Life is better at the top!
I’ve had a good two weeks of outdoorsy-ness. With two summits in two weeks, I am feeling great about the amount i’m getting outside, despite the intensity of my work schedule. Back in late February, I took the Pugsley out for a solo dirt ride, which turned into a nice solo dirt walk.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the bike’s fault. I have a 28T ring on the front now, so there’s plenty of grandma in my gears to get me up a steep hill, but the trail leading up to the summit of Mt. Norwottuck was absolutely gnarly. I’d bike through the first ten or fifteen feet, and then hit a root or rock at the wrong angle and lose all my momentum, and down goes my foot.
Not a big deal. There are two fringe benefits of hitting a section you just can’t clear in the saddle:
- You get a fantastic upper body workout. If you’re like me, this brings your lack of upper body strength into sharp focus, and the gains feel massive since your baseline is “12-year-old girl.”
- You get plenty of time to stop, smell the roses, enjoy nature, and take pictures of your bike.
All in all, it was a great afternoon. You can see pretty much all of Amherst from the summit, even though it’s only just over 1,000 feet.
I got a bit lost on the way down, wandering off-trail over dead leaves. This was a lot less stressful in the dead of winter, since the brambles and thorns that choke the understory in summer were pretty much absent. It was messy and involved a lot of quizzical staring at the GPS (I’m getting better, I swear), but I picked up the Metacomet trail after a bit and headed for familiar roads.
Of course, it’s always fun coming back down, too!
Last weekend, Jimmy and I shot the summit of Mt. Greylock on foot, using the pretty much vertical Thunderbolt trail to cut down the mileage. We set off at about 9PM, in total darkness, with crampons and backpacks, and it only took us about 1.5 hours to hit the shelter at the top.
Jim’s friend Tony joined us,and he was in wicked good shape, so we moved extremely fast for a casual night-hike. The trail was pretty much solid ice, and we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without microspikes and crampons.
The security of the little ice-grabbers was worth it just for the stress relief. I knew that once I planted my foot, I could leverage myself up the steeper sections, like The Steps. Winter hiking increases your odds of rolling an ankle by about a thousand fold, especially when your trail is indistinguishable from a frozen waterfall. I wish I had taken more pictures of the ice sheets, but I was distracted trying not to tumble four miles down to Adams.
Despite the warm temperatures down near the base, everything at the top was pretty much a popsicle. We checked out the beacon and the view from the top, and as usual, Greylock rewarded us with a great sunrise, straight to the face.
What an awesome way to spend a Friday night. The shelter next to the parking lot is very much off-limits and serves as an emergency shelter, but we know a few people who work on the mountain, so under extreme weather (hurricanes and frozen Fridays in February), we’ll camp out in it overnight. We added substantially to the firewood pool while we were there, just to pay our way a little bit.
We got to the bottom at mid-morning, with intense hunger. A trip to the local diner gave us a chance to sit back on our haunches and soak in the “Type 2” fun of the whole ordeal.
In the end, Greylock and Norwottuck are not that big a deal, altitude-wise or time-invested-wise. But for a couple of grad students stuck in the doldrums of the spring semester grind, these summits are absolutely restorative. I love New England.