“Every new day begins with possibilities. It’s up to us to fill it with the things that move us toward progress and peace.” – Ronald Reagan
“It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.” – Thomas Jefferson
The highlight of my morning was a fascinating hike along Ice Gulch, a ravine so deep that it will often have ice or snow in it in the middle of summer. Although it was a warm and humid day, I at least crossed several streams and ponds. I played leapfrog with Sunshine and Moxie throughout the day, and enjoyed talking to them on a couple of breaks.
At mile 1531.1 I went by Benedict Pond. A local section hiker told me they stock the pond with trout via helicopter. I would love to have seen a helicopter trout dump while I was there but that was not to be.
My goal today was to reach and camp at the Shaker Campsite, mile 1538.2. Ann Lee, a charismatic young woman, founded the Shaker religion in Manchester, England in 1747. She claims to have had a vision that taught her that humans must renounce carnal knowledge in order to gain entrance to heaven. Thus, the Shakers practiced pacifism, celibacy, communal living, and gender equality. As someone who has practiced all four of those things on the AT, I consider myself somewhat of a Shaker and a mover. After facing persecution in England, Lee and her followers fled to America in 1774 and settled in Albany, New York. The utopian group claimed 5000 believers by the mid-19th century and spread around the northeast, to include a small settlement in a wooded valley near modern day Tyringham, Massachusetts.
After 14.1 miles, I called it a day at the Shaker campsite, with a couple of remnants of their stone structures still visible. A section hiker’s clothes line full of undergarments and a stuffed animal only slightly detracted from the historic feel of the area. I talked with fellow hikers ETA, Foxfire, and Apple Jack for awhile, and then gave myself a mini sponge bath at the nearby creek. I wasn’t sure if standing in my underwear sponging myself by the creek was consistent with renouncing carnal knowledge, and feared my doing so might get me expelled from the Shaker Campsite. On the other hand, the sight of an emaciated Fob dripping wet in his underwear all but assured my celibacy for the foreseeable future, consistent with Shaker doctrine.
Less than two miles into my morning hike, I crossed Jerusalem Road and saw a young boy standing next to a wooden hut in front of his home. I walked over and discovered that the enterprising young man had established a little business selling drinks, snacks, eggs and other products to hikers. The little hut, a self-service, pay as you go store, was even wired to power a refrigerator. I purchased and consumed a couple of drinks and snacks, and bought a couple more for later. It occurred to me that this young fellow, maybe around 12 years old, works harder to stock his store and earn a living than some in our country who do very little and live off welfare. A mile later I reached Main Road and discovered a cooler full of ice-cold watermelon slices. It had been a good morning.
Shortly after seeing a snake at Baldy Mountain, I crossed paths with a southbound group of hikers known as the Silver Scramblers. They were a fun, motivated group of somewhat older hikers, and I enjoyed stopping and talking to them for a few minutes.
At mile 1548.1 I faced a decision. Option 1 was to take a .5 mile side trail to popular Upper Goose Pond Cabin. This would give me an easy 10-mile day and an opportunity to swim in a beautiful pond and have blueberry pancakes in the morning. Option 2 was to take advantage of the relatively flat terrain and decent weather and hike eleven more miles to Washington Mountain Road. This would allow me to camp in the popular Cookie Lady’s yard and enjoy her cookies (complimentary) and option to purchase hard-boiled eggs, sodas, blueberries, raspberries, and Klondike bars. Tough win-win choice, but I went with Option 2.
I reached US 20 by early afternoon and went .1 mile east to a hotel to get a soda and re-charge my phone. I then pounded out ten more buggy, muddy miles and finally reached the Cookie Lady’s house! Foxfire, ETA, and a couple other hikers were already there. ETA had just finished mowing some grass, something I would also have been willing to do to help the family out had the sun not been setting. For supper, I purchased two cokes, a Klondike bar, a pint of raspberries, and six hard-boiled eggs. Don’t judge me…I’m a long distance hiker. The couple is in their 80s and he is in poor health and in the hospital. They have been serving cookies to hikers for decades and also offer their soft lawn for tenting. Their property is gorgeous, featuring a blueberry patch, shade trees, and a picnic table and chairs for hikers to use. Although the patriarch is ill, they had at least one child and a couple of teenage grandchildren there serving cookies, selling the other products, and keeping the tradition alive. Good on them.
It had been a great 21 mile day, my tenth 20+ mile day on the AT. I like to stay under 17-18 miles per day as much as possible as that is easier on my body, more sustainable, and more enjoyable. However, I can and will go longer occasionally to reach a trail town or other special destination, and the Cookie Lady’s property definitely qualifies. My only regret on the day was consuming six hard-boiled eggs before and after drinking a Coke. There are consequences to such choices, and for me, the consequences could be heard throughout the night and across the sprawling property.
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