Woke up around 515 and then again at 5:30 when I remembered that it’s supposed to rain. Best to get up and see if I can make it to dalton before the weather hits. I heard fearless let the air out of her sleeping pad and begin crumpling things back into their respective bags. Before I did the same, I hobbled to the bathroom. My right Achilles’ tendon transforms to concrete whenever I stop hiking, so first thing in the morning it doesn’t really allow for much ankle flexion. The bathroom in the decrepit house has pale yellow and blue tile with a single row of black tile at the top. There are holes in the ceiling and various gaping, sagging points in the corners of the shower. I had visions of a snake coming out of the wall while I was on the toilet. Thankfully it didn’t happen.
I packed up my tent before having breakfast. The wind made it difficult to manage at the picnic table, and Hippo nearly knocked his pot over getting up from the rickety bench. That man is a walking disaster. I don’t know how he stays upright, but he just keeps going. I let him borrow my windscreen for his stove while I ate my hot breakfast. I’m officially out of cinnamon, which is a sad day. It feels ridiculous to say that when I know there are outrageous things happening in the world. Real things with will real impact.
I left the Wiley property at 650 and was back on trail by 655. The first section was a continuation of dense forest with evergreens, poplars, and thick ground cover. There were periodic boardwalks, some of which have seen better days. I like the ones that look like they were handmade from a tree rather than the 2×4 wooden planks. I patiently picked my way through the roots and tried not to get upset with my pace as people passed me. I can’t fail at hiking just because I walk outrageously slow, right? How do other people seem to be undisturbed by their feet rolling over roots and pounding down hills? I’m talking about people wearinf trail runners as well as boots, in case you’re thinking, well get different shoes, dummy. I’ve historically had trouble with sore feet no matter what type of shoe I wear, so I don’t know why I expect this to be any different.
Anyway, I came to a road crossing and found the perfect rock for putting my feet up on my pack. Intrepid came out of the woods with her wild eyed gaze checking for traffic before she crossed the street. She asked if I was okay, and I told her I was just taking a quick break.
The trail eventually made a small uptick towards warner hill, which afforded this view of Mt Greylock in the distance. A thick layer of ferns covered the hillsides with unruly raspberry bushes scattered about.
As I descended warner hill, I saw two birds fly by to my left, but I couldn’t catch their colors because of the angle. As I turned back to continue north, I saw a flash of red among the white raspberry blooms. I took a few steps forward and confirmed that it was a scarlet tanager. Here’s a terrible picture of it that I got while it hopped to higher and higher branches as I crept towards it.
I finally heard it sing, although the tune has of course gone from my head now. On the way down the hill, I ran into a woman and her dog heading south. She called out that her dog was friendly and I replied, that’s good because so am I. Gave her dog a hearty back scratch and moved on.
The next few miles were unremarkable. More evergreens, a few small stream crossings, and a gradual down hill that got annoyingly rocky at points. I tried not to be alarmist when my feet twinged more than usual. They are without a doubt more tender than I’d like, but I’m not experiencing the nerve pain I was two days ago. I’m considering taking a zero day in Williamstown at my friend’s house. The prospect of good company, epsom soaks and finding new spandex shorts without having to rush around doing everything Sunday evening is pretty tempting. And ice cream, which Mama has made a requirement of my stay in her apartment.
With about a mile to go, my mind wandered to lunch. I googled the menu for the pub I hoped to get a burger at and realized it wasn’t open for lunch. As I tried to recalculate, I heard a rustle off to my left. I looked up, expecting to see a squirrel or a chipmunk, and instead found a juvenile bear galloping down the hillside. I did a quick scan for mama bear, which came up empty. I then attempted my own gallop out of there, but I could only go so fast on the roots. I relaxed after a few hundred yards and never did see any sign of the mother. That makes two bear sightings, both of which have mostly involved their backsides.
A church announced the noon hour as I descended into town. Car horns and a weed whacker greeted me as I came to the railroad tracks marking the beginning of the road walk through dalton. It started to drizzle as I approached the corner where the housatonic flows through town (top pic).
The sidewalks were hard on my feet, so I did what would drive my etiquette bound loved ones crazy and walked on people’s lawns whenever I could. I stopped at the gas station and bought food for the next two days. I had no plans to waste energy and time on my feet trying to get to the major grocery store a few miles away. I scored the last box of mac & cheese, Fritos, and various bars to eat as snacks and with peanut butter for lunch. Then I sat out front under the eaves of the store and ate my lunch, which consisted of chips, the last hard boiled egg with pepperoni, and a seltzer. I came pretty close to buying orange soda, but I felt guilty about consuming that much sugar when I wasn’t actually very sweaty or tired.
After I ate, I repackaged the mac&cheese and peanuts, and emptied what trash I could from my bag. A woman got out of her car and left it running. She said to me, if anyone tries to steal it, let them! And I called back, okay! It might be me! When she came back out with a gallon of milk, she said “you failed me!” Because her care was still sitting there safely wasting gas. I realized a little too late that she would have been a good prospect for a ride to the library where I planned to kill the afternoon.
Another woman passed me on her way back to her car and told me not to move when I jumped to pull my feet back from the sidewalk. Then she sat in her car, doing what I don’t know. At that point, I was about to leave. I decided that I should stop being such a coward, so I walked up to her car and asked if she happened to be going in the direction of the library. She said yes and I asked if she would mind giving me a ride. I could tell she didn’t really want to by the way she said yes, but that didn’t stop me from putting my bag in her backseat and hopping in next to her. As some sort of consolation, I said “I’m not that dirty right now!” I asked how her day was and she said, “tiring.” She did indeed seem exhausted even though it was only about 1 in the afternoon. She was headed to the grocery store next (guess I could have gone there if I’d really needed to) and she apparently hates grocery shopping. When I asked what she hated about it she said, spending my money!
As I got out of her car, she said, be safe out there, which made me freeze on the inside because I forget that what I’m doing is considered dangerous in some ways. Then I crossed the busy Main Street and entered the library which is in a quaint brick building that also houses the town hall. I walked to the back where there are remarkably uncomfortable leather couches and dropped my stuff. Then I wandered around the fiction section looking for books on a list from one of my good college friends. Sadly none of them were on the shelves, but I did find a Zadie Smith book. I set my phone to charge and made it about 6 pages in before I nearly dropped the book while nodding off. The couch is definitely big enough to lay down and take a nap, but I already felt like I was pushing the boundaries of the space, so I refrained from taking a full on nap.
I left the library around 430 to give myself ample time to be slowwww on the roadwalk back to deweys pub. On the way there, I passed the shamrock inn and saw peregrina’s blaze orange cap from a distance. I thought it would be funny to just show up with the dollar she let me borrow so I scurried across the busy street and walked up to her at a table outside of her room. She was amused by my efforts and said, again, that she was so happy to have met me. Her tone made it sound like meeting me was something she had been looking forward to, which felt confusing, but I let it be instead of being sarcastic to defend against this stranger’s enthusiasm. We talked for a few minutes about her group’s trepidation with the weather conditions on Mt Greylock. Then I had to excuse myself because I needed to get to the restaurant to be sure I was done in time for cotton’s arrival.
I walked back to deweys in the misting rain. Took a table in the front window to seclude myself from the civilians and to be able to put my pack down without tripping the world. I ordered a burger (sorry cows), and decided against a beer, partially because I’m cheap and partially because I knew there would be a hill to climb in a little while. The food came quickly, and I was done eating by 530, which was about 45 minutes early. Typical. But I’d rather be early than rush. I sat at the table trying to plan food resupplies for southern VT, which made me so overwhelmed. The towns are far from the trail and I am going to have to hitchhike to make it happen. I’m also not sure how to estimate my mileage without running into the problem of attempting too much. I made frustratingly little progress, so I gave up and stared at my idiot box.
(I have pictures I want to add but the rest of this post is being written with too poor of signal to upload)
Cotton arrived a little later than we planned and needed food, so we sat in the restaurant while she ate her takeout burger. Then we headed out into the drizzle and walked about a mile and a half through dalton, my feet screaming the whole time. Road walks are the death of me. We fell into an easy pattern of questions and silence, catching up on major life events while commenting on our surroundings. I tried not to be resentful of her faster pace and reminded myself that she walks faster than me under any condition. Always with the judgment and the barometer for my perceived strength.
When we entered the woods north of town, the light cut in half and continued to dwindle as we climbed out of dalton. We hit the occasional bright spot caused by gaps in the tree canopy. The climb was long, but not terribly steep, and then it flattened out to a spacious forest scattered with ferns and other ground cover. We eventually reached the power lines, which marked the last few minutes before our campsite. By then the light had gotten so dim that I was tempted to use my headlamp, but it also felt exciting to be hiking in the dark.
We hit the turn off for crystal mountain campground at 8:45. We settled on a campsite right by the fire ring and picnic table. There were only 2 other tents there, one of whom was intrepid tucked far into the woods. Cotton ate French fries crouched on the picnic table like a frog. We took turns setting up our beds and then both crawled into the tent. There’s enough room at the foot for my bag, which made me happy because leaving it outside makes me wary of creatures (namely: spiders and porcupines). Cotton was worried about her pack smelling like French fries so we took advantage of a nearly empty bearbox and she put her whole bag in there. Newbie move, but neither of us wanted to deal with company in the night.
Cotton curled up in her sleeping bag while I stood in the spitting rain next to the last embers of a fire talking to my steady on the phone. The fire was still throwing off heat, which surprised me given there were only a few glowing coals left. I got spooked by noises in the woods and it was getting late, so we said goodnight and I crawled back into the tent. I feel like prospective thru hikers should do yoga because of all the pretzel maneuvers that are involved in camping. I’m finishing this to the sound of rain and feeling happy about how spacious the tent feels because the headroom acts like a vaulted ceiling.
Mile 1559.2 to mile 1572.9 (13.7)
Total miles: 569.7
Creature feature: the bear! possibly cub but maybe just adolescent, the scarlet tanager and that silly creature named cotton.