Category: Hiking

Keystone

This was just one of the bridges

The Keystone Arches

Trail: keystone Arches trail

Date: Saturday 10/25/03

Attending: Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles:5-mile back and fourth Time: 3.5

Weather: Bright fall Sun. brisk clear New England air.

 

Location: Find Middlefield Rd. off of Rt. 20 in the center of Chester MA. The trail head begins at the start of Herbert Cross Rd. is an unmarked dirt road about 2 miles out of town and about a 1/4 mile before the town line. There is a small parking section at the mouth of the road large enough for 5 to 7 cars. The first bridge is visible to the left of the road about a hundred yards down the road just as the road comes close to the river.

Hello dudes and dudetts. This place is awesome! We loved it. The hike was on the old railroad bed (still passable by a 4-wheel drive vehicle). Aside from bushwhacking up and down the steep sides of the ravines that these bridges span, the hike is on a flat grade. The total hike is about 5miles round trip. There is a section of the trail that is marked by blue blazes where the trail branches to the right off from the road. An alternate route can be taken by following the road to the operating rail bed, then branching to the right back onto the trail (looks like a dirt road) several hundred yards after you hike along the rail bed. It took us about 3.5 hours to hike it.

It takes us about 2+ hours to drive out to the trailhead form Gardner. Unfortunately,,, The trail hear is not marked fir the Keystone Bridges, (It’s not marked at all!) We repeated to each other that “Gary and Gwenn (and Gabe) would love this”. We can think of lots of active couples that we would like to bring out there. It’s most likely not something I’ll drive 4 to 5 hours (out and back) lots of times for, but it’s definitely a “have-to-see” at least once or twice and we absolutely intend to do it a few more times while we’re bringing people out to see this. I must say these arches are best seen late fall through early spring (while the leaves are off the trees) for the best views of the bridges. (This is the perfect time to see these, (there still some color on the forest around but not enough leaves so as to block the views.) On another note! (But somewhat related because this would be a great X-country skiing trip but you would need Snowshoes to get to some of the best view spots)

Just a note about the picture above; just to the left of the base of the bridge, next to the the water is an almost indistinguishable image/speck. That’s Simone standing next to the bridge.

This is the text on the info board about the KeyStone Arches.

 

The Western Railroad of Massachusetts was surveyed and engineered by Maj. George Washington Whistler in the late 1830s. It was the first railroad to cross mountains and Editor Buckingham of the Boston Courier predicted in 1827 it “would be as useless as a railroad from Boston to the moon.” The route utilized small portions of the Pontusic Turnpike stage road to Albany. It was surveyed on horseback through what to this day is some of the most remote and forbidding territory in the state. When complete the Western was the highest (1458 ft.) and longest (150 mi.) railroad in the world. Whistler was the father of one of the most famous American painters, James Macneill Whistler. His second wife, Anna, has also become an icon by way of “Portrait of the Painter’s Mother” (1871). Only Maj. Whistler, whose accomplishments were nothing short of unprecedented, remains largely unknown. The completion of this railroad in 1841 was considered so extraordinary that Whistler was summoned to Russia by Czar Nicholas I to build a 400 mi. railroad from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Today, this is known as the Trans-Siberian Railroad.

Sub contractor Alexander Birnie was the artisan responsible for the Keystone Arches. A second-generation Scottish stonemason from Stockbridge, MA, he was hired to construct 27 bridges, culverts and walls for the mountain segment of the line. On this portion of abandoned railbed, we cross two spectacular stone arch bridges, 65 and 70 ft. high and pass a breathtaking stone retaining wall. Also on this section of the rail are two impressive hand-dug cuts through solid rock. The builders of 1840 had only black powder to loosen rocks and picks, shovels and horse carts to remove it. Stone taken from the cuts was used to construct secondary walls, but for the ‘ring stones’, or ‘ voussoirs’ of the arches themselves, Chester Blue granite was utilized. This had to be transported in wagons to the railhead and brought to the site on the primitive rail equipment of the day, a formidable task in itself. Across the valley from here, we see the present relocated line on the same gradient. If you can imagine that track turning from the left to where you stand, you’ll get a pretty good idea of why it was changed. The curve was very sharp, consequently wearing out rails very quickly. In order to relocate the line, the river course was also changed. It used to come straight toward the bridge, from where the track is now. Such earth moving simply was not possible in 1840. When one considers that only two miles of 150 total was relocated when technology allowed, the genius of Whistler becomes evident. The trains you see still cross other examples of these mortar-less bridges here, testimony to their integrity. The average locomotive in 1840 weighed about 12,000 lbs. The latest locomotives of 2002, which traverse arches still in use on this line, weigh in the neighborhood of 415,000 lbs., those bridges showing no ill effects from their crossing. The heaviest locomotives these abandoned arches would have carried are the Pacifics, built in 1903. They sported 75 in. drive wheels and weighed in at 215,000 lbs.

Follow this link to the official web site for the Keystone Arches ……………. Don’t forget to come back!

Royalston

Royalston Falls 45Ft. water falls

Trail: Royalston Falls trail from the Rt. 32 trailhead. 
Date:
Jan 31 2010
Attending:
Olivia, Simone & john
Miles:
2.2 Time: 2hrs.
Weather:
Sunny skies, but COLD!

 

We strongly debated whether or not to hike today or just sit next to the wood stove on this one. I’m glad we opted to give this a try. The trail is a moderate hike just under 1 mile from the parking lot to the falls, but today we ended up having to do 1/2 mile backtrack. The sure way to the falls branches to the left about 2 tenths of a mile from the parking lot, (following the white and yellow blazes.) This path offers a footbridge across the river. (It also passes by the new Falls Brook Shelter, well worth visiting.) The blue dot trail leads directly to the falls but it requires a tricky rock-hopping brook crossing just above the falls. We followed a couple that had successfully hiked this leg of the trail last week, only to find that the brook crossing wasn’t manageable this week because the log they crossed on was gone and there was ice on the rocks that you usually cross on. We had to backtrack back up to the Royalston falls trail split. (No big deal, about .6 round trip of nice moderate hiking.)

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”
Henry David Thoreau

Livie loved the hike and climbing around in the shelter so we’re glad we ended up going this way. It was the first time she’d seen an Adirondack hut. (This one has a loft, and is a lot nicer than most.) The falls were just as spectacular as always in the winter and the hike along the river was absolutely beautiful with several small waterfalls along the way.

We’ve done this hike in the winter several times and it’s always the same, (not very heavily traveled and right on the cusp of needing crampons to add a little extra slip protection.) This time we bare booted it. (It was just too cold to mess with putting on the crampons.) The ledges at the falls are well protected with posts and steel cable and rightfully so because it’s always icy on the ledges.

I suspect the reason this trail isn’t very heavily used is because there is another path to the falls on Falls Road, off of Rt. 68 (by Jacobs hill / lookout) and the path is only 3 tenths of a mile to get to the falls,,,, but what fun is that?

On a completely different note! I managed to get my car stuck in a snow bank trying to get ourt of the parking lot at the trailhead. Of course there was no cell phone reception. I spent about 30 minutes trying to dig the car out with a windshield scraper while Simone walked 1/3 of a mile up the road to the nearest house to call AAA. The people on the farm graciously offered to come down with their tractor and pull us out. Thank God for nice people!.

Link to the Trustees of Lands Royalston Falls

Woodstock

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
John Muir

Woodstock Vt, Mt Peg & Mt Tom

Mt Peg

(1080ft)

Mt Tom

(1359ft)


Trail:
Pick one!
Date:
anytime you can
Attending:
Simone, John Chicoine, & hopefully you!
Great family hiking with trails for almost every ability.

These two Mountains, (hills actually) would have no particular reason for the popularity the garner, other than the fact that they just happen to sit in the prettiest location in Vermont, overlooking the quintessential Vermont town. AND!!! The people in Woodstock realize the value of their beauty and make every effort to balance the clean pristine nature of the area and maintain the accessibility to a large population of users.

Mt. Peg is hardly more difficult than an afternoon stroll through the most wonderful countryside, with it’s end goal not necessarily being the summit of Mt. Peg, but a spectacular clearing manicured by the town with a pleasant bench located near the top of the clearing for visitors to just sit and enjoy the view of the town of Woodstock and surrounding hills. At the time Simone and I hiked Mt. Peg’s trails, we actually had to bushwhack to get to the summit. (Being peak baggers,,, we were obligated to trespass on private property to reach the actual summit, but only peak baggers would understand that drive.) We were close, We had time, It is referred to as a mountain,,, What other options did we have? By-The-By,,, If you just happen to be around Woodstock Vermont on a nice sunny afternoon we do Highly recommend you take the time to hike this trail,,, it’s a wonderful change of pace from the high peak experience and ushers you into an enjoyable sense of peace and serenity. Relax,,,, Bring a lunch, a book, and leave the watch down at the car.

Mt. Tom is the complete opposite experience of Mt. Peg… It’s still just a hill, but with mountain attitude. It’s got everything from cart roads, to steep climbs with switchbacks and all! And the views are as fine and any high peak, (just not as high.). Mt. Tom has hours, (lots of hours of hiking available all over this hill.) You can custom make your hike to include every condition you might like to enjoy. (I would love to be able to try some Cross Country skiing on the cart roads. It’s got to be some of the best Cross Country skiing in New England!) I don’t recall if they allow bicycling in the parks on the cart roads, but if they do, that would be a great way to cover all the miles in the park!

Woodstock itself is a balanced blend of “Real Vermont” & tourist town. (Just enough of both to warrant at least a full day in the vacation schedule.) There are plenty of shops, and restaurants, just in the center of town to occupy several hours without even stepping on a trail. The Woodstock area is a center of fine artisans tucked in to the serenity of the rolling hills; It’s well worth to effort to invest some time tracking down some of the private studios if you get the chance. (There’s Gold in them thar hills.) We actually stayed in Quechee VT, right next to Quechee Gorge (A great spot to stop at in itself, and the visitors center is worth checking out if you like post and beam construction. (Just 6 miles from the center of Woodstock.) River road is a wonderful bike-able road that runs parallel to Rt. 4 between Quechee and Woodstock that passes the Simone Pearce (Glass Blowing) Mill. What a great place to stop and watch the hand blown production process; it’s so open to visitors, in the off seasons when the crowds thin out you can talk to the artisans about the entire process. They were a real down to earth group of people. We never did make it to the VINS Nature center, but it does rank as the #1 visitors attraction in the Woodstock/Quechee area. (Especially if you have kids.)

Cammel hump

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
John Muir

Camels Hump VT

(4083)


Trail:
Monroe Trail
Date:
April 2007
Attending:
Simone, & John Chicoine
Miles:
6.8 miles round trip Time: 4.5hrs
huts, / shelters / camping site:

Weather:
Cool clear and pre-black fly hiking,
These are not my pictures.
Camels Hump is one the most prominent mountains in the state of Vermont. Although as far as 4K’s go it just barely makes the grade by a mere 83 feet, it (Like all the 4K’s in Vermont) draw a peak pager attention. One of only 5, 4K’s in Vermont, Camels Hump offers people driving through the central section of Vermont spectacular vistas from any high spot within 50 miles of it. It’s one of those mountains that keeps you peering and pointing at it like a little child every time a clearing on the side of the roadway opens up a momentary view.

And so it was for Simone and I, for at least a full hour of driving we kept experiencing momentary views of this spectacular mountain. Pointing and waiting with excitement for the next opportunity to check it out from another vantage point. Simone and I weren’t at all familiar with the 4K’s in Vermont so we felt like we were experiencing something new. We had never really even considered the Vermont 4K’s as any kind of goal. (Did I mention there’s only 5,,,) Its not like it’s some intentional challenge like the New Hampshire 4K’s ??? Is It?

We were for the first time in our lives, “Vacationing in Vermont”. We really didn’t have any agenda for the week. For that matter, we had planned to vacation in Rhode Island, but the weather forecast predicted bad weather in southern New England and nice weather to the north,,, So! It literally was just a question of turning right out of the driveway to head south, or turning left to head north,,, I made up my mind to turn left, as I was stopped at the end of the driveway.

Anyway,,, we had spent several days in Quechee & Woodstock, and decided to drive to Burlington to try the Burlington Rail Trail. For some reason we decided to pull off the highway between the two, for a stop in Waterbury Vt. For lunch, and ended up at the Green Mountain Coffee Visitors center. On a lark, I had to ask the clerk, what the name of that mountain we kept seeing was and if she knew anything about it. Not only did she have information,,, (An index card of attractions in the area), she had climbed it herself and as she remembered it, it was less than a 5 hour round trip. Well that clinched it for us,,, A real Vermont 4K, with plenty of time, no other plans and a hand written trail guide.

The hike up Monroe trail was very typical of any New England 4K. To say that we really couldn’t come up with anything of any particular note about the trail emphasizes just how typical it was. We did experience some manageable snow on the upper sections of the trail, (Simone was in sneakers.), but other than that, we got nothing… Within 100 yards of the summit, we reached an open plateau clearing above the tree line where quite a few other hikers has gathered in kind of a Pre & Post summit stop. The summit itself is a bit of a rock scramble to a small pinnacle of a knob that really doesn’t have enough room for more than a small group of people. For this time of year and considering the base was so warm, we were surprised to see that the sumit scramble was going to be up a snow path. I was experiencing a serious buzz on the summit from the excitement of the climb, the adrenalin of the hike, and the caffeine from a large, (but tasty) Green Mountain Coffee! (I DON’T DO CAFFEINE!) I felt like I was going to have a freaken heart attack up there!

All in all we were both glad to have hiked our first Vermont 4K; from that moment on we began to consider it the first of 5. We were officially back into it. Peak-Baggers with an agenda. Slaves to the list.

Mansfield

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
John Muir

Mt. Mansfield

(4200)


Trail:
The Long Trail (North to South)
Date:
September 17’th and 18’th
Attending:
Simone, & John Chicoine
Miles:
1.7 to Taft Lodge, ,6 to summit Time: 3Hrs
huts, / shelters / camping site:
Taft Lodge

Weather: Wonderful cool clear New England fall hiking,It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

It was the best of times: It had been a long time since Simone and I packed an overnight pack up a 4000 footer, but with new ultra-light packs, and new 5-degree bags we were of the highest of spirits and excited to be on this new adventure. Our packs weighed in at just around 20lbs. each and we were feeling no pressure to hike beyond our comfort level. Just 1.75 miles to our first night’s destination (Taft Lodge); clear cool weather scheduled for the next several days, and plenty of time to enjoy the hike up. The trail guide said that the Mt. Mansfield north section of the Long Trail was the most challenging section of the Long Trail and the book was dead on. The trail quickly begins its relentlessly steep assent right from the trail head, and but for three short 100ft. (or less) flat sections, it never gives a hiker a break. The trail up to the Taft Lodge is well maintained and not particularly challenging other than the constant relentless steady climb.

Taft Lodge is a wonderful lodge from which to watch the early morning sun rise come in through the front windows. I must say,,, we were especially blessed with the brisk cool air of the clearest Vermont fall night with a spectacular full moon. The lodge sits above the town of Stow Vermont; at night the town is all lit up in the valley below. It really was a picture perfect day, evening, night. One of the first noticeable oddities of the lodge is the unusually short door. It was constructed that way intentionally to help keep the body heat of the winter campers in the shelter. (There is no other heat in the lodge.) The top of my head is testimony of the short door, AND! if you miss the door,,, the low roof is waiting. (Between the two of them, I hit my head three times during the two days.) I don’t relish my regular 4am morning bathroom call to the outhouse on cold overnight backpacking trips but on this night, I just couldn’t bring myself to go back into the lodge without sitting for some short while just enjoying the most memorable star filled sky.

Taft Lodge officially sleeps 24, but could be pushed into service for at least 30 close friends. The care takers were very pleasant, and only other room-mate for us was a young, (early 30 something Long Trail Through Hiker.). He was quite pleased to be in a warm dry enclosed lodge after several nights in cold damp (Rainy) Adirondack lean-tos. We never did cook up the usual Raman Noodle dinner we had planned on, (We packed up the un-eaten halves of our SubWay Grinders we had for lunch). We did enjoy an evening tea before tucking in for the night. The Lodge warmed up quickly on Wednesday morning from the sun coming in through the long row of windows. We took our time in the morning just enjoying being where we were and cooked up some oatmeal and tea for breakfast. The plan was to leave the full packs at the lodge and just carry enough clothes and water to make the run up to the summit.

The first 3tenths of a mile from the lodge to the summit was more of the same as the first section up to the lodge, (aside from the occasional views of the ledges leading up to the summit). The last 3tenths of the climb up to the summit challenges even the seasoned hiker, (of which we thought we were.). The trail is quite steep with only sparse krummholz to provide any emotional support for the many, many rock scrambles over ledges and up chimneys. I can’t remember any hike with so many scrambles out in open sky, above the tree line on top of the world.

It was the worst of times:

By the time Simone and I had reached the last ledge before the last 30ft. push up onto the summit, we were not in good shape. We were beyond our comfort zone, and my vertigo was making me real uncomfortable. (I don’t often, almost never experience vertigo on a summit, it’s not wicked freaky or anything,,, but truth be told,,, I’m not the bravest of souls when it comes to peering out over the edge of 4000 ft. ledges, and once vertigo sets in,,, it’s hard to reason yourself out of it.) We know “lots” of people complete this hike. We knew we were equipped to be where we were, we knew that we should just push on over that last scramble, but our psyche just said STOP! We sat on the ledge for a while trying to gather our nerve but we couldn’t get past the reality that we were sitting 3tenths of a mile above a lot of rock scrambling just to get back to where we were comfortable. The last push up to the summit requires you to swing your right leg out onto a steep summit knob with no ledge below you for as far as you can see. There are several small divots, (Just enough to put a toe into.) and scramble on your hands and knees for a good 10 feet. Once you manage to get over that scramble there is no relief for the climber, (just a slight crevasse to grab onto for security.) There’s no real place to anchor your-self into, no place to turn your eyes that won’t let you know your dam high. From there, there is another 10 to 15 feet of the same type of scrambling before you round the top of the summit knob. (And then you have to get back down!) (God bless the man that trusts his boots and stands up and just walks right up the side of the ledge.) I’ve walked up a hundred ledges just like that one,,, ( but not out in the open 4200 feet up and no bottom below me.) After about 5 minutes of trying to compose ourselves, I took one last close look at that last scramble to see if we could convince ourselves to push on… Simone looked at me and said,,, “Don’t make me do that.” That was just the words I wanted / needed to hear. We weren’t going for it. The issue was resolved, (As well as we could resolve failing to officially summit just 30 feet away.) We gathered our wits and began to get the hell off that ledge. We did an awful lot of scooting down the ledges and back down into the trees. It wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, (Or maybe we were just glad to be going down). We consoled ourselves with hanging out on the Adams Apple for a little while before heading back down to cook up lunch at Taft Lodge before the long trek down to the car. (It didn’t help much.) (It didn’t help at all.) (We were bummed.)

Interesting observation. Even though the hiking trips are always the best times of our lives,,, there just isn’t anything like the wonderful feeling one gets the instant you see the sun glimmering off the windshields of the cars in the parking lot at the end of a long slog.

Our legs were getting rubbery, we were glad to be back at the car.

“If I try and fail,,, I can live with that.
………….It’s failing to try that I can’t live with.”
John Chicoine…

AtholCC

Athol Conservation Commission

(10-miles of trails)

Date: 1/15/2000

Attending: Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: see below Time: can be done in one day.

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site:Paige’s cabin

For information and a guide of the 1000 acre park, write: Athol Conservation Commission Memorial Building Athol, MA. 01331 To get there follow Bearsden Road off Rt. 2A in Athol across from the Athol Hospital. The trails are all very well marked. The Athol Conservation Commission is a nice family spot for hiking and picnicking. There is a great lookout tower on Sheep Rock with a cool view over Millers river and the rail road tracks. The park is a great place for winter hiking and snowshoeing. The cabin is available for free for small groups. It’s a fine spot for introducing young scouts to winter camping and hiking. Round Top Mountain (hill) 1278ft. has great views of three states and provides a small challenge for young kids. Picnic areas, lookout towers, Millers River, Round Top Mtn.

And now for a little horn blowing!!! Dat-da-da DAAAA!!! Presenting the Bacon family! The wonderful family that make the personal sacrifice of being responsible for the conservation area. Not a small task, but the park is wonderful place, and is so, largely due to the efforts and care of the Bacon family. They are truely modern day hero’s. The most pleasent people to deal with, when reserving Paiges cabin.

Don’t skip this hike just because it’s a little low key’ish, on the scale of “serious” hiking.  This is a very nice area especially for a winter hike in big snow.

By the way, I have to mention, My group of Royal Rangers and I had the once in a lifetime experience of watching a train cutting through a foot of new fallen snow, down in the valley along side the millers river, at 10:00 on a bright moonlit night while we were on top of Sheep Rock Lookout.  Memorable!

http://www.northquabbinwoods.org/bearsden.html

Frankenstein

Frankenstein Cliffs.

Trail: Frankenstein Cliff’s trail

Date: Saturday 01/16/2010

Attending: Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: 1.3 miles to the top of Frankenstein Cliffs Time: 1.5 hours to summit.

Miles: 1.3 miles to the top of Frankenstein Cliffs

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site: None

Weather: This was one of those rare Sunny and in the low 30’s January days in the Whites.

Our original agenda was to hike the Frankenstein Cliffs trail to Arathusa Falls 5 mile loop. The estimated time for the hike was to be about 4 hrs. (Plenty of time.) We arrived at the trailhead at 10:30. The first problem started right at the trailhead, it wasn’t marked. From what we read we felt sure we were on the trail, but at 6 tenths of a mile from the parking lot to the trestle, trail tracks in the snow died out. We were supposed to hike under the trestle, (Another pair of hikers did opt to put on the snow shoes and hiked under the trestle and we watched them hike into the Frankenstein bowl. We opted to bush whack up to the rail road tracks and look for the trail sign to the Frankenstein Cliffs Trail.

Not a good idea! We hiked over the trestle, (that was cool) but it was a dead end street. We never found a trail sign. We tried a few “possible” (well packed in) trails only to find that they just hiked up to ice cliffs for the ice climbers. Eventually we hiked back to where the other group of hikers hiked under the trestle and into the bowl. We decided to follow suit, but it was now 12:20. We’d lost a full hour. The hike into the bowl got quickly seriously steep and we post holed a lot, but we continued to follow the path. (We figured if nothing else we could at least watch the ice climbers climbing every ice flow lining the bowl. Once we got well into the bowl we noticed several hikers hiking past one of the ice flows and up into the side wall. That had to be our trail. We pushed onward and upward, 900 feet in 3 tenths of a mile. Deep snow, post holing, ice covered ledges we had to crawl up. We had no idea we were even close to the cliffs, but we just pushed on. I needed a recognizable milestone to let me know if we were on the right trail, (I was quite sure we were), and to let me know just how much of the trail we had covered. We finally hit the milestone we needed, the view spot at the top of the Frankenstein Cliffs. What a spectacular location. That spot made the strenuous effort worth it all. Unfortunately, it was now 1:30. We had hiked less than 1 third of the loop and we weren’t familiar enough with the trail to attempt to complete the rest of the loop. At this point we decided the devil we knew was the better option than the devil we didn’t. In retrospect I have no doubt we could have hiked out the rest of the loop and that it would have been easier, but winter is no time to push the daylight hours, on an unknown trail. Going back down required a few short butt slides on the ice and snow, we opted to trudge through thigh deep snow out of the bowl rather than try and hike down some of the steep trails that other people but slid for 100 feet or more.

We now know how best to hike this loop. Had we gone up to the top parking lot we would have seen the sign (and very well packed out trail) for Arathusa Falls. We would have easily been able to hike the loop up to Arathusa Falls, and then around to Frankenstein cliff, and out through the bowl.

Holyoke

Mount Holyoke Range State Park

(Massachusetts)

Trail Index

116, M&M trail to RattleSnake Knob     10/02/04
116, M&M trail to Mt. Hitchcock     11/01/04
Mt. Holyoke to Mt. Hitchcock     01/01/05

Trail:From Rt. 116, M&M trail to RattleSnake Knob

Date: Saturday 10/02/2004

Attending: Gary & his dog Percy, Gabe, Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: 5-miles round trip Time: 4 hrs.

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site: The Notch Visitor Center

Weather: 50 degrees, partly cloudy.

We’ve finally taken some hike time to check out this range. The Mount Holyoke Range sits in the middle of the Connecticut River Valley running west to east with the Connecticut River splitting the range into the Mt. Tom, and Mt. Holyoke ranges. Because these ranges stand alone surrounded by miles of flat farm lands, these “hills” present themselves as monolithic towers. To be frank, the highest of the peaks between both ranges is only 1200ft. None the less they are within under a 1 hour drive and we’ve been pointing at them for more than 20 years thinking, someday we’ll have to check those peaks out. Today would be that day.

Once again we had planned to head up north for a high peak foliage hike, but as the weather appeared to be worsening, (predicted cold, cloudy, and afternoon rain) we began to search for other alternatives. Our hiking party dropped to only the three of us due to injury and “higher priorities”, so we decided to head to a location that was least likely to have bad weather. As we pulled out of Gary’s driveway we were heading to the northern section of the Connecticut AT, but within moments of discussion other possible alternatives, the Mt. Holyoke range became the focus of our attention. None of us had ever hiked there, all of us were curious about the range and seeing we were taking Percy (Gary’s 1 year old Welch Corgi) for his first hike, this option met all of our needs.

We weren’t sure of how to find the trailhead, so we just headed in the general direction and figured we’d ask where the trail head was when near it. It couldn’t have been easier to find, on Rt. 116 near the Amherst town line. The visitor’s center is an awesome building and the rangers there were very helpful. We grabbed a few trail maps and hit the Monadnock-Metacommit trail by 8:30. I would classify this hike as an easy to moderate trek on very well groomed trails. For the moderate effort, the summit of Mt. Norwottuck offers fine views over the Connecticut River valley. Another nice feature to explore along the trail is the Horse Caves, (the M&M passes right through them). If you have young kids, plan to spend at least 15 to 20 minutes there. Our trip didn’t traverse the entire range, (having only one car we didn’t want to hike the 11 mile round trip to the end of the park and back. We decided to hike to a great lunch /view spot called Rattle Snake Knob. We started out a little early, so we mostly had the entire hike to ourselves. This gave us the opportunity to test Percy’s hiking character without a leash. The park requests that dogs be leashed, but we were in training for having Percy accompany us as a regular hiking partner on our White Mountain trips. For the most part Percy was an absolutely spectacular hiking buddy. He never ventured out of our sight, he’d return back to Gary when he whistled for him and he never had any issues with obstacles on the trails. Aside from meeting up with one other hiker with a young Black Lab we weren’t over crowded with other hikers, so we didn’t feel bad about breaking the leash rule. (By 12’ish, the parking lot was full and we can only assume the main trail was quite populated, but we weren’t on the main trail at that time (we decided to hike a side biking trail to scout out possible cross-country ski trails). Back to the hiker with the black lab,,, Percy and the Lab immediately went nuts chasing each other through the woods and running up and down the trail with each other. We could see that they would have kept this up endlessly if we didn’t forcibly end the doggy games. Percy is definitely a dog social dog, so much so he doesn’t / has never encountered another dog he didn’t immediately like and want to play with. (Later on during the day we would see that many dogs don’t like other dogs to play with and they would have happily eaten Percy if we weren’t looking out for his safety.)

Percy almost made it through the day with a perfect A+ for “Hiking 101” but we learned something about this little dog’s need for contact with other dogs. At one point during our hike Percy either heard another dog, or smelled him, and couldn’t resist chasing down the scent. He took off down the trail like a coon dog in mid hunt and no amount of calling could distract him from his goal. We watched him bound down the trail leaping over obstacles like he was a gazelle. We continued to watch as we eventually lost sight of him at least a 10’Th of a mile down the trail. Gary finally caught up with him a solid 2 10’Th of a mile away from where he first started running. We believe he finally did catch up with what he was after but we’re not sure how to break him of the behavior, nor why or when he’ll do it again. After we recovered Percy Gary put him on the leash for a 1/2 mile or so and then we set him loose again, he finished the hike out without any more issues.

This area has definite potential for a more hiking and quite possibly some cross-country skiing. We only hiked about 1/4 of the trails on the Mt. Tom and Holyoke Ranges so there are a few more hikes we’re bound to do. This might make for some good winter hiking. Another definite possibility is to use this resource for our Royal Ranger boys. With my troop being between grades 3 thru 5, I think there are some fine possibilities. Unfortunately there is no over-nighting anywhere within the state park and no official over-nighting anywhere on the M & M trail. One of the park rangers did say that some M & M through hikers have successfully made arrangements with the private property owners to overnight on their land, but the land owners don’t want to see day hikers and weekenders abusing the option to overnight.

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Send out the hounds!!!!

Trail: From Rt. 116, M&M trail to RattleSnake Knob

Date: Sunday 11/01/2004

Attending: Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: 4-miles round trip Time: 3 hrs.

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site: The Notch Visitor Center

Weather: 60 degrees, partly cloudy.

This was our second trip out to this range. We’re having a fun time getting to know the area. Its turning out to be a nice “quick trip” place for us to hike, get a few nice views, and be back home in just a few hours when we don’t have enough time to do a long trip. What were finding, and hoping, is that this area has lots of potential for great winter/snowshoe hikes, and this section is no exception. I’m wicked looking forward to this winter!

The stretch we hiked was just under 2 miles to Mt. Hitchcock so I figured we were close to a 4 mile hike. From Rt. 116 the trail looks like if climbs straight up Bear peak for a few 100 feet, but they really do a good job with several long switch backs to make this climb quite moderate. Once on Bear peak there are lots of nice views for having only invested 20 minutes of hiking. The stretch over to Mt. Hitchcock has several large gullies to go up and down into so it keep things interesting and keeps you working a little bit while you’re moving. Mt Hitchcock has a great ledge with unobstructed views to the north and west.

I really can’t believe we NEVER made it up to the Whites this October. Life just wouldn’t give us a break. Simone and I were getting cabin fever from lack of trail time and time on the Kayaks became quite sparse this month, so we had to GET OUT THERE somewhere, even if it was just a short jont! It wasn’t quite enough to relieve all the stress, but any little bit helps keep things in perspective.

The views from this hike are very nice, (but you just don’t have that feelings of being high) and the trails are lots of fun. This time of the season the leaves covered the trail several inches deep so it really was like we were hiking through the woods and not on a trail at all. If it wasn’t for the blazes we wouldn’t have known we were hiking where anybody had gone before. The wind wasn’t blowing too seriously, but at one of the view spots there must have been just the right rock formation because it whistled! I mean it really had a very pleasant sounding whistle.

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Trail: From Mountain Rd, M&M trail to Mt. Hitchcock

Date: Saturday 01/01/2005

Attending: Noah, Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: 4.8-miles round trip Time: 3 hrs.

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site: Mt. Holyoke Hilltop house. (closed)

Weather: 50 degrees, mostly sunny.

Happy New Years!!!     This was our Third trip out to this range. We were officially hiking the Seven Sisters section of this stretch of the M&M trail. Such a surprisingly nice hike and a wonderfully warm New Years Day. Although this trail never progresses past a moderate grade, and the highest elevation is hardly more than 1000″, this trail is full of great stretches of open ledges with views in every direction. Maybe it was the warm sunny day with the open forests of leafless hardwood trees. Maybe it was the open ledges, or the up and down scrambling, or maybe it was just that it was New Years day, but I loved the section of trail and could see us hiking it pretty regularly.

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Cardigan

Mt Cardigan

(3155)

Trail: West Side Trail from Cardigan State Park

Date: Saturday 03/5/09

Attending: Nicky, Olivia, Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: 3.3 mi. Time: 1.5 hours to summit. 3hr 15min. total.

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site: None

Weather: Cool and clear fall day, with a stiff wind on the summit

Mt. Cardigan is a wonderful mountain and if you decide to hike it from the west side it certainly lives up to its reputation as having one of the best views in New England, for the least amount of effort. In hardly more than 1.5hrs of moderate hiking you find yourself standing atop a spectacular 360 degree view with an open summit that shows off many of the high peaks in the White Mountains as well as the high peaks of the Green Mountains. This isolated peak is located far enough north in New Hampshire and just far enough west to make the high peaks of both Vermont and New Hampshire look like you could reach out and touch them. Add to the hike the extra treat of early March snow on the trail, a clear brisk winter day, 40Mph winds and the gentle warmth of the mid day sun in late winter and you have a near perfect day.

Getting there: From the AMC guide: “VIA TRAILHEADS AT CARDIGAN STATE PARK: From I-89. Get off of exit 17 and head east on Route 4 towards Enfield and Canaan. Once in Canaan make a left onto Route 118 towards Orange and Rumney. At roughly a half mile north of Canaan make a right at the Cardigan State Park sign. Bear right after crossing over a stream roughly two and a half miles. The road to the parking area (.4miles long) will be on your left, roughly a mile past the creek (closed in winter and early spring).” (Add the .4 mile easy hike to the 1.5 mile summit mileage.) The road can be quite muddy & rutty in wet conditions.

Our morning started off with a few frantic phone calls to our usual hiking buddies; considering we had only just decided to bag Cardigan that morning and we hadn’t made any prior plans with anybody. By 9:00AM it was obvious that we were going to hike this one without company. Then! I remembered what the AMC guide said about this mountain being a great candidate for a first time hike for children. We had taken our Great Niece and Nephew up Mt. Monadnock last summer and that wasn’t too bad. So we decided to bring then along for this hike. Our day started off unusually late; 10AM, with a long meandering 2.5hour drive up Rt. 10 in New Hampshire. Mt. Cardigan seems like it’s one of those “You can’t get there from here” type of locations. The most direct Rt. from central Mass. is Rt. 10, (a whistle stop 2 lane back water putt putt, that winds up the western side of New Hampshire passing the center of every village with a population greater than 10). We finally arrived at the Cardigan State Park road at 12:30 and hiked in to the trailhead by 1’ish. The outhouses at the state park were open! Very handy with kids. The trail was well marked and well packed in. At no time were there any parts of the trail that exceeded a moderate grade of hiking. Even with a 30lb pack (food and drinks for 4, crampons for 4, stove, pot, hot coco and cups for 4, and all of Nick’s and livie’s extra cloths, a heavy digital camera with 4 dead batteries, and a complete set of replacement batteries also DEAD!), the elevation gain felt very comfortable. If there were any sections that were just a little strenuous they didn’t last longer than 100ft or more.

As far as the aesthetics of this mountain, (We’ve never met a mountain we didn’t like.). The Krumbholtz section near the summit is particularly pretty with nice views and lots of open space between the trees. The summit is almost identical to Mt Mondanock, (except for the fire tower.) but the views are even nicer. Considering this mountain is only 40Ft. lower than Mt. Mondanock, the hike/pleasure quotient is definitely a 10. If we had a working camera this is where we would have posted lots of very nice pictures! (for those you’ll have to check out other peoples sites, or wait for us to go up again and take a working camera. ) Speaking of going up again,,, That’s a given. Because of the wind and ice, we never made it to the high hut near the summit. (Reason #1 to hike it again), and because we didn’t have a working camera we have to go up again just for the pictures. (Reason #2), We know of at least 2 carloads of people we want to bring up there, (Reason # 3 & 4). I absolutely have to hike this as a Royal Ranger event; Reason # ….. well you get the point.). This one might just make it to the “at least once a year” list.