Updated: Jun 26
Living life as a New Yorker, I don't have a car. While this is fine for city living, it makes getting to and from trail heads logistically difficult. Five buses kind of difficult.
Today J-Dub and I started our day at beautiful Port Authority in Midtown Manhattan. We took a 7:45am bus to Springfield making our first connection of the day on an Albany bound bus.
This all went surprisingly well. In fact, we were ahead of schedule on both buses which is something that doesn't normally happen on interstate bus rides. Perhaps I should have guessed that this would lead to trouble later (as all things must balance out), but delighted by the time we set off into Pittsfield.
Our first stop was to our old neighborhood ice cream shop, Dairy Cone. This was the place we'd go to after games, on lazy summer afternoons, or just for a quick treat. In my opinion, it's still the best soft serve there is, though admittedly all that sugar does have hints of nostalgia for me that makes it extra sweet.
We passed through our old neighborhood, Morningside, and made our way to a new fixture: the Berkshire Roots dispensary. Having been to some other dispensaries in the state, believe the hype! The staff were all friendly, helpful and kind and the store itself had some beautiful decor.
Our plan after these stops was to take a Lyft or Uber to the trailhead. Seemed simple enough. I've managed to find rides in locales much more rural than the city of Pittsfield, but when I checked there were no cars available. This was unexpected and threw a wrench in our timeline, but with nothing to do but press on we got on the Berkshire Regional Bus line the BBus, and made our way to Williamstown.
The first shelter on the Long Trail heading North is the Seth Warner Shelter. From the bus stop including the Pine Cobble Trail to access the LT, we'd be 6.8 miles away with about two hours of sunlight and no trail legs. It became apparent we needed a new plan.
We considered heading to the Sherman Brook campsite on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts, it'd be a bit closer to a bus stop and then give us a running start the next day. But even that would be a two mile hike and with the bubble of AT thru-hikers in the area there'd be no guarantee of tenting sites.
On the bus to North Adams, J-Dub remembered that a local art gallery in Williamstown The Mountain Goat Artisans allowed hikers to camp for free in their backyard. Or at least, they used to. He had stayed there a few years back when he hiked the Taconic Crest Trail.
A short phone call with the owner assured that they do, in fact, still allow hikers to stay! So our plan was set.
It took $10.00 each and three bus transfers (a total of five in eleven hours on the day), but we found ourselves in downtown Williamstown, a preppy, brick lined, New England college town.
After a quick walk to the gallery we set up in the backyard, able to get our tents up in between evening storms.The yard is really quite lovely and the situation turned out as well as possible. The Hoosic River runs behind it. We were also able to hit the town for some fish and chips at the Purple Pub! An added bonus before digging into our dehydrated food.
LT Mileage: 0
Slow soggy start out of Williamstown, MA. A surprise morning storm got most our gear wet as we were breaking camp. Since we were in the backyard at the Mountain Goat we didn't have any tree cover, so it really poured down on us.
We got coffee, breakfast, and a new trash bag for me at Tunnel City Coffee. I needed the trash bag for my sleeping bag. I usually always pack two: one to line my bag the other as added protection for my sleeping bag, but I made the mistake of only packing one as a liner. The barista was kind enough to give me one for free along with our meals!
Then up to the Pine Cobble Trail. From Williamstown Center it was a pretty straight shot about 8 miles. One tricky thing to note is that at the crossing of Cole Avenue and North Hoosac a sign seems to suggest walking down North Hoosac when in actuality you should: continue up Hill on Pine Cobble Road (obvious enough it would seem, but it's tricky) past a community gate, follow the veer right, and in a few yard you'll find the trail head on your left.
The Pine Cobble is teal blazed a local hiking trail maintained by the Williamstown Rural Land Foundation.
While the trail leads out to Ephs Outlook, a cool view of the valley below on a clear day, we continued to connect to the end of the Massachusetts AT and reach the Vermont border.
At the border we bumped into a Southbound AT thru-hiker named Teacher who was kind enough to pause and take the obligatory southern terminus picture of us.
The sky started to break which was nice and we made it pretty swiftly into the Seth Warner shelter where we decided to stop, dry our gear, our feet, and our... well everything.
At the shelter we met Jim, a Green Mountain Club trail maintainer who has been working this section of trail for 16 years.
We chatted as he packed up and we unpacked and he gave us some good local news and tips on upcoming towns and shelters.
He also told us about a plant that is, "the best natural toilet paper in the New England forest."
While I've since forgotten the name of it, I remember learning from him that it's a native plant which readily roots in the parts of trail often eroded by all the foot traffic and wet weather. Oh, and in terms of toilet paper: tested and approved.
Shortly after Jim left, we moved our operation and set up camp, wanting to get our tents up before any afternoon storms popped up and made things wet again.
As the afternoon and rain went on we met groups of AT thru-hikers, both southbound and northbound. The most curious of which was a couple with a hiking dog who were sponsored as light weight dog food ambassadors. In return for the food they had to post Instagram photos of their dog on the trail. The dog was, admittedly, very Instagramable.
It became clear from the amount of hikers in the tent site and shelter that for the first 100 miles we'd be hiking in a big AT bubble.
LT Mileage: 2.8
Slippery, misty start to day two, but with no rain I couldn't complain!
Out of Seth Warner we came upon what the GMC guide book calls an old beaver pond. While this is probably true, what it doesn't mention is that those generations of beavers engineered the Hoover Dams of beaver dams.
After passing this feat of engineering, we had a climb up to Consultation Peak then and some ups and downs around more ponds to complete the 7.2 miles to Congdon Shelter. We stopped for an early lunch there and noticed someone decided to add a homey touch with a small, Thomas Kinkade-esque cottage painting above the shelter's window.
After our break at Congdon we hiked up Harmon Hill, catching it light and bright at 1pm, a nice contrast to the rainy skies we started with. I also stopped here to take care of some blisters that all the soggy days had given me.
A nice, mountain breeze followed us the rest of the day and kept us cool as we walked down and up the steep climbs from VT 9. The trail often drops in elevation to a road crossing then immediately climbs back up after the road crossing and this was one such, very steep, occasion.
We ended the day at the Melville Nauheim shelter, which was at the top of our road climb. resting before climbing Mt. Glastonbury tomorrow.
LT Mileage: 15.9
Foggy climb up Glastonbury, our first real beast of a climb on the trail. While not our highest climb, we gained about 600 feet over 6 miles making it a long, sweaty climb.
We were joined for about half the ascent by a young hiker named Pec who had just finished a thru-hike of the PTC (so named because he tried carrying Pecorino cheese through the California desert). The funds for his PTC hike had been a college graduation gift from his parents, but now that he had a job on the East Coast he was trying to adjust and was taking a short weekend hike to see what the AT/LT was like.
Pausing at Goddard Shelter we watered up and met some day hikers and AT thru-hikers all making their way up the mountain. Fortunately the sky cleared up just long enough for us to get a view off the fire tower.
As we were descending the tower though it started sprinkling and a few miles back on trail that light sprinkle erupted into a cold down pour.
Soaked and cold we rolled into Kid Gore Shelter and changed into the dry, cold weather layers we packed.
This was probably my lowest point on the trail. Three days in and I now was as soaked and frozen as I was on day zero. To add insult to injury. I had just changed into dry socks in an effort to double-sock and help my blister situation... but now both my socks were soaked.
I was honestly doubting myself. What I was doing out on trail? Why was I letting my feet get ruined? Can I finish this?
In that state of mind, we had a duo of optimistic Nobo AT hikers come into the shelter to warm up and snack. Despite their Katahdin deadline this pair was focused and positive, "look, at this point I'm not just going to quit because I got a little too cold one night," one of them joked about their own predicament and this attitude brightened my own.
After this duo another LT end-to-ender named Gingersnap came in for the night. Like J-Dub, he had completed the LT before. Their conversation about favorite parts of the trail still ahead turned my mind forward rather than inward and I went to bed more excited than uncertain.
LT Mileage: 28.5
The sunrise at Kid Gore was spectacular. The shelter faces eastward into a valley and with the day starting on that beautiful note I set off in high spirits.
Our next mountain to climb was Stratton. Another large, long climb with switchbacks around the mountain that seemed to go on and on.
But the top was so worth it. On a previous section hike this top had been clouded in, but today it was clear and a climb up to the fire tower revealed the trail ahead and behind us.
This fire tower is famous on the trail, as it was from this vantage point that Benton McKaye looked out and conceptualized the Appalachian Trail, seeing the chain of mountains and believing that they could and should be linked.
Heading down the mountain, we considered staying at Stratton Pond Shelter, but were still technically a day behind our schedule after the bus travel day. Feeling good and with sunlight left, we ate dinner at the pond and pressed on into the Lye Brook Wilderness where we found a tranquil place to camp close to the Winhall River.
LT Mileage: 45.8
By our fifth day we were starting to run a bit low on snacks. We had plenty of meals so we weren't going to starve, but when you're craving a chocolate protein bar, instant mashed potatoes just aren't the same.
With this motivation driving us we pushed on into Manchester Center where we had our first mail drop sent. First we stopped at Up for Breakfast which we had heard about from a day hiker on top of Stratton. The pancakes didn't disappoint.