Beth and I have returned from our all-conquering roadtrip. Hooray!

We started out Saturday morning at 9…ish. I picked Beth up in the Hoopdie, top down, The Decemberists blasting. Starbucks for coffee, Hess for gas, and off we went.

Route 114 west to 128 south, 95 south to 2 west. And then, lots of west. Westward, ho! We moved over and under and through, Maynard and Fitchburg and Gardner. The French King Bridge and a brief stop to peer far over the edge. The Eastern Summit Giftshop, for mint chip ice cream, a beautiful view, and a lucky find. Turner Falls and Deerfield, Florida (yes, Florida, MA) and then, finally, Savoy.

Earlier in the week, when we realized that backpacking really needed to be scrapped due to the 95-degree weather predictions, we had attempted to book a campsite… anywhere. Beth had suggested the (brilliant) idea of heading to Mass MoCA, so we looked around the area. Savoy Mountain State Forest had a handful of sites available for Saturday night — but we couldn’t book the sites due to the two-night reservation minimum, technology spinning us into a Catch-22 loop. We decided to head that way anyway and hope for the best — with a back-up plan of crashing on my mom’s lawn, another hour farther, if Savoy fell through. I promised Beth that, although camping on well-mown grass in an upper-middle-class white suburb might seem a bit pedestrian, once we threw in dinner with my step-father, it would become plenty adventurous!

Ha.

So. We pulled into Savoy around 1PM, waited patiently at a sunny picnic table for the ranger to return from his rounds, and were delighted to find that there were two spots left for the evening. Hooray! The adorable, sandy-haired ranger (Angel Gabriel in khaki and green) handed us a map, and we jumped back into the car to discover our own Berkshire Shangri-La.

And Shangri-La it was. Our lonely, unloved little site was absolutely lovely. Two crabapple trees wandered overhead in their gnarled crabapple-y way. A meadow bordered on one side; forest on the other, and an empty grassy expanse stretched west with broad sky vistas. We loved it. Even the car loved it, snuggled under the crabapples. We pitched the tent, unrolled our bags and pads, made a grocery list, and headed to town.

Town: Big Y, Rite Aid, McDonald’s, and not a whole lot else. Hard to imagine that MoCA is right down the street! A memorable moment at the corner liquor store with the handsome older owner in the Williams College polo shirt — maybe a college coach in his part life? Cooler loaded, dinner in hand, and we were back on our way.

What next? I knew that Tannery Falls was nestled deeper in the Savoy Forest. And we had a map! Beth navigated.

“Jen, there’s a section marked, ‘poorly maintained, travel with caution.'”

“Huh. Well, I guess if it gets too bad, we’ll turn back.”

(Jen, to herself: “Hahahaha. Turn back. Ha. Right.”)

The Hoopdie bumped us down the dirt roads, ever so slowly. Two happy 30ish gals in cheap sunglasses and layers of sunscreen, humming along in an ancient convertible, Thelma and Louise sans both drama and glamour. We pulled over again and again to let pickups thunder past, while the Hoopdie, ever so slowly, trundled on. One more little bridge over one more little stream, followed by one more gut-wrenching scrape to the undercarriage, and then a turn into a parking lot, and a trailhead beyond. Yay!

We scampered down the short path, following a secret sparkling mica crumb trail. At the bottom of infinite steps, one beautiful surprise: half of the falls, gushing through the knife-edged slabs on one side of the river. I picked my way along razor-edged boulders to snap a pic or two, capturing moss and tress clinging hopefully to the sheer walls. A hop and a skip down giant-sized stone steps and we came to the true jewel of the hike: a 75-foot cascade of water skimming down the rock face, soft waves of moss lining the edges. At the bottom, a shallow pool. We greeted a few other hikers and waded into the icy-cold brook waters. Making friends with a young couple and their dog, we poked and climbed and plunged all the way in, finally, in a tiny, deep pool 15 feet up the falls.

Life does not get better than tiny frigid pools in waterfalls on sweltering days in summer. I will hold that moment for a long time.

Eventually, chilled, we dried ourselves off, said our goodbyes, and climbed back to the car. A glance at the map showed that we had come the (very) hard way the first time, and a change in direction quickly brought us back to paved roads and Berkshires-style civilization. We dried off in the breeze on the way back to the campground and arrived around 6, as the sun was just starting to drop in the sky.

Charcoal, fire, burgers. A sudden storm, throwing everything back in the car, laughing. Then beer, conversation, sunset. The moon rose, blood red in the heat. Raccoons chattered in the bushes and the campground slowed, quieted, and fell asleep.

Morning rose, soft pink and delicious. I slept terribly, the victim of my own poor tent placement, but from this trouble gained a knowledge of the world at 4AM. I spent an hour or two sleeping in the dawn, awkwardly twisted in the lawn chair, before spending another hour curled in the front seat of the car as the sun slowly climbed the sky. Beth knocked on the window at 8, wondering what the heck I was doing in the car. A quick explanation soothed Beth’s concerns (she’s a great tentmate, I swear!), and we started packing up our all-too-short-lived home.

9AM, breakfast at Friendly’s, New England quintessential. The waitress made me delicious ice coffee. I love her.

Finally, the main event: MoCA! Stay tuned for further ramblings…