September 29, 2019 Second Section Hike on the Appalachian Trail by Terri Stubits
Our Massachusetts summer section hike.
Last year, we (Neil and I, Tom, Patti, and their son Trip) did our first section hike on the Appalachian Trial in Virginia and decided to do another section hike this year. Tom and Trip have completed the AT in VA, WV, MD, PA, NJ, NY, and CT. They have completed about half of MA, and this is where we decided to section hike. Patti plans all the logistics, and I made reservations at the Berkshire Lakeside Lodge in Becket, MA for our first night after driving up. This lodge is 0.1 distance from the trail. The lodge also let us leave our vehicle there while we hiked. Our plan was to hike (Tues – Fri) from the lodge to Cheshire, MA, a distance of 28.3 miles. Shuttle back from Cheshire.
Left to Right – Terri, Neil, Tom, Trip and Patti
Tuesday morning we started out with a 780 foot climb up Becket Mountain, and continued to the October Mountain Shelter (7.2 miles). Because there was not a reliable water source near the shelter, we stopped 2 miles prior and filtered water and carried extra water to the shelter. The water looked like weak tea even after going through the filter, so I added tablets just in case. This tea tinted water tasted great! Really, it was delicious. Carrying the extra water weight for 2 miles was killer and Neil carried most of it for me. We arrived about 3 pm, and picked out a campsite. It immediately started pouring rain as soon as we got our tents up! Pounding rain for about 1 ½ hours, with water pooling around our tents. As the rain was stopping, we heard a loud thunk! A thick dead branch came down right between our tents. We made dinner (had mini bottles of wine a neighbor had given me, which Tom carried), wiped some of the mud off our tents, and got our bear bags ready for storing. This shelter has a bear box which is really nice. Downside was the mosquitos. Patti and I got bit the most, even after using bug repellent.
It didn’t rain any more that night so our tents had a chance to dry out. Wednesday morning, while eating breakfast, we checked the weather for the Kay Wood Shelter (8.8 miles) and the forecast was for severe thunderstorms and heavy rain that day and into the night. We made a quick decision to hike 12 miles into Dalton, MA. Called for availability at the Econo Lodge in Dalton and made reservations. Now we just hoped we’d get to town before getting caught in the downpour. All day there was thunder but no rain. We stopped for lunch as well as several quick breaks. Tom brought Pellegrino which is very refreshing on the trail. Trip was out front setting a good pace, but I was struggling with all the ups and downs on the trail. Tom turned on his Bluetooth and started playing music. First song was “99 Luftballons” and it really helped me to keep going. I drank most of my 2 ½ liters of water and we stopped before getting to town to filter more water.
We walked to Angelina’s Submarine Shop with cheesesteak bombs on our minds. It was about 5 pm and again just as we got there it started to rain. We left our packs out front under the picnic table umbrellas and went inside to order. These cheesesteaks are loaded with meat, nice and hot, so good. I took out my phone and ordered an Uber to take Neil and I back to Becket to pick up our truck. By the time the Uber delivered us to the Berkshire Lakeside Lodge, the rain had turned torrential with white bright lightening and booming thunder. Neil and I drove back to Angelina’s to pick up Tom, Patti and Trip and drove to the Econo Lodge. Yah! We get to shower and sleep in a bed. Next morning all of us limped into breakfast (except Trip, he was good to go). It was still raining, and we decided to pack it in. We drove home a little short of our goal, but undeterred. We’re already planning next year’s section hike! Terri Stubits P.S. I caught a cold.
September 8, 2019 A Chance Encounter with Trail Maintainers in Maine By Hal Wright
The man carrying a chainsaw to Little Bigelow Lean-to stuck out his hand and introduced himself: “Hi, I’m Hawk Methany.” My canine companion Sofia and I would stay at the lean-to that night, waiting out a thunderstorm which threatened to bring hale and high winds, on the third night of a six-day section hike.
I knew of Hawk, the ATC’s North Atlantic Regional Director, and joked that I was pleased to greet someone who is “AT famous.” Hawk was soon joined by Maine Appalachian Trail Conference Board Member Tom Carr, and ATC employees Paige Gregory and Dan Hale. Tom also serves as the MATC’s Hazard Tree Coordinator.
Everyone carried heavy tree-cutting equipment in and on top of backpacks. Their task was to cut down six hazardous trees which might fall, posing a risk to tent campers in the area of the shelter. Identifying the trees and cutting them down, using saws and tensioned ropes, took almost four hours of work.
By the time the work was done, it had started to rain. The four packed up, said goodbye, and started the 1.5 mile journey back to the trailhead.
From left: Dan Hale, Paige Gregory, Tom Carr, Hawk Methany
As one thru hiker put it, “Maine is a giant stone with trees trying to grow on it.” Geology dictates the character of the Maine AT, creating streams to ford and random tangles of rocks, roots, and mud. But the hiker also encounters hundreds of bog bridges, and elegant flights of stairs made from nearby stones. As members of Allentown Hiking Club know, these and many other accommodations are the work of AT trail maintainers and builders, most of them volunteers from clubs along the trail.
Moody Mountain, Maine. Maintainers rig a come-along and cables to position stone steps.
Bree is an Appalachian Mountain Club employee who tends to the campsites in New Hampshire and southern Maine.
The author, AHC's webmaster since 2002, has pursued a 21-year quest to hike the Appalachian Trail in sections.
When I walked past the Rattle River Hostel and on to the trailhead in Shelbourne, NH, I had finished 13 of the 14 Appalachian Trail states.
This summer's hikes comprised some of the most demanding and rewarding sections of the Appalachian Trail so far. The southern Maine mountains and Mahoosuc Notch lived up to their reputations as the toughest obstacles anywhere on the AT. I remain awestruck as I reflect on the rugged natural beauty of the trail environment in Maine, and will never forget seeing a bald eagle catch a fish in Kennebec River as a waited for my turn to be ferried across the river. I also had the pleasure of meeting many of the hard-working folks who keep the trail in great shape year after year for hikers like me to enjoy.
With this summer's hikes behind me, I'm about 210 miles from my goal of finishing the Appalachian Trail in sections. I thank all those who maintain the trail and help hikers along the way.
The details: Two section hikes, (1) South Arm Road near Andover ME, to Shelbourne, near Gorham NH, and (2) ME Route 27 to ME Route 201, Caratunk. Miles traveled since 1998: 1979. Miles to finish: 210.
Looking Southbound into Grafton Notch State Park and toward Mount Washington.
The trail in Mohoosuc Notch includes numerous passages through caverns. This one-mile section can take hours to traverse.
A leaf is all that's needed to quickly fill one's water bottle from a mere trickle of spring water.
A respite for the weary at Sand Beach, East Carry Pond.
The afternoon sun peaks through a stand of Maine cedars.
Sofia discovers the Kennebec River and hikers waiting for the first canoe ferry rides of the day.
We hike for a variety of reasons, for physical fitness, to challenge themselves, to explore nature. We pack our backpacks and head out never thinking that we won’t get from point A to point B without a problem.
In May a Berks county woman walking her dog got lost on the on the Tom Lowe Trail. I’m sure she thought she was just going for a short hike since she didn’t have any food or water with her. The idea she would spend the night hunkered down outside never crossed her mind. This should be a lesson for us to not get too comfortable even on a short or familiar trail.
Having a fully charged cell phone with you to call for help is basic item to carry with you but there are dead spots on the trail with no cell service so make sure you tell someone where you will be and what time you will be back. And check in with that person when you return. Always take water with you and for longer hikes a protein bar, water filter and thermal blanket should be in your pack. You should carry a first aid kit and make sure you keep it updated and replenished as you use items from it. And a tip from Michelle Hinkle is to carry your old expired Driver’s License in your backpack for identification.
If possible hike with a companion, there is safety in numbers. While the trail is usually a tranquil place where there is a real comradery among the ‘trail family’ sometimes the violence from the outside world creeps in. One such incident happened in May 2019 when one hiker was murdered and another in-jured by an unstable person. Even though the group of four hikers made the decision to leave the area where the unstable person was, two of the hikers were still overpowered. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel uncomfortable get out of the area as soon as you can. And make sure you report anything unusual to the local authorities. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy says ‘If you see something, say something’. The Nation Park Service has a 24 hour Dispatch/Communications Center which can be reached at 1-866-677-6677 or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are doing trail work or hiking in our area and see something that doesn’t seem right our local Game Warden Tyler Kreider has asked that we let him know about it. The Pennsylvania Game Commission violation number is 1-888-PCG-8001 or you can reach Tyler at 610-926-3136. Safe Hiking.