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While there was of course lots of up and down (the entirety of the Appalachian Trail is an elevation gain/loss extravaganza equivalent to hiking up and down Mt Everest 16 times!) - this is where the trail finally started to give some reprieve. We hiked through forests, fields, mountaintops, and most strangely, people’s backyards.
Of course, no part of the Appalachian trail is complete without rocks. Just like the prior states, there were giant boulders to navigate, sketchy steep granite trail, and creative cairns.
There was some variation for the knees and easier ground in the form of boardwalks. At times precarious, but still a nice treat to keep your feet dry and protect endangered vegetation.
This is where we start getting our first glimpses of the changing season and rich fall colors. As we hit Massachusetts in mid September, we continued to be just ahead of the brightest color transitions. It was nice though to get continued warm weather as we headed south.
This is also where we experienced the strangest skies. White clouds on erie white sky backgrounds and hazy orange sunsets were a result of the west coast forest fires. I was stunned to find the effects of wildfire devastation, so far geographically, making itself known on the east coast. I also found it harder to breath and a soreness in my throat most of the time. I know first hand (living in Seattle) how the fires affect health nearby, so experiencing it so far from home made my heart ache even more for everyone on the west coast.
My obsession with weird things that grow in nature was not disappointed either. While not as prolific as they were on the trail north of Massachusetts, I still spotted some fantastic fungi.
My favorite aspect of hiking through Massachusetts was seeing evidence of history along the trail. From tiny single family homes built in the 1800’s to remnants of a different life, there was often a feeling of unknown stories of antiquity looming.
We camped at a site that was once the Tyringham Shaker Village. A great stone wall, probably a remnant from a barn was the most prominent feature. Relics of other metal and stone objects created a treasure hunt feeling to our stay in this intriguing place.
Ironically, my least favorite aspect of hiking through this state was definitely it’s proximity to civilization. There was a lot more evidence of negative human interference (and destruction) as we headed south. Noise pollution from highways and air travel was rampant (which made hiking very stressful), in addition to bigger crowds, growing piles of litter and sad damage to nature.
All in all, I’m glad I had the opportunity to hike the trail through Massachusetts. But I don’t feel the need to ever go back, there are far prettier places on my bucket list.
Since the reward of mountaintop views overlooking a vista are always my favorite part of hiking, I’ll end this with a view from the top.
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