Appalachian Trail journal

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Week Eighteen: A stinky last bit of Connecticut, a short stay in Massachusettes, and off into Vermont...all in one week!

Sunday August 7th, 1983
I got visited by a guest at about 2:00am this morning. His name was Mr. Skunk.

It all started yesterday when I had decided to go with a new game plan. The plan was that to do everything that I possibly can inside the tent because I found that lately, even in early morning, the bugs have been ferocious. This included eating breakfast. So, last night I set all my breakfast stuff right beside the tent. Bad move dummy! At about two this morning I heard a clatter of pots. A few seconds passed as I fumbled for my flashlight and wrestled it into submission. When I turned it on, lo and behold to my amazement, Mr. Skunk sauntered by the tent carrying my Sugar Smacks! In a flash I shot out of the tent, rock in hand, intent to retrieve those succulent morsels. A few minutes of chase ensued until it dawned on me that he was indeed a skunk, and quite an animal to be reckoned with. I believe that at that moment the same thought struck him; and he abruptly halted, turned and backed himself up to a tree and stuck his tail up. Needless to say, a hasty retreat was in order. After a few seconds of evaluation, I concluded that one Sugar Smacks breakfast wasn't really all that important. I did throw a rock at him, but only after I had retreated to a safe distance. After all, I had to show him who was boss, but I think he already knew.

It didn't rain last night after all, and today turned out perfect. The views atop these mountains are beautiful. My favourite place in Connecticut is now Lion Head. The summit marker is what didit for me. That tree knotted up and hanging on to life through many winter blizzards, hail, heavy winds and droughts made me think of some trees that I had seen above treeline in the White Mountains. Yes, that would be coming soon and the anticipation was driving me Northward.

(View from Lion's Head, CT) (Lion's Head Summit Marker) (Junction with Undermountain Trail) (View from Bear Mountain, CT)

(View from Race Mountain, Mass) (Mt. Everett from Race Mountain)

Being a nice Sunday, I met many weekenders. I will surely hike this again someday. Almost forgot, I knocked off another state, Connecticut. I hope that Massachusetts is nice.

I plopped this evening at an unofficial camping spot somewhere between Mt Everett and the Elbow trail.
Unfortunately, there is no water here.

Monday August 8th, 1983
Today turned out very hot, and the bugs were out in force. I traveled through a very dry section, no running springs, and according to what I have been hearing, the next section is dry as well.

I decided to go into Sheffield today, which was a bad move because it was tough hitching a ride. There were many cars whizzing by, but nobody would pick me up. I missed having Claudia around 'cause I know that I would get a ride if I had hitched with her. My impression was that the town was cold in the sense that they didn't want hikers around. Probably because we didn't spend enough money. Seemed like a "wealthy town". I found it much different from the southern towns where locals would go out of their way to welcome us. The philosophers guide mentioned this as well.

In spite of the heat, I did a twenty miler to Mount Wilcox Lean-To.

(Two views from Bushnell Mountain, Mass)

Tuesday August 9th, 1983
Nice breezy day today so I did a twenty miler to October Mountain Lean-To. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a lousy lean-to with no water. In the previous registers the "The Ridge Runner" had mentioned that there is a house on the road near the shelter and the people are friendly to hikers, so I will procure some water there tomorrow.

Hiked with a guy from Illinois today. He was not a thru-hiker and he looks bushed. Perhaps he is the one that took
the picture of me at the Mass Pike. The Mass Pike was a milestone of sorts. It was the first time that I had been in familiar territory and closest to home. I had driven many times on the Mass Pike near Rhode Island and although all roads lead home this one made me feel connected to my home and the people that I loved and shared my life with. I was nostalgic but not homesick at all for there were adventures ahead and a task not completed. My home now was wherever I landed and I was content with that.

(Rhode Island Red over Mass. Turnpike) (Mass. Turnpike crossing)

I was quite anxious to see Vermont and the Green Mountains. Mountains are what I loved, and although pretty, these hills didn't compare to what I considered mountains. Truth be told, I had never been to, or seen the Green Mountains, but was told that they were rugged and forested even at the peaks. This would a stark contrast to the Bald Mountains of the South, which I had just trekked over earlier on this trip, and the alpine experience of the White Mountains which I had hiked many times in the past, but was yet to come on this trip.

Tomorrow will be twelve miles to Dalton, Massachusetts for some rest and relaxation.

Wednesday August 10th, 1983
An easy twelve miles to Dalton, Massachusetts. It was a cool morning which made for a pleasant hike.

When I got to the Community Center I found Tim, Bruce Berlin, Eric Olson, John Beckstrand and also a new female hiker named Arlee. I first met Arlie in town and we did stuff together while there. Following town chores, which
included laundry, grocery shopping, and writing a letter, I just hung around on the basketball court in the community centre and got bored. There were bus schedules in the community center, so these came in handy for planning for the next day even though the evening proved to be quite exciting.

Some time in the afternoon, Alan Savage told me that he was invited to dine at a local's house that he had met in town. I said, "Great! Alan, you're going to have a home cooked meal for a change". So we said our farewells and went our separate ways.

Later that evening, as I and other hikers slowly trickled into the community centre heeding the nine o'clock curfew - one of the few rules there. The door was locked and we all bedded down for the night on the wrestling mats provided to us and quickly fell asleep. In what seemed like only a second, but was actually several hours, there came a loud frantic banging on the door. Since I was closest to it, I stumbled over toward it only to see Alan furiously shaking the locked door while trying to get in. Of course, my first reaction was utter glee as this was going to be fun for me.

Me: Hey Alan what's going on? *casual tone*
Alan: Let me in!!
Me: You missed the curfew.
Alan: I know just let me in!!
Me: Did you have a nice dinner?
Alan: No, now let me in there.
Me: I can't.

By this time many of the others had awakened.

Alan: Why not?
Me: 'Cause I'm not supposed to.
Alan: Dammit will you let me in?
Me: Well, I don't know if I should. Maybe we should all take a vote first.
Alan: Someone is after me. I'm in trouble. *pleading*
Me: Oh, alright but next time you'll have to give the secret code first.
*Big grin on me, plus muffled laughter in the background*

Breathlessly he slipped in the building and made sure the door was secure. By then everybody was awake and snickering.

Let me first say that Alan was a good looking guy. He had a long, thin build with blond hair and blue eyes. He also had a laisse faire attitude that you often see in people from the mid-west. He spoke with a smile just slightly hidden behind his face just waiting to erupt into full laughter at the slightest hint of Tom-foolery. Tonight I could see this was not the case, and had I seen his face in the darkness while he was trying to get in I would not have made sport of him.

Alan sat down and began to tell his tale. He began: "The guy picked me up and drove me to a house about five miles out of town and everything was cool. We went in and I met his friend, who seemed like a pleasant enough guy, and their dog which was a rather large breed - something like a German Shepard. They began a conversation. I spoke about where I came from, what I had done during the summer, and polite conversation like that. Sometime later we had just begun to have dinner when the conversation disintegrated into mainly sexual innuendos and both were eyeing me like the piece of meat on the table. One began rubbing my leg under the table, and then I knew I was in trouble!"

Continuing, Alan said, "it is getting late, and I had to get back into town. Then they tried to get me to sleep over! I refused, of course, but they both insisted that I stay over - that they wouldn't hear of me going back. Nor would they drive me back. Looking at the door I saw the dog guarding it, but my way out. Both left me as they went into the kitchen to get the dessert, and that was my cue to get out. The rest is fuzzy, but somehow I did get past the dog and ran off into the night. I headed back here, but had to duck into the bushes each time a car passed by just in case they had come looking for me. It was quite dark so I couldn't see if their car was ever the one passing slowly as I hid. You don't know how happy I was to see this place after hours of walking the street!"

From then on he was known to us as "The G Magnet".

Thursday August 11th, 1983
I hung around at the center this morning doing virtually nothing until the boredom got the best of me. I was itching to get back on the trail. Having seen the bus schedules yesterday, some of the hikers came up with a plan: we left our packs at the community center, took the bus to Cheshire, Massachusetts, then day-hiked south back to Dalton. I know that Bruce and Eric accompanied me on the flip for those nine miles, but I cannot quite remember, if Arlie had tagged along. All I know is that when I left Dalton the next day, I never saw her again. The forecast was for rain, but I didn't care if I got drenched. I could just throw my stuff in the dryer in town afterwards and hike dry the next day, thank you very much. I believe that it did rain on us, but I was destined to sleep dry. This was the first and last time that I did a flip. I found I preferred going in the direction of terminus. Each time I did a section I felt a sense of accomplishment fueled by a visual representation on my map.

Friday August 12th, 1983
When I woke up this morning, it was raining again so I decided to go with Julie and Eric Olson to Williamstown, Massachusetts to pick up my mail drop that I had sent there rather than Dalton. I had sent my mail drop forward to Williamstown because there was bus service from Dalton, and it was a college town. College towns mean lots of cheap food joints, and besides, there was a backpacking store. How could I go wrong?

Williamstown is a college town with beautiful buildings. There is lots of money there, and a great ice cream parlor across from the post office. We took the bus back to Dalton, and then Alan Savage, Arlee and myself went into Pittsfield to see a good movie. None they were showing were any good, so we went to Coltsville, Massachusetts for a Pizza Hut pig-out, and even more ice cream.

The philosophers guide had stated that hikers were not welcome at the Dalton community center, but I found Dalton, and it's community center to be quite hiker freindly, so obviously that had changed.

All the same, I'm definitely on the "road" tomorrow.

Saturday August 13th, 1983
Had an early breakfast with Alan at a restaurant and then went back to bed 'cause I had already done the nine miles, and for once I could sleep in like a lazy bum and still do some good mileage.

Since I had already hiked the next nine miles I caught the bus to the Cheshire trailhead, this time with my pack. I remember getting to my trail head just as some of the others had gotten there, but with the effects of having hiked the nine miles. I was fresh and ready to go, while they were feeling the burn.
We all headed north.

Alan had just recently rejoined the A.T. a bit south of North Adams after having left the trail a long time ago back near the North Carolina/Virginia border. He had quit the trail when he and his partner split up. Not sure why but they probably had hiking differences as many hikers do that start up together. So he roamed around the east coast with a borrowed car from a relative while visiting people that he knew. I believe that he felt a sense of guilt for not finishing up the trail and quitting early so he got back on at the point where he thought he would have been if he had not quit.

I caught up with Al at the base of Mount Greylock and we hiked the eight miles to Bascomb Lodge at the summit together. Alan had not done the nine miles with me the day before so he was beat by the time that we had gotten to the lodge. As a result, he collapsed upon arrival and assumed what would after this known as the "thru-hiker position".

At the lodge, I managed to trade work (floor sweeping) for an all you can eat (A.Y.C.E) supper. I had been to several AMC huts in the Whites so I knew how they operated in relation to thru-hikers, and Bascom Lodge was no different. Nice people these crew (croo) people are! I think that Alan worked off both his food and lodging. Tonight I will sleep at the nearby pavilion.

I really liked the lighthouse located on Greylock summit, and wished that I could have gone inside. Unfortunately that was forbidden at the time.

(Bascomb Lodge atop Mt. Greylock, Mass) (Adams, Mass as seen from Mt. Greylock) (Alan Savage assuming the "Thru-hiker" position)

(Lighthouse on top of Greylock) (Views from Summit of Greylock)


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983