MA

The Gathering - 2014

NoKey and I are members of ALDHA, the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.  Every fall during Columbus Day Weekend they throw a big campout weekend called The Gathering, a place where AT completers, maintainers, dreamers, and hopeful one-day hikers and their families can come together and go to hiking workshops, see documentaries, and go to a hiker fair with others who love hiking.  Every Gathering is a little different, but the message is always the same - let’s get together and talk trail. 

This year it was held in Williamstown, Massachusetts at Williams College with the campout on an old farm in the shadow of Mt. Greylock… you couldn’t ask for a better location in October - not to mention better weather!  While it was in the low 30s at night, the days were sunny and in the mid 50s making for perfect fall days.  

We arrived at The Gathering at around 8 p.m. Friday night ready to camp… but we forgot one major piece of gear - OUR TENT!  Yes, we are those people who show up to a campout without their tent!  Fortunately, there is no better place to forget a tent than a campout with hardcore hikers and many people had extras.  Thanks to our friend and 2013 SoBo Nectar who gave us a place to live for the weekend!

On Saturday afternoon I worked at the hiker fair handing out free samples of Teeccino and Teechia products, a company for who I am a brand ambassador right now (and you will be reading more about their products in a future post of mine!).   After running out of samples at 3 p.m. and judging the apple contest, NoKey and I packed Gracie up in the car and took a ride up Rte. 2 through the famous “Hairpin Turn” and up to Florida, Mass., the site of a windfarm and a beautiful view of the Adirondacks.  We went back down to the campsite and hung out around the fire with tons of our friends before crashing after a long and fun day. 

Sunday NoKey and I hiked up to Mt. Greylock with Gracie.  The first 1.5 miles we shared with a group from The Gathering who were hiking only up to the view on Prospect Mountain.  From there, we hiked another 3.3 miles to summit Greylock - the highest mountain in Massachusetts. Yeah, we could have driven to the top, but we never do things the easy way!  The hike was steeper than we remember, but last time we came down this side of the mountain!  We got to the top and it being a beautiful, sunny Sunday meant the summit was packed.  We hung out and lazed around in the sun and ate hiker trash food (bagels, cream cheese, turkey sandwiches, fruit snacks) before heading back down.  

On our hike down, we ran into a couple who let us stay in their house in Great Barrington during our thru hike in 2012 - Buttons and Bearwalker. This is the best part of hiking on the AT - you never know who you’ll run into no matter where you are!  

We had an amazing time at The Gathering this year, as always.  Thank you to all who organized, presented, and attended for making it great.  If you’re considering heading to The Gathering next year and haven’t decided if you want to make the leap I’ll explain it this way: Going to The Gathering is like a high school reunion you’d actually want to go to!  We have a great time every year and get to relive our glory days with other hikers.  I highly recommend it!

Photos today: NoKey, Grace, and Me at the tentsite; Buttons, Bearwalker (and Molly!) with Nokey, Me (and Gracie!); our tentsite in the shadow of Mt. Greylock; the view from Mt. Prospect looking down onto Williamstown; a cool engraved bench near Williamstown on the AT. 

Day 121 
After sleeping and staying dry all night (what, no rain?!) we woke up and headed for the border!  I left earlier than everyone in camp and headed north.  The only thin between me and VT was a steep hill with a rock scramble, which has definitely gotten easier for me.  When I got to the border, the AT is now concurrent with The Long Trail, which runs the Green Mountains to Canada.  From here, I had a lot of undulation with some pretty views of both mountains and ponds.  I also found out why Vermont is nicknamed “Ver-mud!”  At some points the mud was so thick your trekking pole would get stuck.  The mosquitoes were out in full force with the swampy terrain as well.  After stopping for lunch on Consultation Peak, Nokey caught up with me as the rain started falling.  By the time Testament caught us, it was pouring again so we took a long break in the Congdon Shelter, which had actual working windows and a table inside.  We met several other hikers here seeking shelter from the rain.  We were soaked and cold, so I decided I wanted to walk to warm up.  The rain had turned into a drizzle now, so we walked along the ridge until the steep downhill.  The downhill portion was nearly 1100 feet straight down with rock steps.  About halfway down Nokey fell and nearly slid off the side of the hill, only staying up because he was holding a wet root.  We hiked silently down the hill and when we got to the bottom we took a mental health break.  We saw some hikers across the highway getting out of a van and walked over to see who it was.  It turned out to be Secrets and Shenanigans doing trail magic!  They also had a hiker we met before: Sparrow!  He is Testament’s friend who gave us trail magic on day 90!  He was out hiking the Long Trail with some buddies.  Secrets and Shenanigans gave us a ride to town where we got a hotel room to tend to Nokey’s wounds.  He was pretty bloody and battered from his fall.  He was pretty sore also.  It sucked to spend the money, but he needed to recuperate.  Tomorrow, we’ll head out rested and feeling better (and full!)  The picture is of me at the border.

Day 121
After sleeping and staying dry all night (what, no rain?!) we woke up and headed for the border! I left earlier than everyone in camp and headed north. The only thin between me and VT was a steep hill with a rock scramble, which has definitely gotten easier for me. When I got to the border, the AT is now concurrent with The Long Trail, which runs the Green Mountains to Canada. From here, I had a lot of undulation with some pretty views of both mountains and ponds. I also found out why Vermont is nicknamed “Ver-mud!” At some points the mud was so thick your trekking pole would get stuck. The mosquitoes were out in full force with the swampy terrain as well. After stopping for lunch on Consultation Peak, Nokey caught up with me as the rain started falling. By the time Testament caught us, it was pouring again so we took a long break in the Congdon Shelter, which had actual working windows and a table inside. We met several other hikers here seeking shelter from the rain. We were soaked and cold, so I decided I wanted to walk to warm up. The rain had turned into a drizzle now, so we walked along the ridge until the steep downhill. The downhill portion was nearly 1100 feet straight down with rock steps. About halfway down Nokey fell and nearly slid off the side of the hill, only staying up because he was holding a wet root. We hiked silently down the hill and when we got to the bottom we took a mental health break. We saw some hikers across the highway getting out of a van and walked over to see who it was. It turned out to be Secrets and Shenanigans doing trail magic! They also had a hiker we met before: Sparrow! He is Testament’s friend who gave us trail magic on day 90! He was out hiking the Long Trail with some buddies. Secrets and Shenanigans gave us a ride to town where we got a hotel room to tend to Nokey’s wounds. He was pretty bloody and battered from his fall. He was pretty sore also. It sucked to spend the money, but he needed to recuperate. Tomorrow, we’ll head out rested and feeling better (and full!) The picture is of me at the border.

Day 120! 
Today I celebrated being on trail for four months!  We woke up at St. Mary’s ready to hike.  It was looking dark and dreary and we were hoping the rain would hold off, but as soon as we stepped off the road (which we walked for about a mile) and back into the woods, the rain began.  It was a light drizzle, which was nice since we had to walk over some farmland at first.  From here, we had a surprisingly steep climb at first.  After the steepness subsided, we had a fairly easy hike up to the summit of Mt. Greylock.  About 1.5 miles from the top I ran into Oracle!  He’s a friend of mine from home and is a SOBO this year.  We stood in the drizzling rain and talked for about 20 minutes before Nokey and I headed up to Greylock.  The hiking was easy and criss-crossed the road a few times before we got up top.  We ran into several of our friends up top, had lunch, and talked to a ranger.  By the time we got our packs on, it  started raining again, this time much harder!  We walked down the hill in the pouring rain and started to get cold.  When we reached Mt Williams we ran into Testament who was trying to get ahead of us a bit so he could get into Williamstown to get his food drop.  We hiked with him until we got to the road crossing just before MA-2 and he ran off to get his goodies.  Nokey and I headed into North Adams, where just 0.7 miles away was a Chinese buffet!  We ran into Chiba there and had mini reunion since we hadn’t seen him since NY.  Float, Rose, and Skinny Rambo also joined us as we ate and waited for Testament.  We all filled up did a mini resupply before heading back up the trail 1.8 miles to the Sherman Brook campsite.  The water there was the best we have had in MA, coming from a clear spring right out of the sandy bottom.  We are only 2 miles from the VT border now and I can’t wait to get there tomorrow.  The photo is the monument on Mt. Greylock.

Day 120!
Today I celebrated being on trail for four months! We woke up at St. Mary’s ready to hike. It was looking dark and dreary and we were hoping the rain would hold off, but as soon as we stepped off the road (which we walked for about a mile) and back into the woods, the rain began. It was a light drizzle, which was nice since we had to walk over some farmland at first. From here, we had a surprisingly steep climb at first. After the steepness subsided, we had a fairly easy hike up to the summit of Mt. Greylock. About 1.5 miles from the top I ran into Oracle! He’s a friend of mine from home and is a SOBO this year. We stood in the drizzling rain and talked for about 20 minutes before Nokey and I headed up to Greylock. The hiking was easy and criss-crossed the road a few times before we got up top. We ran into several of our friends up top, had lunch, and talked to a ranger. By the time we got our packs on, it started raining again, this time much harder! We walked down the hill in the pouring rain and started to get cold. When we reached Mt Williams we ran into Testament who was trying to get ahead of us a bit so he could get into Williamstown to get his food drop. We hiked with him until we got to the road crossing just before MA-2 and he ran off to get his goodies. Nokey and I headed into North Adams, where just 0.7 miles away was a Chinese buffet! We ran into Chiba there and had mini reunion since we hadn’t seen him since NY. Float, Rose, and Skinny Rambo also joined us as we ate and waited for Testament. We all filled up did a mini resupply before heading back up the trail 1.8 miles to the Sherman Brook campsite. The water there was the best we have had in MA, coming from a clear spring right out of the sandy bottom. We are only 2 miles from the VT border now and I can’t wait to get there tomorrow. The photo is the monument on Mt. Greylock.

Day 119 
We woke up to coffee and Dunkin Donuts courtesy of Uncle Mike today!  It was also nice to get a second shower and clean up before driving back to the trail in Dalton.  We also stopped and visited with Nokey’s cousin Peter who recently broke his kneecap.  I commiserated with him and reassured him that I broke my knee in 2010 and now I’m thru hiking!   

 We got back to town and ate leftovers of last night’s dinner before heading out back on the trail.  We had a one-mile road walk through town before climbing up and out of Dalton.  The hiking today was super easy after our initial 800-foot climb out and we walked past Gore Pond before coming to The Cobbles, which had beautiful views of the Hoosic River and the town of Cheshire below.  We also had been walking on lots of marble today, which made for slick descents down the hills!  After 9 miles, we came down into Cheshire and did some more road walking.  All the locals on their porches warned of big storms headed our way.  We checked the radar when we got to main street and saw that yet again there was a storm with large hail and tornado threats headed our way.  We headed to St. Mary’s church to get a place to stay indoors and waited out the storm.  It never materialized and we just got some heavy rains, but we were glad to be inside with dry gear.  Well, almost.  My Camelbak leaked today and soaked my down sleeping bag!  At least it will have time to dry out before hiking tomorrow!  Tomorrow we hit Vermont!  The photo is from The Cobbles of the Hoosic River.

Day 119
We woke up to coffee and Dunkin Donuts courtesy of Uncle Mike today! It was also nice to get a second shower and clean up before driving back to the trail in Dalton. We also stopped and visited with Nokey’s cousin Peter who recently broke his kneecap. I commiserated with him and reassured him that I broke my knee in 2010 and now I’m thru hiking!

We got back to town and ate leftovers of last night’s dinner before heading out back on the trail. We had a one-mile road walk through town before climbing up and out of Dalton. The hiking today was super easy after our initial 800-foot climb out and we walked past Gore Pond before coming to The Cobbles, which had beautiful views of the Hoosic River and the town of Cheshire below. We also had been walking on lots of marble today, which made for slick descents down the hills! After 9 miles, we came down into Cheshire and did some more road walking. All the locals on their porches warned of big storms headed our way. We checked the radar when we got to main street and saw that yet again there was a storm with large hail and tornado threats headed our way. We headed to St. Mary’s church to get a place to stay indoors and waited out the storm. It never materialized and we just got some heavy rains, but we were glad to be inside with dry gear. Well, almost. My Camelbak leaked today and soaked my down sleeping bag! At least it will have time to dry out before hiking tomorrow! Tomorrow we hit Vermont! The photo is from The Cobbles of the Hoosic River.

Day 116
We woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain yet again. We tossed on our rainflies and waited out the rain. Thankfully, it stopped raining about 8 am, so we were able to pack up and have breakfast while it was still dry. My phone battery is half-dead this morning since my phone won’t shut off, but I turned down the screen pretty low so it wouldn’t completely kill it. The plan this morning is now to head to Upper Goose Pond, a short 11 miles away, to avoid and impeding hail storm at 3 pm. Manboy was cowboy camping last night, so he got up and hiked out since he didn’t want to sleep in the rain. It was just me, Nokey, and Testament today. We had a short section of flat terrain and field walking before we climbed up and over Cobble Hill. From here, we walked through more private farm land before coming to the road to Tyringham. Now we had a steep climb up and over Baldy Mountain to Knee Deep Pond. Nokey and I met a guy here who did a thru hike in 1993 and wished us luck on ours. We met up again with Testament at Goose Pond Road and the three of us walked together to the trail junction to UGP cabin. We stopped for a minute at a swimming hole near the site of some old chimney ruins, but moved on quickly after hearing the rumble of thunder. We made it to the cabin at around 2:30 and were greeted by a large group of people we knew. We picked out our bunks (with mattresses!) and settled in for the night. I was pretty tired, so I ended up napping through the afternoon storm which thankfully never produced any hail. The caretaker of the cabin went to Big Y, a grocery store, and picked up pizza and beer for those who wanted it. I skipped out since my pack was still heavy from my resupply and napped some more! After getting up and eating dinner, we all hung out on the porch of the cabin until we could take the mosquitos no longer. We got to sleep on comfy bunks tonight and, in the morning, we’ll get hot coffee and blueberry pancakes! No photos today either due to my phone issues :(

Day 115
Shaker campsite
We woke up to hot coffee at Button’s and Bearwalker’s house this morning. They were also going to give us a ride back up to the trail as well! I had a box with a new shirt waiting for me at the East Mountain Retreat Center so Nokey and I made the 1-mile round trip to get it since no cars are allowed up the hill. From here, we had to walk up to the trail about 1 mile away as well. After getting back on the trail, we immediately began a climb up to yet another formation called The Ledges. From here, we went up a steeper hill to the South Mount Wilcox Shelter for lunch. We sat there for nearly an hour before deciding to head on to the North Mount Wilcox Shelter to see if there was water. Manboy volunteered to go check an see since it was 0.3 miles away. Turns out there was none to be had, so we continued onward in search. We found a stream still running about a mile north, so we all stopped and filled up there before making the final 3 miles to our camp for the night. The next three miles weren’t as hard as the map lead us to believe. We had a beautiful descent down a fern-covered and well-groomed hill before coming to the Shaker Campsite, which was actually the site of a former Shaker community. There wasn’t any water here (so we thought) so we were happy to have packed so much here. A section hiker, Sunshine, checked her map and it indicated there was supposed to be a spring. We checked around and found a side trail straight to the source! It was so cold and pure, so we were happy to have clean water finally! We ended up having to get into the tent early because the mosquitos here we’re relentless! Manboy was ‘cowboy camping’ so I felt pretty bad for him. Tomorrow we hope to get in some big miles, but might not due to a storm coming. No photos today due to my phone shorting out. I can’t get my phone to shut off and it is killing my battery.