Day mileage: 23.4
AT total mileage: 1,523.7
Time: 9 hours
I got an exceptionally short night of sleep. By the time the shelter was quiet and conversation had ceased it was after 12:30 AM, leaving me with only four and a half hours until my eyes would undoubtedly open. Sleeping quickly, I woke to a rather chilly morning in the Northeast. It actually was cold enough that I put my North Face jacket on and sent a text home asking my folks to send out the pair of tights I had returned to them after getting through the Smokies back in April. The further north I get the colder the mornings will be, so I figure now is a good time to get that gear back with me. People in our group were slow to get moving, a result of the amount of beer consumed the night before, but the majority of us were on the trail by 07:30. The climb from the shelter would take us up Bear Mountain (the second Bear Mtn - not to be confused with New York's) before sending us on a bit of a roller coaster through the ridgeline. A few miles into the day, we would also cross from Connecticut into Massachusetts - not only my home state, but also the 11th state of the 14 that the Appalachian Trail passes through.
The climb up and over Bear was relatively easy, and a few of us reconvened atop the stone 'tower' at the summit. The so called tower was actually just a very tall pile of rocks which, according to a plaque placed at the base, had been assembled in the late 1800s by a guy with too much time on his hands... at least that was how I read it. Descending Bear Mountain I hiked with Deep Blue, talking about our planned summits of Katahdin and what that will be like. We dropped down into a gap between peaks that was home to a dark forest floor and a massive river running through boulders carved out by the rushing water. Crossing over a footbridge made of fallen tree, we came across the 'Welcome to Massachusetts' sign I'd been waiting to see. It's exceptionally cool to think that I've practically walked home. From the state line gap we had a few steep, rocky, and challenging climbs, made worth it only by the views attained at the end of each, which we would stop at to admire the view. The last severe climb was a rock face mountain that required 700' of elevation gain over half a mile. For this part I hiked with Finn, a guy who keeps an exceptionally good pace, and we simply focused ob the terrain, doing very little talking. From the summit we descended down to a grassy park area with picnic tables alongside a lake. Despite having only done 8 miles at this point, mainly due to the terrain it covered, we stopped for lunch. Setting up shop next to the tables which were home to gallons of ice cold water labeled clearly for thru-hikers, we ended up staying here for an hour or so. After eating everyone laid out under the sun, talking about movies and all other sorts of things. I'm pretty sure that with my Sox hat over my eyes and the warm sun shining down on me, I nodded off once or twice during the time there. Just before 1300hrs we packed up and moved on, still with 15 or so miles to hike before we would be done for the day. In this moment I felt an twinge of dissatisfaction, likely due to the fact that 8 miles before noon is not my style. If it's lunch and I have 15 miles to go, I'd usually have already hiked 12-16 miles. Regardless, new adventure, new things to become accustomed to.
From the lake picnic area we would hike for 5 or 6 miles across relatively calm terrain, then drop down into the valley where MA Route 7 drives through. I kept pace with Deep Blue, Finn, and Santa for a while before stopping to make some phone calls. My timing and location is about 60 miles off where I expected to be in light of recent events, so my dad's visit this weekend needed to be shuffled a little bit. Originally I was going to be on the VT border tomorrow, so my aunt Joy in Williamstown, MA was going to be able to assist with shuttling me and my dad around. Due to being so much further south, I've asked for help from a friend to transport us after we hike together tomorrow. Orchestrating this from the trail meant stopping for a bit, and after things got settled and I was packing up my maps, Legs came upon me with Dorothy and Rocket Girl. We ended up hiking together for a while before Legs and I got ahead, talking about family and home for a long while before stumbling upon the rest of the group who had stopped for trail magic. Enjoying a soda, orange, and a Dum-Dum lollipop, we hiked on, the entire group shuffled up again. It's quite fun to always end up hiking with the same people but in completely different configurations. We hiked into the valley, where a half dozen miles would be spent traipsing across more level terrain, through pine forests and across farm fields. We crossed more roads than I can remember crossing in recent times, eventually coming to a footbridge that marked the beginning of a long ascent up to the next mountains where the shelter would be. There would be a 1,200 foot climb up before a few roller coaster elevation changes spread over the remaining 5 miles. The climb seemed to take forever, and finding the shelter took even longer. My bag was weighted down more than usual, as Naila the pup had a cut on her foot that was making her walk uncomfortably. To alleviate any additional pain, I offered to carry her dog-backpack, which added a good twelve pounds to my bag. Not uncomfortable, just a lot more weight than I'm used to, likely jumping my bag up over the 40 pound mark. Regardless I hiked on, and with Santa catching up we chatted for a while about his schooling and my work. He's going to be an audiologist so you can see we'd have a lot to talk about. We eventually found the shelter, marked only by two blue blazes painted on a tree, with no sign to be seen. Had he not caught the tin roof in the distance, we'd have likely walked right past it.
Eating dinner at this gorgeous shelter, I set my sleeping back up in the loft over the picnic table. You could easily fit 30 people in this shelter if you needed to in a pinch. Post and beam style construction, it's a beautiful building with a large stone fire pit where a Ridgerunner who is spending the night here had a blazing fire going. We hung out as a group, and as the sky became dark I put on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album through the wireless speaker. Many fell asleep with the music playing before I shut it off for the night.
My dad will meet me in the morning, and we'll get to spend the day together hiking. With the date tomorrow being the 21st of June, summer solstice, it's also a famed day on the Appalachian Trail known as Naked Hiking Day. Hikers of all ages, sizes, etc. will undress for a mile, or their entire day's hike. I warned my dad of this beforehand, and personally intend on wearing clothing throughout the day. I also explained to the group that they might just need to meet my dad tomorrow when they've got some fabric on their bodies. Another adventure on the Appalachian Trail.
Off to bed. Hopefully to get more sleep than the night prior. Hope you all had a good week, and also a huge welcome to the international readers of the blog. There's been a big surge in overseas readers from around the globe, which I think is pretty cool. Oh, and one cool thing for fans of Red Sox Nation... Deep Blue and I had this great idea of buying a 'Fear The Beard' Red Sox flag, and writing 'Don't' in spray paint atop it to hold up while trying to hitchhike throughout New England. I think it'd increase our likelihood of getting picked up.
Onward & upward, four states left to go.