“Hey, look…..Hikers!” That’s what we heard as we exited the woods and approached the summit of Mount Gunstock. It wasn’t a casual comment or remark, but an exclamation of surprise. So we covered the remaining distance to the actual summit, somewhat self-consciously due to the stares, and walked up the steps to the viewing deck that was part of the pub on top of the mountain. That’s right…..pub. On top of the mountain. It was closed at the time, but still a novelty. The whole experienced seemed a bit poetic (albeit ironically, bitingly so) on this day that we were trying so hard to salvage.
The day had started out like any other Saturday. We were running slightly behind schedule leaving the house, but didn’t think much of it. Traffic was horrible….it took us an hour and a half to get out of Massachusetts, versus the usual 40 minutes. We were navigating to Mount Whiteface, which we were really looking forward to. My usual navigating apps had both disappeared off my phone the night before, but, after searching for the same ones without success, I downloaded a couple of others that seemed as if they would do the job. I was wrong. The destination of Mount Whiteface led us to someone’s front yard. And while we were surrounded by mountains, we couldn’t find out the names of any, nor how to get to any of their trailheads.
So after four frustrating hours in the car, we decided to head to Mount Gunstock, which we had already researched and had been saving for a shorter trip because it was closer to home and a much shorter hike. But in an attempt to save the day, we crossed our fingers and hoped the navigator would get us there. Thankfully it did, but I wasn’t too surprised as Gunstock Mountain is rather commercial, being the site of one of those ski resorts that offers an adventure center in the summer season. Zip lining, paddle boarding, a full bar and more.
We obtained a map, after much ado and many confused faces. A map….for hiking the mountain??? But you can take the ski lift right up. Hiking up takes 2 hours!!! But we had our map, we chose our trail, and set out to climb the 2 miles to the top of the mountain.
After sitting so long in the car, my muscles were so sore and tight that every step was a battle in the beginning. I found a nice, cool, flat rock next to the brook that I just knew was made for napping. But some encouragement from my partner in crime and plucking a magic wand while crossing a field spurred me on. (Perhaps the wand needs some explaining. I found one of those weeds that has a fuzzy thing on the end of a long stem, which promised ample opportunity to touch it to the back of someone’s neck and be annoying (magic). Fortunately (for someone), I was so stiff that I was unable to stay within striking distance, so my tortuous will was not inflicted – it merely motivated me to keep moving up the side of the mountain. That, and my hope to escape the constant irritating noise of people sliding overhead on the zip line.)
Surprisingly, even with me in my slightly weakened state, the 2 mile, purportedly 2 hour hike took only a mere hour to accomplish. At which time we left the shelter of the woods to enter the stares of those who were ‘sensible’ enough to take the lift to the top of the mountain. We quickly chose our route of descent, exceedingly steep but with the best view, and headed on our way. We had managed to enjoy our day, and I was feeling much better when I got back to the car than I was feeling when I left it. The hike was enough to attain the clear head and peace of mind I usually achieve from hiking a mountain, but this was my least favorite climb, and the first one I wouldn’t recommend.