Crossing from Connecticut
In late April, Larry and I joined the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club for an 8-mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT), where it crosses from Connecticut into Massachusetts, a hike organized and led by the invincible Elizabeth Dillman. We met up at the end point in Sheffield, MA and then carpooled to our start at the parking lot for Sages Ravine.
There no longer was snow on the ground, but it was a wild, wet day, with temps hovering in the 30s. The rainstorm during the night had woken me where Larry and I stayed in an inn nearby. In the case of a forecast of steady rain, our fearless leader had promised, she’d cancel. It was raining steadily, and all but one of us ten (who accidentally overslept) showed up. The hike was on!
The pace was a bit arduous for my first hike of the season, but because of the rain and the cold, nobody complained. We marched along in a sea of dead leaves, some uphill, some downhill, past a roaring stream, and eventually to our first stream crossing, conveniently spanned by two planks.
When we entered a section of birches greened with lichen and partnered with lush shrubbery that looked to me like mountain laurel it felt as if, despite the weather, spring had begun.
As if to confirm the impression of spring, I soon spotted a low-growing, shy white flower and asked if anyone knew what it was. Bess said it was trailing arbutus, the official state flower of Massachusetts. I didn’t realize at the time how lucky we were to see it; due to destruction of habitat and overselling in flower markets in the 1800s and early 1900s, it has become rare. The plant is also sometimes called “mayflower,” (I assume after the ship) since it was reputed to be the first spring-blooming flower the Pilgrims sighted after their initial arduous winter in the new world.
Because of the rain, we didn’t stop for breaks, but continued to plough ahead on the white-blazed AT at a smart clip. After some more upping and downing—and slippery footing— we came to rocky ledges, which made for a nice change, gleaming amidst the dark browns and greens of forest and wintry grey sky. Despite the rain, they were rough-surfaced enough to not be too slippery. At the top of the outcropping, we paused briefly for lunch. The rain let up to a mist.
Then we were on to the Race Brook Falls Trail, with only 2.6 miles left to where we’d spotted most of our cars. I wondered to myself if we’d see the eponymous Falls before we ended our sojourn in the early spring forest, but out next highpoint was “the view.” Mist and low clouds covered most of it, but what we could see, I’ve enhanced to share with you.
Hiking past the Race Brook Falls campsite, with its very own privy, we arrived at a glorious, gushing Race Brook Falls, which our trail literally crossed.
We hiked along beside Race Brook, until our final crossing, then to our cars.
Despite the weather, I highly recommend this hike. It was wonderful to be out breathing the moist, fresh, energizing air, especially once the rain ended about two thirds of the way through. I imagine this hike would feel much different on a hot, sunny day when the streams and brooks and falls would offer a respite. But even on the day we chose, it felt good to be out and getting an early start on spring and the hiking season.
All in all, I thought these eight miles into Massachusetts a fine welcome to through hikers arriving from the southern start of the AT—as well as to day hikers like us—and am grateful to Bess and the AMC’s Berkshire Chapter for creating an occasion for Larry and me to enjoy it.