Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hiking - Taconic Crest Trail End-to-End Weekend

Every year, the Taconic Hiking Club runs an Endurance Challenge on the Taconic Crest Trail, which runs along the Taconic Ridge on the NY/MA border.  The trail itself is 35 miles long, but the Challenge "only" covers 29 miles of that total.  It's a tough day, with over 7,000 feet of total climbing, and you'd better be in great hiking shape before you consider attempting it.  I did it 10 years ago, when I was younger and stupider, and have no desire to do it again.  But the event requires lots of volunteers to make it happen, so this year I got involved at that level.

On Friday, the day before the hike, five of us carried 7 gallons of water up the 2.65-mile Mattison Hollow access trail below the ridge to the 13-mile point of Saturday's hike 800+ feet above.  This would be one of the places where hikers could replenish their water and supplies.  Since I would be hiking up that same trail the next day, and it was an hour's drive from home, I decided to camp at the hike's starting point at Berry Pond Campground with many other volunteers and most of the hikers.  After dinner at the Bridgeway Filling Station, a biker bar in Cherry Plain, after our water supply hike, two others and I drove up to Berry Pond, listened to the briefing given to the hikers, and then I settled in for an early sleep, this time in my car.  

Up at 4:30 to get organized and avail myself of the hot breakfast served at 5am, it was a short and fitful night.  The kitchen and assembly area were in full swing when I arrived.

The club's trail master, Colin, and bagpiper, Neil, made an interesting contrast in outfits.

Promptly at 5:30 am, Neil bagpiped and led the hikers off the start line and on to the beginning of a very long day.  A short video is below.

My duties for the day of the hike, along with three others, involved driving back to the same trailhead as the previous day, and carrying the hikers' resupply bags (lunches, etc.) up to that same 13-mile point where we'd already left the water.  Once all the hikers had passed through that point several hours later, we would follow behind them to the 21-mile point as sweeps, in case any of them ran into trouble.  This alone was a tough enough day for me, with 10.5 total miles and 2,700 feet of total climbing.

It was a picture-perfect day weather-wise, with temps climbing into the 60s and low 70s, and not a cloud in the sky all day.  We were amazed by the profusion of trout lilies still blooming everywhere at this higher elevation.

After many ups and downs, we finally reached the summit of Berlin Mountain, the highest point on the trail at just under 2,800 feet.  The views to the east were wide and expansive, including Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts.

We lingered here for a while with a tired hiker until she was ready to continue, and then descended, and ascended, and descended, to Petersburg Pass, the end of our section.  Cold drinks awaited, and then we were driven back to our cars after a long and tiring day.  But it was only 4:30pm, and the last hiker on the 29-mile hike didn't finish until after 8pm, so we really couldn't whine very loudly.


  1. Rich,
    Thanks so much for this post and for volunteering. This is a great event that requires a lot if folks like yourself to happen safely. (I'm the guy in front, with hiking poles in your vid), Brian

  2. Greetings Rich,

    I just came across this and wanted to thank you for the pictures, and the video (great memories of being fresh and eager at mile zero!), and for all of your time, energy and effort as a volunteer. It was much appreciated.