This hundred miles greeted me immediately with a grand entrance into Massachusetts. Day one set a precedent that was, fortunately, continued throughout this hundred mile section. Upon saying farewell to Connecticut, there were miles of stream side mountain walks complete with inviting swimming holes, picturesque waterfalls that beckon hikers to pause their walks and enjoy nature’s most powerful cleansing shower, exceptionally challenging climbs and descents teaching one’s legs the limit of which they are capable while simultaneously preparing them for the difficult states that lie ahead, miles of ridgeline hikes with views that rival others seen thus far, and a picture perfect, low humidity sunny day with highs in the 70s. This was the land of music box bird songs and dancing fireflies numerous enough to light the world outside of one’s tent. Welcome to Massachusetts!!
My purpose changed slightly for this state. Rather than plan my days around numbers of miles, they were centered around the distinctive people and places Massachusetts has to offer. There is Goose Pond Shelter, a free hiker lodge offering kayaking, swimming, and a free fluffy pancake breakfast; the “Cookie Lady” who offers hikers homemade cookies, Klondike bars, a blueberry farm with picking opportunities, and a pleasantly shady grassy yard to pitch a tent for the night. Depot Street in Dalton houses Mr. Levardi, a trail angel who, for 36 years, has opened his yard and porch to hikers, offering rides to Walmart and bikes to cruise around town. Mount Greylock, the highest point and most unique ecosystem in the region, offered a pleasant surprise with Bascom Lodge nestled on its summit, a comfortable $37 bunkroom with a dazzling view and a fun group of ladies to share in the slumber party! Friends, games of darts, shooting pool, campfire conversations with people whom one may never give a second glance passing by on busy city streets who all have such interesting stories to tell, as well as occasional quiet nights alone in the woods make everyday different…perfunctory in routine, yet varying in experiences.
Massachusetts gave way to Vermont, or as hikers appropriately nickname it, “Vermud”. The trail can best be described as mud, roots, rocks, slip and slide, tumble and redo. Unavoidable, ankle-deep mud is ubiquitous on the trail here, and just as it doesn’t take long to capitulate and just start walking right through it, it also doesn’t take long to find the silver lining. When traction gives way and one finds oneself on the ground in a flash, at least mud makes for a pillow-like landing! There have been days so muggy that unsuspecting bugs meet their maker when they land on an arm and drown in the sweat of a hiker making a big climb…days so hot that hands clenching trekking poles are sweaty enough to remain pruny for hours. What a blessing on these days when the clouds drift in and open up, presenting the gift of a refreshing shower, concluding with the beautiful music of the sounds of the forest after a rain, like something one might hear on a peaceful nature CD. Occasionally the sudden aroma of balsam fur trees brings a tidal wave of memories from childhood Christmases to the forefront of the mind.
Living in a constant state of wonder, never having to conceal the mood which one finds herself, eyes lighting up in a grocery store at the sight of a salad bar that includes spinach and kiwis, relief that comes from the perfectly placed stream at the foot of a hot climb or fresh raspberries appearing suddenly just as the mouth could use refreshment, chilly nights with the peaceful sounds of mountain springs running alongside one’s humble nomadic home, all make life on the trail an unpredictable series of unforgettable moments. Out here, surrounded by so much life, such rare quiet, by literal and figurative ups and downs, I am alive!
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