Dear Herm’s Hikers,
Greetings from Williamstown, MA, home of Williams College! Massachusetts was a tough hike due to the rain and the insects (mosquitoes the size of bluebirds), but what a blast!
First stop was in Great Barrington was the Guthrie Center (the old Trinity Church), formerly the home of Alice and Ray Brock of Alice’s Restaurant fame. For those who didn’t know or don’t remember, Alice’s Restaurant was made famous by folksinger Arlo Guthire in his musical monologue titled Alice’s Restaurant Massacre. The song was based on the true story of his arrest on Thanksgiving in 1965 for littering and subsequent rejection from the draft for a criminal record (or so the story goes). It has become Arlo’s trademark song to say the least.
The Guthrie Center is a community center that sponsors a number of social programs that includes free lunch on Wednesday. I made it a point to arrive on Wednesday to enjoy a hot lunch (meatballs, vegetable, salad, bread, and dessert with beverages) in the great room of the one of the most historical and hallowed sites in contemporary folk music (at least to the Flower Children of the 60’s). The walls were adorned with music memorabilia from Woody, Arlo, and the musicians/singers who have performed at the center. On a small stage was a guitar signed by those who who have performed during the year to date. If you want to enjoy some great folk music in a small, intimate setting, the Guthrie Center is the place. George and staff, thank you for your hospitality!
After leaving the Guthire Center, I walked down to the produce stand/bakery at the end of the road for a cup of Joe. The conversation with the cashier was well worth the walk. For it seems the cashier was a lady by the name of Dr. K. Andrews Dietrich who serves as an historical consultant to Denise Vanaria, a historical re-enactor who has a traveling road show called med “Titanic The Experience.” What a great time! Ms. Andrews is an expert on the Titanic. I told her that me and my oldest daughter were huge Titanic fans, and that my daughter would have been tickled to death to meet and talk with her. The conversation was so good that I stayed for another cup of coffee and two raspberry muffins.
Spent a night at the East Mountain Retreat Center, a silent, meditative center that houses hikers, where I met a ghost of the AT past. I was lying on my mattress reading one of the spiritual books from the retreat’s library when in walks a hiker who points to me and says “I met you and your wife at the Hiawassee Inn back in April.” The hiker was Just Tim, a retired Special Forces soldier, who had been driving the shuttle van for the owner of the Hiawassee Inn. At that time, Just Tim said that he was going to be hiking in New England later in the summer and that we just might run into him on the trail. He hiked, and we met. Just another small world story from the AT.
Spent another night at the Upper Goose Pond cabin, a fully enclosed 2-story structure with bunks, fireplace, pancake breakfast, and, of course, a scenic pond. The next morning as I enjoyed a cup of coffee on the front porch, a fellowhiker named Bluejay whispered “Don’t make a sound. Look to your right.” Right next to us on the ground was a juvenile black bear slowly making his way to the front of the cabin. The bear didn’t seem to mind us as much as we didn’t mind him. He took his good old time in circling the cabin which allowed us to snap a few pictures.
After the Guthrie Center, the next logical stop on any trip down memory (it’s been forty years since I graduated from high school in 1969 which also coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival) is Rising Son Records, also the home to Arlo D. Guthrie, the folksinger of Alice’s Restaurant fame who happeneded to play at Woodstock. In the fall of last year, I e-mailed Mr. Guthire and his record company to see if they would be interested in mentioning/listing Herm’s Hike somewhere on a website. Never heard from Arlo, but the record company responsed that if you get in the area, stop by to see us. Well, I was in the area and I stopped by to see. So there I was standing next to Arlo’s house, trying to decide if I should knock on the door or just stand ther until someone notices me. In the quiet of the late morning, I heard voices coming from the building next to the house. Aftrer a few minutes of not being noticed, I knocked on the door of the buildng and popped in my head with the question “Is this the offices of Rising Son Records?” The four ladies gathered around a table sipping coffee looked at me and then each other wtih a gaze of confusion and bewilderment. When I asked if I could have a minute of their time, they once again looked at me and then each other with the same gaze. Finally, one of the ladies invited me to come in. I quickly introduced myself and retold my story about the e-mail to the record company. No one rememberd it which didn’t surprise me, but they did take one of my Herm’s Hike flyers and said they would see if they could post it on a blog. One of the ladies at the table was Annie Hays Guthrie, one of Arlo’s daughter, head of Rising Son Records and an outstanding folksinger in her own right. I asked about the possibility of meeting Arlo, and Annie responded that her father was home but not in at the time. I took a few picutures of me and the staff and then headed back to the trail. Rising Son Records, thank you for your hospitality, generosity and the Arlo CD!
During continuing showers (a hard rain is gonna fall accordng to Bob Dylan), I slogged my way through the mud along the trail to Dalton and Tom Lovarde’s house which is right on the trail as you enter the south side of town. Tom is probably one of the most gracious hosts on the trail. He opens his house and his heart to hikers, providing a bed, shuttle service, and, at times, food, and asks in return only that you remove your shoes/boots before entering the house. It was a great time with some great trail stories from Tom and fellow hikers !
The next day I took the morning off to do some Herms’ Hike business in town. One stop was the Dalton United Methodist Church which is right on the trail (the trail runs through the heart of town for about a 1/2 mile). No one was at the parish office, but I did hear music coming from the church. When I entered the side foyer, the contemporary music group, was rehearsing. When they took a break, the singer Meg asked if she could help me. I told her about Herm’s Hike, handed her a flyer, and then asked if the hike could be announced in the church bulletin or newsletter. When Meg asked me how the hike was going, I made the fatal mistake of saying in a church that the hike had been a spiritual journey. After I told Meg and the band about the prayer sessions, Meg asked me if I would like to speak about the power of prayer at their Sunday service the following morning. I immediatly accepted and returned to Tom’s place to prepare some speaking notes. The next morning I was called to the front of the congreagation and proceeded to speak for approximately ten minutes about the AT, Alzheimer’s, Herms Hike, and the power of prayer on a journey of faith. What a powerful moment! At times, I got my eyes teared and I and had to pause for a few seconds to collect my emotions. That really had people leaning forward in thier pews to hear what I had to say next. You could have heard a pin drop. After the service, I attended a coffee and cake social where one lady asked me what brought me to their church. I responded that I did not find their church, but their church found me. I told her that my hiking angels had simply led me to this place on this particular Sunday. That was the only explanation. After speaking with some other parishioners, I found out that Meg’s parents (Meg was the lady who who extended the invitation) had been afflicted with Alzheimer’s and one had recently passed away. The ministry of the trail continues!
A special thank you to Meg, Lisa and Bernie who conducted the Sunday service, and Barb and Dave Badeau who treated me to lunch at their house. To Barb and Dave, continue the trail magic. To all of you I say, you are truy trail angels!
Summited Mount Greylock, the state’s highest mountain at 3,491 feet topped with a war memorial, on a bright, sunny day. But don’t worry, coming down the other side, it grew dark and forboding as a vicous thunderstorm rolled over the mountain. For a few minutes, it was deluge of biblical proportions! I got off the mountain just as quickly as I could. My Goretex jacket was of little help!
From here it’s on to Vermont, just only a few miles north. It’s still raining hard and I have no doubt the trail will be muddy. After all, they don’t call Vermont “Vermud” for nothing. Another state down and only 3 to go! As always, keep me in your prayers! Hike with your angels and hike in peace!
One of my fellow hikers gave me a gift while passing through the state, a book titled “The Sun Dances, Prayers and Blessings from the Gaelic.”