprised of one large climb and a fair bit of relatively level traversing. Over the next few hours we hiked along, running into Kamikaze and Driveway before Finn took off at a faster pace and Rocket and I hiked alone together. We talked about home life, relationships, marriages, and the demise of modern culture due to the influence of social media. I really do enjoy talking to her as she's incredibly intelligent and the conversation is never dry. Around 1400hrs we arrived at the October Mountain shelter where the rest of the group was eating lunch. Deep Blue stayed back at the cabin to spend the day with his family, but everyone else had hiked on and was present for lunch. We must have hung out at the shelter for an hour before heading on. Today was to be a very short day, and with just under 9 miles left to hike there was no reason to rush on. When we eventually got around to heading north again we did so as a large group, music playing, hiking along at a great pace. This lasted for an hour or so before we broke into smaller groups for one reason or another until eventually it was Rocket, Dorothy, Santa, and myself hiking until we reached the Kay Wood shelter where we intended to spend the night.
There had been some conversation about heading the 3 miles further into the town of Dalton, MA (the trail hikes down Main Street) or staying at the shelter. I had pretty much decided I'd be staying at the shelter regardless, as it was better than getting into town and potentially needing to stealth camp (camp where you're not seen in hopes of not getting in trouble). The shelter would be a dry place to stay that wouldn't cost any money, and wouldn't put me in range of a town tavern with a group of friends. No need to spend money if I can avoid it. We arrived at the shelter around 1830hrs to find only Legs and the puppy Naila here. Sitting down began a comical debate amongst Santa, Rocket, and Dorothy as to whether or not they were staying or hiking on to town. I did my best to convince them to stay, and won over everyone except Dorothy who ended up eventually heading on to meet with Finn and a few others in town. The remaining four cooked our dinner, having this gigantic loft/bunk shelter to ourselves. We talked for a few hours while continuing to listen to some music, which I eventually turned over to the CD of the 9/11 Concert for New York, vividly describing the opening sequence of David Bowie on an empty stage in a single spotlight playing his Playschool children's piano and singing 'America'. Santa, the soon-to-be audiologist and I talked at length about sound, in enough detail that I was drawing diagrams in the shelter log, and we all eventually settled into our bunks for the night right around dark.
In the morning we'll head down into town, these three will get some supplies, and we'll try and find somewhere for a nice breakfast. Tomorrow night will put us just shy of the summit of Mount Greylock, the tallest peak in Massachusetts, just miles shy of the Vermont border, which we'll cross on Tuesday morning. It's hard to believe how quickly these states are flying by, but Vermont should last a bit longer than these recent ones. With only 620 something miles left to hike, there's still so far to go, yet it seems like it could be over tomorrow. I'm glad I'm taking my time.
Onwards and upwards with the chill of the New England morning.