Location: The Birdcage
Bears and I woke up later than I would have liked. To hike a 20 mile day, I like to finish ten miles by noon, which means I need to start hiking no later than 8:00am, so I can walk at a 2.5 mph pace. Bears and I got out of camp around 9:00am. I was a bit pushy when trying to get out of camp, but he kept saying ‘We’ve got time.’ He always says that we’ve got time and not to worry. It aggravates my nerves sometimes. He also always accuses me of being pessimistic, but he doesn’t recognize that I am being realistic. There is a fine line between pessimism and realism and I walk on the side of the optimistic realist.
Bears and I reached the summit of Greylock by around 10:00am. We managed nearly 3 miles an hour up the mountain. At the summit of the mountain, we observed the war memorial to the fallen sons and daughters of Massachusetts. The monument is a tall light house with a rotunda full of wreaths and quotes. Around the mountain top, quotes by Thoreau were engraved in boulders. Bears and I had an early lunch on the summit at the Boscom Lodge snack bar. I had chicken tenders and fries. We finally left the summit at about 11:00am. I wasn’t too pleased with our pace, having only covered 7 miles by noon. Bears kept saying ‘Relax, we’ve got plenty of daylight.’ I began to think differently. I led most of the way to Dalton, and I made sure that we maintained a pace over 2.75 miles per hour. After a long afternoon, we finally reached the road that leads into Dalton. My knees were killing me after the hard down hills. My knee joints always burn when I hike down steep hills. Today the balls that connect to my hips hurt. I thought that they might break off inside my body. The pain became unbearable at some times, but getting into town can take away all pain. The road into town though was long and painful. Road walks can hurt more than the trail. There are no excuses for stopping for breaks when walking on the roads, so often I over exert my legs, straining the ligaments in the backs of my knees and wearing out the balls of my feet. Everything burns when I walk through town, but I still walk as fast as I can.
Bears and I had planned to stay at The Birdcage when we got to Dalton. To get to the Birdcage, we had to find the Shell gas station and then ask for Rob Bird. We couldn’t find the Shell. We walked around all of Dalton and ended up miles from the Shell. I asked a man in a truck at a stoplight where the Shell was in town. He offered to drive us to the gas station. Bears and I jumped in the bed of the truck, thankful to be riding in a car after a couple extra miles of walking through town.
I forgot to mention that Bears and I stopped in Cheshire for ice cream. The ice cream stand was right on the trail. I had a milkshake, strawberry, and Bears had a soft serve banana split. We both struggled to climb the mountain out of Cheshire, but the ice cream was well worth it. Anyway, the man that dropped us at the Birdcage knew Rob Bird. He had played with him in a rock and roll band several years ago. He dropped us off at the house without coming inside. Bears and I sat on the porch of the small house and took off our boots. The two brothers, Aaron and Moses, came outside to greet us. Moses had a hernia five days before and he is allowing one week for his injury to heal. Rob wasn’t at the house, but Mountain Squid, a section hiker that just finished the trail, was at the house. He has been at the Birdcage for a few weeks, helping with the shuttles, the laundry, and the slack-packing. He helped get Bears and I situated.
I took a shower and put all my clothes in the washing machine. I changed into a clean set of loaner clothes and lounged on the couch in the smoky room for several minutes, feeling refreshed and clean. I hadn’t showered since Rutland and I was getting pretty ripe. I met Cold Feet today. She had reached the Birdcage a day before me. She’s a behavioral psychologist from Huntsville, Alabama. She’s section hiking the trail after several injuries ruined her thru-hike attempt, including a car crash while hitching into town for resupply and also a freak accident with her hammock. Many hikers carry hammocks. They are lightweight and versatile because they can be strung between any two trees in any location. Cold Feet made the mistake of attaching one end of her hammock to a dead tree. The tree snapped and smashed her head after she crashed into the ground. She stumbled out of the woods and into town. She took nine staples in her head.
Bears and I missed the shuttle to Taco Bell, so we borrowed a couple bikes from Rob and went to a local sub shop, Angelina’s. We ordered just in time before the grill closed. I ate a great order of buffalo tenders. Bears paid for my dinner since I had paid for his lunch at Friendly’s in North Adams. When we returned to the Birdcage, Rob had returned from band practice. Rob’s front teeth are missing. That was the first thing I noticed about him. He wore a Canadian tuxedo and smoked Marlboro Red 100’s. I met him in the kitchen. He sat at a small table puffing on cigarettes. The walls of the kitchen were decorated with paintings of Indians, Indian head dresses, and photos of thru-hikers. Rob began taking in thru-hikers in 2001. He found a cold and wet hiker on the road, one question and answer led to others. Rob took his first hiker in that night and has been accepting them in his home free of charge since then. He offers food, beds, and free laundry. He turns his home over to the hikers. Hikers sleep upstairs in the bedrooms, downstairs on the couches in the living room, on the closed porch, in the garage if they have dogs and even in the basement.
I slept on the couch in the living room the first night. I watched Sportscenter until I dozed off on the dingy couch. I tossed and turned on the couch. My asthma raged in the smoky, dusty house. At 4:00am, my watch alarm sounded. I couldn’t figure out how to turn off the watch, and it kept beeping every five minutes for 20 minutes. I buried the watch in the cracks between the couch cushions. At 5:00am, Rob woke up so that he could open the Shell by 5:30am. He kept me awake as he slammed cabinets and turned the water on and off, making the pipes groan. After he left, hikers started waking up and milling around the kitchen. I was forced out of bed early, and the day ran into the next day without much of a night.