It was a difficult hike! I’m not talking about the trail but the conditions we had to hike in. I planned this hike during this timeframe because average temperatures were slated to be between 55 and 75 degrees but the forecast was calling or the mid 80’s. Read on to hear the tale…
I took Amtrak out from Indiana to Pittsfield, Massachusetts and that is a story all it’s own. My friend Jon picked my son and I up in Pittsfield and we drove to St Mary’s church in Cheshire. I contacted them ahead of time and they graciously allowed us to park in their parking lot. We hit the trail and headed south bound (SOBO).
Our first mission was a 2 mile hike up to the Cheshire Cobbles. The elevation increases by 1000 feet within 1 mile. I didn’t find it too bad but we took a few breaks on the way up, what made it difficult was the 85 degree weather and the extra exertion to get up the mountain. My son who hiked with me for several training hikes was not really happy with the heat but enjoyed the views from the cobbles. You can see the cobbles (rock outcropping) on the top/side of the mountain. The cobbles offered an awesome view of the town of Cheshire below and the distant mountains in the north. We spent some time taking pictures….
…and then started heading the next 2 miles to camp. It was hot and humid and as luck would have it, about 100 yards from the campsite, it started pouring rain. We were sweaty so I rather enjoyed the shower! There was thunder and lightening in the distance but not around us. Jon setup his rain tarp and then was able to setup his hammock keeping it dry under the tarp. I waited until the pouring rain slowed down before I setup the tent.
One tip, if it is raining and you need to setup a tent, you can place the rain cover over you while you setup the tent underneath. Our tent did not get wet at all.
We had two NOBO hikers and one SOBO hikers at the camp that day. It is fitting that my cousin gave me the trail name “The Absent Minded Professor” or “AMP” for short because I can’t remember their names! Actually one was named “Bright Eyes” and she was heading SOBO.
The second day on the trail we were aiming for about 8 miles. Halfway through our hike we would go through the town of Dalton Massachusetts. I was looking forward to Dalton because I was hoping for Pizza or Ice Cream but definitely a coffee! The morning was cool compared to the previous day but it just seemed to get hotter and hotter as we went along. It seemed extremely hot in Dalton, I chalked it up to the difference between being under the cover of trees to now being out in the open with the sun baking the road. We walked through the doors at a variety store like 7-11 called Cumberland Farms. As we walked in, we got hit with a beautiful blast of Air Conditioning! I grabbed some 32 oz bottles of water because I knew water would be at a premium. We also went to “Juice and Java”, where we met up with my Cousin Michael. He was going to do a day hike with us. I had a coffee, my son had a bagel with a smoothie and Jon has a Arnold Palmer (Half Ice Tea, Half Lemonade). Afterwards, we finished our walk through town, past Tom Levardi’s (Where I think Bright Eyes was picking up stuff or saying hello). I thought about it after the fact but I figured we should have stopped to say hello. We headed back into the woods and headed towards the Kay Woods Shelter.
My son, Joey, really seemed overheated. We arrived at a decent water source about a mile from the Kay Woods Shelter and I told my son to sit in the creek but he said he was okay. I had him take some water, some food and draped a wet cloth over his head and shoulders. We made it up to the Kay Woods Shelter and found out that the temperature in Dalton was actually 95 degrees and the heat index was over 110 degrees! Joey was not looking too good. I talked to Michael, since Michael was heading home, he said he would take care of him for the evening. I walked them down the mountain and when we got to the bottom, I felt overheated and nauseated but my Cousin Susan brought me some PowerAde and that helped a great deal. Visions of me sending my cousin back up to pack up my tent and stuff rolled through my head but I also left my friend Jon at camp. What to do? what to do? So I went back up the mountain and stayed at camp. When I got back to camp, the sweat just poured off me but with rest and fluids, I felt much better about 20 minutes later.
Back at camp, it was 8pm when I decided to settle in for the evening, send some text messages and see what is going on in the world. As I was about to fall asleep near 9pm, a thunder storm went through. It was quite the light show! and the rain brought with it some cooler temperatures.
At the shelter, we had about 9 north bound hikers with us, all who started from Springer Mountain Georgia. It was nice to see. The hikers we had the day before, all fell asleep at sundown (8pm) but this lively group stayed up pretty late. I tried to get to bed around 9pm but my thoughts where with my son and what my plan of action would be? I did not want to leave my son at my cousins because I felt that was equivalent to having them baby sit. I didn’t want to leave my friend Jon in a lurch. I did not want this to be the second trip that we had to end early. If my son needed me, I wanted to be there for him. What was I doing on the mountain anyway when my son may have a heat related illness? ugh! I figured the best course of action was to find out what my son wanted to do. I figured if he wanted to quit, I would ask Jon for his keys (as we had stuff in his vehicle) I would pick Joey up from my cousin’s, I would pick Jon up at the conclusion of his hike… it would all work!
The next morning, Cousin Michael texted me to say Joey would rejoin me on the trail and we would meet up with him around 12:15. Jon and I hiked 6 miles and met up with him.
On the way, about the 3rd mile in, we hit Warner Hill (Elevation 2050 feet). Another spot with an awesome view to the North.
When he reached Pittsfield Road, we didn’t need to wait long for Joey to get dropped off to the location, my cousin also gave me an extra PowerAde! The water supplies along the trails were decent but not as good as they were in the spring when we hiked the Pattison Rd to Cheshire section.
Joey looked refreshed! Raring to go! and I looked forward to father and son hiking the last 3 miles together. With this hike, I definitely wanted to hike with my partner in crime, Jon. We have been going on yearly adventures together several times over the years we have known each other. So when I said “Appalachian Trail”, he said he’s always wanted to do it. For Joey, I wanted to get him out of his element, I wanted to do something, Father and Son, with him. He will be attending High School soon and before I know it, the time will be gone! He will be off to college, so I want to spend quality time with him. I am also hoping Joey and I can do more of these adventures before he goes off to college.
So…The hike towards the October Mountain Shelter was great! The first part of it, we hiked through acres and acres of pine trees. The trail had a beautiful covering of pine needles. In other parts, the trail was lined by blackberry bushes and then my friend Jon noticed grape vines! Someone mentioned that this part of the trail was flat and I suppose it was in a short area but we found many boulders, rocks and roots that we had to tackle and not as flat as that someone made it out to be.
Once at the shelter, I wanted to setup camp as soon as possible. My tent’s rain fly was pretty wet when I packed it and I wanted to get everything dry before we hit the sack for the evening. Surprisingly, we hiked about 9 miles on this day but had plenty of time to sit and relax. We had lunch, snacks and dinner before heading off to bed early. The one thing I have to mention about this location, we had so many critter visitors. We had a fat chipmunk foraging for food (ours), a bird was walking around the shelter while we were eating looking for scraps and there were a ton of Black/Purple butterflies flying around and on several occasions, one landed on Jon’s backpack.
I took the opportunity to throw some of my sweaty clothes down stream and rinse them out. I used nylon rope as a clothes line. As they were drying, they had a great “Ocean Breeze” scent… yeah, I know, it sounds better than “Outdoor Creek” scent! Just when it seemed the forecast of light rain would pass us by, it started to rain lightly. With my dry rain fly, I tossed it on top of my tent to prevent anything from getting wet.
We woke up Monday morning to cooler weather. It was the best night sleep, in the wild, that I have had in a long time. I enjoyed oatmeal for breakfast as Joey had a pop tart. We packed things up and headed back to Pittsfield Road and went to the “Cookie Ladies” house. The cookie lady and her husband (Roy and Marilyn Wiley ) have been helping out hikers for years. Offering them a place to stay, cookies, you can purchase soda, lemonade, hard boiled eggs and… and.. Blueberries! You can pick your own on their land as they also have a pick your own blueberry farm. I figured this would be a great treat for Joey as he loved blueberries. Before we left, Jon and I assisted Roy in moving his washing machine so he could repair it. From what I understand, he injured himself recently so we offered to help in any way we could.
I had contacted Marilyn ahead of time in reference to giving us a ride back to Cheshire. Once back to Cheshire, I was happy we had completed our Mission. While I’m not sure what adventure happens next. I am seriously considering finishing out the final 50 miles of Massachusetts to the Connecticut border… then there are about 55 miles from Connecticut to the New York border! …
When we talked to the thru-hikers, I mentioned the only thing preventing me from thru hiking is Time and Money. If I had 6 months, if I had 6 months worth of money, If I knew I would have a job when I got back… if the sun moon and stars aligned, I would definitely attempt a thru hike. I’m not 100% sure I could do it, I think I am fit enough and would get even fitter in the process… could I be away from civilization that long? For now it is a pipe dream so I will stick to doing sections for now. See some pictures below and I hope you enjoyed my… Story4Today!