Last weekend found me in Northfield, MA, helping out at a race (where I saw Ross Smith ’05), so after the successful completion of said race, my boyfriend and I naturally drove over to Williamstown. Had I thought to pack a camera, I could have taken pictures to populate another hundred Photo IDs, but I didn’t, so you’ll have to settle for narrative (with one photo, below).
I decided that we would run along the Taconic Crest Trail and find the tri-state marker where MA, VT and NY come together. Though I had run the Taconic Crest Trail with the cross country team many times, I had never been to the tri-state point, which I had heard was not far off the trail. Since my boyfriend enjoys bushwhacking and county high-pointing, it seemed like the ideal afternoon adventure / long run.
We first went to the Mountain Goat, where we purchased the WOC guide to hiking around Williamstown, and the excellent WOC map of the area. The man working there was very chatty, and we left much more informed about long-distance biking journeys than we had been when we entered. (As we drove through the College, I also saw many more white-haired, purple-shirted men than I expected. Williams was deep into Reunion season. David Kane was there, but I didn’t know it until I got back.) We then proceeded to Petersburg Pass, where we parked, crossed the road, and began the run along the crest trail.
I provide extra-complete details about the run because, as you will find out if you keep reading, it got a little tricky to find the marker.
We ran along the trail for a little over a mile, then took a right on a consistently downhill trail that took us to the figure-8 loop in Hopkins Forest — one of my favorite runs at Williams. We were only on the loop for about a half mile before taking a left on a downhill trail that took us to a road in Pownal. Well, almost in Pownal — we took a left on the road, and after maybe a mile, passed the marker on the right side of the road that indicated we were passing from MA into VT.
Shortly after that marker, we took a left onto a “road” that was just two ruts in a grass field, and which quickly entered the woods. It was marked on our map as just a simple dashed-line road (two dashed lines with white in between) that led to a single dashed-line trail. However, contrary to the map, this road forked multiple times, so I had to rely on Alan’s intuition as to which fork was the “main road,” if you will, that was marked on the map. The road (as his direction decisions turned out to be correct) led us to a stream, where the road ended and the trail began (according to the WOC map).
At the stream, we met two men. Ordinarily it would be a shock to see other people in what is quite obviously the middle of nowhere, but there had been a slick little car parked on the side of the Pownal road where the dashed-line road began, so we were not altogether shocked.
“Do you guys know where the tri-state marker is?” they asked. This was a surprising question, as they were on the left side of the stream, whereas our map said the trail towards the marker was the one on the right. “Actually, we’re headed there ourselves,” I replied, and so our merry band of two became a merry band of four.
These men were “state high-pointers,” meaning that they are working on visiting the highest point in each state. They had driven up from Pennsylvania to hit Mount Greylock before lunch, and they figured they’d bag the tri-state point before heading home. Unfortunately, their tool of choice was not a map, but an iPhone GPS program, which was not getting much service in the woods of the tri-state area. That is why they were on the wrong side of the stream. So we joined forces, their GPS and our map, and headed up the very steep trail on the right side of the stream.
After a few minutes of steep hiking, we encountered an intersection where you could go left, right or straight ahead. On the map, there was only one trail, and it went slightly downhill at this point. So we chose the trail on the left, which did just that (note to those who follow: the correct answer is to go straight). The two men (named James and Dave) had printed out directions as to how to get to the tri-state point and marker, which indicated that it is about 100 feet to the right of the trail, shortly before a stream, and it has a Williams College-built shack nearby. So we set off in search of this shack and marker on the right side of the trail.
As it turns out, bagging Mount Greylock is a lot easier than bagging the tri-state point. Alan, with his extensive experience trudging around off-trail looking for summit jars, trudged around in the woods looking for a three-foot high granite marker, while Dave followed his GPS towards the tri-state point whenever it got service, and James and I stood on the trail and made small talk while swatting bugs.
Several times, James appeared to have decided to throw in the towel — in fact, he told me that when we met them, they had already decided to throw it in and were heading back to their car — but I told him that Alan never gives up on the summit jar when he is bushwhacking, and he would certainly find this marker, so if they stuck around, they would surely achieve their goal of finding the tri-state point. After all, a granite marker is much larger than a mayonnaise or peanut butter jar. Dave seemed quite intent on finding the point, so he was quite happy to have met us, since we would not give up until we had found what was turning out to be a needle in a haystack.
After about an hour, Dave’s GPS got signal for long enough that he managed to walk in the direction indicated by the map on his iPhone screen until it told him that he was standing directly on the tri-state point. He searched the area for about 10 minutes, but to no avail, and finally he was worried that he would get irrevocably lost, so he returned and summoned Alan to the spot. Alan walked about 100 feet away from the trail on the right side, and walked roughly parallel to the trail, searching once again for the elusive marker.
Finally, a shout! Alan had found the marker. Dave, James and I pushed our way through brush and over fallen trees to the sound of Alan’s voice, and we stood victoriously around the granite monument. Dave was nice enough to take a photo of us with the marker, which I have posted above. (By the way, there was no shack, Williams-built or otherwise, anywhere near the marker.)
After all of two minutes at the marker, we parted ways and ran about 55 minutes back to the car. All told, we left the car at 2:00 and returned at 5:30 — quite the afternoon adventure. (This included 113 minutes of running.) We capped off the evening with culinary visits to Hot Tomatoes and Lickety Split.