Day mileage: 22.4
AT total mileage: 1,546.1
Time: 7.5 hours
Deep Blue shattered the silence of the morning with an extraordinarily poignant question: 'So... are we hiking staggered or as a group?' At this point, I was sitting on the picnic bench eating breakfast while the other guys were still in their sleeping bags. The girls had attempted to wake up at 4 to begin hiking early enough to not been seen by any of us, although they didn't end up leaving until quarter till 6. I laughed so hard at Blue's question that I nearly had tears running down my face. Somewhat of a hiker tradition, Naked Hiking Day is celebrated on the summer solstice. It is by no means required, and I have absolutely no idea how many people actually participate. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure if I'd be participating or not, but my adventurous side took over and after leaving the shelter at 8 AM, I stopped and undressed. There would be two miles of hiking downhill to meet my dad at the parking lot where he would leave the car for the day, and I ended up doing those two miles fully undressed. Cautiously waiting for the right moment to walk across two busy state roads, I redressed and met up with my dad just shy of the parking lot.
The plan for the day would be to hike 20 miles together, at which point my friend Jesse would save the day by picking us up and driving us back to where my dad's car was parked. From there we would drive up to Williamstown, MA where my great aunt lives, and we would spend the night there. Our hike together began with a few somewhat steep climbs gaining us 1,000 or so feet in elevation and putting us atop a ridge that we would spend a bit of time on. The great part about hiking with my dad is that he's what I'd call a 'professional hiker' (this is actually how I describe him to other thru-hikers) so I had no worries whatsoever about doing a 20+ mile day at a good pace with him. In fact, I was somewhat nervous that I'd be slower than the pace he is used to hiking at. It was a great relief that we kept a solid 2.5-3 mph throughout the day with each other without issue. Passing by a gorgeous lake, we hiked alone for the first four hours of our day. Truthfully I was happier with this, as I wasn't sure how the whole naked hiking brigade comprised of my friends marching past us would go over. Needless to say it was an inevitable occurrence, and sure enough as we stopped to have a quick lunch around noon, a shameless line of four hikers with Santa in the lead hiked on by. Each saying hello to my dad, they kept their pace and hiked off. We ended up running into them again at the next road crossing, at which they had redressed in order to hitchhike into a town for some supplies. Upon my arrival, Blue asked if I'd take an Abbey Road style photo of the four of them hiking naked across the county road. Not one to pass up an artistic opportunity, I agreed to photographing this comical moment. The guys stripped down to bare skin and suited up with their backpacks, ready to be orchestrated across the width of the street. There's a photo you'll see, keeping in mind it's an iPhone photo, that I edited to give it an Abbey Road style feel.
As they began their (clothed) walk into town, my dad and I hiked on through a cow pasture and back into the woods. With two more big climbs ahead of us we continued talking and moving along. It's really fun to be able to talk to him about the trail without it being through the phone or what he reads on the blog. Upon reaching the summit of our second climb we ran into a hiker named Driveway. A few years younger than me, Driveway is a bio-tech engineer student at Virginia Tech. We spoke for a while as the three of us hiked along, and split ways when he stopped at the next shelter. The Upper Goose Pond Cabin is where everyone in my group would be spending the night, and the road crossing where Jesse would pick us up was 2 more miles down the mountain. At the lowest point of our descent we crossed over I-90, a commonly used highway for travel in MA, which subsequently runs all the way out to Seattle. It was quite fun to hike the access bridge over a highway that I frequently travel on, all while in my home state. As we crossed over, I was shocked to see Finn, Santa, Blue, and Dorothy all hiking southbound towards me, ultimately headed for the Cabin, bare assed naked. As it turns out the town they went into initially had nowhere to resupply so they got a hitchhike forward to the next town and A.T. road crossing. We said hello, and as my dad and I doubled around to cross under the bridge, I watched these four guys place their naked butts against the fence on the bridge, putting their show on display for the dozens of cars traveling eastbound down the highway. I smiled at this, and had a reassuring and immature thought that 'these are my friends'.
Two tenths of a mile later my dad and I exited the woods at a road crossing. Walking a thousand feet west we ran across my friend Jesse who had just arrived to pick us up. Jesse is a freelance video editor I've worked with who lives out in western MA and had told me a while back that he'd be happy to help in whatever way possible as I passed through. He's a miracle worker for venturing out here and driving us back to my dad's car, as otherwise I'm not sure we would have been able to hike together. Jesse dropped us off half an hour later where the car was parked, and after many thanks from me was back on his way home. My dad and I piled our gear into his Prius and began the 1-hour drive north to my great aunt's where we would spend the night. Arriving at 1830 or so, we met with Joy (great aunt) and took quick showers with the intention of heading out to dinner quickly afterwords. I dressed in cotton (ahhh... That feeling of cotton) and wore my normal-life New Balance 940s instead of my trail runners. Half a size smaller than my hike shoes, my feet actually felt cramped inside which I was surprised about. We drove into Williamstown and ate at the Williams Inn, having a lovely dinner while discussing my trip and how Joy was doing. Afterwords we headed back to her house and I crashed on the couch in my sleeping bag as I texted a few people in the group to find out what their plans for hiking the next day would be.
I'll likely meet up with them towards the end of the day, as my dad will hike a bit more in the morning with me. I'm really glad he was able to make it out to hike with me. Being done a lot sooner than originally intended means he won't be able to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine as we had originally planned, but he should still be able to summit Katahdin at the end with me. After a good night's sleep and likely one more shower, I'll resupply on our way back to the trailhead, and should be back hiking by 10 AM or so tomorrow.