Welcome back, my virtual hitchhikers! When last we parted ways, our hike to Mt. Greylock summit had finally begun (after a few minor adventure-preplanning and car parking delays but no serious showstoppers). Whoa. Am I sensing trouble? Darn! You’ve lost your Single Mom Westward Ho Part I virtual energy, haven’t you?! Get back out here with me this minute! Rejuvenate and reorient those lazy senses of yours. We’ve got birds. Hear them? And squirrels and cute little chippers scurrying everywhere. We’ve got wet leaves and good earthy mud. Gotta have mud. Gorp? Check. Bug repellent? Check. Boots laced??? Let’s try this again. Ready, Set, Back to Hiking We Go!
The Roaring Brook Trail soooo fits the hiking fantasy – woodsy enough to shade you out of the real world almost instantly, but not so forested to block the June sun dappling in. True to its name, the trail winds its way brook-side. It’s not quite a roaring brook today, but after our wet spring it is purring along over rocks and into pools and mini-falls, under the wood planked crossings and tree trunk bridges. Aha. Look at this?! THIS is a very decent branch of a walking stick, just a little bend at one end for a good grip. See that? I may hang onto this and finally learn whittling this trip. I really might, you know? Don’t be a doubter. I’d keep an eye out for your own walking stick, if I were you. You’ll want one for the frolicking skip back down these Hopper and Roaring Trails. Speaking of downhill racing, I noticed back at the Visitor Center that the lady of our Emergency Divine Couple was wearing Tiva sandals. I predict she’ll be regretful come descent time.
This IS nice, isn’t it? Absolutely top ratings as nature walks go, in my book — no bugs, well-placed mix of Mother Nature rocks and stumps and an impressive array of volunteer created walkways and balance-beam rustic logs for us to dance across. If my son, Max, were here, he’d be in rock heaven in the MIDDLE of Roaring Brook, so join me in thanks that he is NOT along this time. (Please do meet Max in my Mom-Son adventure in How to Survive — and Even Enjoy — Disney With your Teen Son and Friends.)
By Mount Greylock Reservation ratings, both Roaring Brook and Hopper are strenuous. Roaring Brook maps to 1.9 miles roundtrip, linking with Hopper for the 2.4 mile summit connection. My mind is babbling along well now. Yours? Look at these birch trees! These are Massachusetts birches, brooks, woods, I know, but for me they conjure up New Hampshire. My younger brother calls me a flatlander these days, but I grew up a small town NH mountain girl, Mt. Sunapee and Mt. Ascutney both as fond neighbors. I had my own backyard brook down in the woods behind my house, too. I could crawl behind my falls to just sit and be.
I’m picking up curled sheets of white bark, one after another. ‘What will I do with them, you ask?’ Not a clue. I’ve tucked them carefully into my pack before the Dad memories scratch their way out of the bark collection. I get it now. Dad would have been 84 years old this Dad’s day were he around in more than spirit. And you know? He was – is — the inspiration behind my nature-loving, tom boy ways – digging for nightcrawlers surrounded by NH birch trees, catching rainbow trout, baseball in the Mann Court field, our bumpy flooded backyard ice rink (surrounded by birch trees), my very elegant powder blue ice skates, roasting marshmallows in our awesome stone fireplace. He loved the outdoors and was so good at building things, from my doll house furniture (little television sets and all), the big backyard ‘love’ swing, monkey bars, the cool tree house, the seesaw that spun around. He might be needing a cane and a heck of a lot of extra water today, but he’d be keeping up, I’m betting. Warm inside smile, with just a small sigh included.
Enough Dad flashbacks for now. Thanks for humoring me with the memory moments. Back to our summiting task at hand. In Part I, Single Mom Westward HO!, I mentioned that Mt. Greylock’s summit, at 3,491 feet, makes it the highest mountain in Massachusetts (though meager by other major mountain standards, for sure). Even without the help of my originally-planned Sperry Road shortcut, we started out with a little bonus jump on our final elevation since the Roaring Brook Trail parking area measures in at 1100 feet before the Trail even begins.
Rest stop. I need to ‘share’ while we enjoy this rock stop, if that’s okay. Don’t assume that it’s bad news. It’s not really bad. This is my final planning mistake. I promise. With flurry of Ranger news back at the Greylock Visitor Center (i.e. closed shortcut road, late hiking start, no knowledge of my Inn for the night but saving that panic for later), I was distracted. I stupidly packed only a single Gatorade in my pack. That means that this 8-ounces is our thirst-quencher for this 5-miler. Another really dumb rusty hiking Mom oversight, I realize. I figure that this mistake may make you pretty grumpy over the next few hours. Still, please drink sparingly.
Back to our feet! Up! Stretch out those legs. I hope you’ve enjoyed the casual, easy forest strolling so far, because easy is soon to be behind us, virtual hiking friends. We are into serious alpine climbing now. Pace yourselves and breathe. According to the squiggly topographical lines on my Greylock trail map, we are about to get a workout to 2350 feet before we reach Hopper Trail (1.9 miles). So, breathe and prepare to jaunt uphill some 1250 feet – moderate, but still effort-full with no leveling breaks for reviving along the way.
Roaring Brook, per our map, joins Hopper at Sperry Campground, and we are there. Take a fond look around at what could have been our parking area and starting point. Be proud at the impressive hiking you just did! Had our shortcut panned out, you would have missed all of that. Those hot dogs cooking at that camp site over there do smell good!
I can’t figure these signs out. Can you? Is Hopper pointing in both directions or am I dizzy from not enough water? Turn in circles with me for a bit here and let’s try to figure this out. Nothing more for signage down this dirt road. And we just came from that sign post. Hey! We’ve caught up with our Emergency friends from the Visitor Center! They looked as baffled as us. Extra heads are always better. Backtracking to the Roaring Trail final bridge and retracing steps one more time, we ask some descending climbers, who reroute us to Hopper. Back on track.
Tired are you? Me too, a little. Some good news, then. This next stretch of trail to the summit rises 1141 feet over 2.4 miles, slightly less climbing with a half-mile extra to level it out! Smile! We’ll be at the top before you know it. For the final ascent, our Hopper blue blazes turn to white, as we join the real Appalachian Trail. How cool is that! You’re going to be hooked into planning and ticking off your own mountain highs before you know out, with and without me. I feel it!
I hear motorcycles. What’s with that? Aren’t we miles from Rte 7 up here?
Kind of us to stop and chat with that older hiker on the bench back there. His face was so red, he had me worried. Should we feel good that his wife was able to call his cell phone in the middle of the forest to make sure he was okay? I’m torn on this one, the technology in nature thing. I’ll admit that it’s somewhat comforting in that ‘case of emergency’ way to see so many signal bars out here.
I see clearing ahead! Look at this trail exiting view! It’s like a framed welcome to the top of the world – okay. Not quite the world, but Massachusetts, for sure. We walk out of the forest to 360-blue skies, an arc of nap-inviting green grass (oh, yeah!), and the Greylock War Memorial Monument centered in the summit path. And there, in the parking lot, are the motorcycles we must have heard earlier, weasling their way up the closed summit road. Grrrrrr (with a stretched lioness paw to Ms. Gilbert of true growling fame, of course).
Various Mt. Greylock articles (I did do some pre-planning, see?) warned of possible chilly, stormy winds at the summit even in summer. Not a chance of that this gorgeous June day. We have a few other summit friends, but also seem to have avoided the rumored ‘beach crowds’ reported during leaf-peeping season. The closed summit road may have helped out with that? We also avoided a single bear. A moose encounter might have been a fun thing, but that’s a Maine story for another day.
Even without dropping a quarter into one of the mega-binoculars around the summit edge, you get a panoramic view some 90 miles out to peaks in New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and, of course, through the rest of the Reservation. If you tire of landscape views, there’s much reading of plaques to be done here on the Mt. Greylock summit. One tells us the war memorial is 93-feet high. The head-tilting monument looks more like a lighthouse, with its beacon top. It really is eye-catching, and it’s tugging at me, given my Dad’s paratrooper days in Normandy. Bascom Lodge is closed today, but looks like a possible overnight choice, should we return one day to link together more peaks and miles of Reservation trails. I read that we could create a hike to join various Greylock park mountains without hitting a town for several days — extra water a must next time ’round though, for sure. Tempted?
We make it down a good 40 minutes before sunset, tired and very thirsty. I read that hikers get lost here every year, some for days. Greylock is wilderness, my virtual friends. We have done our Rangers proud. Back in my Honda, I give an extra smile at the red poppy on my steering wheel, for Dad. Then, back to the map, in search of Adams, dinner, pillow and Mt. Greylock Inn. Map is unfolded. Rte. 7N. Lanesborough. This side of Greylock. Williamstown…Adams …VERA! Virtual map Queen—HELP me!!!!!