Connecticut continued to be unbearable. Wickedly unbearable. The mosquitos alone were making grown men cry. Of all the hardships we had been through, the bugs proved to be the worst for everyone across the board. Thankfully, now we are in Massachusetts and the past day and a half of hiking has brought us just your typical amount of mosquitos. I used to believe that "baseline comfort" was a mattress, four walls and a flushing toilet. Now I realize that "baseline comfort" is not having blood sucking insects leeching on to you by the hundreds and leaving tiny, itchy, red welts all over you.
There was one day in particular on which both Gonzo and I had small melt downs. Or rather, mine was small. Gonzo broke his trekking poles in a raging outburst brought on by pure frustration. At these moments, when one of us is feeling very down, it is nice to have the other one around to be the rational voice up against threats of quitting the trail or committing suicide. But this day, we had both had enough. A few miles after we had taken turns freaking out over the bugs, we ran across a south bounder who told us about a hostel. Tidy bunkhouse, breakfast and dinner included, shower and laundry and pick up at the trail. The specs were too good to be true. We got picked up and were a the hostel by lunch time. The hostel, called Bearded Woods, was immaculate. It looked like a vacation cabin instead of a hiker hostel. And the is owner's wife was a wonderful cook. We find such solace in the place from the misery of our current life that we decided to stay another night and spent an entire day watching movies and playing games in the climate controlled, bug free environment.
The next day we were reunited with some good friends Mudmouth and Yardsale on what was their first wedding anniversary and spent half of the day sitting in a shelter with them waiting out thunder storms. We knew there was a few hefty mountains ahead of us so we decided to take them on the next day. Unfortunately, it was still raining, all day, but we didn't have to go over them in a thunderstorm. That day we hiked over several mountains that had been turned to rivers, water was rushing down the steep, rocky trail or collected ankle deep at the level areas.
We ended the day at the road to Great Barrington, MA. It was high end town and the biggest we had been to while on the trail since Gatlinburg, TN. But we had the best experience with hitching that Gonzo and I have had all throughout the trail. Collectively we spent less that ten minutes on the three rides we got with in town. One ride was from a young couple who worked on an organic farm in NY. Another was from a middle aged hippie with hoola hoops and bangles in her car. The last was from an old man who needed to run by the co-op market before taking us back to the trail and bought us fresh strawberries!
Over the next few days of hiking the bugs finally died down a bit and we also came upon Upper Goose Pond Cabin, a very special shelter on a beautiful New England pond. It has a bunk room up stairs and an small kitchen where pancakes are made every morning by a caretaker. Swimming and canoeing are common past times of the hikers who stop there. It was a hard place to leave but we know that by the end of the day we would be in the town of Dalton, so we pressed on.
It was the 4th of July and we got into town just as Nomad was finishing up the burgers at the house of a guy who lives right off the trail. Nomad had his van there and was doing trail magic just as he was when we last saw him on the day we hiked a 26 mile day down into Damascus, Va! He is still on the trail helping out hikers high and low! The owner of the house has allowed hikers to camp in his yard and stay in his house for 35 years but it seems as if he does not enjoy it very much. He is constantly worried about the neighbors and shushing hikers. He is militant about the use of the bathroom and the hose and any trash that is made. It made for an awkward stay.
But today Nomad packed a ton of hikers in the Vanimal, as it is called, and took us all to the local mall to go to an Eastern Mountain Sports store and go to the movie theater. Watching World War Z made me glad that at we didn't have to fight zombies on the trail!
So things are still hot and humid but a least we are not being eaten alive! It is a great improvement. Soon enough we will be hitting higher elevations as Vermont is only a few days away and that's where the bigger mountains kick in again. We have a tentative finish date of August 20th, but have no need to truly meet it. I am enjoying New England in some ways and annoyed by it in others. I suppose and am just used to southern hospitality, which is extended even to hikers, but up here people are quick to treat you like a hiker at times. I suppose just grinning and baring it is mostly taught to southern kids.