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Massachusetts. Coincidence? I Think Not.

2011 August 1

View from Mount Greylock

 

Massachusetts was very similar to Connecticut in both terrain and the New England “feel,” but we were still surprised by how touristy the towns were, especially Great Barrington and Lee. Apparently, lots of New Yorkers and Bostoners have  summer homes in that area. While we were sitting at a trendy little cafe (which serves ah-MAY-zing pizza) called the Gypsy Joynt, we noticed a large number of people milling around town. The shops and restaurants were packed and so were the sidewalks–really, it rivaled the Miracle Mile in Chicago.  The “tragically hip” were out in droves; skinny jeans and absurdly large sunglasses abounded. Any hipster would have fit in nicely. Survivorman with his burly beard and me with my really awesome hiker tan definitely received more than a few second looks. Twice I was mistaken for a waitress in the cafe–not really sure what that was about. Maybe hiker attire gives off a gypsy vibe? We eventually struck up a conversation with a couple at the next table and they told us everyone was in town for the holiday weekend. I looked at him in confusion, “Holiday weekend?” I wasn’t even aware what day of the week it was, and certainly had no idea it was a holiday weekend.  It turns out it was 4th of July weekend and on top of that James Taylor was playing the next evening at Tanglewood. Ah-ha! That explains it!

East Mountain Retreat Center

After thoroughly enjoying our LARGE pizza and huge pieces of cake and ice cream, we examined our lodging options and decided that in light of this new information (it being a holiday weekend and all) we probably wouldn’t be able to get a room anywhere in town. So we decided to start walking the several miles to the nearest hostel. We were hoping to get a hitch, but the main road out of town was packed with tourists who didn’t know what to make of two smelly hikers with backpacks. So we had probably walked about a mile and a half before we passed a local guy working in his yard. He flagged us down and asked, “Can I give you guys a ride to the hostel?!” This was true trail magic. He even knew where we were going, wanted to take us there and stopped his home improvement project to do so. So off we went to the East Mountain Retreat Center [video review] which is run by Reverend Rose, a sweet and welcoming woman we both instantly liked.  This hostel is a little different than any other we had stayed at–mostly because it’s really a retreat center, specifically a place of meditation. Rev. Rose lets hikers stay there if there’s enough space. We happened to be at the retreat center during a week that she shuts it down, so we were the only guests. For only $23, we got a real bed with sheets, a shower, laundry and even a sitting area with a hot plate all to ourselves and in an incredible mountain setting.

Stephen, Kiddo and Tide Walker at the bunkhouse at Upper Goose Pond Cabin

After a fantastic night of sleep (I think we were in bed by 8pm), we headed out the next morning to the trail head– a 1/2 mile walk down the driveway to the road and then another 1 mile to the trail itself. Really an extra 1.5 miles isn’t generally a big deal, but we unfortunately had a BIG mile day planned. Thankfully the weather was great and the terrain was pretty reasonable. We walked about 22 miles that day and made it to Upper Goose Pond Cabin. This cabin used to be privately owned but was donated to the National Park Service. There is a volunteer caretaker there who looks after the place. It has a large bunkroom, several tent platforms, kitchen and privy (no running water though) and it is situated on a beautiful pond. They even have canoes available if you want to go out on the lake. The best part is the blueberry pancake breakfast you get in the morning! All this for the suggested donation of $3 per person. I’m thinking it was pretty much the best deal on the AT.

We hiked a couple miles out the next day and that’s when I began having awful pain in my right foot. I was reduced to hobbling and really couldn’t hike very quickly. So we decided to stay in Lee for a night or two so I could rest my foot and keep it iced. Unfortunately it was still the holiday weekend so very little was available and what was available was absurdly priced. If my foot wouldn’t have hurt so badly we would have walked back to Upper Goose Pond Cabin! We certainly could have eaten more pancakes. After a little rest the pain in my foot was almost completely gone so we hiked on.

 The trail continues for 42 miles through Dalton and Cheshire and then up and over Mount Greylock into North Adams. In Cheshire, the trail passes an ice cream shop/ deli called Diane’s Twist. Since we absolutely cannot pass up ice cream, we stopped in and were enjoying it under a shade tree when I looked over and saw a little gray-brown thing bee-lining it through the grass right towards me. Being a biologist I was curious and looked closely to see what it was–it was a STAR-NOSED MOLE! I know most of you are thinking, “So what? Big deal! I don’t even know what that is.”  Well to me it kinda is a big deal because that’s the little critter I studied while in grad school and they were infamously hard to find and trap and here’s one coming right at me! Crazy coincidence #1.

The monument on the summit of Mount Greylock

We kept on trucking northward and at the end of a long day, we made it up Mount Greylock, which is the highest point in Massachusetts. We had decided that we’d really live it up and stay at the Bascom Lodge which is located on the summit. We got there at 6:57pm which was just in time for dinner at 7:00pm. Since the restaurant looked a little swanky, I made a quick trip to the bathroom to try to comb my crazy tangled hiker hair. Just as we walked into the restaurant, I was stopped by a gentleman who had seen that Survivorman was wearing a Taylor University t-shirt. He wondered if it was the same Taylor located in Upland, Indiana. I told him, “Yes, we’re alumni and I teach there.” His response, was “Wow, I’m on the board of trustees there.”  At this point I was so glad I took the time to brush my hair. I couldn’t do anything about the smelly, sweat-soaked clothes, but at least my hair was presentable! Crazy coincidence #2.

Bascom Lodge

The BascomLodge offers a hiker bunkhouse. It’s a bit expensive–$35 per person, but they do offer a work-for-stay option. Since we decided to live large and get a room there, we didn’t even investigate the bunkhouse. The inn keeper was able to get us a deal on a nice room with two twin beds for about the same price of the bunkhouse, so we were totally stoked about our good fortune! The rooms are beautifully decorated and the food (while expensive) was REALLY REALLY good and completely worth the price.  While we were at the lodge, we met a really great family who was intrigued by our hike–especially the 13 year old daughter, Jonah. She grilled us for more than an hour about the trail. “Where do you get water? How much food do you carry? What kind of tent do you have?” We were more than happy to answer her questions and see her excitement as she discovered more and more about the trail. I remember the feeling. I was there too. The trail just gets under your skin, stuck in your brain, lodged in your subconscious. I could see this was happening to Jonah. She may very well find herself out on the trail one day!   **Tune in to our upcoming New Hampshire post for the conclusion of crazy coincidence #3.

The next morning we headed down the mountain towards North Adams– which is only a few miles from the Massachusetts/ Vermont border. The trail itself kind of skirts the town of North Adams, but again we couldn’t pass up town food.  So into town we went. By the time we got there, my foot was hurting so badly I could barely walk. I was hoping an ice cream sundae would magically help the swelling, but no dice. Only after lunch (first things first!) did we begin the process of finding a doctor. We called seven different podiatrists in the area and either they couldn’t see me for days/ weeks or no one answered. I eventually discovered there was a walk-in clinic in the neighboring town of Pittsfield. Thankfully this part of Massachusetts has a great transit system so we were able to get there easily.

I saw the doctor and he suspected a stress fracture and ordered an x-ray. He never once touched my foot–this is understandable because I’m a hiker and my feet are probably pretty raunchy, but still. How can he know what’s going on if he doesn’t actually examine it? Anyway, I got a call from the office nurse the next day and she told me “No fracture!” Great news, but since I still can’t walk I asked her what the next step was. The response, “take some tylenol.” Super helpful advice. Luckily it was less than an hour later when I got a call from one of the podiatrists I’d left a message for the day before. He could see me immediately if I could get over to his office. It turns out that Dr. Sann has done a bit of hiking and was sympathetic to my plight, so he fit me into his schedule. After an actual foot examination, he told me I had a Morton’s neuroma. I had the very same problem in my other foot way back in Gatlinburg around mile 300. I had been keeping it in check with regular doses of oral steroids and while it was painful, it had never been as intense as the one in my right foot. So the doc gave me a shot of cortisone right INTO MY FOOT–an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It took all my strength not to kick the doctor in the face.  But I made it through. Unfortunately, we had lost about 4 days while we dealt with this injury. We were both feeling pretty discouraged because we have to get back to Indiana by mid-August. My body was apparently trying to tell me in a not so subtle way that I’m either no longer capable (or never was) of  such intense physical activity. But we are sooooo close. So we made the decision to skip the 150 miles of Vermont and go straight to New Hampshire and on to Maine.

So with a plan in place we were leaving on a jet plane and don’t know when we’ll be back again. . . . actually it was a Greyhound bus and we’ll be back in August.

 
3 Responses leave one →
  1. Kyle permalink
    August 1, 2011

    I have had a shot in my foot/toe for an ingrown toenail. It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced! I feel your pain.

  2. Joel permalink
    August 2, 2011

    Liz, keep digging in there on that neuroma…since stopping isn’t an option, keep it from binding up! Happy trails!

    • Elizabeth permalink*
      August 3, 2011

      Thanks Joel! If I have to, I will walk on my hands and knees to finish this darn hike!

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