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Southern Terminus

  • Start: Pittsfield, MA
  • End: Congdon Shelter
  • Approx miles: 14

I wake up around 6am, having slept lightly due to nerves, and set out walking back to downtown Pittsfield where the bus station is. Last night’s storm has totally blown off, and today dawns bright and sunny. My plan is to wait for the Walgreens to open and buy a new phone charger there, but I see a little deli/liquor store type of place1 almost immediately after leaving Susan’s house, and thankfully they have the right cable! I’m psyched to have gotten this done so much faster than expected, and after profusely thanking the guy working at the counter, I happily plug my phone into my power bank to charge.

Arriving at the transportation center I buy my bus ticket and grab a breakfast sandwich from a cute little cafe inside the bus station. The woman running it is friendly and seems to know everyone else who comes in. All about to start their morning commute. Its funny to get a little window into life in the Berkshires while just passing through like this.

I get on the #1 bus, which takes me as far as North Adams. The bus goes slow making stops at various businesses along the way, but I don’t mind. I’m in no rush and I’ve always enjoyed sitting on a bus in the sunlight, watching people go about their business. I have to transfer to the #3 bus in North Adams, so I stop at a Subway to buy a Coke and use the bathroom.

The #3 goes heads west out of North Adams towards Williamstown, passing both of the approach trails for the Southern Terminus of the LT—the Pine Cobble Trail, and an AT trailhead. I get off at the AT simply because it’s closer.

The two approach trails to the LT. I took the Appalachian Trail.

As I get off the bus and cross the bridge that leads to the trailhead, it slowly dawns on me that the “real-world” logistics are over. Tickets, schedules, reservations—that’s all done. After finding the AT blazes and following them basically through someone’s backyard (they have a hose set up with a note saying hikers are welcome to fill up on water), I’m on a trail in the woods! It feels really exciting be hiking after all the stress of getting here. The weather is perfect, and it’s a gentle climb along a stream towards the Vermont border and the beginning of the LT. The sun filters through the trees, and the trail is dry and clear.

Sign showing distances on the trail
Sign for the Class of 88 Trail
Signage on the AT approach trail

After a breezy few miles of hiking, I arrive at the border around 1PM, where I meet Particle and Mythman2, the first of the many other hikers I’d travel with. Particle is also about to start an LT thru-hike. Mythman is her partner—he’s just dropping her off, but he hiked it himself last year. I stop for lunch (sausage, cheese, trail mix, pita) and we chat for a bit while Particle gets her pack ready and they say their goodbyes. She sets off before I do; Mythman is kind of enough to take my photo with the trailhead sign.

A photograph of the author standing by a sign that says 'Welcome to the Long Trail'
Yours truly by the sign marking the trail's southern terminus

I set out across the state line while Mythman turns around to hike back to his car. I’m finally hiking the Long Trail! Almost immediately upon entering Vermont, the trail gets much muddier. There are huge puddles every few hundred feet! I guess they don’t call it “Vermud” for nothing. I catch up to Particle within a few miles and we hike together and chat. She’s really friendly, quite a bit younger than me. Grew up in Burlington and lives there now, a real Vermonter. Graduated college a few years ago, then did some teaching and worked as a case worker for six months before quitting to hike the trail.

My original plan was to finish the day at Seth Warner Shelter after about 10 miles of hiking. Particle’s planning to push on to Congdon Shelter, four miles further. I’m a little nervous to go so far on the first day, since one of the big pieces of advice I heard before starting was “don’t push yourself too hard at the start”. In the end though, the energy and company is infectious, and I decide to go on with her.

The beginning of the LT. I had been planning to stop at Seth Warner Shelter, but pressed on with Particle to Congdon Shelter.

A photograph of a pond along the trail

We arrive at Congdon Shelter around 5 or 6, just as it starts to rain. In the shelter we meet Parfait, another thru-hiker, who has her stuff set up on one of the bunks. Particle goes to set up her tent while I get my stuff out in the shelter and chat with Parfait a bit. She’s a bit older than me, started hiking a few years ago and attempted the LT in ‘21. She’s done a bunch of hiking out west and got her trail name out there somewhere. Married to a Canadian and lives way up north there somewhere. True to her name, she’s a sweet, comforting presence. She’s hiking with her dog Zero, a beautiful, friendly silken windhound, and hiking partner Jessica who’s already set up in her tent with her own dog.

A photograph of Zero, Parfait's silken windhound, begging for food at a picnic table.
Zero, searching for food.

They were in their tents at Sherman Brook campsite on the approach trail during the thunderstorm last night. Parfait says it was terrifying. There’s more storms in the forecast for Sunday and Monday, when we’ll be going over Stratton Mountain, which Parfait is nervous about. I’m a little nervous too hearing her talk about it. I make mac and cheese for dinner and watch the steady rain outside the shelter. We go to sleep as soon as it gets dark, which will become my custom for the next month.

  1. Which in Massachusetts is called a “package store”. It’s funny how everywhere has its own name for this type of place. ↩︎

  2. These are their trail names, which are not the names they gave when they introduced themselves to me here. Particle didn’t get hers until later in the hike, and Mythman’s I didn’t know yet. Many of the characters in this story I knew by multiple names at various points. For simplicity’s sake, I refer to everyone by the trail name they eventually settled on. ↩︎