I set my alarm to wake me up early and I was the first person out of camp. It had rained overnight, and it turned the trail into mud for the morning climb. My goal was to reach the summit of Mt Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, in order to take pictures while the sun was still low.
A short climb after leaving the Mark Noepel Shelter area, the trail leveled off and I hiked down a series of bog bridges towards a picture perfect pond. The final 350 foot push for the summit was steep but well groomed.
They say that every time a door closes on one opportunity, another opportunity presents itself and such was the case at the summit. On the one hand, the overcast skies were stubbornly hanging around and the visibility was poor. So was the view and the pictures. On the other hand, the 93 foot tall War Memorial built at the summit looked outstanding. For the past couple of years, all the pictures that I have seen of the memorial have shown it surrounded by scaffolding as restoration work was being performed on the 1931 structure. I didn’t see the memorial before the restoration but now it looks fantastic!
The A.T. leads up to the summit of Mt Greylock by following a sidewalk up towards and then circling around the War Memorial. A road also leads up to the summit of Mt Greylock and the tourists were already arriving in droves. Rabbit and a couple of other thru-hikers arrived, but the draw of a hot breakfast at the nearby Bascom Lodge was reeling in many of them. I resisted because I was heading to town.
The trail from the summit trended downhill all the way to MA 2 and Williamstown, MA. I just love the welcoming marble roadblocks they put up along the way. After the trail left the ridge line in the final descent to the Hoosic River, it became very steep but the trail was well maintained with plenty of steps. Soon I emerged on a residential street and was again walking through a Norman Rockwell painting.
When I reached MA 2, I called the manager of the Williamstown Motel (as prearranged) to tell him that I was ready for pickup. While I was waiting for my ride, Rabbit walked by to cross the river and continue up the trail. I would probably never see her again because I’m staying in town tonight, so I wished her “Happy Trails!”
Max, the motel manager, arrived five minutes later and whisked me off to the land of hot showers. After getting cleaned up and changing into my townie clothes (shorts and t-shirt), I headed out to retrieve my resupply package. Just as I started walking down the road, it started to rain and I didn’t have my rain jacket. Reaching deep into my bag of thru-hiker experience for a solution to this situation, I crossed the street to a Subway and ate a foot long until the rain stopped.
It was here that I learned that there is a big difference between an inch on a tiny map in the A.T. Guide and the reality on the ground. On the ground, it was a hot and humid .75 mile climb to get to the outfitters to pick up my package. On the way back to the motel, it was a hot and humid downhill but now I was carrying a 12 pound box. You would have thought that with all that traffic someone would have stopped and offered a ride to the apparently homeless guy struggling to carry all of his belongings in a cardboard box. But no.
After dropping off the resupply box and drinking some water, I headed out to the shopping center which was located .75 miles in the opposite direction. I was contemplating the craft beer selection in the grocery store when a guy asked me if I was a thru-hiker. He introduced himself as Chris and what followed was a nice conversation about my hike and his hiking experience that included an IPA recommendation and the offer of a ride back to my motel room. Since it was pouring the rain outside, I jumped at the ride offer and, after checking out, Chris had me back to my room in minutes. When we arrived, Chris gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I needed a shuttle ride. Thank you Trail Angel Chris!
Following dinner, I was sitting outside enjoying one of the IPAs that Chris recommended when another hiker emerged from a room a couple of doors down. I asked him if he wanted a beer and he sat down and introduced himself as Big Tom. Big Tom is an avid hiker from Quebec who had just completed the Vermont Long Trail before setting out on his next adventure. He carries a full-frame DSLR camera and shared with me some of the gorgeous pictures he has taken during his many hikes. I could have chatted with him for hours but he had to leave to run some errands.
After checking the weather forecast, I have decided to take a zero here rather than walk in a 100% chance of heavy rain. I walked to the motel office, extended my room for a day, and asked Max about the laundry situation. He told me to bring my dirty clothes to the front desk and they would return the clean laundry to my room when complete. I explained to Max the uniqueness of my situation and told him that if I brought him all my dirty clothes it would, at a minimum, cause an embarrassing situation in his lobby. Max is a nice and reasonable man and agreed to pick up my dirty laundry outside my room door.
Later in the evening (in possession of clean clothes) there was a knock on my door. When I opened the door, Big Tom was standing there holding two pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and he asked, “Dessert?” When delivered with a French accent, how could anyone refuse?