Went backpacking this past weekend. We headed to Mount Greylock State Park. At just about 3,500 feet Mt. Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts and it’s part of the Appalachian Trail. So we donned our 45 pound packs and hit the woods. Unlike car camping when you can bring anything and everything that you may ever want to use, backpacking is way different because when you backpack you carry everything with you – food, tent, stove, sleeping bags, water.
The weather was especially nice for this time of year, but because it was well into the 80’s we had to drink copious amounts of water. It was impossible to drink enough water. The trees didn’t have any leaves on them yet so there was hardly any shade even in the woods. We ended up hiking 12 miles the first day and just two miles the second day. A twelve mile hike with 4,000 foot change in elevation is pretty tough.
Backpacking is a great way to figure out whether or not you are able to bug out big time if the need arose. When you backpack you think about the weight of every single thing you carry. This is the trailhead where we headed up from.
I see a lot of stuff on the Internet about folks thinking they’re going to bug out with their molle bdus and what nots. I see some folks write about carrying a full battle load of ammo, something like 12 or 15 30 round mags. Hahahahahahaha!!!!! You gonna carry your eight pound AR15 too? Hahahahahaha!!!!! HAVE YOU EVER TRIED IT!?!?!?! Ammo is freaking heavy. Guns are heavy. Magazines are heavy. I had a S&W model 60 and 20 rounds of 357 and that was heavy. When you are lugging stuff on your back every ounce makes a difference.
You may be carrying 15 full 30 round mags, but then you won’t be carrying enough food, water or gear. It’s gonna be one or the other. You will have to make decisions about what can fit and what you can carry and what will need to be left behind. Me? I’d rather have a change of clothes, some raingear, a tent/tarp, stove, food, maybe even a saw or camp axe then my binky gun. I think I’d use my camping gear a lot more then my binky gun.
This is the lean to we stayed at.
We set the tent up on 1/2 of the lean to. My other buddy slept outside in his bivy sack under the stars. It was a great spot. The elevation of the lean to was about 2,200 feet. The view from the lean to.
There was a roaring stream, Pecks Brook, about 50 feet from the lean to, so we had the pleasure of listening to rushing water the whole time we were there. In the lower left hand corner of the picture is snow, more to follow about that later.
Although we could have probably drank the water right out of the streams because there was plenty of melting snow and ice, we filtered it just to be safe.
This was a very difficult hike. Mt. Greylock is a steep mountain. Not only is it steep, but the top 1/3 of it was still covered in snow and ice and due to the big ice storm from the beginning of the winter the trails were covered in brush and the tops of trees that snapped off under the weight of ice.
Right near the summit was a cool stone.
So because there was still so much snow and ice on the trails it was real slippery. I was with two friends and each of us fell at least once. I bashed my arm pretty well. One buddy fell and slid maybe five or eight feet and bashed his side pretty good. I’m still applying triple antibiotic to my rock rash.
At the top is a war memorial to veterans. This picture is a view from the top of the stone memorial. That road you see there is for people to drive to the top. The DCR ranger that we spoke with said they were getting money from FEMA to clean up after the huge ice storm.
There was also a little pond near the top with hundreds of frogs in it, doing their reproductive thing. The music they made was beautiful.
Do you see all of the froggies floating? The ripples at the top of the picture is from two frogs dancing. After we got to the summit we decided to hike the ridgeline, so we went across the ridge over three other smaller peaks and then down into the canyon and back to our campsite.
A view on the way down looking at the top.
I’m telling you the hiking was extremely treacherous. The mountain is steep anyways which makes it tough, but near the top that old snow and ice made it almost impossible to get any traction. It would have been very easy to break an arm or leg or crack your skull. Then like I wrote above, because of the ice storm the trails were covered in brush and debris. To go 10 feet forwards on the trail we would have to go off trail bushwhack and then try to hook up with the trail up ahead. It would have been very easy to get lost. It took much longer than we expected and we had to walk further and harder than we expected due to all the trails being obstructed every five feet.
What happens is you are walking on the trail and it’s blocked off with the tops of some trees that snapped under the load of ice so you try to parallel the trail. The problem is you think you go back on trail, but you are actually following a dry stream bed or animal trail, before you know it you are far off the trail and good luck to ya.
This is one of the waterfalls right by our campsite. We got to listen to this the whole time and we didn’t have to go too far to get fresh, cold water!! Added bonus one of my buddies brought a few oil cans of Heineken. He tossed the beer in the stream earlier and when we got back it was like 45 degree. That was one of the best beers that I’ve ever had.
And a pretty stream near the bottom.
- Carry water, carry lots of water, carry different ways to purify/filter water, carry containers that can be filled with water.
- Bring a compass and map and GPS. Stop frequently to mark your route so you always know where you are. It is very easy to get lost in the woods even on trails. The trail you think you are following may not be a trail at all.
- Use walking sticks hiking or ski poles. Using these things helps you keep your footing and takes a lot of stress off of your knees.
- If carrying long arms and gobs of ammo is part of your plan when you GOOD then you better try it out first. Go ahead, load yourself up and start walking. When you carry your load upon your hips and shoulders every ounce makes a difference. Leave the 200 rounds of ammo behind and only bring what you need. I’d rather carry a filter, cookware and a mess kit, a fixed blade, a camp axe or saw, a stove, a sleeping bag, tent and first aid kit than a bunch of bullets. Ammo weighs a lot!!
- Have a few different ways to start fire.
- Carry more food and water than you think you need.
- The terrain and obstacles can change drastically. It was 85 degrees and perfectly sunny outside and we were battling snow and ice underfoot. Be prepared for the unexpected.
- If you go with others, it’s a bad idea to let any one person carry all of any single thing i.e. every one in the group should carry some water, some food, some way to start a fire and so on. Things get lost and people get separated from each other. If someone carrying all the food was to fall into a stream their pack would be dumped like a lead weight so they could swim to shore. Say bye bye to your food in that case. Split everything up.
- Just because it’s a warm day doesn’t mean that you won’t hit snow and ice at higher elevations. Prepare for it.
- You could look at a map of the terrain, but still not know what to expect. You could have walked your path of escape 100 times and still be surprised by damage that last year’s ice storm cause. Point being it took us three times as long as we expected it do because of all the branches and trees obstructing the trail. Nature isn’t static. It’s forever changing. You have to expect everything to take longer than it should. If you expect it to take you 1/2 a day to hike home or to your bug out location, plan on it taking a whole day or two and pack enough food/water/clothes to be out on the road for a day or two, not the 1/2 day expected under perfect circumstances.
- Forgot about this one – if you have bad knees or elbows you should wear a brace of some sort. I like an elastic one on my right knee. It helps a lot. You may also want to think about leaving a brace, if you use one, in your BOB, backpack or GOOD kit.
So more than eight good hours on the dusty and we’re back at camp eating, telling stories and watching the fire. Happy trails to you – may you not have stones in your shoes, know thirst or the buzzing of flies.