A nero day in Bennington was followed by several long days of hiking to get to Great Barrington, MA. During this section I entered a new state, got trail magic, ate way too much pizza and wings, canoed in a pond and much more! Although the mountains aren’t as big anymore, the hearts of the people that live in them are bigger.
Day 48 (5.9 miles)
I got up early, took down my bear hang, and made some coffee. It is hard to be quiet while packing up in the morning, so I waited a bit for the others in the shelter to wake up. It was only a few miles to the road that went into Bennington. I was there by 8 am and got a quick hitch to the Walmart in town. I resupplied and enjoyed the cheap prices of an actual grocery store. There was a shoe store right down the road where I was able to pick up some new insoles. My feet, knees and ankles were all more sore than normal which I correctly suspected was from worn out insoles.
Afterwards I made my way to the nearby McDonald’s where I would reside for the next 4 hours. I immediately got a coffee, 2 hash browns, a McGriddle and a McMuffin. I used their Wifi to try and sort out my blogging issues. Eventually I was able to get my post updated, but this required additional energy in the form of a quarter pounder meal. I struggled to get a hitch back to the trailhead. I walked 2 miles in the right direction with my thumb out… but no takers. Along the way I met another hiker who said there was a rec center nearby with showers for $2. My mind debated whether a shower was worth the money and it landed on no. That was when I realized I was a genuine dirtbag.
A few minutes later I got picked up and taken to the trailhead. There was trail magic there and I was able to snag an ice cream sandwhich before the steep climb out of the valley. 3 more miles and I came to the Congdon Shelter. I setup camp and then soaked my feet in the creek while enjoying a beer. My body was glad to have an easy day with a long relaxing afternoon.
Congdon Shelter: T1, S3, P3, W2, B1
Total Score: 18
Day 49 (17.1 miles)
An unexpected chilly night! Definitely pushed the limits of my sleeping bag, but I stayed mostly warm. Putting on my damp hiking clothing in the morning took discipline. Made it out of camp just past 7 am and encountered rocks, roots and mud. Nothing new for the AT. There were a decent amount of ups and downs this day, but beautiful ponds along the way!
Not too far into the day I came to a rewarding sign. The sign signified the Southern terminus of the Vermont Long Trail. I was officially out of Vermont and into Massachusetts. It felt good to have another state under my belt!
I hurried through some more terrain and eventually made it into a small town just before Grey Lock Mountain. The trail enters the town by crossing a 50ft long bridge with kids handprints all over it. It was neat but felt like something out of a horror movie. The weather was beautiful and my spirits were high.
Just down the road was Grey Lock Elementary. There were some coolers there with drinks and snacks for hikers. I grabbed a soda and Jell-O and took lunch at a nearby picnic table. I spent over an hour just relaxing in the sun. It was only noon and I had already done 14 miles for the day.
Lunch fueled the next 3 miles up to the Wilbur Clearing Shelter. The trail was in good shape and not too steep. About 45 minutes into the climb I came to a nice overlook.
The shelter was off the trail a bit but the side trail was easy. Since it was early in the afternoon I was the only person at camp. The small stream beside the shelter was just a trickle, but it was cold and clear. That afternoon I was able to rest my legs and read a few chapters of a book. My body met my sleeping bag before 8 pm. A few other hikers, including fellow SOBOs Dodobird and Ankle Biter, showed up but they were tenting. The shelter was all mine and surprisingly there were no mice to be heard. A great relaxing evening.
Wilbur Clearing: T1, S3, P1, W2, B2
Total Score: 12
Day 50 (20.5 miles)
A colder morning got me up and moving. The first few miles of the day were ascending Grey Lock Mountain, the highest in MA. The climb overall wasn’t too steep but long. Luckily, the weather was perfect for hiking and I barely broke a sweat. The top of the mountain had spectacular views. There was a magnificent marble war memorial perched at the summit. I’m addition, a summit lodge was just a short walk down the trail. I got some coffee at the lodge and enjoyed the views and sunshine for a while.
On the other side of the summit was a long descent that was seemingly endless. At points it felt like I was going up more than down.
At the bottom was the town of Cheshire, MA. There was a town funded campsite with picnic tables, water, and outlets. A great place to take lunch. Not more than 10 miles down trail was another town, Dalton, where I intended to sleep. There is a well known trail angel there who hosts hikers in his backyard.
Upon arriving at Levardi’s I saw a few familiar faces and some new ones. A group of us ordered food from a nearby pizzeria. I got 12 wings and a large pizza which I couldn’t finish. I figured the rest of the pizza that I didn’t eat could be packed out the next day. We sat around a picnic table, talked and ate. It was an early night for me after a long day.
Levardi Camping: T1, S2, P4, W1, B5
Total Score: 40
Day 51 (20.4 miles)
In the morning I made my way to the nearby gas station for coffee and a bathroom. I packed up and at a slice of pizza before departing. I was sure to thank Tom (the host) on my way out. He is a fantastic man with a huge heart for hikers. The terrain for the day was mostly flat and easy. A great day for cruising miles. Apparently, I was cursing a bit too fast. I came around a corner and encountered a small skunk on the trail no more than 10 feet in front of me. I halted in my tracks and then quickly ran backwards in case it tried to spray me. After a few minutes it meandered into the woods. I tried to get a picture but was unsuccessful.
Just before lunch I arrived at the “Cookie Lady”. A blueberry orchard offers hikers cookies, lemonade, and a place to relax. I ended up having my lunch here since the atmosphere was great and there were dogs everywhere.
That afternoon was an easy ridge run which eventually led to Upper Goose Pond. There was a cabin there that offered a bunk plus coffee and pancakes in the morning. Massachusetts requires that you sleep in designated sites. Most nights this is annoying but this night it paid off. I got a bunk at the cabin and laid out my sleeping stuff. Another hiker invited me to take a canoe out with him to an island where we swam. A great pre-dinner activity.
That evening was spent cooking dinner and conversing with other hikers. The hosts of the cabin made a campfire for everyone to enjoy. When I went up to bed the bunk room, now filled with 14 hikers and their smelly gear, I was hit with one of the most memorable smells of my life.
Upper Goose Pond Cabin: T1, S2, P4, W1, B2
Total Score: 16
Day 52 (21.3 miles)
Just after 6 am I got up and went downstairs for coffee and a few pancakes. There were a few other hikers up and we chatted quietly while we waited for the chef to cook up the food. It was a relaxing morning, something I don’t do often enough out here. An hour or so later I was back on the trail. I felt like crap this morning. Extremely light headed and struggling to keep my energy up. I devoured 500 calories of granola bars and drank some electrolytes. That seemed to help a bit.
Not too long into the day I came across a large swampy field with flowers and a boardwalk. A nice change of pace over the dirt and rocks I have been use to. At the end of the boardwalk was a roadside stand with cold soda and ice cream for just a few bucks. I was sure to stop in and grab a few things.
There was a decent climb after the roadside stand. I decided to take lunch at the top and met up with Dodobird and Ankle Biter. We took a lunch together and then hiked in a group for the rest of the day. It was great to have some good conversations on the trail. The miles went by fast this afternoon. A few miles before camp we stumbled upon a momma bear and 2 cubs. She didn’t care about us at all, which was a bit concerning.
After seeing the bear we followed a beautiful ridge for a while and got a good view of the surrounding area. The fresh pine smell and lush green forests reminded me of PA.
One final climb for the day up to the ice gulch and Tom Leonard Shelter. Near the top there was a good view down into the chilly gulch. Based on the name I figure there would be ice down there most of the year!
A few steps above where this was taken I saw and smelled smoke. We went up the hill to investigate and sure enough there was a small forest fire caused by someone building a fire over a root system. We called the fire department and poured water on it to put out the active flame. The shelter was only a few hundred yards away but we never saw firefighters come in.. I guess they had bigger fires to put out.
That night a bunch of SOBOs hungout at the shelter and ate dinner. I was glad that I would be in town the next day to do some laundry. I slept in the shelter that night and was lulled to sleep by a family of mice playing tag.
Tom Leonard Shelter: T1, S2, P3, W3, B2
Total Score: 36
Thanks for reading this trail update! I hope you enjoyed some of the neat stories and pictures I was able to capture along the way. I have actually been enjoying MA more than VT… must be the people. Until my next post, remember to keep wandering in your own direction!