Last day to enter the Kahtoola Microspikes Giveaway!
Building on the theme of “getting higher”, Abby and I rounded out our winter-break-high-pointing with a journey into the wintry Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Mt. Greylock, nestled in the northwestern corner of the state, stands at a respectable 3,488 feet, and when one sees it for the first time, encased in snow and a crown of billowing winter clouds, the sight is an impressive one to say the least. It may not be Mount Washington, but Greylock is a respectable mountain, and when snow is thrown into the mix, it becomes quite a challenge.
So, with highpoint number four hidden in shifting winter mist high above, we set off with the dogs, quickly locating the trailhead for our 7 mile trek. While Lupine was excited for a second romp in the snow after Highpoint, Phin was clearly not too thrilled as we drove into the parking area. He sprawled out in the backseat, doing his best to convince us that he was in fact already dead and that it would be futile to try to kill him again. While he briefly rebounded, after a mile of relatively easy going trails, he had fallen in behind us, slowly crawling along behind, the snow from our snowshoes kicking up and covering him in a cold, wet blanket of powder.
Phin, putting up with us
We started the hike, in fact, in our new Kahtoola Microspikes, and they served us well on the hard-packed snowmobile trails over the first mile or so of the hike. The trail diverged there, however, into a less traveled path that took us to the top, and here we donned our snowshoes and set off for the real climb of the hike, finding ourselves in a true wonderland of ice and snow. The snow-cover deepened as we ascended, and by the top, well over a foot lay among the trees, which drooped low under the weight of winter. Eventually, we emerged onto a road, closed to traffic but traveled by snowmobiles, skiers and hikers alike. Lupine still raced about with as much energy as he had at the start, and even Phin seemed to perk up at the flatter and easier hiking.
After short relief, we turned off the road onto the final stretch of trail, a narrow climb up the AT to the summit. Here, I began to bonk, but we continued on until we emerged through snowy pine trees onto the windy and cloudy summit. A seasonal lodge stood just below the mountaintop, and while some hot chocolate would have been nice, it was the wrong season, and the lodge stood shuttered and barred; the structure was firmly encased in ice, a beautiful site as the ice had frozen in millions of tiny wisps, blown by the high wind and encrusted in snow.
A final fifty meters saw us standing below another impressive summit monument. While Highpoint resembled the Washington Monument, Massachusetts’ summit is crowned by a structure resembling a bulbous lighthouse. We enjoyed the summit for a short time before the cold and wind drove us down. The dogs ran in frantic patterns, seeking out some relief, and after exposing bare fingers to biting cold to retrieve water and a bite to eat, we set off for the trail and the protection of the woods and the lower slopes of Greylock.
While climbing the mountain had taken the better part of two hours, the descent took 43 minutes; after fueling and regaining some of our waning vim, we set off at a run. Unused to running in showshoes after a season in the woods and on trails, we slowed to a walk at times to rest our legs, but we ran the bulk of the way down, our snowshoes keeping us aloft while also acting as sleds to help us descend more quickly, each step more of a skating motion as we rapidly descended. We paused momentarily to caution a lone hiker about following our trail up without snowshoes, but he seemed sold, and we shrugged, sorry for him as he continued on with nothing more than some light traction on his boots.
Back at the car, we stripped out of saturated clothes, soaked from the snow we had kicked up over seven miles of winter trekking. The dogs collapsed, glad to be off the mountain, and we set off in search of food and a better view of the mountain. The contrast between our first four highpoints has been remarkable to say the least, and thus far, we think we are still making our journey in unique ways: biking from Philadelphia to Ebright Azimuth in Delaware, driving from New Orleans to Britton Hill, FL during a trip away from home at Christmas time, bushwhacking in the winter on our way to Highpoint, NJ, and summiting Mt. Greylock in the depths of winter with our two furry friends. At some point, I’m sure we’ll reach a highpoint in a more traditional and less interesting manner, but that might have to wait for spring.