Tom Levardi asked, “Are you having fun?” I paused briefly, remembering the same question posed by Mary the librarian in Greenwood Lake, NY. “Yes, I’m having fun again, at least for now.” With cooler weather, good companionship, and fewer mosquitoes, life once again is good on the Appalachian Trail. At least it was at Tom’s home on Depot St. early this afternoon when Banzai, Pilgrim, and I walked into Dalton, Massachusetts. For the past 35 years Tom has been allowing AT hikers to tent in his yard. So as we strolled by just before noon, we were greeted by Colin and Misery.
The day had started five hours earlier with a shuttle back to Washington Mountain Rd. When I arrived back at the Quality Inn from McDonald’s, the silver Subaru had already pulled up in the parking lot. In place of Roy, however, Marilyn “the cookie lady” Wiley was behind the wheel. It was a real pleasure meeting the somewhat famous lady known for her delicious treats. So as soon as Pilgrim and Banzai made their way to the car, we headed out of Pittsfield and back to the trail. Before starting our 18.3 mile day, Banzai snapped a pic of me with another AT legend.
Today’s hike went quickly. With only a minor climb and few challenging sections, we hiked into Dalton right on schedule. When I spotted Misery sitting at the picnic table in Tom’s yard, I was surprised that he wasn’t a couple of days up the trail. The young man from Buffalo may have acquired a new reason for his trail name. Earlier today Misery explained that he had undergone a root canal. That’s not something one expects while hiking the trail. So since he needs to return to Dalton for a follow-up appointment in two weeks, Misery was getting ready to bus to Lincoln, NH and southbound back here.
Also at Tom’s was Nomad and his van. After having to end his thru hike attempt at 400 plus miles, the former youth pastor from Austin said he felt God had other plans for him. So for the past three months he has been helping out hikers up and down the trail. I chatted with Nomad about Don and his faith. Nomad asked me to sign his van, a tradition that other AT thru hikers are following. He provided Banzai, Pilgrim, and me with cold soft drinks as well. It’s people like Nomad, who give unselfishly of their time and resources, to help hikers reach their goal.
While my hiking buddies and I were hanging out at the house, Tom offered to drive us from the corner where the AT turns up High St. to the Dalton Restaurant for lunch. He also made a stop at the post office so that Banzai and Pilgrim could pick up mail drops. After a nutritious meal, Tom drove us back to where we left the trail. For the next mile we walked by quaint New England homes on High St. before following the white blazes back up into the woods. When we reached the woods, we were again greeted with a climb. That was followed by more mundane terrain until the final mile of the day.
Late in the afternoon Banzai hiked on up the trail ahead of Pilgrim and me. Just before the final descent into Cheshire, Pilgrim and I encountered him resting on a rock chatting with Long Skirt, a section hiker from Indiana who plans to hike all the way to Katahdin. Just past this outcrop a blue blazed trail led to the Cobbles, another marble outcropping with a view of the town of Cheshire. Long Skirt and I ventured up the short side trail for the view while Banzai and Pilgrim kept going. After Long Skirt and I retraced our path back to the white blazes, we hiked together at a steady pace into Cheshire. When we arrived at an ice cream shop on the outskirts of town, we joined Pilgrim for a refreshing treat while we waited for the Wiley’s and a shuttle to Williamstown.
So tonight I’m in another “mom and pop” motel in Williamstown, MA with Banzai and Pilgrim. Pilgrim just declared, “I’m going to keep the bathroom door closed because the sink drips and the toilet runs.” Banzai responded, “Why can’t we just have one problem?” Ah, such is the life of the AT hiker on the DBM plan. As I’ve been saying about this hike since Georgia, “You can’t always get what you want.” Hey, who’s complaining. We’ve slack packed 18.3 miles on a cooler day, had three restaurant meals, and are sleeping in a room tonight. Considering all things, life is pretty good these days on the Appalachian Trail.