#5  Mount Greylock, Massachusetts (3,487 ft.)

I've been up Greylock twice. On the first trip, I took the Cheshire Harbor Trail, which was steeper than I expected and also more of a creek bed than a trail. But I loved the hike, especially skirting the little pond near the summit, which was built by the CCC in the 1930s as a water supply for Bascom Lodge. High above the war memorial a pair of bald eagles was cavorting, or mating, or both.

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On my second trip, with Thomas and Clem, we took the Bellows Pipe Trail in reverse to the Thunderbolt on a blisteringly hot day, and regretted it. The bugs were out in force, and the heat was fun for no one except maybe the overfed bugs. But the summit was breezier than the ramparts, and we bought excellent grilled cheeses with caramelized onions at Bascom Lodge, the longtime concession operator at the summit. One of the rangers we spoke with had seemingly been smoking something quite excellent himself.

On the way down we encountered an older gentleman who ended up walking most of the Gould Trail with us. He was an experienced hiker and trail worker and, we eventually learned, a physicist. Strangely, he was wearing the same pair of new hiking boots I was, and he too was using the hike to break them in. He also drove the same make of car as Thomas, and his field of work was somewhat related to Clem's. 

I knew of the legend of the ghost of the Old Coot, and this man was definitely no coot (the Old Coot is always on the Bellow's Pipe, moreover, and always heads up the mountain, never down), but it did give me pause.


Dolley Shot: Revenge of the Old Coot

I spent most of the descent picking his brain about hiking in the West, and he gave me some good advice. All this was shortly after we passed an enormous hollowed-out tree. I huddled inside the trunk and he asked me if it was an "anechoic" chamber. That was when I enquired about his profession (you don't hear the word "anechoic" very often). Turns out he'd worked at MIT and Brookhaven and studied magnetism. I decided he was definitively not the Old Coot.

The hike was just one of several I made in preparation for Katahdin in what I facetiously called my summer of Thoreau. It was also a signal moment in the development of the Dolley Inferno website, because it was on that hike I realized that instead of one definitive slideshow or video what I really needed was an archive that could be edited and updated as often as necessary: enter the Internet.

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Postcard  of the Massachusetts State Memorial Beacon, postmarked 1939

I want to go back to Greylock another time when the weather is a little less awful. I'd like to see it in the fog, for example, like Thoreau did when he awoke on the summit surrounded by an "ocean of mist." Staring out upon that sea of cloud, Thoreau later claimed, put him on the path of his life's work. Dare I claim the same? 

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