I woke up around 515 to the sound of birds and the occasional rain drop. I knew there was no rushing cotton out of bed (she is not an early bird), and we didn’t need to rush given today’s mileage, so I fell back asleep. I woke up a second time around 630 and decided I should feed the beast. I ate my granola muesli breakfast dry this morning to test whether it was good that way. It felt warmer and humid, and I worried that I would feel nauseated if I ate something warm. I also felt too lazy to heat up water. Verdict: it involves a lot more chewing, but it’s pretty damn good and resulted in no nausea. I could actually taste the honey and salt that I add to it every morning.
Intrepid joined me at the picnic table. She pulled out a brick of cream cheese, a box of crackers, and an avocado from her bag. I can only imagine how much her pack weighs. She then proceeded to eat them all together. I admit, I felt envious of her avocado, but not envious of the extra weight.
Cotton began stirring around 730. She was a good sport about not getting to sleep longer. We could have dawdled, but it wasn’t really raining, and it seemed wise to get moving while the weather cooperated. We were out of camp by 830. Made a pit stop at the stream for water. While we were sitting there, we saw intrepid wander by, oblivious to our existence. The trail to the water had basically led us back to the AT, so we took the shortcut and jumped on from there.
The trail climbed for a bit and then flattened out, eventually leading us to a pond. As we approached the water, I started to get grumpy about what I assumed was coming: slick roots and bugs. Those things existed, but we also got to see a beautiful, fog covered pond with a crane that cotton spotted because she was willing to walk closer to the edge to check out the view (top picture). Had I been alone, I might have grumbled and made my way around the pond as fast as possible. We stood and watched the crane while bullfrogs croaked behind us. Their calls sounded like someone plucking a guitar string that’s being slowly unwound. It felt good to be around someone who has energy for observation. It helped remind me of my goal to see the woods, and not just get from point a to point b.
The trail crossed the pond and followed the eastern edge of it briefly before easing us back into the pines. There was a short climb to what would have been a viewpoint, but all we saw was a wall of white clouds. Then the trail made the long gradual descent into Cheshire. More road walking. The houses were of a smaller size then dalton, and something about them implied an elderly community, like a car sitting with a flat tire. It made me think of someone who no longer drove, but who knows.
We wound our way through town, and missed a turn where the trail passes between two yards. I had seen a double blaze but not the turn itself. As I hesitated and began to pull out my phone, a kid of about 10-12 rode by on his bike and said “the trail’s that way” pointing behind us. He said “a lot of people miss it so I like to point out where it is.” Cotton and I laughed about our need for a tour guide and made our way back to the turn we missed.
We went through a field of baby corn that led us to the intersection of a Dunkin’ Donuts about .2 miles west. I’d mentioned the possibility of donuts earlier, to which cotton replied emphatically, I like donuts! We walked down the busy road and went inside the gas station mart slash Dunkin’ Donuts. Who did we find? Intrepid in all of her disheveled glory. I ordered a chocolate glazed with blueberry and cinnamon donut holes (because I can’t commit to one flavor). Cotton couldn’t get her preferred croissant donut, so she settled on a French cruller and green tea. We brought our packs inside and camped out for a nice long break. I refilled my water at the fountain machine and used the opportunity for a real toilet. We both laughed on the inside as we watched intrepid get settled into her pack for her departure. Then we made our way back to the trail.
We passed through a few open meadows that eventually led us back into the woods for an even longer climb. Thus began Mt. Greylock. We climbed for the better part of a mile and then the trail flattened out. The weather held, never doing more than short bursts of sprinkles for the whole day. It was incredibly humid, so we still weren’t dry, but sweating is better than walking in the rain.
We talked about books (namely self help, which I not so secretly love) and our various relationships. We ate a late lunch on a large rock just off the trail, which involved a peanut butter cup that cotton brought me as a present. The trail for the shelter surprised both of us. I thought for sure we’d have a steep climb at the end according to the elevation profile, but it never arrived. We stood at the side trail and looked at each other, flabbergasted by the early hour. I haven’t finished at 230 in weeks. Intrepid had mentioned her intention to go past the shelter to a lodge that is 3 miles farther up the trail, and thus mostly up the mountain. But it costs $35 and we both agreed that it might push us over the edge of physical comfort. So I did what is nearly impossible and stopped.
We rooted around the shelter for a decent campsite and finally found flat spots tucked above the shelter. Cotton helped me set up the tent and we both set up our beds. There’s no rush in doing these things, but there’s something easier about just getting them out of the way. We sat around doing our respective internet/texting stuff. I heard a new bird sound and looked up just in time to realize that it was coming from a small woodpecker. Then we made the trek down to the stream to filter water. It was a nice stream, so cotton decided to go back down to meditate while I worked on finishing yesterday’s post. Around 530, we went down to the shelter and I made a very gummy but edible macaroni and cheese dinner. Sadly not my best showing for sharing, but cotton managed. She was, however, too squeamish to drink her dish water. Can’t say that I blame her. We talked about camping and Cotton’s life in Brattleboro. Then she played a song on her harmonica and we lamented our lack of instruments in light of all of the extra time we had this afternoon. There’s a guy here doing an overnight trip with his daughter and their nervous dog. He came down to the fire pit carrying an armful of firewood whinging about whether he felt like going through the effort of making a fire for his kid. Something about his brusque demeanor was off putting to me, so I didn’t stick around for the fire. Cotton felt similarly, so we sat up by our tent and talked for awhile. We have a lot in common when it comes to depression, anxiety, and self criticality. Combine that with a shared interest in music and the outdoors and I’m pretty sure we could never tire for subject matter. But we also know how to be silent, which is key for my social stamina. It feels good to be around someone I know, but it also makes me feel preemptively lonely for the days when the hikers will be even more spread out and I’m alone more. I overheard intrepid say to a friend the other day that she had so much fun swimming and canoeing at upper goose pond that she wondered why she was hiking and not doing those things all summer. I wonder the same thing. I also know that I still want to say yes to this, which means saying no to those things for awhile. Now I’m going to lay around talking to cotton to the sound of evening bird song and sporadic sound of water dripping from the leaves in the woods around us.
Mile 1572.9 to mile 1582.6 (9.7)
Total miles: 579.4
Creature feature: sometime in the middle of the day, I heard a sharp intake of breath and cotton say “snake!” as she recoiled. About two feet from her lay a garter snake. I assured her that it wouldn’t hurt her and nudged it with my hiking pole so it would move a bit farther into the brush. I had a good laugh to myself because it reminded me of the day buzzcut reached down and touched the garter snakes, which made me squeamish at the time. I think now I might be willing to give it a shot.