4:30 AM: Coffee cravings. Double layers of everything: double socks, double sweatshirts, double pants. Pre-hike worry sets in. What if I contract hypothermia? What are the chances of being mauled by a bear in Massachusetts? What if I have to poop in the woods?
5:00 AM: We watch the sunrise from the car windows, spot a truck full of goat semen, and listen to The Decemberists. Things are really serene, and suddenly I don’t regret setting that 4 AM alarm.
8:30 AM: We approach the Berkshires after passing little log buildings and an abundance of gun shops. I come this close to making redneck jokes, but then I realize that the people who live here reside in one of the most beautiful places in New England. Jealousy sets in. Excitement, too.
9:00 AM: HOLY COW! COWS! The first sight we see when we park the car at Haley Farm is a pack of cows mulling about, doing cow things (except for this rambunctious baby calf, who tries to engage the other cows with playful nudges, but to no avail). I want to steal him (her?), but decide against it because there’s no way a breathing, pooping calf will fit in the trunk.
9:15 AM: After gathering our supplies (sandwiches, a surplus of power bars, cameras, hand warmers, etc.), and saying goodbye to the cows, we embark on our hike. We head to the trailhead, which is directly past the farm. I’m thrilled to find that we’re walking on level ground, and forget mountains aren’t flat.
9:30 AM: As we ascend, the terrain grows steeper, and we begin hiking up at an incline. Any delusions of my overwhelming physical strength or stamina dissolve instantly. I consider surrender.
10:00 AM: THIGHS. BURNING. CAN’T. TAKE. ANOTHER. STEP.
11:30 AM: Along the way to the summit, we stumble upon a real life Kinkade scene: an old snow-capped pump house and a glistening lake circled by pine trees. Disappointment sets in when Colin notes that the lake is completely artificial. Oh well, still pretty.
12:00 PM: HOLY FREAKING ICE, BATMAN! I come close to falling a few times (not surprising), but Colin saves me. He nearly falls a few times as well, and I get to return the favor. God forbid I fall, break my leg on the ice, become completely defenseless, and get eaten by a passing bear.
12:30 PM: After what feels like forever, we catch sight of the World War II Memorial Tower at the summit. AND SNOW! I had romanticized about us sitting by a roaring fire and sipping hot chocolate with other exhausted, but high-spirited hikers, so it is a relief to see Bascom Lodge. Of course, since it’s the off-season, the doors are locked and the windows boarded. Fantasy shattered. It is painfully windy and cold, but at least we have sandwiches. Some really nice people take our picture. The view is absolutely stunning. I don’t want to be cliché by saying that what I saw was indescribable, but I guess I’ll just have to be cliché. Oopsie-poops! Worth every wheeze, complaint, and muscle cramp.
2:00 PM: I have to pee. Colin has the biological luxury of peeing wherever he pleases (and he does). We find a log building that seems out of view from the rest of the hikers. Mid-pee, I notice a group of campers huddled around their fire who can probably see me without pants…AWESOME. After experiencing the humiliation and an odd sense of accomplishment, we continue on our way.
2:10 PM: The cruelest joke ever: two port-a-potties standing on the side of the road. Eff you, Nature.
3:00 PM: We reach Stony Ledge, which makes me feel really small. From here, we see the memorial tower from the top of Greylock. It looks like a toothpick. We come to the surreal realization that we climbed over 2,000 feet up.
4:00 PM: WORTH IT. The cows went home, and so did we.