A life lesson I’ve learned long ago is to always have a Plan B. After my initial, unpleasant reaction to the rainy forecast for this past Saturday which prevented Bill and me from hiking Mt Greylock we came up with Plan B, spend the day at the Clark and explore Downtown Williamstown. We had a lovely time and saw a lot of the area we wouldn’t have seen had we been hiking up a mountain all day.
At the end of the evening on Saturday, back in our room, Bill and I poured over the map of Mt Greylock, settled on hiking up Hopper Trail, down Haley Farm Trail on Sunday before heading South for home. When we got up and out for our last breakfast at the hotel we both nearly slipped stepping out onto the gravel drive. All that rain had frozen in the 20+ degree temperatures, the high for the day promised to hit 30, leaving the chance of ice melt close to nil.
“The trails might be too icy to hike without our spikes,” Bill said. “Let’s see what it’s like but we may need to cut it short.” I thought that sounded like a good plan.
Driving down Route 7 Bill turned left onto Hopper Road and followed the paved road until it turned into a gravelled, sharp incline. Snow and ice-covered the ground, the road had not been plowed and Bill wasn’t sure his car would make it to the top. Afraid we might get stuck if he tried to turn around in the narrow lane he backed the car onto the paved portion of road where he was able to face the car forward. We contemplated parking there and walking up to the trail but there really wasn’t enough room for another car to pass and, judging from the map, we’d have to walk over a mile to get to the trailhead.
We decided on Plan B, drive further south on Route 7 and pick up another trail. At the next turn the road quickly forked and Bill stayed right; the road we needed to follow was rough-looking, narrow, icy and unplowed. Again, Bill backed up to the fork in the road and turned us around and out to the main road. On our third attempt, Plan C I suppose, we found a paved road that took us to a small parking area. Ahead of us was a snow packed road; the thick dotted lines on our trusty map designated it a snowmobile trail. Good enough! Bill and I set out with our backpacks and poles.
Hiking along the snow-covered road it was easy to pick out animal tracks. We saw rabbit tracks, deer tracks, fox tracks, coyote tracks. Bill and I would stop, point them out, follow their route. We both got excited when Bill spotted bear prints. By the look of the tracks left in the ice the bear was small and had crossed the road sometime earlier and continued into the forest. I thought of a couple of women I work with who warn me about bears when I tell them I’m going hiking and snapped a picture to show them.
The trail wasn’t difficult but walking in snow sometimes was. We crunched over the crusty surface, sometimes giving way under our weight. We walked up gentle grades and back down again. We walked under clear blue skies, past waterfalls.
We saw a spot in the snow that was red with blood. Several sets of large bird prints encircled the spot but whatever had been killed was nowhere in sight. There wasn’t a limb, feather or pelt of fur around so I thought a flying predator must have killed a chipmunk or squirrel and carried it off. Bill thought the amount of blood soaking into the snow pointed to something larger. We looked around and found a few other spots of red snow but we didn’t see any trails of blood and never found the deceased.
We walked for about an hour, kept warm against the cold wind in wool socks and boots, hats and gators, mid zero tights under hiking pants (I wore them, Bill did not). We passed from one town into another then turned around and headed back to the car. It was an easy hike, not the one we planned, but we showed up anyway and had a great time. The whole weekend was great, just what I needed. Another reminder that a back up plan is always a good idea.
Tell me, have you ever had to use Plan B?