The results are predictable, we end up with “extra parts” for whatever it is we are trying to piece together. Our highly developed brains tell us that they must have put these parts in by accident or as spares just in case, only to find out that the seemingly insignificant “spare part” plays a pivotal role in performing the key function of whatever gizmo it is that has fallen prey to our mechanical genius. Once again we are faced with our ultimate do it yourself fate, take it apart, read the instructions (only as a last resort – of course), and……….reassemble using the spare parts as prescribed.
As for the latter genetically dictated male shortcoming, simple, we get lost. Solution, ask for directions. For all you males, please note, never ask for directions in the presence of a female passenger, just state, “I know where I’m going,” with great confidence and authority, continue to drive around aimlessly for hours.
Our faithful travel guide, “Highpoints of the United States” clearly states to proceed north through the town of Adams, Massachusetts (a cute little hamlet – by the way), turn left on Maple and then left on West Mountain Road. But Nooooooooooooo! The boy genius (that’s me) sees a sign for West Mountain Rd on the south side of town. “Ahah, alas and alack, I’ll bet that the road goes in a big half circle, I’ll bet I have just discovered the long lost short cut to Mt Greylock.”
Within a couple of miles the road turns into a crappy little dirt cow path through the woods. But………we continue. Eventually we bumbled our way onto another paved road (now with a different name) and right before our very eyes, “The Mount Greylock State Park Visitors Center.” Once again, a dumb ass mistake, error in judgment, momentary loss of reason, has left us smelling like a rose.
A nice park ranger lady informed us that there are in fact two, separate and distinct, not connected, don’t go to the same place, roads named West Mountain Road. I guess the founding fathers of Adams had trouble coming up with different names for their thoroughfares? We got totally hooked up with a detail trail map of Mount Greylock and directions (which we followed to a T) to get to the correct West Mountain Road. Fact is, had we followed our original directions we have found the place just fine. But now…..we have a park guide and trail map as well as personalized hiking recommendations from the nice park ranger lady. We must be in strong favor with the Summit Gods – might be all the offerings Spanky has left (don’t worry – I do clean up after Spanks).
Our slight indiscretion cost us less than an hour. It was still fairly early morning when we located the trailhead of the Cheshire Harbor Trail and parked our trusty steed in a dirt parking area nestled amongst beautiful, green, apparently non working farm pastures – Spanky did his pre climb, circular, through the tall grass running ritual for good luck. And off we went.
The hike to the summit, following this route is 3.3 miles (6.6 round trip – I know, most of you could have figured that out) with a 2,000 ft gain in elevation. I read somewhere that a good rule of thumb for planning such ventures (this does not apply when the elevation starts to get real serious) is 30 minutes for each mile to be hiked and an additional 30 minutes for every 1,000 ft of elevation. Spanks and I like to turn it into as much of a workout as possible so we try to do it fast. We got up there pretty quick – my shirt was absolutely soaked with sweat – Spanky wasn’t even breathing hard.
From our vast experience (one other mountain in the area), the vegetation along the trail was characteristic of the Berkshires, dense hardwood and evergreen canopy, thick fern covered forest floor at the lower elevations, turning into a sub alpine, mostly evergreen, environment in the summit area.
A little over 2 and half miles up, the Cheshire Harbor Trail runs into the infamous Appalachian Trail, which takes us the rest of the way to the summit. I start thinking about the guys we met two months ago on the Appalachian Trail – we were headed for the summit of Mount Rogers, VA, they were hiking the length of the trail from GA to ME. Wonder where they are? I’ll have to take a look at hiking time estimates when I get a chance.
The final half mile along the AT is really cool. The trail is a mix of really rocky inclines, relatively flat boggy areas where half sawn logs have been laid down to protect the fragile plant life, and within about a quarter mile from the top, a beautiful, isolated pond hiding in the forest. And then the summit. On June 20th, 2007, Spanky and I set foot on the 3,491 ft peak of Mount Greylock, Massachusetts. Number 20 – 40% of the way there!
It’s bloody windy and cloudy up there. Being soaked with sweat didn’t help any, I actually god chilly and had to put on a jacket.
The summit of Greylock is developed, but tastefully so. Remember, it is a state park so no proliferation of antennae. The very top of the mountain sports a WWII Veterans Memorial Tower. Stone walkways and grass surround the tower – it is not a pristine, natural mountain top but pleasant just the same. Despite the cloud cover, there were some very enjoyable views of the Berkshires and the valleys below.
The Greylock summit can be reached by car. But……….fortunately, the road is being repaired, renovated, etc and it is closed. Spanky and I have the place almost to our lonesome. Suddenly Spanks runs off……oh there’s another hiker. I look a little closer and something isn’t quite registering. I go to retrieve Spanks and realize that it’s a guy, maybe 20 or so, wearing a kilt. He wasn’t real talkative so I never asked about the kilt thing. Hiking in a kilt………..I guess it keeps ya nice and cool.
A short while later, two more hikers approach us. They are rigorously greeted by Spanky – definitely dog guys. I asked them for a little photographic support which they gladly helped with. Told em all about our travels to date and gave em a couple of business cards hoping to gather some more support for our venture.
These guys had hiked up the previous evening and spent the night in one of the camping shelters on the mountain. They were staying in the park and hiking around for a couple of days. It didn’t take 5 minutes till the hikers were sitting on the tower steps, Spanky in between them, being fed pieces of their beef jerky from alternating sides. I don’t want to say Spanky is a mooch but………..the little fella sure has a talent for making friends and getting food out of strangers.
Our new friends moved on to take the Appalachian Trail north, Spanks and I hung out for a bit, taking it all in and headed south to catch the trail back to the base of Greylock. Maybe a third of the way down we run into an elderly gentleman (I’m getting there my own self) on his way up carrying a chain saw in one hand and a can of gas in the other. He asks us, “See any trees across the trail up there?” “Nope!” says I. He smiles and continues his slow but purposeful and steady pace up the mountain. Very New Englandish – friendly but didn’t have much to say. Not sure if he was a volunteer trail maintenance guy, worked for the state, who knows?
A little further down the mountain we are greeted by a husband, wife and early teens daughter hiking team. I put Spanks on the leash just to make sure – some people actually don’t care much for pooches – something that I just don’t get but……..to each his own. The husband member of the hiking ensemble declares, “You must be Spanky and Rein!” I was taken aback for a second, falsely imagining how famous we have become, they must have seen our pics on the net, hell everyone knows us by now. I quickly crashed back to reality and realized that he had read the sign on the old truck. Pretty cool nevertheless. Our advertising works!
By the time we get back to the truck the sun was out full force. It’s hot and all Spanky wants to do is lay in the shade under the truck. I actually had to coax him a little to clamor aboard. As soon as I got the air conditioning torqued up, he was cool and content, fell fast asleep, twitching a little once in a while, dreaming, no doubt of chasing squirrels in some imaginary, magical squirrel forest.
Later on that very same day, back at the campground in Saugerties, NY, we got slammed by some major league thunderboomers. I briefly mentioned Rip Van Winkle a few pages ago. The full story on him is that he somehow ended up playing Nine Pins with the ghosts of Henry Hudson’s crew, got drunk on their booze, and passed our for 20 years of thereabouts.
Listening to the sounds of thunder careening about and echoing off the walls of the Catskills it’s easy to conjure up an image of the specters of Hudson’s crew engaging in a phantasmal bowling contest with a drunken Van Winkle. Once the mind starts motoring, every thunderclap sounds more and more like some huge round stone bowling ball knocking into pins made from the trunks of mighty oaks. Alright, so my imagination is out there but I can see how the story was dreamt up one stormy night in the Catskills.
The very same storm that had me and Spanks dreaming of spooks in the mountains dumped something like 8 inches of rain in one hour on the western slope of the Catskills. That much water, in such a short time caused flash flooding of several creeks, creating walls of water that carried away cars, trucks, and even houses. Whole towns were devastated and sadly, some people were killed. I don’t suspect it made national news.
The moral of the story, my opinion, nature is omnipotent. No matter how much us humans delude ourselves that we have it together, that we are in control with our nice little houses, buildings, etc., there is always some act of nature lurking around the corner that will disprove our false sense of comfort and security. I’m not preaching gloom and doom, the sky is falling, an asteroid is gonna kick your ass type nonsense. Not at all. Live life, have a great time, but always remember, us humans may be the most advanced creature on earth, but we are not in charge!
I’m reminded of an old TV commercial with the tag line, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!”
On a slightly brighter note……….I was walking Spanks around the campground in Saugerties – a final loop around just before our departure for Vermont. There were about 5 kids (I’d say age 4 – 7), a couple of em on bicycles, others on foot, hanging out in front of the campground office. They descended upon Spanky like a swarm of flies. I must say that the first one did ask if it’s OK to pet him. “Of course, he loves kids.” Spanky had a ball with the little tykes for 10 – 15 minutes but………..we had to venture forth. As we pulled away, the last thing we saw and heard was a bunch of kids waving and yelling, “Goodbye Spanky!”
E Pluribus Unum!
Me and The Boy At The Base of The Summit Tower
Spanky Mooches Jerky Off His New Best Friends
Looking South From The Summit
View To The Northwest
Greylock Summit Sign
Great Thoreau Quote Carved Into Stone On The Summit
I Call This One - "Spanky and Pond"
Mount Greylock From The Valley Below