Wilderness is a Necessity (Part 2 of 2)

Day Two – Friday, April 25th, 2014

Sunlight started to pour into the shelter about 6:00am, arousing me from a sound sleep and allowing me to witness the Sun’s beautiful rise over the farms and lakes below. I didn’t yet desire to emerge from my cocoon, so I sat up, still wrapped in my sleeping bag, and continued to watch the sun rise until about seven.

For breakfast I made poached eggs and oatmeal with maple syrup. During breakfast, as is my custom, I reached for the nearest reading material. At the shelter this happened to be the shelter log. I loved reading all of the notes left by other hikers and backpackers who have stayed at Riga, including two folks over Christmas! One of the hikers left the following John Muir quote and added, after it, “I am free.”

Wilderness is a necessity. I am losing the precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in the trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”

What are they free from? Did they get laid off? Did they quit their dead-end job? End an unfulfilling relationship? These are the questions that come to my mind. But the only answer that matters, “I am free.”

After packing up, I started on my hike north. I came to the trailhead where the Undermountain Trail joins the AT to reach the summit of Bear Mountain in about 15 minutes. There was a young couple standing and reading the sign posted. They let me pass and I continued up to the southern vista point where I always like to take a break. While there the couple passed me and continued on.

Not long after, I continued to the summit of Bear Mountain. I unpacked my Elevensies meal – an apple, some peanut butter, and some trail mix – and joined the couple on the top of the foundation that once sported a fire tower. We got into a conversation about weird recipes we’ve tried. I shared the quinoa-based flour-less chocolate cake recipe. They told me about flour-less banana pancakes made with just eggs and bananas. Before long we were join by another gentleman and, thereafter, by two ladies. The conversation turned to our favorite hikes in the Berkshires and Taconics.

After saying my farewells to my Elevensies eating companions, I started down the steep and rocky north side of the mountain. There were only a few times that my descent involved hand over head tactics. It was a fun challenge to scramble down.

I had forgotten just how close Sages Ravine is to Bear Mountain and before long I was surrounded by, in my opinion, one of the most majestic groves of Eastern Hemlocks in the northeast. These hemlocks are the reason I love the ravine, not to mention the creek. There is something soothing and familial about being under the protection of these stately evergreens. I decided to sit for a few minutes, to enjoy the shade. I quickly fell asleep.

When I awoke I realized that just little over an hour had passed! It was clear that I needed to re-energize, so I took out a dark chocolate bar with blueberries and scarfed it down pretty quickly before crossing the ravine and starting up Mount Race.

The ascending trail to the top of Mount Race hugs the very edge of the ridge, promising a steep fall off the cliff to the east for those not paying attention. Okay, so it’s not that bad. But it can look scary for someone not used to such heights. I got to the top and that’s when I realized I had jelly legs and wasn’t really feeling up to climbing Mount Everett.

Not long after I began my descent on the other side of Race, I came up to the Race Brook Falls Trailhead and began the two mile trek to the trail terminus. Race Brook Falls were gorgeous, being supplied by the melting ice and snow of early spring.

Unfortunately my phone’s battery pooped out the night before and my solar charger wasn’t working, so I don’t have any photographs to share for day two… you’ll just have to get out on the trails and see the beauty for yourself!

Riga Shelter to Race Brook Falls

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