September 17, 2017
Monument Mountain Motel, in Great Barrington, MA, is the cleanest place we have stayed on the whole AT. I wanted to follow the maid and learn her secrets for leaving bathroom tiles mirror bright, and carpets smelling of fresh air! Instead, we spent two zero days laying around, letting Jay’s hand and arm return to normal. What luxury!
We left Great Barrington this morning, courtesy of a trail angel shuttle named Joe, who we met in the supermarket. He returned us to the trail crossing at Blue Hill Rd, the very spot we had so precipitously left three days ago.
(See our Trail Angel page for a little more about Joe.)
The sky was bright sapphire blue, the air hot and humid. I was glad to be walking again, and under leafy green shade. Six miles of hiking emptied our water bottles, making us look forward to the next water source, described as a spring at the bottom of a rocky cleft. On our way down, we met another couple coming up the hill.
“How’s the spring? Does it have good water?” one hiker asked. We were confused. Why was he asking us? The spring was behind him, wasn’t it?
The two hikers turned back, and with us, headed to the bottom of the hill, where an obvious cleft in the rock looked just as the trail guide reported. Close inspection showed a faint damp spot among the dead leaves clogging the very bottom of the cleft. I searched for a way down the rocks, to see if I could dig out the spring.
“Umm, there was a snake on those rocks when we passed this spot earlier,” the hiker told me.
Forewarned, I moved even more slowly, and much more noisily, into the cleft, about ten feet below Jay and the other two hikers. As I dug, I could feel ice-cold moisture below the leaves and mud. By the time I had finished, the tiny seep held about a quart of muddy water.
Jay and I decided to keep hiking, leaving the limited liquid to the other two very thirsty hikers. Our trail guide predicted water just a couple miles away…
Four miles later, we had crossed only dry or impossibly mucky waterways. Reaching Hwy 7, we decided to look for a civilized water source, and after ten minutes of hot walking, we thankfully filled our bottles with water from a hose at a Jehovah’s Witness church. We were so grateful to see clear, clean water going into those bottles, and to drink as much as we needed!
September 19, 2017
We crossed the border from Massachusetts to Connecticut this morning! We have hiked 1,800 miles, with a bit less than 400 miles to go! What a milestone!
Last night never cooled, and we woke feeling a layer of sweat and grime covering our skin. Clouds covered the sky, acting as a prickly blanket, holding the heat against the land. We had been hiking about an hour when the trail turned to climb through Sages Ravine. The creek commenced to pool and drop, creating beautiful swimming holes. After passing at least five gorgeous pools, we couldn’t resist any longer. Off came our packs (and clothes), and we plunged in! Who cared that it was only 8:40 a.m. and the water was freezing cold? It felt wonderful after walking through muggy, sticky, oppressive air! Washing off the grunge gave us a new lease on the day. Our next mountain, Bear Mountain, was climbed with energy and good humor, even as we felt new sweat trickle down our necks!
Our last landmark of the day was a pillar, nine feet high, called the Giant’s Thumb. A symphony of crickets and barred owls began singing as dusk fell just past the giant boulder. Aahh, when I begin to think the trail is only heat and bugs and dirt, things like Sages Ravine and the Giant’s Thumb bring beauty back to the forefront of my consciousness!
September 21, 2017
The sun was a copper orb, pulsing in a brassy blue sea of heat. Most of the water sources we passed were tiny trickles of life-giving moisture. We heard Guinea Brook several minutes before we arrived at its edge. Several feet across, the brook poured over rocks and around boulders, dancing with sparkle and spray. We crossed the foot bridge, then took a brush-filled side trail behind a boulder the size of a small storage shed. This was the first large water source we had seen since the creek in Sages Ravine. Though the pool behind the boulder was not big enough for swimming, it had ample room for wading and bathing. I was delighted to get clean again, even if only for a few moments in this heat. Hurray for creeks and brooks!
September 22, 2017
Once again, the heat became a very real presence in the forest today. Though there were some lovely breezes whenever we topped a ridge, sweat beaded my face and dripped off my arms most of the day.
We passed the border between Connecticut and New York! We’ve hiked 11 states, with three to go!
As evening approached, we came to Ten Mile Campsite, where the Ten Mile River joins the Housatonic River. We pitched our tent in the gathering dusk, then walked to the river’s edge. A quick bath banished the sweat of the day, then we sat on rocks to dry and enjoy the evening. Fish jumped a few yards off shore. Water reflected pink tinged mare’s tails drifting across a darkening sky. Peace pervaded the scene, softly stealing into my soul, reminding me that I am blessed.
September 23, 2017
We ate breakfast on the shore of the Ten Mile River. A great blue heron slowly flapped huge wings, heading downstream toward the Housatonic River. The water gave us our last cool breeze of the day.
Near 3:00 p.m., the hottest part of the day, we approached the Appalachian Trail Metro-North Railroad Station. We met another hiker, Daniele, who offered to drive us to a nearby deli for a meal. We had planned on eating snacks at the Native Landscapes and Garden Center, which is right beside the trail. However, we were delighted to accept Daniele’s generous offer and have a full meal at Tony’s Deli, which even had a separate hiker menu! But first, we took advantage of the cold shower on the side of the Native Landscapes and Garden Center building. Words can’t describe how wonderful the few minutes of cascading cold water felt! And we smelled considerably better when we climbed into Daniele’s car!
(See our Trail Angel page for a little more about Daniele!)
September 24, 2017
The heat continued to rise. Though we camped on top of West Mountain last night, in hopes of cool breezes, sticky humidity pervaded our tent. At 9:00 this morning, we came upon Nuclear Lake. Blue water reflected blue sky, with a golden spot of heat riding high above. Every place touched by a sunbeam was at least ten degrees hotter than its neighboring shade. I took a plunge into the warm water, wearing all my clothes. Wet clothes as I hiked definitely helped combat the heat, at least for a few hours!
September 26, 2017
The highlight of yet another hot day came at its end. At 6:00 p.m., we were half a mile from our destination, Graymoor Spiritual Life Center. We stopped to check the map, and suddenly, over the hills and through the trees, chimes rang out. We listened, entranced, as electronic chimes from Graymoor’s bell tower played, echoing through the forest.
The Franciscan monks allow hikers to camp at their ball field, and provide a pavilion, a privy, garbage cans, and a cold shower. I had been looking forward to that cold shower for miles!
We pitched our tent and ate dinner in deepening dusk. Afterwards, the shower called me. I hung my flashlight on a hook and luxuriated in cool liquid. The chimes rang out, marking 8:00 p.m., as I brushed my teeth and watched the Big Dipper rise over the trees at the edge of the ball field. The peace of this place wrapped around me. Cold shower, music, starlight, and a comfortable place to sleep. What more could a woman ask for?