Day mileage: 17
AT total mileage: 1,579.1
Time: 6 hours
There's something disorienting about being woken up in the middle of the night by a dog wildly barking somewhere nearby at an unknown potential threat. That's pretty much how I woke up this morning, with Naila protecting us from what was undoubtedly a pack of mammoth black bears coming to eat my jar of cake frosting. I fell back asleep for a while, ultimately waking up at 4:30 to write the blog posts for both Saturday and Sunday. I felt bad leaving you all without something to read over the weekend, but time wasn't on my side to write everything and still get a good amount of sleep. I hope you'll forgive me. Once both blog entries were written and posted, I got up and started breaking down my gear. Rocket's alarm went off at 6:00 per usual, and the rest of the shelter slowly came to life. I played some Billie Holiday on the portable speaker as everyone woke up, and ate two packages of Pop-Tarts for breakfast. Rocket left the shelter first, followed by Legs, while Santa and I lingered a bit before taking off. There would be a 3 mile downhill hike with a short and steep climb in the middle of it, dropping us on Main Street of Dalton, MA. We planned to meet up at a local Trail Angel's house, a guy named Tom who hosts hikers tenting in his back yard free of charge. A retired man, he will offer to drive hikers to the local grocery store, Wal-mart, or anywhere else they might need to resupply.
Santa and I cruised down the mountain, easily catching up to Legs and Rocket, and we all made our way to Tom's house together where we found Finn and Dorothy sitting on the front porch. They told us about the places in town worth visiting, and the free showers available at the community center. We dropped our backpacks, handed Naila off to Dorothy for puppy babysitting, and meandered down the slow streets of Dalton to a few local businesses. Stop #1 was a breakfast cafe where we got fruit smoothies before heading on to the community center. Free of charge for hikers we were handed towels and given directions to the locker rooms where hot showers and saunas were waiting for us. Santa and I sat in the sauna for a few minutes each before heading into the shower room. Despite having showered the day before, the heavenly feeling of hot water was a perfect addition to my morning. After redressing he and I made our way upstairs where we browsed the take-a-book library. Although I've never really had time to read a book, I did pick one up a thousand or so miles ago with the intention of reading it. With the length of my days and mileage I was doing, I never had time to read so I mailed it home. Pneumo would kill me if he knew I was carrying the weight of a book, but I thought it was appropriate to grab a donated copy of the Everest disaster written in Into Thin Air. I actually have already begun reading it, so perhaps with my newfound time I'll actually finish it.
After meeting back up with the girls, the four of us headed across the street to the Dalton Restaurant where we stopped for a splendid breakfast. As I've written before, I've craved eggs Benedict for a long while now, which is exactly what I ordered for breakfast. For the sake of full disclosure the eggs were also accompanied by a Belgian waffle and large orange juice. We sat and talked, with our food eventually being served, enjoying the scenery of the small town restaurant. Upon finishing we walked back towards Tom's house, stopping by the post office so Legs could pick up a mail-drop she had been sent. We met up there with Deep Blue who had spent the day before with his uncle on their boat, and then hiked as a group back to Tom's were we ended up spending a few more hours relaxing on the porch. We knew going into today that it would be relatively low mileage, so after the three miles we put in downhill to begin, there wasn't a huge issue with taking our time in town. It wasn't until 1330 or so that we actually departed, heading up for a long climb of 1,200 feet or so up into a ridgeline that would then drop us down in the next town of Cheshire. We of course had music playing, and despite the sweat negating my morning shower, we crested the peak of the climb easily after an hour or so, and began a steep descent into the next town. Our walk through Cheshire would bring us by both a small ice cream shop and a gas station, of which we would stop at both. Procrastinating what was to come - a 1,800' climb halfway up Mt. Greylock, we sat in the parking lot of the gas station for a good bit of time before heading up the trail.
With 5 miles and 1,800 feet of climbing to be done, notably the steepest and longest climb since Virginia, our group of four separated a bit with different paces. I buckled down and pressed forward with my 'zero desire to hike in the dark' motivation, ascending at a steady 3.5 mph despite the grade of the mountain. It took him a bit of running to do so, but Santa caught up and we kept pace together for the last two miles to the shelter. Upon our arrival we met a good number of people already there, with Legs and Deep Blue arriving shortly after. The shelter would end up being home to 9 people for the night, with a few more camping close by. Arriving at 2010hrs, the sun was descending on the horizon, and dinner was soon being cooked. I put some Allman Brothers through the speaker, and we sat around enjoying each other's company for an hour and a half before people began retiring to sleeping bags.
Tomorrow morning we'll climb another 3 miles to the summit of Greylock, the tallest peak in the state of Massachusetts at 3,491 feet. This also marks the first time since Virginia, some 700 miles ago, that the trail's elevation crossed the 3,000' mark. For now, I'll read some more of my book and then close my eyes for the night. We'll hike into state #12 tomorrow- an incredible thought to realize.
Onward, and most certainly upward.