Always Do Your Research.

I learned a very important lesson this weekend – always do your research. Different from always be prepared. We always go hiking with a full pack – first aid kit, water purifying kit, flare, space blanket – basically everything you’d need should you encounter an emergency or get lost or stuck in the wild.  No, doing your research means knowing what you’re getting into. Not that Mount Greylock was hard to hike. In fact, it was the easiest mountain I’ve hiked so far. But I didn’t know that going in, because I didn’t do my research.

     To begin, we started the day with a three hour drive to get to the mountain. Since we were navigating to the visitor’s center at the foot of the mountain, we didn’t bother printing any maps of the trails before we got there. We were sure they’d have plenty. And they did. So I got a map from the ranger and walked across the parking lot to where the trail started while casually perusing the map. Then I looked a little closer at the map. Looked at the sign at the trail head. Then the map again. Then I hiked back across the parking lot to speak with the ranger.

     The full trail for Mount Greylock is eight miles long. I love hiking, and used to think nothing of a 10 mile trip – back when I lived in Florida where everything is relatively flat and you hike a mile in under 20 minutes. But, as I learned the hard way on my first climb after moving up here last year, mountain miles are different. It takes a good hour a mile when you’re climbing straight up. We had read (briefly) that it only took 4 hours to climb Greylock. Something wasn’t adding up.

      A quick chat with the ranger revealed that very few people climb from the bottom, especially if they’re not planning on staying overnight (which we weren’t), and there are many places to park along the way as the road goes all the way to the top. A lot of visitors just drive up. So, at the ranger’s suggestion, we parked halfway up at the campground parking area. About 4 miles from the top, so still a challenging day’s hike. We thought. Except that when we get out and start climbing, we discover that the trail really isn’t that steep. Almost like a vacation compared to the last couple of weekends. 
So we took the Campground Trail to Hooper, then chose the Overlook trail to the top to add a little time. We passed a few nice waterfalls on the way up. Lots of mud, slick rock, and tree roots made the journey a little more challenging than a walk in the park. At the top, there’s a war memorial and a lodge. A nice view, but a bit crowded with all the people who drive up. We spent some time wandering around the top, had our mountain summit snack, then started our way back to the car and our long drive home. We took the Appalachian Trail to Hooper to Campground on the way down, and passed a picturesque  pond. The entire climb took less than four hours, with plenty of picture ops and a long stroll around the top. Had we been prepared and done our research going in, we would have known that we didn’t need to start halfway up – most of the hike was not measured in mountain climbing miles. But it’s a lesson learned, and we’ll be better prepared next time.

     However, we have a little something different planned for next weekend’s adventure. We’ll be traveling back to Western Massachusetts, but this time we’re headed for the Deerfield River, where I will try my hand at fly fishing for the first time!

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