You know when you’re in the ocean and you swim through a small pocket of unseasonably warm water, and you realize that someone must recently have peed there?
Today, Brent and I woke up early (well, I woke up regular time and waited patiently until I could wake Brent up early). We ate a quick breakfast (even foregoing the usual Amherst Bulletin crossword puzzle) and pulled on our hiking shoes for one last walk in the Massachusetts woods before heading back to Philly.
It was about 45 degrees when we left the house and was set to rise to 60 by mid-day. The temperatures have been climbing consistently since we arrived at the beginning of the week, and we realized soon after setting off that we probably would have been better off with river shoes than snow shoes.
Following saturated trails, we wound our way through the woods and up one mountain before discovering that we’d made a wrong turn somewhere along the way (likely falling victim to one of the dozens of freshly charted logging roads that have popped up across western Massachusetts). Turned out that we had ascended a different mountain from the one we’d set out to climb – ours was a few hundred meters to the left.
We continued on to Mount Orient, crossing paths with a small section of the Metacomet-Monadnock trail, which we’d traveled along last summer for 135 miles across the state. We followed the familiar white blazes up a well-kept trail (much easier hiking than the old creek bed we’d used for the first mountain) until we came to a rocky vista overlooking South Amherst, complete with a newly constructed wooden swing.
After a snack of half a cliff bar for me, half a cliff bar and cape cod potato chips for Brent, and cape cod potato chips and Newman’s Own dog treats for Phin and Lupine, we headed down the ridgeline back toward Brent’s parents’ house.
Through the entire hike, the temperatures dropped and rose with abandon. We’d be walking along a trail, when all of a sudden the air would rise sharply 10 degrees, only to drop 15 ten feet later. At one point, Brent and I remarked in unison, “It’s just like what happens in the ocean. God must be peeing on us.” Speculation of God’s hydration levels followed us through much of the morning (when the temperature drops, God must be dehydrated, right?).
With the unintended double summit, the hike lasted a bit longer than we’d planned that morning, and Brent was rushing to make it back in time for the start of the Patriots game. We came down the final trail and entered the first of two big snow-covered fields, separated by a wide creek.
Rather than doing what we’ve done every morning this week, following the upper field half a mile upstream to a small bridge and crossing easily into the lower field, we decided that it would be a good idea to cut the hike twenty minutes short and cross the creek itself.
The water was, um, refreshing… I went first, followed closely by Brent and Lupine. Phin whined on the bank, unsure of how to cross the swift currents, before running 20 feet downstream to a deeper spot and swimming across. I guess it served its purpose – we made it back just in time for the start of the game (only to watch the Patriots’ win nullified as the Jets loss to Miami pushed New England out for the final playoff spot. Brent was not happy, to say the least).
On the plus side, the Eagles trounced Dallas to earn their own playoff birth.
Tomorrow, it’s back to Philadelphia, back to the dissertation, and back to the gym for another couple weeks of no-running.