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It was too difficult to leave Upper Goose Cabin so we didn’t. We chose to make today a nearo. In the morning we signed up to be one of the last hikers cooked blueberry pancakes since we didn’t need to leave right away. The caretakers Maggie and Sarah were awesome. Since we were the last ones we were given extra pancakes and extra blueberries. We then spent the warm morning canoeing between Upper and Lower Goose Ponds. The water was clear! When heated from the canoe ride we all jumped in the lake and laid our clothes out to dry on the dock, they dried in seconds: I’m not sure how we pried ourselves away from that magical place but we somehow did and went 10 miles to October Mountain Shelter. We were the only ones there and were being eaten alive by mosquitoes so after dinner we all huddled in Pusher’s tent (which we call “Hotel Pusher” because of its size) and huddled around a tiny phone screen to watch the movie, “The Big Fish.”
I was pretty cold last night. I needed my puffy and couldn’t get comfortable to sleep. I woke up at 3:30 am to check the weather. My phone said 57 degrees. But my 40 degree bag couldn’t keep heat. I though about my fellow hikers using just fleece blankets…yikes. I’m glad to get my colder gear this week. Once leaving the shelter we made sure to stop by the “Cookie Lady.” She is an older woman who lives near the trail. It is tradition for SOBOs to pick blueberries from her farm and bring them to Upper Goose Pond for the blueberry pancakes. She gave us cookies and we picked blueberries to our heart’s delight. My tramily and I walked 21 miles today and got to walk through two towns, Dalton and Cheshire. Dalton was lovely. We bought lemonade from a little girl who didn’t quite understand change. She cried when her Dad gave Pusher 4 dollar bills back for change from his five dollar bill. Cheshire is a little more run down and sleepier but the hike today was very pleasant. In Cheshire we stayed at the Catholic Church in town. It was a bit unnerving being out in the open. It also was just three of us, camped on their east lawn. There was a port-a-potty, bear box, and plenty of loud locals hanging out at the school (that was directly behind the church). Luckily no one bothered us.
Today was a short day up to Mount Greylock and the next shelter. It was a long morning, all 8 miles uphill to the mountain. The weather originally called for rain but we lucked out with a beautiful sunny day. We had plans to go to Mass MOCA so we decided to make this day short so we could do the things in town tomorrow that we wanted to do. By the time we got up to the mountain it was too late to go into town. At the shelter, I kept having deja vu of the Smokies. The shelter after Clingman’s Dome to be exact. I kept thinking about that shelter and its weird layout. It had been so long ago…back in April. I was a different person then. The people I was around were different. I was different. In the beginning everyone tended to go to the same places and move at the same speed. But things started to change after Damascus. Some people stretched their legs while others lagged behind. I am currently entering Vermont yet many of my friends are already done with the trail, others are still in Pennsylvania. Before it was almost a guarantee that you would run to your friends again. Now it’s not. Before it was a guarantee that you wouldn’t be alone at a shelter or campsite, now it’s not.
My tramily and I found it difficult to leave Massachusetts and today was no exception. The last of Puma’s Berkshire bucketlist was to show us around Mass MOCA, a very large and intricate modern art museum in North Adams. It was one of her favorite things in Massachusetts and she went about every year. Puma literally skipped into the museum with excitement and treated us to the entrance fee. The museum is housed in an old electric building and takes up 2-3 blocks. I think we were in the museum for about 8 hours. I haven’t been to many modern art museums but I have to say that it was really really cool. Do I understand all the art? No but I loved walking into the colored rooms that make you feel small, studying the brick of the old building, and exposing myself to new ideas. It also was quite interesting walking around in our stained disheveled hiker clothing. I don’t think anything about it but in one room with bright lights Pusher turned to me and said, “wow your white shirt has gotten dirty.” In the beginning my fellow hikers used to ask me how I kept my white shirt so clean out in the wild. Honestly the first stain was from guacamole not anything that happened to me while actually hiking. But now you can see darkened shoulders where my shoulder straps rub dirt into the fabric. There is blood on the collar from where I killed mosquitoes eating my neck. The fabric is pulled around my hips where the hip belt rubs. I must look something awful in a non hiking world where people dress up in their summer best. But I don’t mind it, I’m happy and confident in my appearance. By some miracle my friends and I were able to hitch back to the trail in the rain by a man who just got out of the circus. The rain also stopped just in time for us to set up our tents and settle down. Another BDE (best day ever) for the books.
Well we got rained on multiple times today and my feet have developed this god awful smell and rash but so is life. We couldn’t get a hitch into Bennington because no one wanted to pick up three soggy hikers but again…so is life. We walked into Vermont and hit 1600 miles. It is pretty cool because the AT coincides with the Long Trail so I’m meeting new people who are just starting on their journey. Their trail culture is a little different, they aren’t entirely sure if they give trail names or not. At one packed shelter we were asking some girls questions about their quest, “honestly I have no idea what I got myself into.” I have to laugh. Neither did I.
My tramily and I didn’t do our largest day ever but after 17.4 miles we were happy to see the shelter. We were starving. Yesterday we couldn’t get a hitch into Bennington when wet and soggy so it has left us rationing our food. My legs kept cramping at dinner. My legs were cramping and my skin was puckered in goose bumps. Since we’ve hit Massachusetts the weather has cooled down. I wake up freezing at night here in Vermont. The temperature during the day is 65 degrees and the temperature at night varies between 40-50 degrees. It is difficult to believe that a week ago I was sweating and complaining of bugs. I ask myself, “is this it? Is it going to be cold from here on out?” The finish line is a long way away. I started in the cold and I can adjust again if I need to. It’s just that I am currently adjusted to 90 degree weather and I won’t get my winter gear til Rutland, VT which is still a couple days away. I’ll survive but I’ll be a lot happier with my wool leggings, fleece, and warmer sleeping bag.
I slept very little last night again due to cold but the 65 degree weather made for PERFECT hiking. The climb up to Stratton Mountain was not too bad and luckily the clouds cleared up so we had a great view. We really lucked out so many times today. We got to a shelter for lunch before rain, saw beautiful views of lakes and trees, heard more birds today. Passed the 3/4 marker today. We also arrived at Spruce Peak Shelter that night before it started raining again. I actually got good sleep this night because I chose to be in the shelter and it had a door and a wood burning stove! I need a new water filter. It died. Everyone in my tramily is looking forward to something in town tomorrow.
I woke up happy. I slept so well and was comfortable temperature wise. In the morning after everyone woke up, a fellow hiker named Precious played Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman.” The guys around me just crack me up. I’m surrounded by the most masculine men, they compare the length of their beards and by this point their thigh muscles are bulging HOWEVER they mostly run around in skirts, booty shorts (to work on their tan), and paint their toe nails. It is an interesting juxtaposition. Manchester proved to be a very hiker friendly town. As soon as we got down to the road, two locals pulled over to give us rides to town. We hadn’t even stuck up our thumbs! I was able to binge on McDonalds and buy a new water filter. I’m switching from a Sawyer squeeze to Katahdyn BeFree. Hopefully it is a wise switch. The mountains around me are intimidating but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have never felt more powerful and strong as I do right now but I’m aware that one wrong step, one tick bite, one contaminated water source…can change all that.