Saturday, October 6, 2007

87 degrees

Record heat Saturday, beating the old record by 1 degree.

A group of us had arranged for a hike this week, and Alander Mountain was decided apon.
The group (4 teenagers, 5 adults and a dog) assembled and we all headed out about 12:40 in the afternoon.

Mt. Alander is located in the farthest southwest corner of Massachusetts, in the town of Mt. Washington. It was a good excuse to go through the Berkshires and check out the colors.

In about 45 minutes we were off the Turnpike, then we went through Stockbridge, which was clogged with leaf peepers and other tourists.

We then drove through Great Barrington, but unfortunately we didn't have time to stop at either town. Later Blogs.

Then through some country roads to the far reaches of the Berkshires.

I couldn't for the life of me remember where the trail head was, and we bombed around the twisty, bumpy, sometimes unpaved roads of Mt. Washington, until I broke down and stopped to ask for directions. We wasted a good half hour of our late-start hike before we were in this parking area, located behind the Mt. Washington Forest Headquarters. The same headquarters we drove by twice. Doh'!

Spirits were still high, and we happily started the hike, which begins by a stroll through some nice meadows and open areas.

The trail is truly beautiful. The past couple times I'd been here was in the spring time, when the paths are criss-crossed by roaring streams and creeks. The creek beds were mostly dried up to small streams at this time, but one of the girls managed to catch a frog in the little bit of water running through.

The trail has a different kind of beauty in the Autumn, with the leaves underfoot and the changing colors.

These stones were positioned at certain points on the trail to help with erosion.

These outhouses were located here and there on the trail. Nice to encounter toilet paper on a deep woods trail.

The hike was going pretty good, so good no one noticed we had strayed off the main trail, and got a little lost. This wasted about another precious half-hour as we backtracked. Worse, it made the trail seem longer than it was. The temp was about in the high 70's -low 80's, but the high humidity and distance was starting to strain the will of some of the group. We started to take breaks more often.

Then, things started getting really tough. One of the group stepped on a rock the wrong way, and rolled her ankle. She said she was alright, and insisted we keep going. A little further on it was obvious she wasn't going to make it the rest of the way. We abandoned her by a creek bed to fend for herself, and pressed on.

We were now about an hour and a half into the hike, and we passed this small campground.

We were well over half way through the hike but now it had become a mission. It seems the real hiking had only just begun. We were pressed for time, and the closer we thought we were to the top, the steeper and more rugged the trail seemed to become.

We were stopping often to catch our breaths in the heavy humid air. At one point one of the young girls thought she'd had enough and wanted to turn back. Kelly, normally full of energy, was feeling dizzy. Jim, who had abandoned his wife by the creek for the cause, was determined to finish the hike, but needed to get back to the creek asap. The dog panted in the heat. The trail seemed endless.

One of the girls said "I can't believe we're hiking for 2 hours for 5 minutes of viewing". Things were looking glum.

It was time for a pep talk. I stood up, pointed a wavering finger up the trail, and gave a short but determined speech. Something along the lines of: "There's glory waiting for us. Right up there, not far away. But the mountain isn't going to just hand it to us. ( I paused for affect) We have to snatch it from it's grasp."

That brought a few guffaws and "what a bunch of Knewt Rockne b.s." from Tom, but we trudged on.

Eventually we passed this shack, and I knew we were almost there.

Finally, the last rock to scramble over.

We broke through to the top. It was hazy, and the view was limited. But the wind billowed over the top, refreshing us mightily.

On a clear day, you can see an awesome view of the Hudson river valley stretching north to south from this long 2250' high mountain peak.

We started out late, got lost a couple times, some injuries were incurred, a lot of sweat was spilled, our will power was tested. But we accomplished what we set out to do. That's what makes a hike an adventure.

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