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AT 2017: Day 118, Upper Goose Pond Cabin to Kay Wood Shelter

Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you

Hike with Gravity

Though I have not had the pleasure of meeting Dale “Grey Beard” Sanders, he is also attempting a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this year. He is 82 years old. That's 21 years older than me.

I sometimes wonder: How much harder is it for him to do this hike than it is for me? Then again, how much easier is it for someone 21 years younger than me?

Grey Beard and I are both walking the same path, climbing the same mountains and stumbling over the same rocks. Does that make the terrain an equalizer?

Date
Weather Mostly sunny with morning temperatures in the low 50s, high in the low 70s
Trail Conditions Well maintained with mostly modest elevation changes
Today's Miles 17.6 miles
Trip Miles 1,565.7 miles

Nah. Of course not. The trail is substantially easier for younger hikers. The older you get, the harder it is to maintain your strength and endurance. That’s why you don’t see 60-year-old professional sports players. And that’s why you don’t see many thru-hikers over the age of 60.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy estimates about 700 people in their 60s have completed a thru-hike. Only 50 people in their 70s have completed one.

Most younger hikers make this walk look effortless, but I know it’s not. It’s difficult for all of us.

Older hikers just have to work a little harder.

I made my goal yesterday of reaching Upper Goose Pond Cabin, but I still had to get up early this morning to achieve my real goal.

I needed to get up in time to be in line for pancakes and coffee before they ran out.

Tom, the cabin caretaker, had a small griddle to work with, but he served up dozens of pancakes. Though he did all of the cooking, he enlisted help from campers in other ways.

One was to wash dishes in a basin set up behind the cabin. There was no running water here, so another task was collecting and hauling water from the pond, which had to be treated before use.

Northbound hikers were asked to help in one more way. We were asked to tell southbound hikers when we crossed paths with them to collect blueberries at The Cookie Lady’s house. The blueberries would be needed for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Tom was one of many volunteers who spend a week at the cabin as a caretaker. The cabin operates with a well-honed set of rules to make sure everyone has a pleasant stay. The caretaker’s role is to make sure the operation runs smoothly, and most importantly, to cook pancakes.

The cabin is owned by the National Park Service and maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Unlike most other facilities maintained by the AMC, there is no charge to stay here, but donations are requested.

Sunny Hedgehog was here, and he expressed happiness for getting here in time for pancakes. Stick, Umbrella Face, Pheasant Melon and JP were also here.

After eating my fill of pancakes, filtering water from the pond, and packing up, I was ready to return to the trail.

I walked the .5-mile approach back to the trail. Then it was only a mile or so to reach Interstate 90, which through here is also the Massachusetts Turnpike. The trail went over the highway on a bridge in need of some trail maintenance. It was the only spot on the trail today that was over-grown.

For most of the day, the trail was easy. This wouldn’t be the AT if there weren't ups and downs, of course, but today they were modest.

And it wouldn’t be the AT without rocks, so there was a short section of rocks thrown in for good measure on the climb up Becket Mountain.

At the top of that 2,178-foot mountain were the footings for a fire tower that once stood here. A tower would be the only way to see anything from here because the summit was completely wooded.

The trail dropped a short distance to Finerty Pond, then continued along its shore for about a quarter of a mile.

Some trees on the pond’s bank, including some that were notably large, had been downed by beavers.

In the afternoon I met a man named Earl, who told me he was a trail maintainer. He seemed happy to chat with me and told me about his time teaching chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, starting in 1954. I figured that would put him about as old as my father.

About an hour after passing a large bog created by beavers, I reached October Mountain Shelter. There were several NOBO hikers stopped here and they all had similar stories of talking to Earl.

I was amused to hear this, especially when I realized Earl wasn’t carrying any trail maintenance tools. Though he said he was a trail maintainer, it seemed to me he was mostly a trail talker.

At about 3:15 p.m. I stopped at The Cookie Lady’s house, which was just a few yards down from where the trail crossed Washington Mountain Road. Stick had been here several minutes and was preparing to leave when I arrived. Cowgirl, Sandals and Pippin were also here.

Regretfully, The Cookie Lady was not home. She is so-named because she gives cookies to hikers. Though there were no cookies for me today, she also allows hikers to fill their water bottles from her house spigot, so I did.

She also allows hikers to pick blueberries from the bushes located in her yard. I ate several.

A dilapidated farm stand was located near the road, but this land no longer appeared to be operated as a commercial blueberry farm.

Returning to the trail, it remained mostly flat and easy to walk until it began to climb Warner Hill. Even then, the climb wasn’t much.

At 2,050 feet in elevation, Warner Hill wasn’t as high as Becket Mountain, but the top was clear. To the north I could see Mount Greylock.

The trail continued to be easy and I did the remaining three miles to the turn-off to Kay Wood Shelter in good time. The last two-tenths-of-a-mile to the shelter, however, went steeply downhill.

The shelter was perched on the steep slope, with a few tent spaces cut into the side of the hill behind shelter.

Including side trails, I walked more than 18 miles today, but it didn’t feel like it. I had a good day, despite getting a late start. I guess that’s what happens when you start the day with blueberry pancakes.

Old man take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I need someone to love me
the whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
and you can tell that's true.

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