Cheshire (Massachusetts) Grins

Random AT thru-hikers in Cheshire screaming for ice cream. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

The world's best job took us to Cheshire, MA, on August 1, 2012.

Our goal was to meet up with a thru-hiker or two, make a friend or two, take a picture or two, have dinner with the lovely and talented Suzannah and write to you about the day.

Suzannah and I are still grinning.

Sunflower Valley -- On the road to Cheshire, MA. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

We had a fabulous day hanging out with fabulous people at a fabulously intriguing intersection of the Appalachian Trail and The Rest of the World.

My fancy new GPS (that my daughter Esther couldn't get to work so I bought her a new one and got her old one that really did work after I connected it to its Mother Ship and downloaded updated software) took us the back way from Boston-ish to Cheshire.

The drive through what we called Sunflower Valley should have been a clue about how the rest of the day would go.

Photo: Robert Sutherland

A thousand curves later we came to a stop in Cheshire ... where the uncommon aliens on the Appalachian Trail temporarily flow through the parallel universe of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Suzannah and I stopped where the paths meet.

According to (therefore, it must be true) the town was incorporated in 1793, the year Dick Clark was probably born.

Cheshire had forges, saw mills, grist mills and tanneries, and the first factory in the area to manufacture cotton making machinery.

Cheshire Reservoir -- Photo: Robert Sutherland

This lovely town in Berkshire County is adjacent to the Cheshire Reservoir and has fewer than 4,000 residents.

The number of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers who go through Cheshire annually is higher than the number of people who live there.

Like city-folk driving through the countryside pointing to curious cows, we were on the lookout for the elusive "thru-hiker" known to migrate northward this time of year.

Real, live thru-hikers! (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

We quickly spotted our prey. The hiking poles, scuffed boots, scraggly hair, beat-up backpacks, "manly scents," and general unfamiliarity with "civilization" gave them away.

There was only one warning sign to this transplanted Georgia Boy. A mysterious object directly across the street.

To me, it looked like a trap. Suzannah called it a "snowplow."

Something called a "snowplow." (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

We returned to our mission and approached the hikers slowly and warily.

We bring you water! And chocolate doughnuts!

Free water! Free chocolate!

They accepted us as one of their own.

We began taking names.

Bill Blum (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

One fellow called himself Bill Blum.

That rang a bell, which is odd because your cat could memorize more names than me. I have enough trouble remembering my own.

Bill Blum sounded familiar.

Using my AT&T "smartphone" to access the Internet is only slightly easier than sending a message by catching a pigeon, taming it, teaching it enough geography so that it can understand where you want it to deliver a message, writing the message, tying it to the pigeon's foot and launching it in the direction of hawks circling on the horizon.

But I had to try.

Bingo! Or, as my Canadian friends say, "Bingo, eh!"

Thru-hiker Bill Blum. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

I found Bill Blum's name listed at's Hikers' Tales and clicked on the link. Showed it to Bill. And our worlds collided.

Click Here for Bill Blum's Hiker Tale

The water and doughnuts drew more thru-hikers out of the woods, just like men think wearing too much Axe body spray will draw throngs of beautiful women but doesn't.

Pretty soon we were old friends sitting around a picnic bench, taking advantage of our serendipitous time-warp.

The call of ice cream from Diane's Twist was too strong to resist.

Diane's Twist, 13 Main Street, Cheshire, Massachusetts -- (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

Is your name written in The Book at Diane's Twist?

Photograph: Robert Sutherland

The Ice Cream Book at Diane's Twist. -- (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

Diane ... but not THE Diane. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

The nine thru-hikers who posed for you in return for ice cream from me. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

We met "Banjo."

"Banjo" -- a.k.a. Brandon DiCola (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

We met "Meltdown."

"Meltdown" a.k.a. Stephen Outten (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

We met "Roboticus" -- who got her name from her bionic knee braces.

"Roboticus" a.k.a. Emilyn "Sure, I'll have a chocolate doughnut!" Fox -- (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

And we connected with "Funny Bone."

"Funny Bone" a.k.a. Dr. Jim Dashiell, an orthopedic surgeon from Tipton, Indiana. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

Soon, the doughnuts were gone. A few bottles of water were left as Trail Magic.

The crowd dwindled.

We took one more picture.

Letting the ice cream from Diane's Twist settle before hitting the trail. (Photo: Robert Sutherland)

Our divine appointment came to a close.

The thru-hikers returned to the universe of the Appalachian Trail. We returned home through Sunflower Valley.

We wished our new friends farewell ... and thanked God for the day our paths crossed in Cheshire.

Photo: Robert Sutherland

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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