October 18-19 marked the bi-annual backpacking trip for the Sikorsky folk. I started planning the trip in September and had quite a few interested parties at the beginning. This ended up dwindling to a smaller, but more manageable group. Originally I sent out six different hikes I was interested in doing. These varied in length but were all around 10-14 miles except for the Vermont hike which was 23 miles. There wasn’t much interest in that one though. I’ll have to save that till later.
People pretty much didn’t decide on the route. Not all that surprising really since there were too many options. I should have sent out only two. In any case I decided on a loop hike for a change. This loop was straight out of my AMC’s Best Backpacking in New England book. This was also my first use of the book. I would recommend it, especially for the northern New England hikes. Those appear to be of more substance, culminating in the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine. One of the longest sections of the AT without civilization.
Back to the hike. The participants dropped to just Tim Demers, Ben Hein, Adam Brown and myself. Apparently Forsberg was still laid up with his 1 week old ACL surgery so he had to drop out. Michelle and K. Ford had a prior engagement. Despite the smaller group the trip was still good. As I mentioned it was a little easier to manage anyway. We took only one car to Mt. Greylock in Adams, MA. The hike is a 13.0 mile loop. We did it in two days 8.3 miles the first and 4.7 miles the second day. Google Maps of Ben’s GPS dats.
-Tim Demers remarking on the flavor of the liquid from a can of tuna.
Mt. Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 ft. While this may be small potatoes to anyone on the west coast, it is all we’ve got out here so we have to appreciate it.
The day started early at Adam’s house. From there the four of us carpooled up in Ben’s car which fit four with gear rather comfortably. The drive was approaching the max I would want to do for a weekend hike, 3 hours. Even with the ride it wasn’t too bad because of the scenery. The weekend was peak foliage in Connecticut and just past peak in northern Mass. Not having to place a car at the start and end of the hike was a nice change.
The day was crisp, with some cars in Mass having frost on their windshields. We knew looking at the forecast that we would be in for a chilly (30 degrees) night. But that’s what 20 degree sleeping bags are for right? Anyways, we headed up from the base parking lot in beautiful sunshine. The sun wouldn’t leave us at all for the weekend. Well except for the requisite time when it is below the horizon and all.
Coming from Big Sur only two weeks prior gave me a huge perspective on the natural landscape differences in this country. The almost desert like landscape that is devoid of widespread greenery is beautiful but gives one the feeling of hard times and struggle to just live. Contrasting that to the east coast where every where you look is green. Well that is unless you are in the winter or more spectacularly, autumn.
Moving from the parking lot we headed up Money Brook trail along the trail’s namesake brook. This fill the air with a pleasing gurgle of the water. A couple minor crossings later we started heading up to steeper terrain. This lead us to a nice set of cascading falls deep into the woods. Unfortunately here we got a little lost. The trail split into a spur trail to the falls. But the spur was straight on the trail where as the real trail made a 180. After a short search we finally figured things out and continued to meet up with the Appalachian Trail.
Mt. Greylock is one of those pesky mountains that has an auto road up it. Luckily the summit was closed so we didn’t have to contend with any cars or their people that didn’t earn the view. Though from the look of the freshly paved road it would be a blast for a rally. On this road crossing is were we picked up the AT. Once on the trail we headed south towards the summit of Greylock. However between us an that peak were a couple smaller summits. Making it to the top of Mt. Williams was our first significant climb of the hike. We had a few breathers on this section.
Our original plan was to spend the night at Bellow’s Pipe Shelter, but two things dissuaded us from this, first is the nearly 1000 foot drop from the AT to the shelter in 1.1 miles. The second is the condition of the shelter. The lot attendant suggested we use Pecks Brook because it was in better shape. Once we got to the Bellows Pipe spur trail we made the decision to continue to the summit of Greylock and then head to Peck Brook.
The final section of the AT before the summit of Greylock is on an old ski trail. This trail was very sustained and straight up which was pretty demanding. The four of us were pretty tired as we crested the top. From the top was a great view spotting five states from the top of the War Memorial tower. We still had over a mile to go so we didn’t stay long.
Pecks Brook is still a pretty good hike down from the AT, though not as bad as Bellow’s Pipe. The shelter itself is in a great location. It stands nestled in a valley created by the namesake brook. The shelter faces roughly southwest and is just above the brook and a set of very small water cascades. This made it easy to get water. Once we arrived we found we had some shelter mates, three guys from the Cape. One nice thing was that they had already started a fire. The bad thing was they went to bed shortly after we arrived at 5:00pm.
Nevertheless we made our dinners, Tim with a homemade, just add water thing, Adam with his sauteed SPAM, Ben with his honey and peanut butter sandwich and I with my beef and barley soup with instant rice added for more substance. The hot meal was nice and so was the fire. Though it was difficult to keep going.
Though we weren’t super tired we all went to bed around 8pm because of the darkness and the cold. The night was uneventful but long. I must have woken up 3-4 times thinking that it had to be getting light out soon only to see the darkness.
The morning brought more sun and another fire. After some oatmeal and packing we headed back up to the AT. After rejoining the AT we came upon a small pond. There was a small cottage on the pond and I’m assuming is part of the Bascom lodge complex at the top of Greylock. The lodge is kind of like the AMC huts in the Whites. The exception is you can drive to it and it isn’t open in the winter.
Winding our way down we picked up the Hopper Brook Trail. This brought us down the opposite side of the valley wall we went up the previous morning. The foliage was great on this side. While it wasn’t reds and oranges, it was a golden yellow color with green still mixed in. Very nice.
At the bottom of Hopper Brook we made our way back to the car. Just before getting there we headed back down along the field and picturesque barn we passed on the way in. The field was rimmed with maples that were fully ablaze in fall colors. Take that Big Sur!