Mount Greylock to Bennington Vermont
Miles Hiked: 24.7
AT Milage: 1612.8
This morning I woke up to a bright bunk room. I planned to wake up at 5:30 am to go see the sunrise. Another hiker “Noodle” set his alarm clock for us to wake up and go outside. Seeing how light it was I assumed I had somehow missed the alarm and the sunrise, so I disappointingly fell asleep. About five minutes later Noodle woke me up because it was 5:30 and the alarm was going off. I guess I forgot my knack for waking up a few minutes before my alarm goes off regardless of the time, slipped my mind. I put on all of my warm clothes and grabbed a blanket expecting it to be very chilly. When we walked outside I had my doubts about getting to see the sunrise because it just seemed so bright. I thought the sun had already risen and must be hiding behind the clouds.
We sat at the overlook in the chilly morning air and sure enough, we did not miss the sunrise. This was the best sunrise I’ve seen on the whole trail. Staying at Mount Greylock for the night really paid off.
After sunrise I headed back to the bunk room to pack my bag and hit the trail. Apparently there was a breakfast of muffins included with my stay, but I was not going to wait around for it. I left as soon as I finished getting water. I had plans to hike 6 miles to North Adams, Massachusetts and meet some friends (Two Sticks, Double-D, and Prescious) and then slack pack 18 more miles into Bennington, Vermont. My hike to North Adams was almost entirely down hill. I stopped to sign the summit register at Mount Williams on my way. I was surprised to see so many other hikers I had been following had also signed the register. I had been neglecting to sign or look at the summit registers because I had just assumed everyone hiked straight past them. I was wrong. Shortly later, Noodle caught up to me and I received a text from the friends I was meeting that I should take my time to get to the meeting spot because they would not be there until later. Take my time I did. I enjoyed the next few miles into North Adams by hanging out with Noodle. I stooped 3 miles away from the town at a view of the valley and had a long rest and interesting conversation with my new friend. After our break, we continued hiking down into the valley. At one point I took a tumble and noodle grabbed my backpack by the handle to help drag my upwards. We got trail magic twice this morning. Once from a cooler where I drank a gatorade, and a second time from a Southbound hiker who handed us Vitamin Waters and M and Ms. What a great and leisurely start to the day!
When we reached North Adams, I said goodbye to Noodle and waked to a parking lot where I would meet up with Two Sticks, Double D and Precious. This part of the trail walked straight through the middle of a small town with lots of houses. At one point the trail crossed a busy intersection that was completely under construction with lots of machines, workers, and police officers. It was a bit overwhelming, but I found my way to the parking lot and back to the trail by talking to some police officers who helped direct me.
At the parking lot I arrived maybe five minutes before the boys did. It was noon and the heat of the day. They all got out of the car, I gave them my pack, and we stretched and made sure everyone had water. We started to walk down the “trail” towards the woods and I was struggling to keep up. We hadn’t even left the pavement yet and I wondered if I had made a mistake or overestimated my ability to keep up with three apparently very strong hikers. I had assumed I would be able to keep up with majority of people, since I’ve been hiking with Flamingo, one of the fastest hikers I know, for quite a while. I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The pace just kept increasing, and I was having to run a few steps just to keep up. I think we hit about four miles an hour which felt like running to me. You might think that hiking without a pack on would let me hike faster. I really don’t think that it does. I think it makes hiking a bit easier and takes a lot of pain causing pressure off my feet, but my max speed tops out at about three miles per hour, maybe a bit more, with or without a pack. I took yet another tumble. This time I did half a backwards roll over a pile of rocks and bruised my knees but I just kept walking to keep up. I was clearly struggling. Double D came to the back to check on me and told me not to worry about keeping up with their pace if I was exhausting myself to do so. He made sure I knew where the car/ meeting spot was and assured me they would be taking a lunch break or two and that they wouldn’t be bothered if they had to wait on me. I was thankful, and I significantly slowed my pace. I realized that trying to keep up with them wouldn’t do me any good. It’s like speeding on a highway. If you drive 5-10 miles over the speed limit for less than an hour you will only arrive at your destination a few minutes early. If I killed myself to keep up the pace that I was struggling with, I would maybe get to the meeting spot one hour earlier. Not worth it. Especially if they were going to take breaks and I didn’t, we would get there around the same time. I just decided not to take any breaks.
I ran into Noodle again. He saw the group hike by as he was getting some water. I was quite embarrassed that I wasn’t keeping up with the boys. I was so quickly drained of my energy and felt like I was hitting some sort of wall with how much energy I had just expended in such a small amount of time. Noodle assured me that the boys were probably hiking 4 mph when we passed by which made me feel a little better. I thought I was failing to hit three miles per hour which seemed a bit frustrating to me because I know I have hiked 3mph before with a pack on!
Eventually I ran into the boys again at the Vermont border four miles into our 18 mile slack pack where they were taking a break with a surprisingly large group of people. I guess everyone thought the border was a nice place to take a break today. I snapped a quick picture of myself and one with the group before pushing on ahead because I knew they would catch up to me shortly. I really don’t like to wait on people and I especially don’t like to be a person that gets waited on, so I was very flustered at how much I seemed to be holding them up. In reality if I just didn’t take long breaks, I wouldn’t end up more than a half hour behind them.
For the rest of the hike I pushed myself and constantly calculated my pace and arrival time at the car. I passed a few bogs and walked on many large rocks and boardwalks. Vermont is famous for being very muddy. Sometimes it is called “Vermud” by hikers. Today there was a decent amount of mud for how dry it has been but I can see how the trail can become a giant sticky pit the second it rains. I was thankful to not have to deal with the fullblown mud pit potential of the trail today. A storm rumbled over my head for the last 3-4 hours of my hike but not a single rain drop fell from the sky. Lucky. I passed the 1600 mile marker and ran into the boys again at the last shelter before the road where they were taking a break. I decided to take a break here too since we were only four miles away. I was proud of myself for how hard I felt like I had pushed to get there and not fall ridiculously far behind. In the end I was only 15-20 minutes later to the car than they were, but honestly the boys spent that whole time drinking their post trail beers anyways that it didn’t even matter. The final descent off the mountain and down to the road where the car was, was treacherous. It was about 0.7 miles of straight down very steep stone steps. I felt bad for the south bounders who had to climb it, but I knew an equal climb would be waiting for me on the other side of the road when I returned to the trail. I walked down the stairs very slowly making sure to bear as much weight as I could on my trekking poles in order not to injure my knees in my precarious and fatigued state. When I made it to the car I was so relieved that my legs could just stop moving. It felt like my leg muscles were thanking me that they could just stop firing every other second when they didn’t have the energy stores left to do so.
We all got in the car, drove back to North Adams, Massachusetts and then to Two Sticks family’s house where we would spend the night. We were a quite bunch today, just too exhausted to talk and wanted to do nothing except eat and fall asleep. I was glad to have a comfortable place to sleep and rest my tired legs. My foot was still bothering me a lot but I just assumed another big blister would be forming soon.