So, my brave virtual hitchhiker crew! We are on our way! You have boosted my travel spirits with your enthusiastic Go West! comments and impressed and comforted with your map reading and folding know-how (thanks, Vera, for your leadership!).
As you’ll recall from Single Mom Westward HO! Part I, Boston to St. Louis Stop One is Mt. Greylock, at the Berkshires border of Massachusetts and New York. For the non-mountaineers out there, Mt. Greylock, at 3,491 feet (pretty average, as real peaks go), is the highest peak in Massachusetts and part of the 12,500 acre Mt. Greylock State Reservation. The Appalachian Trail passes over Greylock’s summit on its way from Georgia to Maine. My plan: arrive early afternoon for the 3.4 mile four-star Hopper Trail hike from Sperry Campground parking lot – enough of a hike to soothe the soul, feed my trekking yearning, and tire the body in a happy, healthy way; not so grueling as to leave me spent at the start of my adventures. Practical, wise approach.
So…the hurry-up long distance drivers among you are smirking now, I sense it. You’re rolling eyes at my lolling, make-time-to-see-the-trees (and cows) journeying style. Well, smirk away. In fact, use that trusty mileage guide on your New England map (got that map open yet, men?) and tell us just how short a hop this is, will you? A mere 150 miles, Needham to Greylock, door to trail — no bathroom break, gas refill, virtual dog walking, or candy snack needed (though we’ll be craving Rob’s circus peanut stash later for sure). As Indiana Shanna might speak for me, with extra emphasis, if I ask really nice: ‘tough snot, virtual buckos!’ Let’s see you keep up my pace and heart rate on the hike to the summit. Then, just maybe, I’ll let you throw a few ‘whimpy lady driver’ complaints my way. Until then, mix your gorp, swap those warped dockers for hiking boots, and go extra heavy on that bug repellent. Oh, yeah! Summit views here we come!
I must confess my first major travel planning error right upfront here. As friend David (photographer of the gorgeous Boston photo in Part I) can’t help but remind me, I am a sensitive lady. So this hike planning screw-up? It is really embarrassing. Given my somewhat worthy hiking history – Yosemite (with repeats), Tetons, Rocky’s, White Mountains, Maine, Cape Bretton – you’d think I’d check trail status as carefully as road detours and extra scrunchies. No-excuse. Should’ve, didn’t even think a second about it, obviously rusty, single Mom nature girl stupid.
My earlier life, before-single Mom seasoned hiker girl from years past would never have ventured out without consulting the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) omniscient ones. Had I done my AMC homework, I would have known in advance that a major Greylock expansion in progress had closed my preplanned Sperry Road shortcut. (to all but rule-breaking motorcylists anyway). You’ll read about the amazing park updates in Part 3, but a closed Sperry Road this day is bad news for WestWard HO! let’s go easy and not burn myself out Nature Mom. Imagine very deep red blushing and an eyes-closed, chin hanging low big sigh. (Partner in crime Carol would loose marbles in your sleeping bag for me on a whim, so…Sit silently without judgment and you get to stay.)
The staff at the Mt. Greylock Reservation Visitor’s Center are service-oriented, and thankfully, well-stocked with great trail maps – yet another thing I’ve managed to come without. (We’ll talk about my water problem later, but for now Shhhh! You’re here to help not badger). I try not to panic when Ranger Lady behind the desk tells me she’s never heard of Mt. Greylock Inn, and Ranger Man beside her agrees. I’m still absorbing the no-can-drive up Sperry Road news. I opt to put off the ‘where might I be sleeping then?’ question until I settle my must-hike-summit woes.
“To the summit? Starting now?” Ranger Man asks, with a quick, polite once-over my way and a glance at his Ranger watch. “That’s five hours +,’ he adds, flicking open the trail map and felt-penning the fastest, steepest route (of course). No visible flinching from me, he goes on. “If you’re up for it – you’ll have to keep moving, mighty steep route,” he says, a few extra ‘e’s in ‘steep’ for steeply emphasis. “You could probably be down and out by sunset. That’d be…hmm…8:15, or so,” he offers ranger-ly (my story, my dictionary. Rob says okay, if they’re good words and Microsoft doesn’t argue).
Because some things in life are just meant to be, a young couple behind me (early 20s?) moves up for their own map as I realize that I AM SAVED! My inner female debate over the risky foolishness of hiking solo through the dark woods eases. I now have personal emergency companions for Day One’s sprint to the summit! “You see? I sing to myself, gleefully! You are SUPPOSED to make this hike!” Note that I sing whisper softly and follow several car lengths behind my divine emergency couple. No need to annoy them, right? A tad sneaky? Perhaps, but no fool am I!
Divine Couple arrive at the trailhead and…take the last open parking space. Uh-oh. But…! As I’m maneuvering my Honda through mud and brush at the edge of the road, new Truck Ranger Man waves me back. “Car about to pull out,” he says, hand pointing out backup lights. “Space is yours.” I imagine a sweaty halo over Truck Ranger Man’s head. Car parked and locked, I’m off to Roaring Brook Trail! We’ll connect to the Hopper Trail, my virtual hiking friends, splitting off at Deer Brook Trail, to follow the Hopper blue blazes to the summit. Is it odd that confident single Mom me has not a flicker of worry that these trails are well-blazed? As I start the hike and hear and see the real Roaring Brook, I just have that inner Robert Frost sense that I’ve picked the right fork in the road . This trip, this hike? For me, this is one of those you-know-it-when it happens, meant-to-happen joyful journeys of the heart. So glad you’re here with me!
NEXT: Trail to Summit with Dad Memories (just in time for Dad’s Day).