Appalachian Trail – October 2, 2013
The call of a morning rooster echoed across the hills. It was still dark – pitch, black dark. I was always told they woke with dawn.
The loud echoing crow must have been the signal for the rest of the local wildlife. Fog slowly cleared from my mind as birds around me began to sing their morning songs. My face peeked from my mummy hood, and I quickly unzipped my bag, just enough to stick out my arm and test the air temperature. I sighed in relief at the mild temperatures, and slowly began to stretch and flex my limbs inside the bag. It was going to be a slow, lazy morning routine since I would not have to tear from the bag, and throw on as many warm clothes as possible while I wolfed down a pop-tart or bar.
I took my time packing up my tarp on the old logging road, and headed for my next stop – Tom Leonard shelter. I arrived about mid-morning, and proceeded to wander around for fifteen minutes trying to find where the trail continued past the shelter. Chipmunks chittered at me as I approached the little shelter, and I circled around it several times. The shelter was located among some rock out crops, and the AT should not have been that hard to find. After a few false starts down side trails, I finally found the right trail and moved away from the shelter.
I had been debating a trip into Great Barrington, MA all morning. I wanted to keep making miles, but my food bag size was decreasing quickly with my rapidly increasing appetite. One of the nice things about the Appalachian Trail is that I could eat what I wanted without really having to ration food. If I ran out of food, I could just hitch into one of the many towns along the trail.
I reached the road into Great Barrington and got a quick hitch with a local woman that said she frequently picked up hikers. She dropped me at the Big Y, and I headed in to shop and eat. Entering the store, I grabbed a shopping cart for my pack, and rolled it through the electric doors. I rounded the first corner and stopped dead in my tracks, bedazzled by the food bars – salads, sandwiches, pizza, soups, etc. I stood staring like a deer in head lights, not knowing where to start. Being a wise and thoughtful hiker, I decided to eat before shopping. I did not want my food bag to be too heavy.
I wrapped up lunch, grabbed an extra sandwich for dinner, and then purchased what I needed for my resupply. I headed out of the store with my bags, and found a place to sit, over at the edge of the parking lot, packing and repacking my food. It was amazing how much packaging waste there was. Finally, everything I had bought was transferred to a ziplock back, and I headed for the road. I had walked at least a mile, on a busy road, when an SUV pulled over and a woman leaned out saying “We know you.” They were the two day hikers from the Cobble Loop Trail the day before. I grinned at them, jumped in the car, and we headed for the trail head.
Once dropped off, I hoisted on my pack and moved on through the valley, passing another odd blue “perma tent/tarp” after the Shay’s Rebellion monument. I believe this could more easily have been a kid’s fort since it was closer to some homes, but still gave it a wide berth.
I knew the climb up from Jug End was straight up a few hundred feet, but was not too concerned. It ended up being a doozy though, on top of my monster lunch from the Big Y. All blood was again being used to process the food, and my legs felt like lead weights as I climbed the steep trail. Once at the top, I climbed up onto a granite slab, and was more than rewarded by great views of the valley below. I sat on the ledge above the valley for about a half hour, contemplating the world below, and having long introspective moments amidst the solitude. Ha! I really peeled off my shoes and socks, stretched my socks out to dry on the rocks, visually inspected and picked each toe, re-sheathed my feet, and moved on south.
I always get asked what I do amidst all the solitude, with “all that time to think.” I usually just smile and side step the question, knowing that most people probably don’t want to hear I’m reduced to basic bodily functions, with intermittent flashes of “town food,” and logistical planning. My mind does wander, but I really do live in the moments.
As I headed down from the cliff I met two day hikers, headed down as I was coming up, and we briefly greeted each other in passing. If I had guessed, it would have been grandfather and grandson. I watched as they approached, the young man stopping often to wait and look back, while the older gentleman just kept a steady, slow pace behind him. There was no frustration on the young man’s face, as he watched the older man. He seemed quite content to wait.
It was another warm, beautiful day. The hiking was a mix of ridge lines, fields, climbs through hard wood forests, and was the gorgeous New England hiking I loved,during an early Indian Summer. MA and CT are great states to hike during the early fall.
My next destination was Glen Brook Shelter. From that shelter, through Connecticut, was designated camping, so I figured I would stop a little early and camp near the shelter. This was a little frustrating because it limited my hiking hours, and because I really did not enjoy camping near the shelters, but hopefully the camp sites would be far away from what the animals perceived as a source of food – the shelters.
I arrived, and was pleased to note that camping was spread out all over the hillside above the shelter. I chose a spot on the other side of a small rise, that did not even provide a view of the shelter, and settled in for the evening. There were black bear activity signs posted in the area so I laid my hiking poles close at hand and readied my tiny Gerber near my sleeping bag. No marauding bear stood a chance against those fierce weapons.
As I busied myself around camp, and finished setting up my tarp, I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to see a man walking towards me. He smiled and asked if the shelter was near by, and if I was staying there for the night. Maybe he did not see my tarp one foot behind me, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, smiled, and said I was camping. I then turned in the direction of the shelter. “I believe it is down that hill.” I said. He smiled and waved as he headed in that direction. He would be the only person I saw that evening.