James Wetzel, The Berkshire King of Summer Living

Jim, you old timer!


 Jim is my travel companion, partner in crime, confidant, guardian angel, webmaster, brewmaster, good/bad influence, and brother. We’ve toured together, camped together, gone to college together, and we know better than most what a wonderful place the Northeastern US is to live. For his 25th birthday party, we had ourselves a good old-fashioned long weekend.

Day One

We started the weekend right with a hike on the Spruce Hill Trail, a 4.5 mile milk run that ends with a stellar view of North Adams and Adams, Massachusetts.

Here’s our gear loadout, as requested by Jim:

Max’s Gear List


Pack and Sleep System:

Clothing Not Worn:


I really am sweet for that Hydro Flask. It’s far from ultralight, but having cold water or ice after a hike is a great luxury. If I’m not pushing a specific distance or time, it usually finds it’s way into my pack.

The Marmot Nanowave is also a new addition to the kit. I don’t have much to say about it yet, simply because it’s a pretty straightforward sleeping bag with a synthetic fill. My Mountain Hardwear bag feels much softer and lighter in materials, but is much more expensive and a winter temp rating.

Jimmy’s Gear List

Jim packed a few more creature comforts:


He’s also using a Boreas Buttermilk, but his is the Buttermilk 55. Other notable inclusions:

Jim has a great habit of bringing dangerous tools into the woods. The tomahawk is his summer carry; come winter, he breaks out a giant ice axe from the 1980’s and digs in.

We hiked 4.5 miles to the summit in just a couple of hours and caught the sunset, then made steaks and corn on the cob over a beautiful campfire.


Jim ended up losing his hammock in the middle of the night. He got up to pee wrapped in his sleeping bag, and wandered in the wrong direction on his way back. When I woke up and couldn’t find him, I yelled his name a few times. he responded with a bird call from -not kidding- a little less than a quarter mile into the woods. He was covered in scratches and cuts. In Jim’s words: “When I couldn’t find the hammock after a while, I just laid down on the ground and went to sleep.”

The joys of summer camping.

Day Two

We paddled the Harriman Reservoir on Day 2. The Harriman Reservoir is a great freshwater lake system in Southern VT, just off of Rt. 100. This was our second visit, and the water levels were as high as we’d seen them after so many consecutive thunderstorms. We beached the canoe on the edge of a birch forest with a few fern clearings and set up hammocks:


I’m using a Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock with Hennessy tree straps and Mad Rock carabiners, and a set of Dyneema whoopie slings from eBay.

The fern clearing, and the entire day, were absolutely beautiful. If there was a great way to bring in another year with Jim, this was it. We were thrilled.

We ate a full pineapple with a knife and floated the rind out into the lake like a tiny rowboat. We fell asleep under the flickering summer sun through a few old maples and birches. We paddled around, explored a cove, found a fire pit with a grill, and drove a little too fast for a vehicle with a canoe secured only by some hand-tied knots.

Day Three

We had a fire-pit in my backyard, so we had ourselves a big party on Friday night AND Saturday night. It was great; we had a bunch of people from past club trips with the MCLA Outdoors Club, and we swapped stories, cooked corn and dogs and sausages, and drank the beer Jim and I brewed ourselves. (the White House Honey Ale). Talk about an ideal weekend.

Here’s some more photos from the weekend:








Enjoy your summer, everyone!

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