Day 98. It’s about damn time. It only took me 14 weeks, but I finally saw my first bear on the AT. I had all but given up by now, accepting that my journey would be one without any sightings for the first time in trail history … but not anymore! I finally saw one, actually 3, as it was a mama with 2 cubs.
It was pretty much the best way to see a bear too. They were on the other side of the pond in my photo above (which I took a few minutes before, so not visible), and walking away from the trail. I had a good minute to watch in silence from the safety of my side while they walked the edge and then bounded up the hill. It was beautiful and perfect. I got a nice video but no good photo.
And it was a perfect day for a nice long hike, so I did just that. High 60s, partially cloudy, no wind/rain, and a mostly soft trail of pine needles to walk on. There were some steep climbs, per usual, but the views made it well worth it, and there was plenty of water everywhere. I think I passed a dozen gentle streams, 5 ponds, and even walked alongside the Hausatonic River for a mile. Everything was picturesque, peaceful and still.
Except one thing.
One damn thing.
One million of the damn thing.
All those ponds and streams were breeding grounds for tiny blood-sucking demons of Satan, carrying out his torturous will to suck my body dry. Arms, legs, hands, neck, ears, face … everything exposed was a feast for their feeding frenzy.
At first I tried to swat them all away, but by the time I reached a road 9 miles in to my day’s hike, I knew it was a battle I could never win. So I pulled out my Ben’s 99% DEET bug spray (the greatest product ever invented), and took a Flashdance-like shower in it right there on the side of the road. (What a feeling…)
Ok, no. Before anyone freaks out and starts lecturing me on the cancerous risks of bathing one’s body in a layer of DEET, I only sprayed a tiny bit. One quick spritz, spread about thinly, is all I needed and the creatures bothered me no more. Until a couple hours when it wore off. Damn it!!
So I sprayed again, and then conceded myself to swatting afterwards if needed. For the most part, I survived, though I did wear a buff over my neck, face and ears for much of the day. It was a long grueling day, from the buzzing and biting perspective, but not enough to dampen my spirits too much. I would say I won the battle, but the war is far from over. I’m hiking out tomorrow morning to greet my foe with head net on.
Most of the hikers at last night’s campground shared my plan to hike 22 miles to North Mt Wilcox Shelter tonight. But when I got there, it wasn’t even 5pm and I felt like going on. So I did another 4 miles downhill to a campsite at the bottom of the mountain. Bones and Pritch were there when I strolled in, whom I’ve leap-frogged with a bit the past few weeks. This campsite is nice, like last night, with a privy, bear box, and elevated tent platforms. It was built on the remnants of an old Shaker Village, so there was some neat history to read about while I ate dinner. I hung my hammock next to the only remaining structural wall of what used to be a barn, and thought about how strange a spot this was for 100 people to live and work here 200 years ago. It’s literally on the mountainside. I’ll have to read up on the Shakers more, they are an interesting part of history along this trail.
Speaking of history, I also passed the town of Great Barrington today, a place of some historical significance: the last battle of Shay’s Rebellion and the birthplace of W.E.B. Dubois were here. It would seem that is a town worth visiting some day, as both peaked my interest. I saw a nice monument commemorating the rebellion location, but did not venture in to town for anything else. I regret having such a strict schedule to keep, as I’d like to explore some of these towns more.
I’m only 30 miles from Dalton though, and if I’m up for it, I could do that all tomorrow. Maybe. We’ll see how I feel in the morning after today’s long day. Alternatively, I could do only 19 or 27 miles, and then hike in for breakfast the next morning. That sounds like a better plan, but we’ll see.
Hello Neiman (Sharkbait)
- Start Mile: 1513.8
- Start Time: 07:45
- End Mile: 1539.3
- End Time: 18:40
- Miles Hiked: 25.5
- Miles to Go: 651.6
- Lodging: Shaker Campsite