Day’?s Verse:
Even youths grow tired and weary,and young men stumble and fall…
Isaiah 40:30 (context)

Ian’s parents are in town. They flew in on Thursday, just in time to catch our record-hot Friday temperatures (somewhere in the mid-90° range). When they travel they like to do things, so starting Saturday, we did things:

Saturday: Rockport
We drove on freeways to Rockport in the morning, parked on a side street in downtown, and spent the morning walking around the tourist-oriented downtown. I imagine locals actually avoid it if they can; it swarmed with people. Two little kids set up a drum set and sang songs on the sidewalk — I expect they made a killing. The whole downtown reeked of perfect, cookie-cutter-cute seaside town, delightful for wandering around for a day or two. It sported art galleries, jewelry shops, T-shirt and other clothing shops, and souvenir shops, with a few restaurants scattered in. We ate at a restaurant downtown, enjoyed ice cream, and drove out to where the Fergusons thought we could find a trail across the beach almost to a park. The trail proved elusive, so we drove again through extremely fancy neighborhoods and finally found a path labeled Public Footpath, which sounded promising. We walked up the beach from there over huge boulders and flat rock outcroppings — no sand there — until we found another footpath back to the road. We followed the road back to our car, and thence via backroads back to our house. It took two and a half or three hours to drive on backroads to Marlborough from there, and I felt extremely tired of driving by then.

Sunday: Curtains
Curtains, far from being some strange Massachusetts location, actually refers to the fact that after church on Sunday, at long last, Ian and I obtained curtains for our apartment. The reign of only bare windows with only venetian blinds has ended! They turned out quite nice, too, and block lots of light, crucial for us with a projector. I also diligently washed and waxed our car, so for 12 (nighttime) hours it gleamed more than it ever has before. Alas, then Monday happened.

Monday: Mt. Greylock
For those of you who know Massachusetts geography at all, you will instantly realize that Marlborough is situated on the far east side of it, forty-five minutes or so from Boston. Mt. Greylock, on the other hand, hangs out with the other Berkshires on the far Western side of the state, in the corner near the New York/Vermont/Massachusetts intersection. This means a couple hours’ driving on the Mass Pike (I-90), and that means the end of my gorgeously gleaming washed-and-waxed Prius. Bug guts in the shape and color of snot immediately and lavishly draped themselves across the front of the car, while grime and dirt adhered to the car like iron filings to a magnet. When we arrived at Mt. Greylock, we found with some consternation that the road to the trailhead was closed from the visitor center onward — for the next two years. Consultation with the resident ranger brightened the prospects though; trails positively riddle the mountain.

Then we had to choose, of course. Ian and I advocated finding and following the Appalachian Trail because it followed a ridge-line and gained elevation slowly. The Fergusons, though, ended up guiding us to the Thunderbolt Trail. Let me note right now that in New England, trail-makers had never heard the term switchback. Now an excerpt from my newly-purchaseed Massachusetts Trail Guide, put out by the thrice-blessed Appalachian Trail Club, on the Thunderbolt Trail:

One of the steepest trails on the mountain, the Thunderbolt [is a] very rugged and strenuous trail named for the roller coaster at Revere Beach near Boston because each trip down the mountain was an unforgettable ride.

To be fair, the mileage brochure we picked up at the visitor center described the trail as aggressive on a scale of easy, moderate, strenuous, and aggressive. It climbed straight up, unstintingly up, according to my trail book 2,260 feet in two miles.

When we got to the top, we found it oddly developed: a 90-foot-tall lighthouse, a memorial to World War I soldiers, stood up there along with several fancy-looking lodge-type places and some cushy bathrooms. The views, however, proved delightful; sweeping panoramas of rolling forested green hills, with a small down down at the bottom of the mountain. But the best part for me was seeing an even dozen little orange salamanders that had red spots on either side. A quick Google search tells me that these are Spring Salamanders, and that many other hikers have also noted how delightful, cute, and numerous they are on this short half-mile stretch of the trail. I loved them instantly, and they validated the whole drive out and the agonizing hike.

We drove back along Route 2 the whole way to 495, and finally dropped into bed exhausted.

Tuesday: Concord
We started later today, and when I woke up my legs and back felt as if they had undergone a severe beating. Although I felt fairly good on the hike, apparently I worked much harder than I had thought. We picked Ian’s parents up at their hotel about 11:00 and hit Concord around 11:45 or so. Most of the day we spent walking around there, first from the North Bridge part of Minute Man National Park to lunch at the Alley Cafe (or some such), then into a couple shops, then off to the longer part of the Minute Man park. The park, which starts maybe a mile or mile and a half from downtown Concord, follows the path the Minute Men took as they harried British soldiers back to Boston in 1776. Ian and I walked to the park, splitting with his parents, since they wanted to see Louisa May Alcott’s house. We walked for a while in the park, but although it is a nice five-mile one way trip, it generally is just a nice trail with a few informative plaques studding the trail at intervals. After a while we tired out, so we headed back, intercepting the Fergusons, who had started their way down the trail. They continued on and we pushed pack to the car, parched and sweating. Thankfully, after picking them up at a tavern where they watched a musket-shooting demonstration, we all got to get ice cream. Then we walked to the cemetery where Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and somebody else famous and literary are buried (along with lots of other people — what an enormous graveyard!). The day finally ended as we straggled back to the car and made our way home.

I discovered two blisters, on one each of my feet, which in combination with certain muscle soreness, will make my bike rides this week rather horrible. Those rides start again tomorrow; unlike some lucky people, I have work for the rest of the week. Good thing — I need a rest from all the vacationing the Fergusons are doing! Oh, I wanted to mention that we saw, I estimate, no fewer than 50 and more like 100 recreational bicyclists today, people in gaudy jerseys on fast bikes riding around Concord. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

Pictures may follow, although I only took a few at each place.

2 thoughts on “Driving Massachusetts

  1. Well, I don’t remember *choosing* the hard trail, just agreeing to give it a try. And I think it should be mentioned that the old folks did a pretty good job getting up and down that crazy trail!

  2. Hey you were in my hometown!! : ) Where did you eat in Rockport, do you remember? Aww I wish I’d known you guys were going, and I could have given you some pointers for where to go and what things to do. It sounds like you filled the time nicely, though. As far as we locals are concerned, sometimes I avoid the downtown like the plague, but more often than not, I enjoy ‘playing tourist’ and poking around. The Country Store and the Fudgery never seem to get old, hehe.

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