AT Massachusetts – Planning
October 19, 2020 § 1 Comment
Last year, 2019 Christmas, I started and knocked out the Connecticut portion of the Appalachian Trail. You can read about that here and here, and maybe even here, however in preparation for that trip, I purchased the AMC guide book for that section, and what came with that was also the maps and guide for Massachusetts as well. So, it should not surprise to anyone, that as I was mass transiting back to NYC, I had already started thinking about what it would take to knock out Massachusetts as well.
That was late 2019, and if you have been paying attention to the news, at that time, there were some stories coming out of China about a new virus. Not much was known, but it seemed very serious. By mid January, our President, incompetently chose to pursue an “ignore it and it will go away attitude”, and by March, populous regions the United States were in full overload gear dealing with that incompetent choice. Soon much of the country was shutdown, and plans for the year for everyone were being re-thunk.
2020, was the year I had been planning to spend 10 days in the Weminuche Wilderness, located in the San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado. I tried like hell to maintain the hope that we could still pull it off, but the reality soon became apparent; that there just wasn’t any way that we could do that safely enough for our own safety, or for our families’ safety, and so I pulled the plug on it in June of this year.
With Weminuche off the table, suddenly I could see that I would have time to add Massachusetts to my schedule, and I informally decided (that is where a voice in my head says ‘Hey, let’s do this!’, and I listen and commit) to do just that. I started to investigate the guide, and the maps, and I pulled the Geo-pdf files for all the quads that the AT passes through in Mass. That gives me the paper maps, and an electronic set of maps as well. I utilize Avenza, and since I have the kml loaded for all the Shelters and the tracks for the AT itself, any time I add a map, I automatically get all that superimposed on the map when I view it in the app. Why? Nerd.
Massachusetts has shelters about every 10 miles, give or take, and it has some other facilities as well. There are a few camp sites, and there are at least a couple of cabins as well, as in Upper Goose Pond Lake cabin. About, means that some are more and some are less. Some a lot less. For example on the North side of Mount Everett Hemlock, and Glen Brook are .1 of a mile apart at most, where as Tom Leonard, the next shelter to the North is 14.5 miles. After that, it would be either 20 to the cabin on Goose Pond, or cut the day short at Shaker Campsite, and then have a monster 19 mile day the following day.
When you read thru-hiking blogs the first thing you find out is that not one single person held their original plan. The situation almost always changes on the ground as you hike. For me, I felt like 8 days to knock out 91+ miles was very doable, and with the extra daylight afforded to me in September, vs the daylight I had in late December, I should be able to get it all done without having to hike late into the evening. That was the plan for me.
And then I got this idea to open the adventure up to my regular bi-annual crew to see if anyone wanted to join me. I may have sold this as easier than it really was going to be, but I felt like if we just kept moving, and took enough breaks, almost anyone who joined me, would be able to make each days goals. Out of the chute, Kevin wanted in, and Mike was interested, both being worried about the long days, but both felt that if they trained for it, then they should be able to do it.
I think a week went by, and I received a detailed spreadsheet of everything Kevin had thought he would need and what each item weighed, and so far he was up to 25 pounds before food and water. He was also re-thinking some of his “needs”. For example, just how many pair of underwear do you think you really need? I found that the number is greater than one, and less than three. T-Shirt? You only need one. Socks? Two pair is enough. Layers? For the time of year, enough layers to be warm in low 30’s would be enough. That would be one long sleeved base, then a long sleeved thin fleecy layer, and finally something a little thicker, maybe even a down vest. Light, but enough to take the chill away. One pair of pants is all that is needed. Why one? Think about it. You can only wear one, so that means you are carrying the other, and if it is wet, then it weighs more than it was dry. Then you have two stinky wet shirts or pants. “Why carry two pair of underwear then?” I hear you asking now. Well that is a little different, and calls back to the time I only had one pair and then thought I simply had to fart. Get it now?
Also a lot of things you can wear dry, and by that statement I mean, that if it gets damp, or even wet, you can wear it wet and it will dry out while you wear it, unless of course it is still raining. Ha! The point is, that you don’t need to carry a spare of everything. Just make sure you limit what gets wet, when wet is the order of the day.
Another thing that weighs a lot is water. I have modified how much water I carry on any backpacking trip, down to no more than one liter. Many times I don’t even start with water in my bottle, as I will get water at the first stream crossing. My recent purchase of a straw meant I could stop at a creek, dip a cup, and drink using the straw without removing my pack. Keeping the weight down is paramount.
Dehydrated meals are lighter than whole food, but there is something even lighter. Ramen. That is the go-to choice of most thru-hikers. It is ready the quickest, and it is the lightest high carbohydrate food you can carry. Also it is easy for the general stores along the AT to stock for re-supplies. However, that analysis is a post hike analysis, and was not something I was considering for this hike.
September is the month that I usually choose for my Western adventures. There are a number of reasons for this:
- The Weather is a lot cooler. I prefer cold nights and cool days, as hiking is a strenuous activity, and it is so much more enjoyable when you are hiking to stay warm, than when you cannot cool off.
- Crowds. The truth is, that as much as I am a social butterfly, when it comes to outdoor adventures, I prefer the tranquility that comes with solitude. Solitude with my friends, and the place to ourselves. In September all the kids and College aged adults are back in school, and on the weekdays, it is even more sparse.
- Seasons. The East Coast is more of a four season place, but when you get up and into the higher elevations in the West, they experience four seasons as well, and the Fall Colors in the mountains are always stunning.
I chose the last weekend of September, and the first weekend in October as my weekend boundaries for this hike. I was prepared to handle it all with mass transit again, and then use shuttles, but with others joining me, they felt the Covid risk in mass transit vehicles was too high, and wanted to drive. I convinced them that rather than spend the time to shuttle our own vehicles, we would all park at the start, and I would arrange a shuttle for our return. I started with the driver I used last December, Joe from Great Barrington, but when I said we would be 3 or 4, he steered me to Debbie who agreed to shuttle us.
About three to four weeks prior to departure it occurred to me that I hadn’t invited, or mentioned my trip to my friend Terry Downs. Terry enjoys backpacking, and has done Pennsylvania in a series of weekend hikes with some other friends, and I thought he might enjoy this trip. My daily goals were a lot higher than the group he had been hiking with, but Terry is also a cyclist and ex-triathlete, and I figured he would be good for the challenge. Like a baited hook soon dropped into the pond, there was an immediate nibble text received back. “Interested. Checking”. I let a couple of days go by before I poked him back, and then I felt the hook take purchase, and away the line ran. Terry was in. We were now four. Mike took himself out, as he wasn’t getting in the necessary amount of training that he felt he needed, and Mike is someone that when he does get his training in he does fine, and when he doesn’t? Well, it was wise to drop out.
You may remember Christmas Ali from this post. I added Ali to my Wemenuchi page, and when I put out a general feeler on that page that I was doing this, Ali reached out to me privately and asked if he could come along. “I have never done anything longer than a weekend backpacking trip and would like to try this.” Ali is an ultra distance trail runner, and he is only in his forties, so I felt I wouldn’t have to worry about him, and gave him the okay. So, Ali, Kevin, Terry, and myself were the four for an 8 day AT adventure hiking NoBo towards Vermont from Connecticut. It was all set. All we had to do was wait for the calendar to tick off the days, get some training hikes in, finish getting geared up and we would have a tremendous week in the woods.
|a||Extra Tent strings/Rope||1|
|a||tent strap ropes w/locks||0.8||.1 per strap, total of 8 ropes|
|a||utility rop, 50 f t||0.3|
|a||foot print, grey tent||0.8||used with tarp or tent|
|bw||Back pack Kevin||5|
|bw||Rain Cover/back pack||0.5|
|bw||Sleeping bag||2.5||REI 15 degree|
|c||Rain coat red||0.15|
|c||Long John’s Polormax||0.6|
|c||Grey long sleeve underwear shirt||0.5|
|c||North Face vest||0.8|
|c||sock||0.2||.1 to .2 oz per pair|
|c||shorts||0.7||Grey light wt.|
|c||SS shirt dark REI||0.5|
|c||LS shirt REI||0.7|
|c||SS button down Blue, Heard Gear||0.6|
|f||Freeze dried dinners (2Person)||2.13||Ea meal wt .5oz x 9 dinners = 2.13lb|
|f||Oat meal (1 pack)||1||1meal a day= .8oz or 2meal a day = 1.0|
|h||1st aid kit||0.1|
|k||Fuel Canister (M)||1.1||.13 oz per can|
|k||cup, 16 oz alummun||0.7|
|k||Burner, matches, fuel stablizer, fire starter balls, striker||0.9|
|bw||Back pack John||5.4|
|c||Long John’s Burton||0.5|
|c||Black Diamond zip up (Sleep in)||0.11|
|f||MRE||Ea meal wt .9oz x 9 dinners = 5.3lb|
|c||LS shirt Columbia dark tan||0.1|
|c||LS shirt Hardware||0.8|
|k||fire starter balls||0.1||used to start camp fire|
|c||Pants, grey, royal robin||0.7|
|c||LS shirt EMS||0.7|
Great post – thanks!