13.9 miles, 1578 overall (Mark Noepel shelter)
I sleep downstairs in the basement with Johannes, a hiker from Germany. Before going to sleep I ask him if its ok if I set an alarm. There aren’t any windows and I’m nervous I won’t wake up at a decent hour if I can’t see whether the sun is up yet. He is ok with it and I set my alarm for 6:15. When it goes off I get up but he doesn’t. I get dressed and fold the blanket I used, then head upstairs. I’m hoping Tom will be up so I can get some coffee and something to eat before leaving. However it appears I’m the first one up so I go about packing up. I’m considering whether I should leave a note for Tom thanking him for his hospitality when he appears from another room and says good morning to me. I decide to stick around while he makes coffee. Pretty soon he has laid out a spread of bagels, donuts, breakfast pastries, and coffee while other hikers have awoken and joined us in the kitchen. We have some good conversation over the food and before I know it it is already 7:30. It is time for me to get going. I fill up my water and thank Tom for everything. He reminds me to sign his register on the way out and I happily oblige.
I really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere at Tom’s, and the other hikers who were there made for good company. Besides Johannes there was also Manbearpig, Dudemanbro, Assrash, Nomad, and Dave the southbounder. We had tried to come up with a trail name for Dave but he is quiet and that makes it hard to get to know him well enough in one day to name him. I’m a bit disappointed that I’m not staying at Tom’s longer but I’m also excited because tomorrow I am meeting up with some college friends to stay at their place. I haven’t had a zero since PA so I’m planning to take a double zero with them. I have just over 20 miles to go to get to the meeting point by tomorrow at noon. The big question is how to incorporate fireworks since today is the 4th of July.
My plan is to hike up Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, watch the fireworks at the top, and then hike down to the shelter on the other side. That would leave about 4 miles to go in the morning before noon. The only bad thing about this plan is that it requires night hiking which I’m not a fan of, especially when going down a mountain. Knowing that I only have about 15 miles to go before 9pm I’m not in a hurry. On the way out of town the trail is a road walk for a full mile along a street full of quintessential New England houses. I take my time along this mile, looking at the houses as I go. Eventually the trail reenters the woods and I listen to some more Count of Monte Cristo on the way up the hill and down the other side.
On the way down the other side I run into a trail crew that is installing rocks in the trail for water routing. I’m surprised they’re working on a holiday but I suppose that is what they signed up for in joining a trail crew for the summer. They are working right next to a rock formation that I thought I had passed but they inform me it is just around the corner. It is called The Cobbles for the huge marble rocks that compose it and it provides an excellent view of the Hoosic River, Cheshire MA, and Mount Greylock. I’m glad I didn’t miss it.
At the bottom of the hill I enter the town of Cheshire. I stop for lunch at Diane’s Twist, a sandwich and ice cream shop directly on the trail. I order a meatball sandwich with a root beer. While the woman who I assume is Diane is preparing my food I realize that I didn’t check whether she takes credit cards. I only have a few dollars in cash left and it isn’t enough to pay for my food. I explain this to the woman and she says I can head to the ATM down the street and that I can go either before I eat or after. I appreciate her flexibility and sit down to eat before walking down to the bank which turns out to be about a half mile away. The detour is frustrating, but it is especially so because although the meatballs were good the bread on the sandwich was stale. Still it is better than anything in my pack.
On the way out of Cheshire I start having foot problems. The treads are peeling off the bottom of both of my shoes. I have tried gluing them and it tends to work for a day or so but then they peel off again. Gluing them isn’t an option now because the glue has to cure overnight, so for today I have to live with the treads flopping on the bottom of my shoes. It seems like this is causing my feet to hurt because they are hurting right where the tread should be. After thinking for a minute I decide to switch to my Five Fingers. They don’t have a tread problem and since I’m halfway done with the day I shouldn’t have a problem making it the rest of the way in them. I pause on the sidewalk to trade out the footwear and then start hiking again. Although the feet don’t get worse they still feel bad so although the Five Fingers are an improvement they haven’t solved everything.
The trail up Greylock isn’t too bad. I stop for water on the way up, not sure if I can get water at the top. In a short time I’ve reached the shelter on the south side of the Greylock summit. I stop in for a break but because of my feet I’m considering stopping for the night. I don’t know if I’ll be able to see fireworks from here, but I’m not excited about hiking 3 more miles to the summit and then 3 more down the other side in the dark with sore feet. When I get to the shelter there are two hikers there who I haven’t met before. One is named Thunderstorm and the other is named Zil (Liz backwards, no trail name yet). Zil is incredibly interesting. She’s a talker and spends the whole time until they leave about 30 minutes later talking to me about various things. She talks about how she loves walking barefoot and I realize the barefoot track I saw in the trail on the way up here was hers. She has a large external frame pack that doesn’t seem to fit her, and her clothes are similarly too big for her. It turns out a male hiker saw her hiking in cotton clothes, took pity on her, and gave her some of his clothes. As a result she reminds me of Huck Finn but she is a bit more accurate when she says she’s been told she looks like Bill Murray’s character in Caddyshack. She is considering Bill Murray as a trail name.
Thunderstorm and Zil eventually leave, but Instigator and Expeditor arrive soon after them. Tipsy and Fetch also arrive (which completes my decision to stay rather than move on) as well as Scog (Norwegian for forest) and two section hikers who turn out to be first year medical students trying to enjoy the last summer vacation they’ll ever have. We eat dinner and wonder aloud whether we’ll be able to see any fireworks from our vantage point on the southern side of the mountain. I stay up a little longer than normal to hang out with Tipsy and Fetch a bit longer. I won’t be seeing them for a while because of my double zero.
While we’re hanging out a hiker walks in who looks familiar and Fetch calls him Broadsword. The hiker knows me but I can’t remember ever meeting a Broadsword. I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how he knows me when Brownie walks into camp a few minutes later and I find out why I’m confused. Broadsword is actually Krispy Kreme and I didn’t recognize him because his beard is fuller now. They adopted new names since I last saw them at the southern end of Shenandoah. Brownie now goes by Snakegirl because of her rattlesnake-stepping-on incident. I’m really happy to see them again and end up staying up until 10 hanging out with them and Tipsy and Fetch. It is a great group with some great conversation and I wish we could all stick together for a while, but alas it is not meant to be. I’m getting off the trail tomorrow and Broadsword and Snakegirl are trying to finish the trail by August 8, almost 2 weeks before I think I’ll be finishing with my new 15 mile/day average. As a result I probably won’t see them again, which makes me even happier that they got in tonight before I left the trail and they passed me. We exchange info to keep in touch while we hear fireworks in the distance and can see the flashes of light behind Greylock. We head to bed without getting to see fireworks, but I’m still happy with the day. Tomorrow I get to see some old friends and take some time off before I begin the home stretch on the Appalachian Trail.