…on the Appalachian Trail was supposed to be, well, what else? The Hundred Mile Wilderness. I mean, I live 75 minutes from Monson, I’ve day-hiked the short section from the trailhead to Leeman Brook, so it seemed only natural to launch my first serious section hike from there.
Here comes the wrench in the works: I’m moving to Virginia at the end of next month.
So it looks like my first hundred miler might end up being Shenandoah National Park. To that end, I’m already reading up on the area and checking out the permit points, with thanks to the National Park Service for the map:
To be honest, given my lack of significant AT hiking experience, that might be an easier go out of the gate than tackling the HMW for my first weeklong section hike. But it does seem strange to think that I’ll have to search for flights and beg a ride from the airport to Monson when I’m ready to tread the Wilderness.
At least I’ll have friends with whom I can stay when I do come here. And, more importantly, who can pick me up at Abol Bridge when I come staggering out of the woods…
My previous two posts displayed, in photographic detail, the gradual onset of spring as it dropped onto my favorite local running (and now hiking) trail. This week I had planned to hike and shoot part three, which would show the snow completely gone from both the approach road and the vast majority of the woods track.
But my scheduled hiking day also featured the running of the 121st Boston Marathon.
All marathon runners know and appreciate the history of Boston whether or not they’ve actually run it. We’re all familiar with the story of Kathrine Switzer, the pioneer who snuck into the field as “K.V. Switzer” and literally battled her way to the finish line as the first woman to officially conquer the famed point-to-point course. The name John A. “Johnny” Kelley, finisher of 61 Bostons, is revered among marathoners. Personally, I cruised the last ten miles of the 2000 edition with a dear friend (RIP “Rocket”) running his first of ten Boston Marathons, was heartbroken and made anxious by the bombings in 2013 (I knew six people running the race that day), and bounced up and down on my stool and choked back tears at the local Buffalo Wild Wings the following April as Meb Keflezighi conquered a talented group to become the first American to win Boston in over thirty years.
So on the day I had planned to do my third and final hike in the “Buzz off, snow!” series, this former marathoner ran instead. I did manage to run on the woods trail, and it would have been interesting to photograph the stark difference in snow/ice cover from last week to this, but Monday needed to be about honoring my departed friend “Rocket” and those lost and injured in ’13, and about reliving the emotional triumph of watching Meb turn onto Boylston and race towards history.
Last week I wandered into the woods on my favorite local running trail for a practice hike. While it was passable, it was still snow stacked on ice. A week later, it was a completely different trail, thanks to warming temperatures and a couple of short rain events.
The pictures aren’t nearly as dramatic in portraying the differences as actual foot-on-terrain time was.
In just seven days time, a tiptoe trek atop the snow and ice transitioned to a slog through slush, soft snowpack, mud and mini lakes. Several times I postholed in snow nearly to my knees, only to go ankle deep in mud and water just a few feet later. It was a good and enjoyable workout, thanks in part to my usual load in the Kestrel.
Even the weather was markedly different. The previous week’s tramp through the trees featured temps in the mid-30s with wind chills ten degrees colder. Seven days later? 60 degrees. And both hikes started at 10:00AM and peppered me with similar 10-20MPH winds, so the compare/contrast is pretty accurate. Last week I was buried under my typical multi-layer cold weather wear. This week I hiked in shorts. I always enjoy hiking in shorts while walking on/through snow. It’s such a surreal and fun experience, especially after a long winter.
The AT out of Monson gets more snow than we do, and has more substantial tree cover than this trail. Translation? It will be a few more weeks before I can launch a day hike on that significantly more difficult terrain. But I am so looking forward to it. I think it’s safe to say that, after a seemingly endless five months, my spring hiking season has nearly arrived!