It was exciting when I crossed the Massachusetts border, realizing I had 10 states behind me and only four to go. After being in VA for such a long time (over a month!), it still is so exciting to be crossing off states so quickly again.
My first day in Mass was one of my favorites on the trail. The weather was amazingly gorgeous and I was back in a good hiking groove, doing 18+ miles a day, feeling healthy & strong. I'd had some good time hiking on my own and was able to devote some time to think about the next chapter after the trail, which I'm really excited about (stay tuned for those details!).
Anyway, I crossed the border and hiked along Sages Ravine - a really pretty walk along a stream. The trail led me up Laurel Ridge. To my left was cool forests and to my right was a view, for a good bit. I hiked up Race Mountain along a rocky, exposed trail. I was so grateful for the cool, sunny day and the clear views I had the entire climb to the top.
For those of you who don't know, I've had a big interest in local farming for years. My thesis project for my Art Major at Sewanee was a documentary film & photo project about local farming. This past fall, I spent time in the south of France with the WWOOF program working on small organic farms. While I currently don't aspire to make a living as a farmer, having a small homestead with veggies and chickens is a goal I hope to achieve in the near future. When I saw an opportunity to experience another farm, while during my thru-hike, I jumped on it.
When I arrived at the farm, the apprentices & interns were just finishing up the evening chores of feeding all the animals and milking the cows. I happened to come on a special night - the local town fair was going on and they were all going, and dragged me along. While I probably would have preferred a quiet night reading in my tent, it was fascinating from a cultural perspective to go to the fair. We got back around 11 and I crashed in my tent.
I met everyone down at the barn at 6:30 to begin morning chores - feeding animals, fetching the cows for milking, milking the cows, and all sorts of tasks. They were so grateful for an extra pair of hands and I helped out wherever I could. That Sunday was also a special day - they were putting on a chicken slaughter workshop. I have never killed an animal before, but I felt that as someone who eats meat, I should be able to stomach witnessing and participating in the humane way to take a life from a living creature for our own consumption. It was a tough day, but one that I am very grateful to have experienced. I watched and learn as the living chickens became a food item. I will spare all the details here but overall, I learned a lot. It was a long day though. We didn't sit down for dinner until 9:00pm and afterwards I politely asked to have a shower - it had been about a week of hiking & sweating, and now I had chicken blood and dirt all over me. I stayed for breakfast in the morning and then got a ride back to the trail.
Once back on the trail, I got in touch with Gribley who was now ahead of me in Great Barrington. I was about four miles away and we decided to meet for lunch. That four miles was the swamppiest, buggiest stretch of trail I'd seen so far and was almost running to get away from the mosquitoes. This whole trip I had yet to hitch-hike by myself, but Great Barrington was about five miles away so I decided the time had come and I stuck out my thumb. Almost immediately a car stopped and the guy asked if I was a hiker. As it turned out, he was a new sports writer for the Great Barrington newspaper and his assignment that day was to find a hiker and interview him or her about hiking the AT. He asked if he could take me to lunch and interview him. I laughed at the craziness of the situation and said yes, but that I was meeting another hiker in town for lunch, and he agreed to interview us both. I met Gribley in town and he hopped in the car and we had lunch at the local Co-Op and talked to the writer about our experiences on the trail. He took our picture, thanked us, and dropped us off at the laundromat - I was pretty eager to wash the chicken blood off my clothes!
Gribley and I caught up on the two weeks since we'd seen each other while my clothes were washing, and walked over to the nearby store to pick up groceries for the upcoming week. We hiked a few miles out of town up to Tom Leonard Shelter and were delighted to see Pace & Hungus camping there. We hadn't seen them since we said goodbye in New Jersey and it was great to all be together again.
We had big plans the next day to do 20 miles to Upper Goose Pond Cabin, but took a really long lunch break, and then a late afternoon snack by a big stream that turned into dinner that turned into our campsite for the night. We built a small campfire and continued to swap stories. We agreed to get up really early the next morning to make it to the lake early in the day. It was well worth it - the weather was great and we arrived around noon. There were canoes we could borrow and so we spent a good bit of time paddling around. When we got back to the cabin, a lot of our friends had arrived - Pants on Fire, Tatertot, Towelie, and Cheesewater - so exciting to see everyone! We all caught up and spent some relaxing time time down on the dock by the lake.
We hiked on into Dalton and stayed at a cheap motel with Pace & Hungus. Pants, Tater, Cheesewater & Towelie all had the room next door. We bought some good beers and ordered pizza and had a really fun night. The next morning everyone got laundry started and Gribley & I made some "beermosas" - Blue Moon & Orange Juice, surprisingly delicious!
|Cheesewater wearing his raincoat as pants while doing laundry|
We all were slightly hungover and as soon as one person suggested taking a bus to a nearby town to see Batman, we all were in. There are more stories to come... need to sign off now. Stay tuned.