Stealthing somewhere past Mt. Greylock [mile 1623.4; SOBO 605]
Ode to the Puffy Pants: A Love Song
Oh puffy pants, oh puffy pants,
They told me not to bring ya
Oh puffy pants, oh puffy pants,
“That half a pound will sting ya.”
In snow and ice you were the best
Without you I have been half-dressed.
Oh puffy pants, oh puffy pants
I’m toasty when wearing ya!
YAY! I have my puffy stuff, and best of all, my downmat! Sweet, sweet WARM sleep!
Some gear babble [For those uninterested in gear babble, which is generally everybody, feel free to skip ahead]:
For winter starters: My current (final, I hope) sleep system is my Exped Downmat UL 7 (R value 5.9), Nunatak 20-degree quilt, down socks, down hat, and Montbell down pants. That’s exactly what I started with for winter ’13, with the addition of a foam mat (Gossamer Gear 1/8), which was invaluable. I was only cold a couple of nights back then—and the conditions were extreme. If I were doing it over again and knew I’d be facing the same single digits and snow, I’d dump the quilt and get a 0-degree bag and suffer the weight hit. I might, in that case, have considered dumping the foam. But probably not; in winter, that was a critical safety backup. (Note: You can’t breath-inflate the downmat because of the down, so you have to take a pump bag. The pump bag is great, though, and I kept it even when I sent the mat home.)
As soon as the temps were reliably over freezing, I sent the foam home. When it was spring, I sent home the puffy stuff (except the jacket, which I’ve kept); when it was summer, I sent home the down mat and used an ultralight NeoAir. I had an accident at one point and sprung a leak in the NeoAir. That meant one night on the ground, and the next day a trip into town for a new NeoAir.)
Of all that gear, the foam pad and the down socks were the bits I’d almost cut because of the weight, and both turned out to be invaluable—hike-saving, maybe.
End gear babble!
I stayed in town last night, which meant diner breakfast, yee-haw! After my bacon and eggs, I had that miserable two-mile roadwalk to get to the trailhead. It was cold and gray and foggy, and I thought Greylock today (highest point in Mass) was going to be a bust.
Wrong! As soon as I got to the trailhead and started climbing, the fog began to thin. Soon I was climbing through the tattered woods under pristine blue. The day was pretty much all uphill, and before long I was sweating and wondering whether to change into shorts. (I didn’t.)
The only downside was the shooting. Beautiful fall Saturday two days before deer hunting season in an area where shooting is legal; there was gunfire everywhere! I’m sure the shooters were being careful, and I had my orange hat on top of my pack like a pumpkin. I remain unshot.
The Massachusetts trail feels old and stately—not as wild as the northern climes, but more like a land of secret gardens. It’s a little more manicured, I imagine because of the greater influx of people. I’m in the population zone now; there are trains, planes, motorcycles, cars. Always, evidence of people.
At one point on the looooooong climb I stopped for a break and managed to get completely turned around. I have no idea how that was even possible. The reasonable answer is that I inadvertently got off the trail onto another trail or a game trail or something and approached the crossroads from the wrong direction. The other answer is that I’m an idiot.
Anyway, I walked downhill about three-quarters of a mile when I came to a log I’d taken a break on. Then another hiker came northbound and set me straight. How discouraging. Like there weren’t enough uphills already today so I had to add one more! But it was fine. Eventually I made it to Mt. Greylock.
Dear gods, there were a hundred people up there. Some of them were parasailing (hang gliding?), which looks completely awesome and is absolutely not on my bucket list. Mt. Greylock was huge on my AT list, and it feels very strange to have passed it.
My little derail cost me some daylight and I couldn’t quite make it to the next shelter. I had to stop here. But my pad is hot underneath me, and best of all, it’s FLAT. No more sleeping on a seesaw! No more watemelon seed! I have my down socks on, and life is good. 🙂
Tomorrow: More Massachusetts. Looks like good weather for a few days.