Wilber Clearing Shelter, Mass., AT NOBO mile 1,585.7, Thursday May 29, 2014 — At one point, I thought today was going to be a bust, but the ending far exceeded one minor disappointment.
Let’s start at the beginning. I marched out of Dalton at 7:30 am. The temp was a balmy 38 degrees. The objective was Cheshire, Mass. just eight miles across Crystal Mtn. There I would be able to buy some gear at a nearby outfitter, scarf a milkshake and stay at a hostel in the Catholic Church.
Well, both the milkshake and the outfitter boxes were checked by noon. Now what to do? Fortified by a high octane milkshake it was on to Mt. Graylock of course.
Graylock is Massachusetts’ tallest mountain and the site of its veterans memorial and Bascom Lodge. Bascom is a hotel, but also features a highly rated hiker hostel as well.
Best of all, Bascom also has a restaurant. Visions of hamburgers were dancing in my head.
We reached Bascom at 4:30 pm only to find that it doesn’t open til this weekend. There we were, all dressed up in our finest expectations and no place to go except to the next shelter three miles further on. (22.5 miles on the day with a 2,100 foot climb thrown in.)
As we pulled into the shelter area we realized that it was jammed with college age kids. Just our luck, I groaned to myself.
We asked if there was any room for a couple of old tired thru hikers, obviously playing the sympathy card.
It worked! Turns out the students were from nearby Williams College in training to be freshman orientation leaders. They’d realized that all 13 of them weren’t going to fit in the shelter anyway, so they gave it to Swayed and me.
Just after that three young women from Knoxville, Tenn., fresh out of high school, rolled in chaperoned by one of their dads, hiking from Lee, Mass. to Mt. Katahdin. Their hike is in celebration of their graduation.
The context is this. Swayed is a highly successful businessman from London. American young folk haven’t made the best impression so far. Recall the Beavis and Butthead stereotype.
The young folks we’re with tonight have turned that stereotype on its head. These are just like the students with whom I worked at Georgia Tech. You’d bet the farm on them, and I’m delighted Swayed gets to see the difference.
All I have to say is this: Thank heaven Bascom was closed.