Day 56: salad edition 

In the interest of my stamina for editing and writing hiking posts, I’m going to skim through the rundown of my zero day. It started with my second favorite breakfast of yogurt, banana, and my trail granola mix. I could see the mountains Cotton and I had climbed the day before to my right… 

and the mountain I have to climb tomorrow to my left. 

Then my friend left for work and I had the space entirely to myself to make a mess, lounge around, and work through my to do list. I did a small pack shakedown, trying to find ways to lighten the load on my feet. I also weighed my food to see where the weight sinks are (trail mix is the worst offender), and I finally did my laundry. For lunch, I had another incredible salad along with farm eggs (over medium with avocado and mustard), and a few Fritos so my body didn’t go into shock. There were intense thunderstorms on and off all day, making me feel even better about my decision to zero. I nearly had my toe eaten by the neighbor kitty. 

I soaked my feet in the tub and apologized to the gods for running water during a thunderstorm. Sadly I think walking around barefoot on the wooden floors aggravated my left foot. It actually felt worse by the end of the day, which was perplexing and frustrating. For dinner, sciacca and I went to pedrin’s, which is a food stand across from the north Adams Walmart. We got grilled cheese, French fries (regular and sweet) and ice cream. Before dinner, we went to Walmart in search of new shorts for me so I can wear something above my knees (to let my “knee pits” breathe as sciacca puts it). Sadly, no knee length spandex to be had in the entire store. Why are they so hard to find?? But after dinner, we went to optima sports and found something very close to what I wanted. About 2 inches shorter than desired, but they will do! Breathable knee pits for me. Now on to a hiking post since my signal is finally good enough to upload pictures. 
Miles: 0 

Total miles: 589 

Creature feature: a starling like bird eating a soggy tortilla by the wheel of Sciacca’s car in the parking lot of pedrins. 

Day 54: fresh eyes edition 

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. 

The climb up from the road was steep and felt difficult after all of the sugar. I saw a new wildflower. Well, I actually saw it for the first time on the Wiley property. 

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. 

Day 52: cookie lady edition 

I woke up around 7 this morning. Better than usual for trail time, but I had hoped to sleep until 8 because I’m only going about 9.5 miles today. There’s no reason to rush, but once I’m up, I’m up. I walked over to the office to check out the breakfast, which was a pitiful display of muffins and fruit. I grabbed a mediocre banana and two muffins that were bigger than my fist. I sat outside my room in the sun and ate one of the muffins with peanut butter. I packed the other one out for my lunch. Boy was that a bad idea. Too much muffin. I felt so sluggish all afternoon. But I’m getting ahead of myself. 
I went back inside and finished writing yesterday’s post. On average, they take about an hour to write, then I add pictures and fuss with editing (although clearly not that much because I can’t always be bothered to deal with punctuation. Typing on a phone is TEDIOUS. Forgive me. I know I’m missing commas and quotation marks). After writing, I went about putting my pack back together and retaping my feet. I iced them again this morning and massaged them. My left foot feels noticeably better, but my right foot has an unfortunate blocky painful feeling under my second toe, as if someone shoved a piece of wood in my foot. 
I left the hotel and was back on trail around 10am. The terrain was dismal today. Thick forest that felt like it was closing in on me with no views to speak of. Exposed roots filled long stretches around several bogs and ponds. Roots are almost as bad as the shit kicker rocks in PA because they make it impossible to get a flat step. On the upside, the temperature was perfect for hiking and the bugs were at half force relative to recent days. I felt lonely this morning and missed the company of buzzcut. She would never have agreed to those long days! Maybe I should use her as a barometer for how long to hike until my feet feel better. WWBD. I also felt fear of injury creeping in one moment and certainty that things would be fine the next. The emotional ping pong continues. 

I took tiny breaks about every hour to rest my feet. Stopped on a nice long rock for lunch and ate the other muffin with peanut butter, which I regretted as soon as I started walking. So heavy. The trail around finerty pond was very overgrown with what I think are raspberries. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. 

I also saw patches of lady fingers around a beaver bog, which I wasn’t expecting. Around 230, I ran into intrepid on one of my many breaks near the overmountain shelter. She also has plans to stay at the cookie lady house (i will explain later). She was so confused to see me because she forgot that I had taken most of yesterday off. She said wait are you still going north?? I laughed and assured her I was. When I passed the shelter, I had a little over two miles left before the cookie lady intersection. My feet were starting to get really sore, which made me frustrated. I slowed down even more and tried to walk with my core engaged, which somehow seems to take pressure off of my lower legs. Maybe I use bigger muscles that way? I also continued to try to pick up my legs at my hips instead of focusing on pushing off with my feet. Sounds like so much effort just to walk. But I suppose I take interest in these things and I like to monkey with imagery and muscles to see how the effort changes. I wasn’t too preoccupied to miss this new little flower: 

I heard my exit road long before I saw it because the trail runs adjacent to it for about a half mile. I met a woman named peregrina at the intersection who also intended to stay in the yard at cookie lady’s house. The property is about 100 yards east of the trail and houses a blueberry farm, chickens, a dilapidated building full of bicycles, doors, and various lawn equipment, and the main house where an elderly couple, Mr. Wiley and Marilyn, live. They sell Klondike bars, fresh eggs (raw or hard boiled), sodas, and they give out cookies. I’m not certain you have to work to get a free cookie, but it seems that way. They also let hikers tent on their lawn. In return, they ask that people help in some small way around the property. Today’s tasks involved mowing the lawn and filling water buckets for flushing the hiker toilet in the dilapidated house. I mowed for about 10 minutes. Intrepid did an even larger section around the side yard. 

Mr. Wiley, who seems to be in his eighties, was patient with the slow trickle of requests to buy snacks and he showed interest in where we were all from. They have a hiker register and a list of the 50 states for people to check off their home state. It was fun to look at the list of international locations written in at the end. Peregrina let me borrow a dollar because I only have large bills at the moment, and I was dying for a hard boiled egg (price: 40 cents). The energy this afternoon was so communal and grateful. I finally met an older woman named Snow White, whom I’ve heard of by name. Hippo is here. He helped Mr. Wiley fix a spigot on the side of the house. 

When Mr. Wiley tried to rise from the ground, hippo picked him up the rest of the way. Later Mr. Wiley sailed by on a riding lawn mower, and I caught a glimpse of what he must have looked like 20 years ago because you couldn’t see the way his left hand shakes or his bad eye. 

As we all sat around the picnic table (horrible candid that I did not warn anyone about), a NOBO named sweet spot arrived. She seemed dejected and frustrated by having to stop earlier than she planned, but she also seemed intent on getting better at listening to her body. Fearless and I had just been talking about how bad we are at taking breaks throughout the day and how difficult it is to moderate ourselves. In comes sweet spot with the same thing on her mind. We talked about her foot pain and I shared mine as well. She said she didn’t understand why she was so sore after a flat 9.5 miles. I said yes, it was flat, but it was full of heinous roots that made the footing difficult. She conceded the impact that had on our bodies. I’d rather walk straight up for 3 days than deal with roots for an afternoon. 

There was a rotating cast of hikers at the picnic table eating dinner. Ramen and mashed potatoes played a prominent role. I made a Mary Janes lentil chili meal (verdict: good) and ate a hard boiled egg while I waited for my food to cook. I finally got smart and started setting the stopwatch for my rehydration time instead of always forgetting what I time I put my food on. Fearless gave me a couple of payday snack size bars when I whined about not having anything sweet. And then came the cookies! I had given up on the idea of cookies after hearing that Marilyn, the infamous cookie lady, wasn’t home. They were oatmeal chocolate chip, so it was basically meant to be because that’s my favorite kind of cookie. 

After dinner, I went exploring for the toilet. When I walked into the crumbling house, a wave of grease and machine oil reminded me of my grandfather who worked for a farm supply store. Fearless and I wandered around the falling down house filled with dozens of bicycles, remnants of a motorbike, a car hood, stacks of doors and windows, and no less than 3 chainsaws sitting next to the toilet in the bathroom. 

Now I’m tented in soft grass underneath a pine tree listening to hikers shoot the shit at the picnic table, intrepid coughing and yawning loudly in her tent next to me, an insistent bird that reminds me of the alarm for the roof door at my old apartment, and the flaps of my tent rustling as the wind picks up. It sprinkled a few minutes ago. I hope Cotton and I don’t end up soggy all weekend.  

Mile 1549.7 to mile 1559.2 (9.5) 

Total miles: 556 

Creature feature: I saw a new bird that was a dark slate gray with white (or light gray?) underside and a long tail. It reminded me of a cat bird but different colors. I also saw another black and white warbler with a different proportion of white to black, which makes me wonder if it’s a female or if it’s a different kind of warbler. Last but not least, here’s one of the Wiley chickens. 

Day 51: nero edition 

My watch alarm went off at 440 this morning. I heard it instantly and stopped it after a few beeps. I had been worried about waking up the world for my sunrise ambitions, so I set the alarm on my watch assuming it would be less offensive if I slept through it than whatever noise my phone would produce (I can never remember what the alarms are set to play). I felt so groggy and unenthused about putting weight on my feet. I grabbed my glasses from the floor and peaked out the bunk room door. Not much in the way of color in the sky. I decided to give up on the sunrise and go back to sleep. That lasted for about five minutes. My experience with sunrise is that it can look like a dull nickel one minute and turn into a cotton candy surprise 10 minutes later. So I crept out of bed and grabbed my bug spray, my raincoat (for warmth and mosquitoes can’t bite through it! or so it seems), and my phone. I stumbled down the path to the privy and then the beach. When I say stumble, I mean literally stumble. My feet are like inflexible little bricks first thing in the morning. When I got to the water, I saw the view in today’s top picture. It didn’t get any pinker, but I still felt satisfied by my efforts and by the solitude. As I sat on the dock waiting to see if the sky would go wild, I heard the loud report of a pileated woodpecker, which sounds kind of like someone banging two by fours together. Judging by the volume, it was right along the edge of the water. I searched the treetops in vain and nearly gave up when I saw a flash of red. Then I watched that giant gawky bird peck at the trunk of several trees. I was hoping to witness the rapid fire attack I often hear in the woods, but this one took a more measured approach for his breakfast. 
The sky brightened, but didn’t change much, so I walked back to the cabin and laid in my bed. The caretaker, who sleeps in a curtained off section in the back of the bunk room, got up around 6. Shortly thereafter, I could smell pancake batter. One of the perks of staying here is that the caretaker makes a pancake breakfast and apparently sometimes other meals depending on the person. It’s volunteer based and the caretakers stay anywhere from a few days to 1 week every year. I thought about actually trying to go back to sleep since I had plans to hike all of one hour today, but my stomach disagreed with that idea, plus I knew other hikers would not linger in bed. I didn’t want to miss the social time or the pancakes. 
I got up, put on my puffy coat and hobbled down to the picnic table behind the shelter. People slowly filtered out of the bunk room and around 630, Nancy, the caretaker, announced that breakfast was ready. I grabbed my 4 pancake allotment, butter, syrup and then sat at the table with the same group from the night before. I added my own honey and peanut butter to give it some nutritional benefit since pancakes are basically not food. I went a little crazy and decided to try to the coffee because it seemed like it would go so well with pancakes. The second I poured it into my mug, I could smell my mistake. I passed it off to another hiker after two sips. 
After breakfast, hikers left in waves. The trio that I felt pulled to follow loitered on the porch joking around with me and filtering water. It was incredibly tempting to invite myself into their group, but I knew it would be a terrible idea physically and it wouldn’t solve my tech situation. So I sat in my chair and waved as they left. Intrepid and I were the only hikers left after 830. She decided to take a zero at the cabin. Her first of her entire trip. I sat on the porch in a rocking chair and worked on a plan to hike with Cotton. Two short days would get me to dalton and then we could hike Mt Greylock together ending Sunday afternoon at route 2, which is the road crossing for my stay with my college friend whom I will identify as Mama so I can stop with the generic friend attribution. It’s a nickname she’s had in our group for years. I warned Cotton that it might be a soggy weekend and she joked about needing to be cleansed anyway, so we set a tentative plan to meet in Dalton. I also ordered a new phone charger that has almost 7 charges. It was hard to take a hit on the weight (12oz vs 6 for my current one). I don’t think I should stay out of town for 7 days because it would involve carrying too much weight in food, but it would be nice to not have to rely on power a few days longer, so I can have the flexibility to space out the town stays. 
Intrepid and the caretaker went on a mission to fill all of the water jugs on the porch. It involves carrying about 30 empty Arizona tea jugs that were strung together down to the canoe, paddling across the lower end of the pond, refilling them at a spring and then unloading them on the beach for hikers to carry 1-2 at a time as they come back from swimming. I wanted to help, but I knew the walking and lifting were the opposite of rest, so I sat on my hands and let them go without me. 

When they came back, they were discussing plans to go canoeing (for recreation this time). Intrepid asked if I would like to join her and I considered saying no because I assumed it would aggravate my tailbone and lower back, butthe weather  was so perfect and the water looked so peaceful. I couldn’t resist. Intrepid said, “okay, if you come with me I’m going to pretend that I’m alone.” Little did she know how perfect that scenario is for me. I agreed to the arrangement with enthusiasm and we all walked down to the beach area. Intrepid had the smart idea of bringing an extra life jacket for me to sit on as a cushion. I took the back and she took the front. Somehow I ended up doing a lot of the paddling as we meandered around the pond. Upper goose connects to a larger pond that we aren’t allowed to paddle because of hikers in previous years trespassing or some such nonsense. That was fine with me because it was far more residential than upper goose. 

We paddled out past the little island that had what looked like cairns stacked along the rocky jetty. Then we wandered back into the marshlands. We’d been out for over an hour at that point, so I regretfully said I should probably head back. Intrepid said, “oh well can we just go to the end over there. I’m known for going as far as I can go,” which made me laugh because I think I am too. So we paddled over to the edge of a marshy bit and then paddled with purpose back to the dock on the far side of the lake. I felt pretty tired after the time in the sun and the effort of paddling. I resumed planning after I laid my sleeping bag over the sunny railing to air out. Last night, I’d woke up absolutely drenched in sweat. Even my legs were slick with sweat, which was a disgusting feeling and of course left me with the conundrum of being cold but also not wanting to sweat more by staying in the bag. I wanted to let it fully dry out before I packed it. 

As I waited for my bag to air, I called the hotel where I have reservations to ask about shuttle services, of which they offered none. I tried the number the manager gave me for a local person and got no answer and no return phone call. After surveying my food situation, I figured i could make it to friday if I was willing to eat breakfast for lunch and for breakfast. Not ideal, but doable especially considering the lower mileage. I sat there trying to figure out what to eat before I left when Nancy came out with a cutting board full of red and yellow pepper slices and a package of guacamole. She tasked us with helping her finish the guacamole, which I dutifully agreed to. We sat in periodic silence with short bursts of conversation. Nancy is a physics teacher who is heading out to Colorado after her week ends at UGP to hike part of the Colorado trail. Or maybe to finish it? I missed some of the information. Guacamole fresh veggie haze. 

A few new hikers arrived, among them were birk, hippo(!) who I haven’t seen since Delaware water gap, and five year plan. I had packed my bag and brought it down to the porch, but I was having trouble leaving. It’s just so peaceful there. I finally donned my bag as intrepid was talking about a pack shakedown with Nancy. That’s when I remembered Nancy had helped fix goddess’s pack fit, and it occurred to me that she might be a good person to help with my hip belt. My pack won’t hold an arc in the frame and the stay for the hip belt is still not seated on one side. It’s functional and comfortable enough when the frame is flat (vs flexed or arced, as the name of the bag implies), but I decided to ask Nancy about it anyway. She suggested I empty the main compartment, which I did taking satisfaction in how easy it was to dump out the contents of my bag. Then she manhandled the stay back into the stitched housing. Viola! I think that may have fixed most of the slippage in the arc straps. We shall see. 

As I was about to leave (again), a former thru hiker named friendly nate arrived and announced that he was just out for a night. Intrepid, tactless as she is, said well what kind of trail magic did you bring us?! Nate laughed and pulled out 4 different containers of fruit, a bunch of bananas, a bag of donuts. I pounced on the bananas and cherries and ate half a donut even though I wasn’t hungry at that point. Then I forced myself to leave the hiker haven and walked 2 miles up the trail to my hotel. 

The trail was not memorable (besides some blooming laurel), but I will say that it was thankfully headed away from the pond, which meant fewer bugs and mucky rock piles. My feet were still sore and on the edge of nervy, which confirmed that I was making the right choice. For once, I wished that I wasn’t hiking any miles, but 2 felt manageable enough. I did it in an hour, which was a vast improvement over yesterday’s pace. The trail crossed over highway 80 and wound past a lake and then I hit the road crossing for the hotel.

The hotel is about 200 yards off the trailand sits on the lake I’d passed. The proximity to the highway made for a noisy place, but it’s adequate, and it’s the first hotel room I’ve had to myself the entire trip. I think that might also make it the first night I’ve slept alone. 

I had absolutely no luck with the shuttle people and the price for a cab was $22 in one direction. There’s no way I’m going to pay $45 to go to a grocery store to buy $10 worth of food. I didn’t have the guts to walk out to the road and hitch. I also wasn’t in the mood for heavy delivery food, so I made myself a rice dinner from my food bag after confirming that I have just enough food to get me to Dalton if I eat the crappy hotel breakfast instead of my own. I sat at this picnic table and wrote blog posts to the sound of cars rushing along the highway and birds squabbling over crumbs.

Then I retired to my room, which always feels regretful because I’d much rather sleep outside when the weather is nice. Now I’m writing this to the sound of what I assume are bugs popping against the window, and I’m trying not to be anxious about the prospect of getting sidelined by foot injuries. I’m hoping if I slow down and try to get more rest and take more breaks, they will decide to let me keep going. Part of me is angry that I have to slow down. Other people don’t seem to have any problem ramping up their mileage. This envy and resentment are not new feelings. My body clearly needs extended time, and I guess I will have to cooperate. 

Mile 1548.1 to mile 1549.7 (1.6) 
Total miles: 546.5 
Creature feature: a garter snake that hardly even made me jump and a badger running back into the woods from the shoulder of the road 

Day 49: questionable choice edition

(No post yesterday because the bunk room at upper goose pond cabin has little to no service and I could sit outside because the mosquitoes were voracious at dusk.) 

Woke up to the sound of birk coughing from her tent about 30 yards away. I asked her about it later, and she apparently has reflux that isn’t treatable because it deals with pepsin and not acid. It makes her cough often, and she usually avoids shelters because people always ask if she’s okay. I knew the reason she was coughing, and I still felt the impulse to ask her when I headd her coughing later. Bet that gets old for her. 
I had a silent breakfast at the picnic table with intrepid. She’s unpredictable when it comes to how much she might talk and what in the world might come out of her mouth. Then I broke down my tent and sluggishly made my way up the trail. The air was still and humid and the sun felt hot despite being 645 in the morning. My bag felt heavier today even though its technically just getting lighter by the day. 
The trail felt like walking in a recessed dry stream bed for the first couple of miles. I was descending, which felt unexpected and even stranger when I ended up on Mt Bushnell with views of the valley below. 

The trail followed ridge and vacillated between full sun on the eastern side of the ridge and dappled shade when it turned westward. Somewhere in there, I heard a large rustling. I had been expecting a squirrel or maybe even a bear, so when I saw this cutie, it took my brain a minute to compute that I was looking at a dog: 

His name is Everett. With a wary tone, I asked his owner if he wouldn’t happen to have any relation to Mt Everett, and his owner responded yes with a sheepish tone. I told him that Everett had kicked my ass yesterday, and he said oh well it’s clear sailing for the next 10 miles. I thought to myself, yeah minus having to get down from this damn mountain. The descent wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but my knees and feet were still aching by the time I reached the bottom. I took a break there to eat a snack and rest, but I couldn’t stick around long because of the incessant mosquitoes. 

I don’t remember the exact transition (because I’m writing this two days later), but the trail eventually led me through a series of fields and flattish pine forests that made up the valley I had seen from the top of bushnell. I enjoyed the flatness and the variation from open fields to shady pines. Here are a pictures from the middle miles. 

When I hit the crossing for route 7, I felt exhausted and hungry. My feet were sore, steamy pancakes. I sat in the shade, by the side of the road and considered my options: stay by the loud road or walk on and hope for something shady by the river ahead of me. I wasn’t in the mood for road noise, so I pushed on. The trail led through an overgrown corridor that crossed a stream and opened into a series of fields. 

The housatonic ran high and fast to my left and tufts of cottonwood seeds floated through the air with the same stillness as falling snow. 

(That’s a southbound view because the light was better) After about a mile, the trail made a right onto a dirt pull off from a paved road. It was shady and quiet, so I gave up on something picturesque and plopped down in the dirt to make my tuna pepperoni wrap. As I sat there crunching on the dregs of my frito bag (serious frito famine in effect), intrepid walked around the corner with her sodden shorts sitting crooked around her waist. She had seen the ladder leading down the bank of the housatonic and decided to go for a dip. Apparently the current was so strong that she immediately got out for fear of being swept down the river. I laughed as she walked away because she looked a fright with her sagging shorts and crooked knee braces on her spindly legs. 

After lunch, I returned to the sweatfest of open fields and road crossings, which eventually led to a climb. Thankfully, it was a climb that involved your basic rock, dirt, pine needle situation. My feet felt bruised and angry, yet I still had the idea of pushing another 5 miles to the second shelter ahead. This would give me two longish days getting to upper goose pond cabin by Tuesday evening instead of one medium day (14 miles) and one crazy long day (21.1 miles). 

I kept considering and dismissing the idea over the next few miles. I eventually caught up with intrepid and five year plan, who looked wilted and done with his day. I found them at a stream that sat atop a hefty climb. Intrepid poured water over her head off to the side of the stream, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t considered that sooner. I filtered water and then dumped some on the back of my neck. It was so satisfying, and it made me want to soak my feet even more, but the stream was an awkward one that was  sadly not conducive to sitting.

I told intrepid not to worry if I didn’t show up at the next shelter because I was considering moving on and she shared similar thoughts. We both felt ambivalent about being able to do it, but she said, well I don’t have to decide now, which I always forget because I like to know what’s happening as soon as possible. This isn’t the best strategy when the terrain is really what should be making my decisions. 
Intrepid and I walked near each other for a bit and then she pulled ahead. I saw her again .2 miles from Tom Leonard shelter (the first possible destination). She was taking a break with five year plan and a NOBO who had cut himself on his hiking pole. He had blood pouring from a small gash on his knee that he kept trying to staunch with baby wipes. FYP asked about bandaids and the NOBO said he didn’t have any. Then he said “yeah I don’t carry much.” I know “the trail provides” as they say and this is a community effort, but you can’t carry 10 bandaids that weigh less than an ounce? Really? I kept my judgments to myself while he figured out a solution for getting a bandaid to stick to his sweaty, hairy leg with the supplies FYP gave him. 

When I got to the shelter turn off, I barely hesitated before walking past it, thus signing on for a 19 mile day (after calculating the mileage for this lost I realized it was actually 19.6. Must use decimal points. Must stop eyeballing mileage). This was a terrible choice. The terrain was forgiving enough until the last half mile (of course), but my feet were already battered and showing signs of nerve pain. Nerve pain is my threshold for when things are going terribly wrong. Muscle pain is expected. Nerve pain equals impending doom. My Friday deadline loomed large in my head, and I let it dictate something that should really be answered by my body. Immediately following the Leonard shelter, I passed what my guidebook describes as an ice gulch (top picture). It consisted of a wide fern/tree filled gorge between giant boulders and was just about the last hung I paid attention to until I considered stealth camping near this view. 

I decided against it because it smelled of manure and was horribly buggy. It also abutted private property and I didn’t fancy someone seeing my tent and being angry with me. I also really wanted access to more water and a bear box, so I trudged onward. 

By the time I got to this view, I was inconsolable, worried about my feet, and angry with myself for pushing too far. As I went down a pebbly descent lined by gangly mountain laurel, a shirtless man in running shorts flew past me. I said out loud after he was out of ear shot “crazy f*cker” and felt thoroughly perturbed by his existence. I cursed and whined my way up the final rocky, steep climb to the turn off for the shelter. Note to self: if the shelter sits in the middle of the steep climb, you can pretty much guarantee you will also have to climb up or down to get to the shelter. My hopes for a stream in which to soak my feet were dashed when I saw the water source, which was a spring fed pool in this boulder.


I can’t soak my feet in a pool where other people will get their water (don’t worry mom, there were no visible spiders or snakes). I swatted mosquitoes and filled up my sawyer bag for later to avoid having to come back down. Then I dumped a cup of water on my arms and my neck. I felt like I was covered in an inch of sunscreen and bug spray and the splash of water did little to make that feeling go away. I stumbled up to the shelter to find traffic director, a shitload of mosquitoes, and a very uninviting tent spot directly behind the shelter. I didn’t have the energy to explore my options farther down the path, so I dumped my stuff, sprayed more deet on my legs and set up my tent. Then I forced myself to cook dinner even though it was 730p. I knew after such a long day I needed more calories than a cold dinner could provide. 

I sat on a rock in front of the shelter and talked to traffic director while he lay on his sleeping pad. How people can sleep with bugs attacking them all night is beyond me. I’d rather expend the energy and the 10 minutes it takes to set up/break down a tent. As I ate, a pair of women flopped into camp, dropped their stuff at their feet and crumpled onto the edge of the shelter. They are a mother daughter duo named boss (daughter) and goddess (mother). Boss talks a mile a minute and has a decent sense of humor. Her mother is grumpy and whiny, so we got along just fine. 
After dinner, I retired to my bug free zone and wrote the entry for yesterday. I intended to write the same day’s entry, but I had little battery (I’m allowing myself one phone charge a day) and even less energy, so I gave up and went to sleep. Or so I thought… 

Mile 1512.7 to mile 1532.3 (19.6) 
Total miles: 529.1
Creature feature: more of those cute black and white warblers, red winged blackbirds and a yellow warbler that caught my eye in the last marshy area 

Day 48: slow motion edition 

::I’m a day behind on blog writing and in the interest of sleep, I’m going to truncate today. Instead of elaborate whining you will get whatever pared down version my detail prone self can manage::

I woke up before my alarm around 430. Coincidence? Or does my body somehow know what I want? I dozed for another 10 minutes until my actual alarm. I felt hung over from the hike and from sweating half the night. But I got up because I didn’t hike forever to sleep through sunrise. I hobbled over to the shelter and stumbled down the hill to sit on the rock that overlooks the valley.  I like to start watching the sunrise/sunset about 30 minutes early so I was the first one up. When you start early, you get to see all the transitions and sometimes the best colors are before the actual event. Eventually I heard the noise of people behind me, but I pretended there was no one around so I could take pictures without feeling watched. 

Here’s the best picture from my time watching the sun rise, slapping bugs, having time warp moments, and thinking about how excited I was to share it with people. I want to share more but my signal is terrible and uploading pics is killing my battery.  

And then I went back to bed. Can you believe it? Me either. I only slept until 7, but it was a ghost town when i got up. I had the picnic table and the view of the valley all to myself.  I hit my 500 mile mark about 5 minutes into my day. Pretty hard to believe still. My feet weren’t all that happy to be in action, but the rest of my body felt better than I expected after yesterday’s mileage. The air was still, and I could tell it was going to be steamy. On the gradual climb up bear mountain, I found raw almonds on the ground. It was close to my snack time, so I decided to help with leave no trace practices and eat the almonds off the ground. I doubt they were more than a day old judging by the crunch! 

Here’s the view from the summit of CT’s bear mountain. I didn’t stay up there long because it was in full sun. The climb down was about as bad as I expected. I can’t believe zach did it in the rain. There are so many flat rock faces that you have to go down that would be murder when wet. The walk from bear mountain down to sages ravine went through a pine forest that felt good on my feet when I wasn’t tripping on exposed roots. I took a 2 night backpacking trip last year with fp and our dog friend, and we spent our first night at sages ravine. I can remember feeling sad and frustrated that we had to end our weekend and that we had gone such a short distance (on purpose). I guess I got what I wanted because there’s no end in sight for this trip and it’s just a few miles longer. 

I stopped to filter water at sawmill brook, which is the source for the sages ravine site. The trail then follows the brook into Massachusetts. Downstream the brook transitions from quaint stream to rushing waterfalls and large boulders. 

The bugs were out of control on this stretch and nearly drove me mad. I finally remembered my trick of using my earbuds to prevent gnats from buzzing all the way into my ears. But then I had to stand and untangle my headphones which cost me another pint of blood from the mosquitoes that swarmed. I crossed the stream from CT into MA and could not get away from that bottom area fast enough. Traffic director crossed right behind me and then pulled ahead while I lallygagged to take a picture of the MA sign. 

The bugs were less dense on the MA side for awhile. The trail climbed up towards the summit of mt race. I stopped about a third of the way up to soak my feet and eat lunch. The water wasn’t quite cold enough for a real ice bath effect, but it still felt good. Then came the never ending ridge walks in the blazing sun. 

The views were beautiful and it was fun to be up high, but the terrain was murder on my feet. Walking up or down exposed boulder faces aggravates all of my current tricky spots. The pressure of having to push off when walking up them hurts the balls of my feet, and the pressure of stabilizing on the way down aggravate my right Achilles’ tendon. Good times. Here’s where I’m going to fast forward because most of the day was drudgery. It took me 8 hours to go 9.6 miles. That’s nearly half speed. Because of terrain like this on Mt Everett (those are wooden blocks bolted into the rock face): 

There was a nice surprise waiting at the bottom of mt Everett though in the form of water left by a trail angel on the picnic tables next to the parking area for guilder pond. I hardly ever luck out on water trail magic, but this time it was actually ice cold. I’d consumed plenty of water throughout the day, but it feels extra hydrating when it’s cold. Illusions. The rest of the walk to the campsite was aggravating and poorly marked. Which reminds me, I actually got a little lost today on top of all the other aggravations. The blazes thus far in MA have been few and far between and often very faint. 

I set up my tent in between a few mountain laurel bushes on a bed of pine needles while I talked to my mom on the phone. Then I had dinner at the picnic table with a few new people. A man in his 50s going by the name 5 year plan, a woman of roughly the same age named Birk, and another woman who I would guess is in her late 60s named intrepid. She’s a talker. She’s like half my size but she can really move with her pack on. She definitely passed me multiple times yesterday when I met her for the first time.
I made Annie’s Mac & cheese for dinner even though I swore I would only eat the kraft after my last Annie’s disappoint. It came out much better. I’m pretty sure I just made it poorly the first time. Then I had a samoa Girl Scout cookie and promptly felt sick. The heat makes sweet things sit funny. After dinner, during which we had the usual get to know you conversation, I gathered my food and put it in the bear box. So much easier then having to throw a bear line. The only problem is the boxes are in the small side so there are times when they fill up if a shelter even has one. 
Then I laid in my tent and wrote the entry for yesterday. Now it’s actually day 49 and I’m going to try to write that entry so I can stop this two a day nonsense. Today was a terrible day to follow 19.8 miles. It really kicked my ass (or my feet), and the pace I had to go felt dejecting. But it’s over now. Onward. 
Mile 1503 to mile 1512.7 (9.7) 

Total miles: 509.5 
Creature feature: I keep seeing a marble colored warbler that hops around on the side of tree trunks. Brik said it’s probably a “black and white warbler.” Not exactly a creative name but they’re cute little birds.