May 10-11th was the beginning of my ’08 backpacking season. Some co-workers and myself planned an easy trip up to Massachusetts to hike another section of the Appalachian Trail. This is the 5th section I’ve done for a total of around 25 miles, I think.
The week leading up to the hike was a little dicey–rain, cold weather and some wind. Everyone was a little apprehensive at the middle of the week but as Saturday came closer the weather looked like it would break just in time for our trip. The weather was perfect in my opinion. If it was any warmer during the day or any colder at night it would have been uncomfortable.
We started around 11:15am after some car shuffling. The early sections of the hike cut across fields and little sections of woods separating farms. It was very interesting because it felt that we had personal permission from the landowner to use their backyards. The cows didn’t seem to have any problem with it at least.
As we passed the farms we started through some very open deciduous forest and some small streams. Barley, Kevin and Michelle’s dog got to take a swim in a good size stream we came across. After the rolling terrain we started up our only major climb of the trip. The terrain was still open forest so the going was easy, no rocks or logs to negotiate. During the climb the bugs started to really come out in force. Black flies had started before we even began hiking but as we got farther into the forest the worst they became. It came to the point where we had to limit our rest stops because the bugs were just too bad. Of course, Barley didn’t have any problems.
After the climb we mainly rolled along the top of a ridge system, however there were little to no views on this hike. For some reason the ridge was tree covered. Even with the views it was still a rewarding hike because the scenery changed often. There would be a tenth of a mile of deciduous forest then switch into conifers then back.
Our plan was to stop at the Mt. Wilcox North lean-to which was seven miles in. There were an odd number of people on this trip and as such one of them was without a partner to carry a tent. This turned out to be Tim. His plan was to either sleep in the lean-to if there was room or fashion some kind of makeshift shelter from some tarps and rope. To add to the DIY fun Adam also planned to create a shelter but had the option to crash in Dave’s tent if needed. Since Adam is an Eagle Scout he thought he would try and go completely self-sufficient and catch his dinner. He made some snares to try and catch some squirrels. Good thing he brought some backup Spam though as he didn’t catch anything.
As it turned out no one was at the lean to when we arrived at 3:30pm, which was much earlier than anyone had originally thought. We did have one hiker join us at the lean-to later in the evening around 6:30 or so. He ended up being the experience of the weekend. Phil showed up and went immediately down to the little spring fed stream that was our water source. He stayed down there and had some Bud tall boys that he bought while we chatted it up around the bug repelling fire. After a while he broke out a pint of vodka for a night cap. Kevin and Dave ended up talking to him for a while after he joined us at the picnic table. He seemed like a nice enough guy other than the slightly odd sense of humor.
What most of us didn’t find out until the next morning was that Phil was a Vietnam vet who had post traumatic stress disorder. When we did find out about that from Kevin the night’s occurrences made more sense. He ended up staying up later than we did and joined 5 of us in the lean-to. Kevin, Michelle and Barley pitched a tent behind the lean-to. Phil was pretty loud when he wrapped his sleeping bag in a tarp. Not a big deal unless he moved around in his sleep, which he did. He also was a superlative snorer. Loud erratic snoring like you would do to make a joke. And to top it all off he talked in his sleep. Not low mumbling, yelling and swearing type stuff. Again the PTSD thing answered many questions the next day. None of us in the lean-to slept much and it was probably because we all had one eye open.
The morning brought more sunshine and we were all happy to make some breakfast and coffee before making our way out. The five miles out breezed by since much of it was rolling terrain. We did pass a number of beaver created ponds up on the mountain which was very serene. We didn’t see any beavers though. Our only wildlife were a few chipmunks and birds. We did see one woodpecker and heard a couple mp3 file
“>barred owls at night but didn’t see them.
The final segment of the trail was a moderate decent down some rocky slopes. The trekking poles that I purchased over the winter came in handy. Usually I get a little fatigue in my quads when going downhill but with the poles that was eliminated completely. Definitely a worthwhile purchase.
After getting to the cars we hoped to grab some lunch at a tavern/inn we passed on the way to the trailheads. We were all kind of in agreement that beers and burgers would hit the spot. The tavern turned out to be more of a bed and breakfast place that was trying to gouge customers on Mothers day. After sitting in the small tavern area we got the menus–keep in mind that it was around 12–they handed us dinner menus. For mothers day they were only serving dinner, at around $15 a plate. So I figured that since there was only one other group in the place and that we wanted seven burgers that they could make an exception for our burger request. I forwarded this question to our retirement age waitress who promptly alerted us that they weren’t “prepped for lunch”. I didn’t realize burgers took prepping besides thawed hamburg. We told her that we were going to go elsewhere for our lunch. Luckily we found an Irish pub a mile or two down the road that was exactly the type of place we were looking for. We ended up getting a couple pitchers and some tasty burgers to finish up our first trip of the year. Next one should be in 5-6 weeks.