A summary of the AT Hikes, both Big and Small, as of September 2007
1975-1989… White Mountains, Baxter, Monadnock, Kearsage, Mt. Major, ADK rambles: Presidentials, Franconia, Baldpate (Rte 113) neighborhood, Passaconaway range, Carrigain etc.
6/89 to 3/90: Serious White Mountain Rambles (Thru-hike prep.) Closed known gaps between Moosilauke and Gorham.
April-June 1990: Attempted thru-hike. Springer to VA Rte 601 (just north of War Spur shelter): April 4 1990 to June 2, 1990.
Sept. 1990: Katahdin to Monson (100-Mile Wilderness)
AT Hikes in the late 1990s (BH = bike-hike)
BH Aug. 1997: Rte 2 (Androscoggin) to Grafton Notch – Mahoosuc Notch
Bike-hike, 2 full days, 2 half-days. No camera on hike (forgot it in the car.) Car parked at Grafton notch below Speck. Biked to trailhead near Gorham (ascent of Mt. Hayes.) Awesome hike. My last hike with the First-Need water filter. Ice in Mahoosuc Notch, even in August. First major bike-hike. Rte. 12, Rte. 26, Rte. 2. Very glad I started the bike part from Grafton — first 12 miles were mostly downhill.
BH (date ??) Glencliff to Dartmouth SkiWay (Etna, NH) Smarts Mtn.
SOBO and solo, not a fun hike. First night a mile or two into the woods, then past Hexacuba shelter and up & over Smarts Mtn. Used the MountainSmith backpack, it was new and way heavy. Very insane bike ride (from Dartmouth SkiWay to Glencliff) through woods and on logging roads having only the vaguest idea of which way I was headed. I remember a looong southbound ascent of Smarts Mtn., some roller-coaster action on the descent, and a looong roadwalk back to the SkiWay where the car was parked. The first (full) day of hiking on that trip was also miserable, as I recall. I think I was just out of shape and carrying way too much weight.
Aug 1998: Rangeley to Stratton (Saddleback, Sugarloaf, Crocker) With Daniel. Our planned shuttle bailed; brief panic, got another. Hiked northbound to trailhead on Rte. 16/27 a few miles east of Stratton. Serious ups and downs and awesome views. Cool nights. Lots of good pix. Saddleback, Sugarloaf. Misty/cloudy start but nice weather on final two days.
BH Aug 1999: Stratton to Caratunk (Bigelow, Avery, Flagstaff Lake, Pierce Pond, Kennebec) With Daniel. Tried to bike from Caratunk, didn’t quite make it, got ride from innkeeper to makeshift tent site at trailhead by Mt. Bigelow. (Rte. 16/27) Pearce Pond was beautiful. Canoe ride across the Kennebec on the final morning. This was the second of two long hikes with Daniel.
1999: Grafton Notch (Rte. 26) to Height-of-Land (Maine Hwy. 17) Done in three parts, all day hikes.
- BH June 1999: The hike over Baldpate was a bike-hike starting at Andover B-Road; the hike was from Grafton Notch back to B-Road. Hiking was (as I recall) a day hike with light pack and the Nikon FE. Great photo (Baldpate Summit, Before the Storm.)
- BH I don’t remember much about the hike from B-Road to South Arm Road, except I’m pretty sure I did it. Possibly a bike-hike.
- Sept 99: The last of the the 3 “Andover-based” hikes started with a shuttle from Pegleg’s dorm in Andover, out to Maine Hwy 17, and then a day hike with light pack back to South Arm Rd., where Richard (Pegleg) was waiting in his pickup. I really had to scramble to make it on time — about a 13 mile hike in 9 hours or so of hiking. Nice weather.
BH Spring/Summer 2000: North Adams to Dalton, MA, sobo. Planned two nights in the woods, only spent one. Leaving the car, I hiked till dark, camped on ascent of Graylock, not far below summit (apparently) with gorgeous view (North Adams, with fog in valley) in the AM. Next day I made it to Dalton without really trying too hard. Biked back to car between 8 PM and midnight on Saturday night after a long days’ hiking. Drove home in the wee hours. Got a cold from the bike ride. Good pix. Nice weather and views from Greylock summit, but after that, not much. Last 8 miles into Dalton were dead flat.
Aug 2001 (date not certain) Caratunk to Monson, nobo. Solo hike. Shuttled from Monson by Keith Shaw Jr. Planned for 3 days, completed the hike in exactly 2 days. Stupid PUDs along the river (below Monson) made me angry. Nasty blisters on arrival in Monson. Stayed at Shaws and drove home the next morning. Moxie Bald Mtn? Great views but I was hot & dehydrated. Several hours later (after descent) got some beers from a father and son, fishing by a pond. They were very talkative and in awe of my hiking.
BH June 2002: Hanover to Dartmouth Ski Way, nobo — two-day hike on summer solstice. I remember leaving work at Oasis to drive to Hanover on Friday evening. First hike ever with poles and the Petzl Tikka (LED) headlamp and Sierra stove. Rain on 2nd day. Photo of wild iris in swamp on 2nd day, but the mosquitoes were fierce.
August 2002: Hanover to Bennington, VT. Sobo. 118 miles or so over about 10-11 days of hiking. Photos shot with Canon G2. Lots of heat on this hike. Stayed at “Inn at Long Trail” and in Manchester VT – Frank Sutton’s place. Tougher than expected! Called it quits at the Rte. 9 trailhead east of Bennington. Spent the last night at a nice motel in Bennington and Merry picked me up the next day. Pico, Bromley, Stratton, fire towers on Glastonbury and Stratton. “Red Barn” (Dan Quinn’s place) on 2nd night.
BH May 2004: North Adams to VT. Rte 9: make-up hike. Nobo. Biked from Rte 9 trailhead (in VT, east of Bennington) back to N. Adams. Hiked back to bike. 2 nights in the woods. Full hiking day on Saturday, short hikes Friday PM and Sunday AM. About 18 miles total. This would be the spring or early summer in the year after the long VT hike.
Spring 2004: Rte 4 near Rangely to Maine Hwy 17 (Height Of Land): Day hike, Tom H. drove me to start, my car was left at Hwy 17. Nice weather. Fast hiking, day pack, poles.
June 2005: Bear Mtn Bridge (Hudson River, NY) to Rte 7 below Great Barrington MA. 120 miles or so. Terrific heat during latter part of the hike. Much walking along the Housatonic. RPH Shelter, Telephone Pioneers, Kent, Cornwall Bridge, Salisbury, Sages Ravine, Race Mountain. At the end, Merry picked me up at Lee, MA and drove me home. At start of hike, spent an evening with Sheila and Mitko. Mitko drove me to E. end of Bear Mtn. bridge the following AM.
Sept 2005: Rte 7 below Great Barrington MA, to Dalton MA. Three nights. Two full days and two partial days of hiking. September 2005, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Beautiful hike, great weather. Got stung by bees while trying to make camp on 2nd night. Upper Goose Pond AMC Cabin. Stayed at B & B in Dalton on last night. Vic H. gave me a ride from the B & B to trailhead at the start of the hike. This was a make-up hike for the one done in June 2005. On the afternoon of the last day, after getting cleaned up at the B & B, I walked through the town (of Dalton) to the trailhead that I’d arrived at some 7 or 8 years before (on a hike southbound from North Adams.) That was very satisfying. With that last hike (ending in Dalton) I’ve walked the AT from Katahdin to the Hudson River.
Sept 2006: Hudson River (Bear Mtn.) to Lehigh Gap, PA. Awesome hike, 145 miles. Started and ended at Sheila and Mitko’s house. Stayed at Palmerton the last night, then bus/train back to Sheila’s place.
August 11, 2007 to September 19, 2007. Lehigh Gap, PA to Virginia Route 601 (aka “Rocky Gap”, atop Kelly Knob)
The final section, the one on which I finished the A.T. and became, at last, a 2000 miler. 587 miles in 39 days. Long-term average of 15 miles per day. No zero days. The hike began on Saturday, August 11, at the east end of the bridge over the Lehigh River, after a day of travel – by train, buses, and jogging path (whew). Spent that first night at George Outerbridge Shelter.
I finished the hike at Rocky Gap at about 1 PM on 9/19/07. My pre-arranged shuttle (Maurice Turner) had me at the Best Western in Roanoke just a few hours later. I was on the first flight home the next morning. The last night on the trail was at Sarver Hollow Shelter, on Sinking Creek Mountain. I had a super-easy day on the 19th, as I only had nine miles to walk. It was a beautiful day, but I was anxious to reach the end.
Hiking Journal: The Mahoosuc Range; 8/8/97 through 8/11/97
A new approach to hiking. I’ve wanted to do this trip for a long time, but never figured out the logistics with regard to where to park, or how to get back to the car. (i.e. How to do non-Loop Hikes.) This hike is 32 miles or so along the AT, and the endpoints are about 37 miles apart, by car. The trick was to carry the bicycle on the car rack, and to use the bicycle to cover the distance, by road, from one end of the hike to the other.
August 8 (Friday)
Woke at 6 AM. The pack was ready to go, and the 10-speed was already on the car. Packed up some last-minute stuff, which I then forgot on the kitchen table. On the road by 6:30 AM. Got to West Mountain Road (south Conway) at around 9 AM, and got to the Rte 2. AT trailhead (near Gorham) at a few minutes before 10 AM. Parked the backpack between a pair of trees, in the woods, near the trailhead. Back to the car, drove east on Rte. 2, then north on 26 to Grafton Notch – the AT trailhead at which I planned to end the hike. Arrived there a few minutes before 11 AM. Parked the car, removed the bike. Stashed the bike rack in the back seat. Quickly packed the small daypack with a couple of water bottles, bike lock, and odds and ends. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera on the floor by the front seat of the car (didn’t realize that error until a few hours later…) Pumped up the tires on the ten-speed. Locked up the car. Took off, on the ten speed, a few minutes past 11 AM.
The bike ride turned out to be pleasant and quick. The first leg, Rte 26 from Grafton Notch, was almost all downhill or flat, on a newly-paved road, with great views, to boot. Took an hour to get to the end of that road. From there, another half hour to the town of Bethel along Rte. 2. Heading west on Rte. 2 now. Stopped at Breau’s for a couple of slices of pizza and a large coke. Arrived back at the Gorham AT trailhead at 2:10 PM – almost exactly three hours, including rest stops, to bike the 37 miles from Grafton Notch. Parked the bike between the same two trees, and locked it up. Left the day pack there with the bike, with the street shoes and helmets in the day pack.
2:30 PM: began the hike up Mt. Hayes. (This is the third time I’ve done that trip…) Uneventful. It was hot and somewhat hazy, and I was dripping with sweat. Gnats were circling round my face without mercy; sunglasses helped a bit, but made it feel a whole lot darker and later than it was. I remember the views being more impressive in winter… Turns out the first thing that “feels” like the summit really isn’t… You hang a right there (following the AT) and then hit the “real” summit a few minutes later. I can’t recall much about the next couple of hours of hiking, but I made it to Trident Col campsite at around 7:30 PM. There was enough time to find a tent site (bare earth, not wooden platforms) get water, cook dinner, before darkness set in. The stove was a bit cranky – had to poke at the jet nozzle. Dinner was tea, followed by Liptons noodles. Just right. There was a gang of kids and adults there doing the same section. The kids were rowdy when I got there, but they got shut down by 9 PM or so, and then quiet returned.
Aug. 9 (Sat.)
Most memorable part of the day’s hiking… Paige Pond, early in the morning, all alone. Gorgeous. Then, lunch time at Gentian Pond, where I soaked my feet and smoked my last cigarette. A bit grayer and cooler than yesterday. Peals of distant thunder were heard starting around lunchtime, and at around 1:30 or 2:00 or so, found myself walking through a downpour, which lasted around a half hour or so – just long enough to get the boots feeling damp and squishy. Later that afternoon, reached the NH-ME state line. The hand-painted NH sign said “Your in New Hampshire.” (sic) Just before that time, I’d been passed by a couple of tall, fast hikers whom I supposed to be through-hikers. They were posing for a photo in front of the signs. As they continued on the trail, one of them let out a whoop. Suspicion confirmed. Met these same two, plus the group of young boys and their adult “chaperones” later in the day at Carlo Col campsite. All told, about eleven hours of hiking, to cover ten miles or so. Slept in the lean-to, upper bunk. That was probably a mistake. It felt warm and stuffy, and I had a hell of a time getting to sleep.
Aug. 10 (Sun.)
Back uphill to the AT from the Carlo Col shelter. Then a serious ascent, and a couple of dips, to Goose Eye mountain, from which there were marvelous views. Killer descent off the second of these two bumps, and then a relatively easy couple of miles to Full Goose shelter, right around noon. Got some water there (a five minute walk downhill, and then back up.) Spent a half hour futzing with the water filter; it’s been ferociously hard to work, in spite of my back-washing it twice. Finally got two water bottles filled, and moved on. Another col, another hump, and then a 900-foot descent into Mahoosuc Notch, arriving at 4 PM or so, at the junction of some other AMC spur trail. I’d heard that there was good camping to be had along that spur trail, (and the map showed water, and a nice easy descent) but it was too early to quit hiking, so I decided to do the Notch, and then take my chances at finding a campsite at the far (north) end of the notch.
The notch itself was a trip. There was still ice under many of the rocks, and a notable sensation of cool air – quite welcome because of the overall heat and humidity of the day. Huge boulders, interesting acrobatics hopping across them, lifting myself up from one to another, or carefully climbing them. Had to pass under the boulders in a few places, either crawling on all fours, or pushing the pack ahead of me (I hate spelunking!). It took nearly two hours to get through it. Near the far end, I decide to grab some water from a stream (or spring?) and drank it, unfiltered. Filled the water bag with a couple of quarts, hoping to camp at the first acceptable spot, once I was out of the Notch.
Found that perfect campsite about fifteen minutes up the trail from the notch. A fire pit, lots of flat ground, dry firewood all ready. Thank you, God! It was about 6 PM, and I was ready to call it quits for the day. Another hiker showed up at around 7 PM; name Glen. He’s a field service engineer, working for DEC, out of Utica, New York. We shared stories, and grub. Had us a little camp fire. In the morning, I left Glen with my Gold Bond powder, and string (for a bear bag.) Glen left me with a few iodine pills, which I used happily on my remaining water. Nice guy. He’s got a week away from the wife and kids. He’s hiking southbound, and had just started his hike (from Grafton notch) at noon today.
Aug. 11 (Mon.)
Up at 6 AM, on the trail by 7:30. Wicked, killer ascent up Mahoosuc Arm – about 1800 feet or so; took a good two hours. Steep as get-out. Scrambling over boulders, or walking straight up rock faces. Then, sure ‘nuff, a 300-foot drop into Speck Pond. Very pretty. Took a short break there, to air out my feet (the ankles of which now bear ugly red marks, but no blisters) soak my t-shirt and bandanna. Then… a killer seven-hundred food grunt up to the top of Old Speck. Steep rock faces, using the hands and arms a lot. Well, almost to the top – the AT skirts the actual summit, but it looked to be no more than another 50 or 100 feet up, and maybe a tenth of a mile along the spur trail. It’s 11:30.
Almost home. Sign says its 3.5 miles down to Grafton Nothch. I ended up making it back to the notch at 2:30 PM. In fact, a fairly civilized descent, nicely graded. Nothing at all like Mahoosuc Arm; no nasty rock faces. A few flat sections, walking mildly uphill, but never for very long. The steepest part of that section was the first (or is it the last) mile, just out from Grafton Notch. There’s all sorts of new construction going on on the trail itself.
Met several groups of hikers on the way up, many obviously on day trips, a couple of groups planning to stay at Speck Pond. Almost all of them huffing and puffing. It was another hot, humid day, and I didn’t really feel like stopping for the views. My feet (the raw spots on the backs of my ankles) were in pain.
Back at the car. Drove into Bethel, gassed up, got something cold to drink. Stopped at Breau’s for a strawberry sundae. Back to the AT trailhead near Gorham; retrieved the bike from the woods, installed the bike rack, and headed for home. The drive through North Conway (actually, West Mountain Road, then Rte 153) was a bitch; it took well over an hour to get to the junction of Rte 25 and Rte 16. Back to Gloucester at 7:15. Quick stop at the Danvers McDonalds for a #3 meal. (Need some grease.)
Probably the toughest 30-mile stretch of woods I’ve ever hiked. Nothing in the AT’s 700 southern-most miles was like this, nor was anything in the top 100 miles (Katahdin to Monson.) There are certainly short stretches of the Whites that are this tough, but I’ve never done anything beyond a two or three-day hike in the Whites. There wasn’t a single half-mile stretch of this hike that didn’t gain or lose at least few hundred feet.
The scenery was decent, though not exceptional (compared to the Whites.) Most of the bumps and high spots had good views, but there was nothing comparable to the Franconia Ridge, with the possible exception of that short stretch just north of Goose Eye mountain. The ponds were very nice to look at, though.
Wildlife: lots and lots of grouse, including some very bold specimens, and a large rooster. Many good-sized toads. A few small snakes.
Lots of technical problems on this hike. Forgetting the camera. Bummer! The stove pooping out. Actually, I think it’s the fuel I’m using (a few years old, now.) A poke of the jet fixed that, but I had to poke it more than once. The water filter pooping out. Surely could use a new filter canister (which I own,) but then again, the tubing and the pre-filter are also shot. Maybe time for a new water filter. Lastly, and most seriously: the raw ankles. I’m not sure why this is happening. These boots had proven themselves, or so I thought, even in rain. They certainly have better traction than the old Fabianos, but the Fabs (with one exception) never gave me raw feet.
The big breakthrough here is in finally having done the Mahoosuc stretch – something I’ve wanted to do for years. Hiking the notch. Climbing Old Speck – another 4000-footer to add to my list (ironically, it’s the only 4000-footer in this entire stretch.) And of course, the biggest breakthrough is the notion of bicycle-trekking, to get around non-loop hikes. Having proven this method on a fairly grand scale (a 37-mile ride) it should be rather trivial to apply it to shorter hikes.
Great Barrington to Dalton
9/2/05, Friday. Easy hookup with Vic Hoyt (from AT-L) at Dalton House. Left Subaru at DH and left the key with Gary (proprietor of DH.)
Lots to talk about with Vic – he’s a photographer, has a Canon 1Ds and a 20D and has worked with scanning backs on 4×5. We had lunch at some home-brew pub just north of Great Barrington.
Vic dropped me at the trailhead around 2 PM, got to Tom Leonard Shelter (about 6.5 miles) at 6 PM. Nobody at the shelter when I arrived. Nice place. Picnic table up front. It’s a long walk to water, though. Stream next to shelter is dry, but “official” water is a 10 minute hike, involving about 200 feet of vertical drop, maybe more. Filled up water bag.
Jetboil worked fine but spilled over – don’t need much of a flame on this thing.
Turns out there’s a tent platform with a view and a couple tenting there. (I didn’t discover it ‘till later.) I visited for a few minutes as daylight fell. Serious dark by 8 PM and useable daylight till maybe 7:30 or so.
I haven’t had to resort to DEET today, though I did need some sun-block about an hour or two into the hike.
From Rte. 7 northbound, there meadow, river, more meadow, then an easy climb to the ridge. The ridge is a pleasant skywalk, about the usual amount of up & down work and a few nice views to the east.
JoAnn, an AMC ridge runner, arrived in the dark around 8:30. She’s got a young brown Labrador (not puppy,) very well-behaved. So far, so good! Nice start to the hike.
Sunday, 7:30 PM: At October Mountain Shelter, with a freshman orientation group from Williams College.
Two perfect days of hiking though the views are a bit lame. Weather has been gorgeous both days. Yesterday probably peaked at 72 degrees, today felt more like 65 or so.
Walked long and hard both days. Yesterday around 16-17 miles. Today, a bit less – due to a ¼ mile side trip and a long break at Upper Goose Pond cabin. (Very nice!)
Lots of hikers on the trail, going both ways. Some NOBO section hikers (stared at Damscus.) A couple of SOBO guys in kilts.
Beautiful late-afternoon light, both days. Yesterday evening, I camped in the woods. First spot I tried, I got stung a couple of times by bees. Y E O W C H !! I hightailed it out of there and found another spot a few minutes north. Slept well. I think the spot was about three or four miles south of the side trail to Goose Pond cabin.
11 AM, Monday. Another picture-perfect day. Very cold last night – probably 50-ish. Wore polypro top for the first hour or two of the day’s hike.
Since leaving Rte. 20 and climbing that last “big” hill, trail has been on a very isolated, flat, but rolling ridge. Hardwoods, birch, hemlock, spruce etc. and a few lakes and marshes. If maps and signs are to be trusted, I’m 6-8 miles from Dalton. For once, I’m in no hurry to have the hike end.
[Remainder of this diary from memory.] Pulled into Dalton early Monday afternoon. It took a while to get my bearings and find the Dalton House. It was pretty hot at that point in the day. Then, after finding DH, I had to kick back a while because it seemed there was nobody there to let me into my room. OK, eventually the proprietor appeared and let me into my room. Got showered and cleaned up, drove into nearby town for eats, then back to the DH to rest my full belly.
Eventually I sauntered out again, and walked from DH, trough the town of Dalton, on the AT, to the AT trailhead at the north end of town – the same spot where I’d ended a SOBO hike from North Adams a few years back. Actually, I walked that stretch in both directions. It was a pleasant evening and there were lots of folks about.
The following morning, a straightforward drive home to Bedford.
Hanover – Dartmouth Coop to Lyme-Dorchester Road 6/21-6/22/02
Left work shortly after noon on Friday 6/21. Took a bit over two hours to get to the Dartmouth Coop. (Someone on AT-L had told me that this was where I would find the AT leading into town from the north.)
Dropped off the pack in the woods near the trailhead (along the edge of the playing fields out behind the Coop.)
Continued on (by car) to the trailhead at Lyme-Dorchester Road. Parked the car and proceeded back to the Coop by bike. A 13.5 mile ride, which took about an hour and a half. Parked the bike in the woods and locked it to a tree. Changed into hiking boots and shorts, and began walking uphill at about 5 PM.
It’s been a hot, hot day — summer has arrived with a blast. 82 degrees or so on my pack’s thermometer as I began hiking.
A short uphill hike to Velvet Rocks shelter. Nobody there but me. But hey, it’s the summer solstice, and it’s only 6 PM, and my legs are ready to walk. I left a note in the shelter register, and read a few entries. Saw Papa Bear’s entry (6/10 I think.) Plus another thru hiker (2002) going by the name Navigator. I walked uphill a bit behind the shelter and checked out the view… not bad. Worried about the fact that this shelter is just too accessible from the road. I can still hear road/traffic noises. I’m outta here.
Pretty mellow walking for the next several hours. The trail crosses some meadows, a nice change from the dense green tunnel. Particularly just around dusk… there was a haunting 3/4 moon, the humidity giving it a nice halo. Fireflies were lighting up the edges of the meadows.
At this point I did something quite new and original (for me…) — I began walking by the light of my headlamp. The air temperature was coming down nicely, and it was a pleasure to cruise along, albeit in the dark.
The last road crossing last night indicated that I was beginning the ascent of Moose Mtn. But I really didn’t plan to climb it in the dark. The trail started getting a bit rough, and I tripped a few times on roots and rocks. Maybe time to find a campsite.. which I did, around 10:30 or so. Very nice. Set up the tent with the fly up (just four stakes) and hit the hay, had a pretty good night’s sleep.
Woke around 6:30 AM to a dark gray sky. I had heard predictions of thunderstorms for the afternoon, but it looked like they were imminent. Decided to skip breakfast and make some miles — I figured I was only an hour or
so from Moose Mtn. Shelter, and could have breakfast there.
That turned out to be a good plan. Within minutes after starting uphill from my campsite, I heard peals of thunder. A few minutes later, the rain began to fall. I arrived at Moose Mtn. shelter after about an hour’s walk, drenched to the bone. (The shelter is 0.3 miles down a muddy access road. Aaargh.)
Before settling in, I gathered up several thick handfuls of twigs and sticks for the Zip stove. Peeled off the wet t-shirt, put on a dry polypropylene top. With the help of a bit of alcohol, the zip started up with a whoosh, and burned the wet wood nicely for the next hour or so. Enough for tea, then some Liptons, then hot water to clean the pot, followed by more tea, and my own personal campfire for a half-hour or so.
NOTE — I did NOT pour alcohol into the stove! What I did was pour about 2 tbsps of alcohol into a small ziploc, add a bunch of twigs, and swish it all around. Then the drunken twigs were put in the stove chamber. Anyway, that’s the best wet-wood-firestarter strategy I’ve come up with so far, in the couple of weeks that I’ve owned this stove. Better living through chemistry, and all that.
11 AM rolled around and it was still raining. I figured I’d die of boredom in the shelter if I had to stay there all day. I also figured that with a modicum of effort, I could make it back to the car by mid-afternoon, rain not-
withstanding. Which is what I did. Donnned Goretex top-to-bottom, including my OR hat and gaitors. Nothing underneath.
An hour of walking got me to the north summit of Moose Mtn. Another hour to get down the mountain to Goose Pond Road. Just north of Goose Pond Road the trail skirts a marsh, and there were some beautiful wild iris growing. I stopped for a photo, paying dearly with a thousand mosquito bites in the course of that sixty seconds or so.
The hike up over, and down Holts’ Ledge was pretty uneventful, took a bit over two hours. On a nice day I think there would be gorgeous views east and north, but today there was just a wall of white.
Met only three other hikers on the trip. A couple with backpacks heading south, and a solitary gentleman in Ed Garvey-style gear, carring an umbrella (but no pack) on the descent from Holt’s Ledge.
Observations…. my first hike with Lekis. I’m sold. Should have done this a long time ago. Sorry, Weary. Seemed like a lot less wasted energy, a lot less side-to-side swaying, walking more upright.. what’s not to like? Of course, one of the poles lost its carbide tip within the first few miles of hiking. Is this normal? (I suspect not.) Plus, the handle kept popping off one of the poles.
Zip stove: A winner, also. Still wondering how long it will go on one battery.
Petzl Tikka headlamp: Great. Battery life still unknown. A lot of light from a really small package.
New Dunham “Green Mountain” lightweight boots. Great! In spite of walking with wet feet all day today, no hint of hot spots or blisters, and no crushed toes. A good fit, both uphill and down — from mail-order boots! The “waterproof” claim is a lie, of course.
The downsides: my Goretex doesn’t Gore anymore. Not even close. After an hour or two in the rain, I was soaked to the bone. Still works as a windbreaker, though.
Chafing of the thighs is still a nasty problem, in fact, it’s been my #1 problem hiking for several years now. Not sure what to do about it. Quite painful, if the truth be known.
Anyway, a wild wet hike. I had planned to do it at a more leisurely pace with two nights in the woods, but with home so close, it seemed silly to stay at the Trapper John Shelter, so close to my hike’s end.
North Adams to Vermont Rte 9, May 14-16, 2004
Left work around 12:30 and headed west on Route 2. Nice weather, though hot and humid. Weather report for North Adams had indicated a chance of thunderstorms both today and tomorrow (Saturday.) Got off the highway once to find a battery for the Mamiya 645 and was lucky – there was a Radio Shack in the strip mall right off the highway. Up in the mountains west of Greenfield, visibility is just a few miles.
Arrived North Adams around 3:45 or so and of course missed the turns toward the trailhead first time through. The trailhead is actually up the driveway of some private house, one street and one river removed from Rte 2 and then across a couple of tiny trail bridges just as you enter the woods.. Dropped off the big pack there, under rain cover, and then continued on, through N. Adams and Williamstown then up Rte. 7 to Bennington.
Strange games with fire engines and emergency vehicles all through Bennington, and road construction, slow going to the trailhead on Rte. 9, where all the fire engines and emergency vehicles had congregated for no apparent reason.
Parked the Subaru and on my way by bike back toward N. Adams just before 5 PM, as I recall. Easy downhill ride to Bennington. A few ups and downs on Rte 7 but no big deal, and several stops along the way for cold drinks at convenience stores. It was hot, but I was mostly just thankful for no thunderstorms.
Arrived back at the Trailhead at 7 PM or so. Shuffled things between the two packs, locked up the bike, changed from biker to hiker outfits, and on my way by 7:30 or so.
Walked an easy uphill for about an hour, maybe a bit more to a nice small campsite, 0.1 miles west of the trail. No shelter, just one tent platform, “Campfires Permitted,” and a nice fire pit. Got the tent set up, found some wood, and got a nice fire started before the light failed completely. I was the only soul there. It was a one match (one lighter-strike) fire. Birch bark did the work. Kept it going for an hour or maybe a bit more, then let it fizzle and in bed by ten or eleven.
Slept pretty well, it was plenty warm, woke around seven-ish. On the trail and moving by eight. Same deal as yesterday, quite warm but not oppressive, pretty humid, and easy to see how it would all end in T-storms. Eighty degrees at 11 AM. A mellow hike by AT standards. Maybe 2000’ up and 1400’ down, all told, over about 11.5 miles, between last night’s campsite and Congdon Shelter. There were a few half-decent views in the morning on the way up the first big hump, then mostly nothing. The rest of the day’s hike was in the green tunnel, and almost exclusively hardwoods. B o r i n g. A good number of boggy sections, a few dozen blowdowns, and oddly, several hemlocks among the blowdowns.
Sucker pond might have had some nice photo ops but the black flies were absolutely fierce and it was the worst possible place to linger. Besides, it was starting to get gray, the sunlight was already highly diffused.
I met three hikers, at about 20 minute intervals, late in the morning, each heading south. Didn’t exchange names. Chatted briefly with one or two of them.
Seemed like I was making pretty poor time most of the morning, though I was kinda relaxing, going uphill a lot, and getting my hiking legs back. By 11 AM I’d only gone four miles or so. On the other hand, what’s the hurry? A bit of purpose kicked in going over the two humps. The clouds began to thicken and occasionally hide the sun. I was mindful that I might be racing a storm to Congdon shelter. By early afternoon the race was on. Distant thunder was heard most of the afternoon, and by around two-thirty or three PM or so accompanied by light rain. No problem really, other than it was making my nylon shorts wet, and of course everything underfoot is wet. Oh, the bugs – mostly black flies – were doing their best to annoy me. I finally resorted to using that head-net thing that I’ve been carrying all these years and – lo – it works! I was very pleased about that, I’ll tell ya. Not perfect, but a big improvement over nothing.
So anyway, the hiking was no big deal. No great views, hazy humid weather, black flies, annoying little ups and downs, the usual crotch-rot. Approaching storm kept the legs moving and I got to Congdon camp just before five PM or so. It’s a bit of a dreary little shelter, buit in 1965, quite modest compared to some of the newer and grander designs. But actual glass windows on either end, very quaint. The kind with a picnic table inside, in the middle between two sets of bunks.
So here I am at this dreary shelter kinda early, all alone again, thinking that I’m going to be bored out of my mind within minutes. Route 9 – the end of the hike – is only 4.5 miles away and mostly downhill. If I sprinted I could maybe make it back to the car before nightfall. I was tempted. But there was the rain, and the thunder, and that final descent, I knew, was going to be seriously steep.
I decided to play it safe, be a wimp, be bored, and goddamn if it wasn’t a smart call. Within an hour after arriving at Congdon, the thunder and lightning moved in for real and the sky opened up and rain came down in buckets. How nice to be in a shelter, how nice not to be caught in that storm. The hard rain came in two or three waves. By the time I drifted off the storm had mostly moved on. In the shelter it was actually chilly, I had to put on polypro top and my thin sweats. But infinitely better indoors than out.
I must have dozed off around nine or so… no other visitors that night (who would be hiking through the storm?) Slept amazingly well, albeit wearing a polypro top. Woke around six and it was quite cool, around fifty. This time, on the trail by seven, walking with real purpose. The trail was very boggy and of course all the foliage dripping wet. Thick mist pervading, visibility maybe a few hundred feet, a real primordial feel to the woods. In another mood, I’d have liked to photograph it, but I was more intent now on just getting to the end.
Harmon Hill is the name for the meadow and glade, the very last high spot before the descent down to Vermont Rte. 9. Very nice, and probably even nicer in other kinds of weather, possibly even offering a nice view, but I may never know.
The final descent was as gnarly as I thought it might be, just straight down the face of the mountain, albeit with a few switchbacks, thank god. Many rock staircases with very big steps. Hardly ever going flat or even “moderate”. The map shows the trail losing 600 feet in ½ mile. And of course the rocks are all wet this morning. Lovely. How did I ever manage stuff like this before I got hiking poles?
Whatever, I got to the car around 9:30, a mere 2.5 hours to cover 4.5 miles of trail. Now all that was left to do was return to N. Adams, retrieve the bike, and head home. Which I did, and arrived at home around one-ish. Decent weather on the drive until I got close to Boston, at which time I caught up with the rain again.