This year’s Greylock Ramble may have been canceled, but hikers trekking to the state’s highest point in October is as much a certainty as leaves changing color.
The tradition of hiking up Mount Greylock on the second Monday of October dates back to 1967, although organizers called off the event this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet that didn’t stop hikers from making the journey up the 3,491-foot mountain, and neither did winds left over from Hurricane Delta.
Adams’ Kyle Brooks, who serves in the U.S. Air Force, will travel to Spain next week, so this year’s hike served as a bit of a sending off.
Brooks, 20, has hiked for the Ramble with his father, Mark, for at least the past eight years.
“The first time I came here, I was in kindergarten, and I fell in love with the view,” he said. “It’s a bit better when it’s warmer, but you can see five different states if you stand in the right places.”
Izaiah Brooks, Kyle’s 14-year-old cousin, hiked up the mountain for the first time Monday. It was a bit tough in a few spots, but when asked if he’d hike again next year, he said, “For sure.”
As for Kyle, he’ll be back “as often as I can.”
As winds rattled the trees around them, locals and travelers made it to the summit, clad in jackets and face masks. Clouds surrounded the obelisk atop the mountain in the morning but cleared up by the afternoon.
Adams brothers Wayne and Derek Kuzia have hiked the Ramble “since we were little kids,” and the cancellation of the official Ramble had little effect on their plans. The pair scaled the Thunderbolt trail this year with Wayne’s husky dog, Niko.
“We usually come just for us, so it didn’t really change much,” said Wayne, 37. “We used to come here with all 15 of us.”
“The parents are a little too old for that now,” said Derek, 29.
There’s no doubt, however, that this year’s hike looked different from most, particularly with Bascom Lodge closed for the day and the number of hikers falling well short of the 1,000 who summit for the Ramble some years.
“I’ve been looking forward to a grilled cheese from the lodge all day, and I’m sad that they’re not open,” said Bryan Rondeau, a junior at McCann Technical School and a resident of North Adams.
Growing up in the area, Rondeau and five of his McCann classmates were familiar with the tradition. Austin Richardson, of Adams, has certificates from the several times he hiked as a kid, and their group of friends hiked up together last year.
This year, the group left for the hike at 4 a.m. and made it to the summit just after 9.
“Last year there were definitely more people,” Rondeau said. “Last year I was also smart and wore pants. This year I wore shorts, and I froze... Last year, we weren’t dealing with the remnants of a hurricane.”
Jim Daunais, 76, of Adams declared himself “the oldest one up here” on Monday, but he first summitted Greylock as a teenager.
“It was probably January or February, and we were hip-deep in snow,” he said. “We’d go pinwheeling down, then we’d come up and do it again. We didn’t know any better.”
Daunais went to his first Ramble in decades last year, taking his two grandchildren with him. He said he would “definitely” be back, whether for a Ramble or just for the hike itself.
A family from Westford, Mass., traveled to hike up Sunday and stayed the night at the lodge before hiking back down Monday.
“It was very fun,” said Omkar, a middle-school aged boy. “Once you’re nearing the top, there’s a great view of the city, and there was a section of the forest where the leaves were all yellow.”
“It was easy for him, tough for me,” quipped Meera, Omkar’s mother. Nevertheless, she said, “It felt good.”