Belated update the second:
After recovering from our Trail Bombs, Crusher and I crushed on to Kent, CT. We met up with Jibitz and Marty at the Episcopal Church in town, where we waited for a long time to ask the pastor permission to camp. Kent is kind of famous for being inhospitable to hikers (with a large private school a stones throw away, the town is a very pricey introduction to New England), but with a free night of camping in the city limits and a nice salad and burger at a pizza place, I was smitten. So smitten that the next morning I didn’t make it out of town until 3, trying to wait out the heat (the heat wave was on its last legs). I had a lazy morning of coffee shops, laundry, and a long lunch at a diner before hiking out to Silver Hill campsite. This place was a real hidden gem of the trail–a picnic shelter, lots of flat ground for tenting, and a bench swing to eat your dinner in! Marty caught up with Crusher and I a little later, but Jibitz had pushed on to the next shelter since she managed to escape the Kent vortex earlier than us.
Crusher and I avoided a nasty trail detour in Connecticut by getting a hitch across a bridge from two section hikers. The detour would have taken us on three miles of road walk through a construction zone before spitting us back onto the trail. By staying on the old AT, we got to see the Great Falls of Falls Village, and walk a nice flat section of handicapped-accessible trail along the Housatonic River. It started to pour as soon as we got into these guys’ conversion van as well, which would have made those three exposed miles a lot more unpleasant than our walk through the woods.
In Salisbury, CT, I got interviewed by a newspaper intern from the Lakeville Journal, and got to talk journalism with his boss for a while. Salisbury was also one of the first non-gas station resupplies I’ve had in a while, which was much appreciated. That night I caught up with Jibitz and Gordito and Bumpin, two section hikers who would be getting off the trail in Lee, Mass. My parents had given them a hitch into Vernon, NJ, when they visited, so it was great to see them again and catch up. We also met our first real southbounder, or sobo. AT culture has a lot of inside jokes, and one of them is that sobos are at best total weirdos and at worst aspiring members of the Manson family. Since most of the hiker herd goes northbound, those that choose to do a southbound hike (Katahdin to Springer) are going to be spending most of their hike (probably from Northern Virginia south) alone, or with the few sobos who have toughed out the trail to that point. Whoopie Pie, a Mainer, was a lot of fun to joke around with about the sobo stereotype. The best part about meeting sobos is getting information on the trail to come–good hostels and shelters, places to avoid, expected mileage in the Whites and Central Maine, etc. I wrote down a lot of Whoopie Pie’s recommendations and they have treated me well so far.
One recommendation was Upper Goose Pond Cabin. This place was a dream–a big enclosed cabin with an upper bunk room and a downstairs living room, and a gorgeous pond with a canoe for thru-hikers to take out for a paddle. In the morning the cabin caretaker, Grampy, cooked us a big pancake breakfast. Jibitz left early, but Crusher and I had a lazy morning saying goodbye to Bumpin and Gordito, who were getting off the trail to pursue their Next Big Things. Good luck in all you do, guys!
After Upper Goose we stopped in at the Cookie Lady, a legendary trail character and owner of a pick-your-own blueberry farm. The Cookie Lady was not in, but the Cookie Man was. The couple has been giving homemade cookies to hikers for decades, and selling sodas and hardboiled eggs out of their garage. We had a nice lunch under the shade of a tree munching on our snacks and playing with their dog. We pushed on to Dalton, Mass., where we stayed at another legend’s house. Tom Levardi has been letting hikers stay in his home for 30 years, and does not expect or accept donations. He did our laundry, let us shower (my first since my parents visited, almost two weeks!), and gave us a room with real beds and fresh sheets. He even gave us clothes to explore town in so we could wash all of our clothes and not have to walk around in rain gear. As far as trail angels go, Levardi is one of the best.
After a massive breakfast at the Dalton Restaurant (two breakfast specials, coffee and juice), I summited Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts at 3,492 ft. The trail hits a number of the state high points–Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee (6,643 ft), Mt. Rogers in Virginia (5,729), High Point in Jersey (1,803), Mt. Washington in New Hampshire (6,288), and Mt. Katahdin in Maine (5,268). As far as views go, the one from Greylock has been the best of the high points I’ve hit. I could see a clear outline of Mt. Monadnock, where I first started hiking. After climbing down Greylock in the dark, I spent a creepy night at the Seth Warren shelter with a hitch-hiker who’d been dumped on the trail and was “hiking” home to Kentucky. After twenty minutes of conversation with this kid, I packed up my bag and said I was going to set up my tent because the bugs were bad. Trail lesson number one for me has been to trust my gut when dealing with two-legged animals.
My last day in Mass. was spent with my Dad, who came out to visit with me and tour MassMOCA. He’s got a great entry complete with pictures over on his blog. We even ran into Jibitz and Crusher when I resupplied at the grocery store–I was happy he got to meet some of the people I’ve been hiking with lately. He left me at the trailhead on Rt. 2 and I hiked two miles into Vermont for the night with Crusher. Only three states left, eleven down!