WINTER STORM #3 (AND AN UPDATED GEAR LIST)
Mt Wilcox Mountain South Shelter, MA to Dalton, MA
The folks in Dalton, Massachusetts, say that they’ve had one of the most mild winters they’ve ever seen. They say it’s a rarity to experience a winter storm in April, where night-time temperatures dip to single digits and up to a foot of snow falls in the mountains. They are calling it a “clipper,” as the brunt of the storm is to the west, burying the Great Lakes region. Go figure. I knew I wouldn’t make it through New England without seeing it in its snowy grandeur.
When I woke at the South Wilcox Mountain Shelter, it was dead silent. I knew I’d awake to snow, just as I had in the previous two winter storms that I hiked through to the south. But how much, I wondered as I lay in the semi-warmth of my single sleeping quilt. (I sent the other sleeping quilt home, the synthetic I’d used in January/February when freezing temps were more frequent.)
I was grateful to peer out at a reasonable 3-5 inches, with a light snow still falling. Had I not taken a few days off last week, and had I not had the opportunity to hike with another thru-hiker for a few days, I might not have had the enthusiasm and renewed interest to embrace the day as I now did. I was excited to lace up my frozen boots, pull on my waterproof pack and dig Squackers, my plastic orange duck, out from the snow accumulation. (I left him at the turnoff to the shelter as a marker for Legend, who was camped below the mountain and likely digging himself out at that moment.)
I’m sure friends and family were worried, wondering what I was going to do with another winter storm. I’m gonna hike, I thought, and not worry about checking in. Despite the fact that I can be a drama queen at times, especially in a recent post, which Legend and I had a roll of laughter about and deemed me the Calendar Triple Crown drama queen, I love it out here. And with my renewed spirit, I don’t see myself falling down and getting that emotional again. At least not in the near future.
Back to the topic of snow, I hiked a 25-mile day from Wicox Mountain. The sky was overcast to start, and a light flurry continued to fall. But as I trekked through the forest, blue sky poked out and I found myself singing a hopeful melody. Bt afternoon, I passed a dozen ponds, including Upper Goose Pond, the water’s surface looking like whitewater, it being whipped harshly in the wind. I passed a handful of creeks, crystal clear water that looked jet black from the light in the forest. And I then walked across the I-90 Mass Turnpike, where a sign hangs above passing motorists. “Appalachian Trail,” it reads, and I strutted across, proud to be a hiker. Then, by evening, some of the trail had thawed. I was optimistic that the storm was over. Oh, but wait…
I stayed at the October Mountain Shelter that night. When I arrived it was brrrrrrrrrisk! And by morning, I took my time crawling out of my sleeping quilt. It was 15-degrees, but it was a town day, so it didn’t matter. After pulling on my frozen shoes, I started up the trail with cold and numb toes. It took an hour to fully warm. I was wearing almost all my clothes, which, from head to toe are: Fleece-lined Nordic hat, Possum/Merino wool neck gaiter, Patagonia Capilene TW, Patagonia Nano Puff Vest, Fitz Roy down jacket (hood up), Patagonia Refugitive Rain Shell (hood up), Champion Tights (I recently aquired these and they have the most amazing print I’ve ever seen. My legs look like the wings of a dragonfly! My old co-workers would be so proud of me to wear something so bold! Pics to come soon…) Patagonia Leashless Pants (with adaptable gaiter, which I recently perfected with stretch cord), fleece gloves and thin OR shell gloves, Merino wool socks and Salomon X-Ultra GTX Mid Boots. I honestly believe that I have the BEST clothing for this hike. Without this gear, I’d be cold, wet and miserable.
Donning all these warm and breathable layers, I headed north, into the snow, flurries continuing to fall. The snow accumulation continued to climb up my trekking poles, but it never got more than a foot deep. Most of the time it was 5, maybe 6 inches deep. I was so happy that I hiked four 30-mile days, getting me ahead of the hazardous-in-foul-weather-climbs, and I was now on an easier terrain. Easier being a relative term of course.
The snowbound trail took me right into the town of Dalton, Massachusetts where plows pushed snow around, and the white blaze led hungry hikers past restaurants of all kinds. It’s a small town, but a very hiker-friendly town. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my stay here, seeking shelter at the Shamrock Inn for a night. And filling my belly with a burger and a few beers at Jacob’s Pub, which you know is a great hiker stop when they have a trail register. (I was the first NOBO to sign of course.) And now as I type this, I lounge in the warmth of a room and wait for Legend to walk into town. He should be here any moment, and I hope his stomach is feeling better. Mt Graylock awaits and the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Ok, so gear. I thought by the time I’d finish writing, I’d be willing to type more. You got the gist of my hiking attire. That list IS everything, with the exception of my Patagonia Houdini, a second set of socks, a thin mitten, and down booties. Gear includes my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider Pack of course (love, love, love having a pack that is waterproof), Hyperlite Mountain Gear tarp, Sixmoons UL Trekking Umbrella, Jetboil Titanium Sol, Black Diamond Revolt Headlamp, one quilt: Katabatic 22-degree Alsek, a new pair of Smith Serpico Slim sunglasses with case and a second pair: Smith Approach, which I feel much better about chucking around than my Serpico sunnies…this girl loves her sunnies…two sunnies and one quilt??? And what else? My phone, now sans Lifeproof case as the screen became wicked scratched, with external power charger. SPOT Messenger (so my dad knows where I am, and just in case). Several UL carbon fiber stuff sacks, in various sizes. And plastic water bottles, usually a gatorade-like bottle. No more heavy insulated bottles.
Thats all for now. Feelin’ Good.