Down the Trail: Taking steps in Mass

Tom Quinn is in his 31st year as a geometry and calculus teacher at Northern Valley/Old Tappan High School. He was the Golden Knights’ girls soccer coach for 23 years, has been the boys golf coach for 12 seasons and is now back on the sidelines as the JV girls soccer coach. He took his first steps on the Appalachian Trail on January 1, 2019.

Quinn has logged a lot of miles since. He has walked the entire New Jersey, New York, Connecticut sections of the AT and is now about halfway through Massachusettes. He shares some of his experiences, tips and tricks in our semi-regular Down The Trail feature.

The understated but famous overpass on the Appalachian Trail in Massachusettes.

There is an overpass sign on the Massachusetts Turnpike which says “Appalachian Trail Becket”.  My top shelf research indicated that this point is about halfway in mileage of the AT in Massachusetts.  Well, recently I finally crossed this overpass, and completed the first half of Massachusetts’s version of the Appalachian Trail

(Sages Ravine to Becket).  The journey moves forward, as I have completed over a 350 mile swath from “somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania” to this inauspicious road sign on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Massachusetts boasts a 90 mile AT track that marches along the western side of the state through the Berkshire Mountains and up to Mount Greylock, which has an elevation well over 3,400 feet.  Elevations here are much higher than in PA, NJ, NY and CT; however, there are a couple of nice, low level walking sections that maneuvers through farm fields and light woods.  Lush farmland, used for a very quick growing season in the slightly shorter warmer parts of the calendar than the Garden State, dot the area and provide neat viewpoints I never knew existed.

In general, the southern Berkshire region has several neat, quaint New England towns that are cool to visit, comfortable to stay at and provide nice family activities or “things to do” for married couples with no children (or children who are now not with us, going to college, and doing their own thing LOL)

Refreshments on the honor system.

As far the hiking goes, northern Connecticut and southern Massachusetts is very difficult in comparison to any hiking in our immediate area. I walked over three peaks: Bear Mountain, CT (2,316 ft), Mt. Race (2,365 ft) and Mt Everett (2,602 ft).  Each up was tough, and each down was also very difficult.  I will not miss the “down” after Bear Mountain CT, and I would love to see the summit on Mt. Race on a clear day.  Youtube pictures show an outstanding, vast view with a half mile walk to boot.  Unfortunately, I walked through fog at this juncture.  The climb to Mt. Everett was the toughest one to date.

Moving forward, Massachusetts is a great walk with longer ascents and descents than around here. The trail, although rocky at times, has a lot of smooth parts to it and provides a more comfortable walk; one where you can average 2-3 miles per hour.  There were a couple of neat views (East Mountain, 1,800 ft.) and an “Ice Gulch” that still had ice at the bottom of it as I walked past it over Memorial Day weekend.

Tyringham is a sleepy town that is known for being a farm area.  As far as hiking goes, this might have been the best part of my hike in Massachusetts.  There were a couple of great climbs, some awesome views, and one or two walks through farm fields and a bird sanctuary.  There was even an open farmstand that sold snacks and Gatorade-type drinks on the honor code.  Just like the old days: put your money in an open box and take what you need to continue your journey.  Great stuff!

I thank my lovely wife of almost 25 years, Carrie, for dropping me off and picking me up at a couple of locations along the trail.  She recommends Great Barrington and Stockbridge as places to spend some time .  I also thank my brother Rob for joining me for part of this hike. Lastly, I thank a nice woman, who I hired through an AT website (name I forgot), who shuttled me to a couple of locations over Memorial Day weekend. 

It takes an army, but the march continues!