It was a pretty relaxing day. It almost feels as if I'm home. Since Rob doesn't charge anything to stay here, a couple of other hikers and I cleaned the place up a little. We vacuumed, swept, dusted and shined, to let Rob know that we appreciated everything he does for us hikers. This will be one of the hardest places to leave, because Rob really does make people feel at home when they stay here. Right now, we're about to go wash the van that he hauls all us hikers around in.
Williamstown, MA - Dalton, MA
The speed record for the 23-mile slack-pack from The Birdcage is 4 hours and 38 minutes. It seemed like a lofty goal for myself, but I wanted to try and beat it. Needless to say, the 23 miles went by quickly, but not as quickly as the record. I was 42 minutes behind the record time, for a total hiking time of 5 hours and 20 minutes. I still felt pretty good about that time. One of the best things about being done so early, was that I had plenty of time to hang out and get some phone calls taken care of. During the afternoon, someone put on a documentary about the AT, and it's the first time since my decision to not go all the way, that I've felt really bummed about not being able to finish the trail. Seeing the feeling of excitement and accomplishment and all the other emotions that come with summiting Katahdin, it made me feel as if I was missing out. My goal is to get to Gorham, NH, before leaving the trail. To be only 298 miles from the end of the trail seems really disappointing to me. I'm really glad that I stayed on the trail. I love it out here, but I really want to see Katahdin, and to have come all this way and be so close is aggravating. My brother wants to hike the trail two summers from now and if there is any way I can do it, I want to hike from Georgia to Maine with him. I wish I could be out here all the time. The sense of community among the hikers is amazing and the people along the way that open up their homes, or offer their time or money to help out the hikers, has really made the trail for me. It's amazing to see the generosity that people have for hikers, even when we look and smell like we just came out of a dumpster. The generosity and support that 2-Step and I have received over the course of our journey has been overwhelming, and I truly thank every single trail angel along the way. I wish I could do for you what you did for us. Now I'm getting all sentimental thinking about having to leave the trail, but back to the day I started writing about. Because I didn't beat the record time, I volunteered my hair for a Birdcage mohawk. It felt good to have short hair, it's been hot for a while now and I don't know why I didn't think about trimming my hair earlier. As sentimental as I got watching the documentary, I still enjoyed my afternoon with the other hikers and Rob the Birdman.
Upper Goose Pond Cabin - Dalton, MA
Yesterday was probably the most relaxing zero I've ever taken. I didn't have to run around town taking care of errands. I didn't walk all over the place, looking for things to eat or things I need. When I get to town, I just want to lounge around the hotel room and do nothing. That never happens. I got to do that at the cabin and it was awesome. Today I was ready to keep moving and the terrain profile looked pretty mellow. I got my blueberry pancakes and coffee, packed my bag, and was off to The Birdcage. Tall Oaf and I were hiking together and made good time to the Cookie Lady's Place. You can pick blueberries for two dollars a pound and they had cold sodas, fresh hard-boiled eggs, and ice cream. We took a long lunch break, since we only had nine miles until we got to town. After lunch, we took off at a good pace and made it to town by 5PM. All we had heard about Dalton was stay at The Birdcage and that was our only plan. All we knew was that we could take a shower, do our laundry, and we would get a change of clothes until the laundry was done; and all of this was free. When we walked through the door, I was greeted by Bootleg, a South-bounder, who was getting ready to get a haircut, and I was immediately offered a beer. For some reason, it has become a tradition, for people who are so inclined, to get a mohawk while staying at The Birdcage. I have been seeing people heading south on the trail with mohawks for a couple weeks, and I was about to see someone get theirs, not even 20 minutes after getting to The Birdcage. I didn't stay up too late, because I want to slack-pack 23 miles tomorrow.
Upper Goose Pond Cabin
Breakfast was awesome! The pancakes were delicious and having real coffee was divine. Badger took off early after breakfast, and 2/3 wasn't long after him. I'll see them again in a couple of days, probably. I spent a good part of the morning just sitting on the dock with my feet in the water, letting fish nibble away at the dead skin on the bottoms of my feet. There was one that was also guarding a nest not too far from the dock. It was entertaining and interesting to watch it chase away the other fish, and even a couple salamanders. I was amazed at all the animal activity I was able to observe without even moving from my spot on the dock. Afterwards, I came back to the cabin, was talking to the caretaker, who made me some tea. Then she pulled out all the fixings for sandwiches and let me and the other hiker here make some sandwiches for ourselves (which reminds me, I even got a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie, straight from the oven, before bed last night). This place is awesome! Right about now, I'm feeling a nap coming on, and then I think I'll take the canoe out and go for a swim. Tomorrow it's onto Dalton, MA, and a hostel called The Birdcage, where I'm hoping to get some slack-packing in.
Mount Wilcox South Shelters - Upper Goose Pond Cabin
I didn't sleep very well, because the mosquitoes were on the attack again, but I was excited to get up and get to camp today. A former thru-hiker had told me about this place when I came out of the Smokies, and I have been planning to take a zero there since then. The hike itself was hot and rather boring, but so worth it to arrive at the cabin. It sits right by a pond and there are canoes available for guests to take out. That, in itself, is awesome, but the kicker is that the caretakers make blueberry pancakes and coffee every morning. I spent a relaxing afternoon at the cabin and then had one of the best nights on the trail so far. Badger, 2/3 and I took the canoe out and saw the moon rise over the lake, as we paddled out to the island to check it out before it was completely dark. The full moon was only a couple days ago, so the sky was pretty bright. The trip back to the dock was fun, because we couldn't see it until we were about to hit it and paddling over the still, dark water was interesting. We weren't talking, and all the noise you could hear was the noise of the paddles as we dropped them into the water. The only movement in the water was the wake from the canoe, as the tip of the boat broke the dark, glassy surface. I'm glad I decided to zero here.
Great Barrington, MA - Mount Wilcox South Shelters
Since I only had a day in town, I spent yesterday afternoon lounging around, eating and drinking. This morning, I re-supplied and took my time checking out. After leaving the hotel, 2/3 had to pick up a couple things at the store and then we were on our way. We started walking down the road out of town, and it didn't take long for a car to pull over and ask us where we needed to go. We didn't start hiking at the best time of day; the sun was reaching it's highest point. With a fresh re-supply, (weight added to my pack) it didn't take long for me to realize that the hike was going to be hot and sweaty. I started out the climb ahead of Badger and 2/3 and didn't see them the rest of the afternoon. I stopped once for water and a snack and the first shelter out of town. At this point, I still hadn't seen my buddies, but I kept going to the next shelter anyway. Without any incidents, I made it to camp and was set up and making dinner in no time. There was still no sign of Badger and 2/3 when I went to bed, so I assumed they stopped at the first shelter.
Laurel Ridge Campsite - Great Barrington, MA
Today was a really fast day of hiking. I've been in desperate need of a shower and laundry, and Badger, 2/3 and I were splitting a hotel room to take care of just that. The 13 miles flew by, and when I got to the road crossing, there was a cold soda waiting for me. It worked out perfectly when 2/3 and Badger showed up, because someone was dropping off another hiker, and asked us if we needed a ride. Of course we said yes; this was the easiest hitch of the entire trail. We didn't even need to try. I was showered and laundered by 3PM and was ready for an afternoon in town.
Belters Campsite - Laurel Ridge Campsite
It was a pretty quick day for 19 miles. I stopped for an hour outside of a hydro-electric plant, three miles outside of camp, to charge my phone. The next stop was Salisbury, CT, to re-supply my stove fuel. (I have gotten lazy lately, and have cooked primarily with denatured alcohol, rather than wood). I wasn't going to buy lunch, but I did anyway and ended up getting free camp food from someone I met while eating. The North has been good for trail magic. Thank you to everyone who has been looking out for us weary travelers! After lunch, I caught up with Badger and 2/3 (a couple of guys I've been hiking with the last few days) and after a couple climbs, reached a good view and sat for a while before the last couple miles of the day. We got to camp pretty easily after our break. After setting up, we enjoyed our trail version of a "family dinner."
Stewart Hollow Shelter - Belters Campsite
I don't really know what to say about today. It was a good day to walk in the rain, I guess. It was a steady drizzle, rather than a torrential downpour, like yesterday afternoon. I started without music, but when it started raining, I threw the earbuds in and just walked. One way or another, my clothes and I were going to be soaked, and I preferred the cooling rain to the irritating sweat. I think the mosquitoes have gotten worse because of the rain and now I'm definitely paying for not having a bugnet. The hike went quickly enough, but all that really means now is that I have longer to hang out with all the mosquitoes swarming me. Hopefully 2-Step will be able to get my bugnet sent out to the next town. That might not be for another week or so, though. Hope I last that long. I get pretty jealous of all the other hikers' tents, with their bug netting, but up until now I haven't needed one. Tomorrow marks my 100th day on the trail, hard to believe it's been that long. I wish I would've realized sooner than I did that my classes started much earlier than I thought. If I had more time, I could finish this trail. Oh well, it's still been an amazing adventure and I think this summer was just the opening of Pandora's box for me. I've really come to enjoy the idea of continuing long distance backpacking for the rest of my life.
Mount Algo Shelter - Stewart Hollow Shelter
Last night was the worst night of sleep on the trail yet. The mosquitos were horrible. The buzzing alone was bad, but would have been more bearable if I had a bugnet. I haven't needed a bugnet the entire summer and now Connecticut has unleashed the mosquitoes with a fury. I'm going to have to get 2-Step to send my bugnet back to me soon. The bugs got me up early and I made the .3 mile walk to the road into town pretty quickly. Kent is only .8 miles off the trail, so it was a convenient, yet very expensive place to re-supply. On the way out of town, I ran into trail magic in the form of delicious watermelon slices and cold sodas. After indulging, I was back at it, but this time in the rain. I got wet fast, but it was better than sweat. I walked 7 miles to the first shelter out of town and said screw it. I'm glad I stopped then because 5 minutes after dropping my pack, the sky let loose a torrential downpour. I spent a long afternoon eating and watching it rain. It's three more days until my next town stop where I'm hoping for clean laundry and a shower.
Pawling, NY - Mount Algo Shelter
Got up and onto the trail fairly quickly. The terrain wasn't that bad and I made decent time. Stopped for lunch 8.5 miles from camp for the night. It started raining while I was eating lunch. It was pretty relaxing watching the rain fall on the field in front of the shelter. After the rain stopped, I was on my way to camp. I got here fairly early and had a relaxing afternoon, setting up and making dinner. Now it's time for a phone call with 2-Step and then it's off to bed.
The pavilion in the city park turned out to be an alright spot to hang the hammock. I didn't plan on staying in town, but there were rumors of a big storm system moving through and I wanted to make sure I stayed dry. Spent the day in town and got back to the pavilion just as the storm rolled in. Went to bed somewhat early to rest up for a longer day tomorrow.