On the Trail, Sungod meets the Grayhounds
It sounded easy, I was going to visit my daughter in Cape Cod, check out
where the boys were, nip over, and hike a couple days with them. The
logistics are not that simple--where would they be the days I am
available, what would they be doing those days, I was not looking for a
day off doing laundray--but the 'All You Can Eat' stuff sounded alright.
Anyway I told Gimp I would be on the Cape July 21/22, gave him Allison's
number, and said to call be with 'some' sort of details.
The phone rang Tuesday noon, they would be crossing highway #23, in
Western Mass. Wednesday morning at 8:00am. I said I would be there
without really looking at a map---turns out I have a 3+ hour drive,
by-passing Boston--should be good for a traffic jam--How can I tell them
I may be late----'can't.
Oh well, into my car after supper, arriving at the Trail Head at
11:00pm, parked the car, curled up in the front seat, and nappy boo
time. Up at 5:30am, now I'm the early one--off into town to check out
stuff, breakfast at Mickie Dees, back to the trail head, and at 8:03
(late, eh?) out popped the two Grayhound heads-actually I could smell
them first, hear them second, and see them third.
Hugs and kisses all around.
I offered to take them to breakfast, there was no resistence--off to
town, Friendly's for lots of grease and back to the trail head. They
unloaded some extra stuff to take home, I gave Gimp a 'new' camera from
#1 son Andrew (if you remember his 'really new' digital jobbie got
crushed in Pennsylvania when the crashed on the rocks)
Now it was time to get to work, we had 11 miles to cover that day to our
planned camp site.
I threw my 35 pounds of gear onto my back and said to myself---this is
heavy, I wish I had of trained for this. It was 75* and humid, I think I
already smelled like the boys. Off we went, UP, and then UP, and then
UP. I thought we were in the Birkshires, highest peak being 3,400 feet,
and most of the mountains were more like hills, meandering through
I quickly learned that whether you were climbing from 5,000 feet to
6,000 feet or from 1,500 feet to 2,500 feet, you were STILL CLIMBING
1,000 feet of elevation. The difference here is that you don't get into
a roll and do the thousand feet, you are up 100, down 200, up 150, down
100, up 300.
Everything here is lush, why not, it has been raining. The trails are
very well maintained, not that many rocks or roots--lots of dirt, well
trimmed, fallen trees well cut. The boys said the hiking here is a
relief on their bodies after coming through the rocky Pennsylvania
Being on the trail for a couple days and hearing the stories of the
various people makes you realize there is more to long distance hiking
than walking 13 miles a day. That may be the easy and routine part of
-Along with the walking (with 35 pounds on your back) you have to do all
the stuff we do at home.
-You have to do it in the cold and snow-March in Georgia.
-You have to do it in the heat of June/July/August--75/80+*
-You have to do in the environment of biting bugs (basically ignore
them), biting snakes (hopefully not get close to them), black bears
(have to hang your food, this is inconvenient to being a pain in the
-You have to filter your water which has a number of logistics, it takes
a couple minutes to pump each liter, and the water sources, more often
than not, are at least 1/3 of a mile (usually up) from your site.
-Hygiene-you wash in streams, you wash out of puddles, you wet towel,
and sometimes you are at a hostel that actually has a shower.
-Laundrey-you wash your few clothes when you can.
-The kicker here is you usually don't wash clothes and self on the same
days, so you are putting clean body into dirty cloothes or vice versa.
-Food re-supply-you go into towns where food was sent and/or buy from
-All the other stuff you need to go to towns for--phones, etc.
-The kicker is these towns are not normally at the trail heads--1/4 mile
down the road, 1 mile down the raod, 5 miles down the raod.--they were
all different-walk, hitch hike, beg, you had to get there.
And then every day you just keep
For the two days I was with them we went by 4 camp sites, some with
3-sided addirondacks and some just for tents-These varied all along the
trail but apparently they are spaced out at very usefull distances.
My first night was at a tent site, we arrived at 5:00pm--as Murphy says
you always fill the day--the bugs are bad so I put on shell and long
pants, it is so hot and humid I take off shell and long pants, its
raining a bit-I put on shell----Gimp and Scrounger just go about their
daily routine, boiling water, heating soup, cleaning dishes, brushing
We were joined by Neil MacKenzie (see pics) an accountant from Scotland
who quit his 10 year job to hike the AT ( interesting thing is he is
hiking 'cold', meaning he has no stove and eats all cold food on the
trail--I'm not sure how he keeps interested in his food)
Later in the evening a 24 year old girl, just graduated from Dartmouth
U., who was section hiking for 30 days, now on day number 11. She almost
quit when she spent the other night on top of a mountain, pouring
rainstorm, and lightening--scared to death--then the next night she was
at a hostel, shower, pizza, and is feeling okay--I trail named her
Gimp warned me that a tarp (which is all I usuualy take for set up)
would not be sufficient against the bugs, I'm glad he convinced me to
carry a tent--even though it weighs a couple extra pounds.
Crashed at around 9:00pm (dark), and 'fell immediately' to sleep
(there's a hidden joke here for those in the know)--woke up around 3:00
to the rain--oh great.
Up at 6:30, packed in the 'slight' rain, packs on our backs at 7:05 and
off we go, down, and then UP. I'm not sure which was toughest--the ups
on my poor conditioning or the downs on my equally poor knees.
I had to make some decisions, I wanted to climb Mount Graylock, the
highest peak in Mass., but that was 4 days north, and I wanted to hike
with the boys for at least part of today, and I still had to find some
way back to my car---I decided to leave them after 3 miles, went into
Tyringham, immediately lucked into (actually not all luck, I went into
their yard and basically begged) a ride back to Great Barrington. When I
got to my car I realized I may be able to catch the guys as they crossed
the road at Tyringham, drove back and caught them as they were hitching
a ride to Tyringham (1 mile) to resupply. Good thing because there was
nothing there. I drove them the extra 5 miles to Lee, grocery store,
and another feeding frenzy at a Friendlys.
I then took them back to the trailhead where there was, what is known as
a trail angel (actually a recent through hiker and his wife, Kemo Sabe
and Mother Hen) who were giving out lemonade and gas, and do-nuts etc.
It was now around 11:00am as I said good bye to the boys--they were
having a pretty easy day on the trail, another 6 miles to hike to their
campsite--then again it would have been a not so easy day if they were
sitting around Tyrinham right now with no lift.--all days are different.
I was off, 1 hour drive north to Mount Graylock, talked to a Ranger
found the shortest (time wise) but most vertical--(think the head wall
at Washington) route to the top, found my legs reacted VERY WELL without
the 35 pounds on my back, I was up and down in 5 hours, 4 hour drive
back to the Cape and into bed my mid-night.
I slept well Friday morning.
Look forward to meeting the boys again in August in the Whites