I tried picking off another 4k last weekend, but thanks to conditions or weather, that went to poop. So I jumped on board with Brian's plan to go with Jim (Silentcal) up Greylock. Brian had a surprise for me in store, but with Jim going, my normally cautious nature about something wicked this way coming was relaxed. Yes, Greylock, snow free and spring conditions. Perhaps the forecast of a mix turning to rain was a bad sign. Perhaps seeing flakes as I headed out the door was a bad sign. Perhaps hitting seriously slushy roads and a stuck tanker truck in Vermont was a badder sign. Yes. Yes, indeed. Perhaps driving through Adams in the pouring rain and seeing folks holding signs for a car wash was a silly sign. Yes. Yes, indeed.
We passed by the old Sprague Electric complex in North Adams, which holds a special place in my heart. Sprague was my first employer in Concord (and I returned to one of the split-offs when I came back to NH), and I used to do some training in North Adams, where this company was huge for the longest time before things went sour and hurt this town badly. Boy, did I hate that drive.
And so, we parked at the end of West Mountain Rd., and sloshed through running water and wet snow up the Cheshire Harbor Trail. Nice and easy grades, which led to nice and easy grades, which led to nice and easy grades. This was a ridiculously easy 1900' elevation gain. I kept waiting for anything steep which never materialized.
So easy, in fact, that when we came to a brook crossing, we found we were near the AT and an even easier 0.75 miles from the top. Jim was shocked than a group of people seeing a hairy nurse on April Fool's weekend. At least Brian wasn't trying to kiss him.
We crossed roads, which were icier than a stare from my wife at yet another stupid comment from me. Lucky for us, we didn't have things like microspikes to slow us down. It's spring in Massachusetts after all. We finally found the monorail that we were here to avoid, we saw a pond, we saw big granite buildings, we saw a garage that we should have parked at. We saw an air monitoring station that we had evil ideas on how to foul. Despite all the development, we didn't see a soul, and only a trace that one person had been here before us today.
We saw a War Memorial, which the map declared that there were to be no firearms allowed near it. Brian and I had both noticed this on the map and laughed heartily at the irony of this on the way up. We also saw hefty winds which were launching branches from the sky, one hefty one nearly landing on Brian. Crossing the road to the memorial was wicked pissah, with the ice and the wind. If I fell, I surely would've butt slid just yards from the summit all the way to the bottom, an utter and complete failure.
I had an ice cream headache on the windward side of my face by the time we made the summit, circling around into the wind, only to find it was worse with the wind pushing you along. I was told of a magical shelter, and we entered this wondrous place without wind, hanging our rain shells. It was a nice shelter, but I couldn't help but notice that the firewood shack was unusually huge for an emergency shelter. Very tempting to built a fire and dry out my socks and liners on this frigid day. You see, the dummy who packed light for spring hiking screwed up with his not-all leather boots and no spare liners (despite full winter gloves) or socks. Brrrrr. Feet in cold pain. I suck.
I happened to see a beer can on top of the fireplace, and laughing said, gee, let's see if it's full. It was. I was shocked. I was flabbergasted. I was thrilled! Beer! Free beer that I didn't have to haul up! Yay me! Well, this was clearly here for me and me alone (despite being a Bud Light). More yay me that Jim didn't want any! Gulp. Yum. I wondered why this was the second time I've received a beer at a summit (a nice snowmobiler at Dixville being the first), and why it was ubiquitously Bud Light.
Brian had revealed the surprise on the way up. I could start and finish the MA3k list in one day! Woo hoo! Non-Maine and Vermont New England 3k's here I come! I never knew Saddle Ball (seriously, I thought Brian was kidding at this name) was the other one and just down the AT. Jim had said very casually he wouldn't mind returning the way we came, and given my cold feet, I was more than willing to force this issue. A cold windy ridge walk wasn't in the cards for me on this not ideal day. So we exited, with my hands freezing up, too. My hands and feet are pretty sensitive to cold, so I've gotten used to hiking in bad pain as long as I know we're heading to warmer elevations. The feet warmed up quickly, and once we turned off the AT, the hands slowly started coming back to normal, too.
Given the grade, it was a pleasant and quick (but sloshier) hike down, with the rain at least abating. I trounced straight through the stream that was a trail, it's not like my feet could get any wetter, but I was getting my snow-free hiking in, dammit. Brian and Jim's insults continued to my amusement, and I finally lobbed a grenade at Jim. I got the appropriate wordless response, but made the faux pas of trying to soften the blow, clearly ruining a well crafted degrading. Brian's delight at my ability to apologize for everything was clearly evident.
So, I'm now halfway done the MA3k list, and I actually couldn't have asked for a more pleasant and interesting hike on a fairly wretched day. The views can wait for another day when I go to finish this list for the glory of my name (I think I'll go for both for the fastest known time to complete the MA3k). Oh wait, there's a road there, isn't there...