Sabbath Day – Viewing the Berkshires
After worship and pastoral responsibilities on July 3, I loaded my backpack with a tent, sleeping bag, and lots of water and headed to the Berkshires for a solo holiday. Noelle and August are spending the weekend in Montreal at the Jazz Festival, enjoying French cafe culture, open air markets, and lots of swimming during the day, with music all night. I camped under the stars beside waterfall, and ultimately put in 20 miles on the Appalachian Trail over two days.
The AT actually passes over several summits in the Lower Taconic range, with sweeping views of the Housatonic watershed, the neighboring Berkshires, and Mt. Greylock always visible to the North. My hike began in Salisbury, Connecticut with the steady rise of Undermountain Trail (which I cannot say without thinking of dwarfs.) This took me to Riga Junction and onto the AT. From there it was a very steep one mile ascent to the the summit of Bear Mountain, one believed to be the highest peak in Connecticut. The a steady descent to Sages Ravine, a poetic place to set up camp and read some philosophy before drifting off to sleep. The flowing water, forest creatures and night sounds served as a lullaby. In the distance, “bombs bursting in air” as local communities celebrated Independence Day.
In the morning it took only 15 minutes to pack up camp, retrieve my food from the Bear Box. and be on my way. The next mile followed the ravine, which serves as the border between Connecticut and Massachusetts. I used stepping stones to cross the river, wash up, and begin my Independence Day in the state that brought us revolution.
My trek then took me over Mt. Race and then past Race Brook Falls and back up again over Mt. Everett, the ninth highest peak in MA and the highest in the southern ranges. These heights afforded breathtaking views of the watershed nd most of Southern New England from several metamorphic rock outcrops. I could see not only into four states (NY, CT, MA, and VT), but the single tower in the far distance turned out to be Empire Plaza in Albany! I had never seen Mt. Greylock before, at the border of Massachusetts and Vermont, but I knew it instantly as the inspiration for Melville’s great white whale. Unmistakeable.
Climbing from the south I thought I had seen the last of the mountain laurel, but the northern slope revealed it in abundance. I met turkey and deer, but none of the famous rattlesnakes encountered by others. Lots of snakes; just none with rattles.
On the way down I stopped at Guilder Pond picnic area where I met Wilson and her husband Bob. Wilson section-hiked the AT back in 2011, and in gratitude has spent the last five years offering trail magic to thru-hikers on the 4th of July. Her hospitality included bacon cheeseburgers, buttered corn on the cob, chips, chocolate, bags of crunchy vegetables, home-made cookies, soda and water. And, of course, good hiking stories. Shout out. Welcome to Massachusetts, indeed!
I walked through the woods for a while and then climbed Mt. Bushnell, traversed several unnamed peaks and ascended the strenuous Jug End. A treacherous, rocky descent (I’m glad I wasn’t hiking the other direction) brought me to the gravel Jug End Road and what I though would be the end of my hike.
My intent was to hitch back to my car at the Undermountain trail head. What’s up Massachusetts? I walked another three miles(!) before finding two hikers willing to give me a lift, and NO ONE willing to pick me up off the road! My first attempt at hitching was a failure (which cost me a blister on my left sole). Luckily, I happened upon these two guys coming off a trial on US 41, and am grateful for their ride.
On the car ride home I jammed to a Further show from July 11, 2011 at Bethel Woods. I saw a number of shows on this tour – fantastic sound with Joe Russo and Jeff Chimenti. Having just seen Sunshine Backer at a local Stella Blues show, check her out at the link above with the band on “Comes a Time.” A great end to a great weekend.