Always Do Your Research.

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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. 
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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!

Greetings from the Top

029     Well……I conquered Mount Monadnock. They estimate that it takes about 4 hours to climb round trip. We did it in less, including a small picnic snack at the top and taking a longer route down, so I feel a bit like a rock star. Except that I had to stop every 10-20 minutes on the way up to catch my breath. A minor detail, right? We took the ‘White Dot’ trail up, which is the most direct route, then the ‘Red Spot’ trail down, which takes you hiking across the top of the mountain and down a different side, where you eventually take a trail leading back over to the White Dot. There are some amazing views, and the scenery is gorgeous.

Next on the list is Mount Greylock, which is the highest peak in Massachusetts at just under 3,500 feet. And the new goal for the end of the summer is Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which is almost 6,300 feet.

The best part about climbing a mountain is the celebratory feasting for the rest of the weekend. Or maybe that’s just my opinion? The worst part is the guilt I feel when I come home to my dogs after leaving them alone all day. Not that the spoiled pups don’t get reparation in every form possible. Lately, they’ve been pre-occupied with the sudden surge in the rabbit population around the house. They’re quite certain that it’s their duty to try and narrow the numbers. Having had pet rabbits for a while as a child, I know that their teeth, and surprisingly their claws, make them much more formidable foes than their cuddly appearance would lead one to believe.

Two different dogs means two different hunting tactics, of course. My Jack Russell, Tempest, is a silent assassin, who will stalk and ultimately pounce on her prey (even when it’s my other dog) without making a sound. Sullivan, however, is a Schnauzer mix with a war cry that could rival that of any warrior princess. His high pitched shrieking let’s every creature within hearing distance know that he’s either A) seen another creature that moves or B) is being tortured and abused in the worst possible way. Both are rescues, and have their quirks, but are wonderful little pups that I’m happy to spoil rotten.

So, weather permitting, I will makes the pups ever so comfortable on the couch, with their pillows and blankets, surrounded by their toys, while I go climb Mount Greylock this weekend. After another long week at work, where the minutes seem like hours and the hours seem like days, I’m really looking forward to it.

View from the top.

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