the Bears and the Bees

21 09 2008

Flamebo here. Trying to jot down a few thoughts before we head out into the woods again. I wish someone would have told me how difficult it would be to keep up a blog while living out of a tent and walking up and down mountains all day! Alas, here are just a few snippets. As my hike-mates will tell you, I’m good at synthesis, while others are better at the details (as you’ll see below). Hence, an outline of the last 3 states:

MASSACHUSSETTS

Trail not bad. A lot like Vermont, which we naturally love. Mt. Greylock was a fun climb and has a “lighthouse” at the top that serves as a war memorial. More importantly, they had port-a-potties, a true luxury that came just when we needed it!

Default was in recovery from a sprained ankle for a few days and missed the 50 miles between Bennington, VT to Dalton, MA. She didn’t miss much other than watching the sun set under a thundercloud from the firetower on Glastenbury Mountain, tea and cookies with our Israeli friends, the best trail magic cooler ever…oh, sorry Default. I mean, we cried all day and night in her absence!

MA had amazing shelters. They were clean, new, had picnic tables and many had second-story lofts that fit all four of us. Nothing like hiking 20 miles and getting to stay in a five-star lean-to!

The one thing Massachussetts can keep to itself are its bees. On our last morning of hiking without Default, Beef walked right into a bonafide bee convention – the trail happened to house the Fenway Park of beehives – and got stung on the ankle. After walking a mile, she swelled into a scary monster and had to get rescued via ambulance so as to avoid an early demise. We quickly learned an important lesson: don’t leave the first aid supplies (ie, epi pen) with the invalid off-trail (ie, Default)!

Finally, Maria got a trail name! She is now Exacto-knife Kristmas Girl (EKG). I like to think that there are multiple meanings behind the name… She is Exacto-knife Kristmas Girl because she opens her Christmas presents with an exacto-knife so as to keep the wrapping paper in tact for re-use. This is a phenomenon that explains much of Maria’s precision-oriented personality, which is needless to say quite unlike mine 🙂 EKG is not only a better acronym than EKCG, but it also refers to Maria’s superior life-saving skills. When Beef was stung by a bee, I kind of froze and moved in slow-motion, while EKG sprinted to the gas station for ice and found a mechanic that was also an EMT/volunteer fireman. She looks out for us all!

CONNECTICUT

Connecticut can be quickly summed up as follows: Trail = Bad, Aunt Nancy = AMAZING!!

The trail in CT tried to be like Maine in its difficulty but failed to measure up in its rewarding views. It had bad signage, lame shelters, and a deplorable lack of trail magic. Basically, we were unimpressed.

After our first ever slack-pack experience (hike without your packs and pick them up via car later), Default’s Aunt Nancy rescued us from the rain and shuttled us back to Bristol, CT for a weekend of sheer pampering. Pampering to the tune of roast chicken, steak, lasagna, pies, beer, coffee, waffles, ice cream, hamburgers…I could go on, but you get the idea. We felt more than loved.

NEW YORK

Again, a quick judgment: Trail = meh, people = TOTALLY COOL.

Similarly to CT, New York’s trail contained a lot of PUD (pointless up and down) and was pretty rocky and felt poorly maintained. Blazes were sometimes non-existent, and mileage signs were few and far between. The shelters in NY were the worst we’ve seen yet: uber dirty, animal-eaten, and small. Also, in NY they don’t believe in privies or water sources near shelters. To put it bluntly, we did a lot of pooping in the woods and drinking out of frog ponds.

As for the people, we were pleasantly surprised. Being so close to NYC, we expected people to be stand-offish and preoccupied, but we found them to be quite the opposite. On the top of Bear Mountain, which has road access and a view of Manhattan from the summit, we met some fabulous folks. They invited us to their high-class picnic and fed us NY deli sandwiches and beer. Along with the beavers at the trailside zoo and the pileated woodpecker we saw in the woods that morning, it made for a pretty incredible day!

We also received some amazingly generous rides and some freshly picked apples on our final day in the state, in addition to having the pleasure of eating homemade ice cream while watching twin one-year old girls playing and laughing with their parents. Yeah, life is good!

NEW JERSEY

So far, so fantastic.

This morning, we crossed the border into the state that was my home for a year and which I’ve grown pretty fond of in spite of its reputation. Just a couple miles in, we ran across a 400 POUND BLACK BEAR in the middle of the trail! He looked at us, and then just casually meandered into the woods as we stared with our jaws on the floor. So crazy. So cool.

At the minute, we are enjoying a posh stay in the basement of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Vernon, NJ. The people here are incredibly generous, and honestly we couldn’t ask for a nicer place to stay. May the rest of New Jersey continue to woo us with its wonders!

Thanks again to all our trail angels – soon we shall make a place to acknowledge you by name on our blog, but until then know that we are eternally grateful, and YOU are above all what has made our hike worthwhile.

Flamefully yours,

Flamebo

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4 responses

21 09 2008
Sara

Connecticut would have been cooler had I not been out of town when you were here… I could have worn my bear costume and stolen your trail mix.

22 09 2008
Terri

I would just like to emphasize to all you friends of “EKG” that when you picture the spectacle of the Christmas wrapping paper conservation, remember that there are frequently 20+ people in the room, simultaneously slitting the Scotch tape with their respective pocket knives. It is a sight to behold– although now it’s a little broken up by small children who are not expected to take such care.

Have fun!!!

29 09 2008
Deb

The bees are always bad during late summer and into the fall. My guess is that the bees were not honey bees but some sort of wasp, hornet or yellow jacket. Hurray for EKG heroics. They are ornery and build nests on the ground for people to step into. Both Thomas and Mark have landed in one during late summer. It was nice to see you while in VT.

9 10 2008
Mairead

i was doubled over laughing when i read this the EKG story. that little story tells so so much about our dear maria. i love it.

maria– shania wanted me to tell you she says hi. i tried to explain what blogging is to her, she was so perplexed by the idea of writing a journal for others to read.

miss you!

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