Category: Hiking

Wapack Trail

Wapack Trail


8 Mountains: ((2) Pack Monadnocks, Temple, Burton, Kidder. Ipswich, Pratt, Watatic,)

Date: -/-/-

Attending: Gabe, Simone, & John Chicoine

Miles: see below Time: can be done in one day, but not by me.

AMC huts, / shelters / camping site:Miller St. Park, Temple Mt. ski area, Windblown X-country Ski area

Sharon Cliffs
Sharon Cliffs snowshowing 01/01/01
Pratt Mountain snowshowing 01/28/00
South and North Peaks of the Pack Monadnocks

Barrett, Ipswhich, Rocky Top ledges, Pratt.

Wapack Trail 21 Miles from the base of Mount Watatic off Rt119 in Ashburnham Massachusetts, following the Wapack Range to the north side of North Pack Monadnock, on Old Mountain road in Greenfield New Hampshire. what can I say, it’s a great way to stay in shape winter hiking, for those of us that only live 15 minutes south of Watatic. This trail is made up of 5 easily hike-able short sections between 2 to 6 miles long. The “Friends of the Wapack Trail” have done a great job of reviving this trail. Within the last few years it has been exceptionally well blazed for winter, and casual hikers. You can join the “Friends” for an annual 21mile, one-day trek if you’re up for the challenge. There is a 95 page detailed trail guide & maps available; Wapack Trail Guide, by John E. Flanders, that is worth the investment, if you’re going to spend some time hiking the trail regularly. Here’s the skinny of the 5 sections: (from the Map included in the Wapack Trail Guide.)

(1.) Ma. 119 to Binney Hill Rd. 3.5Mi.
(2.) Binney Hill Rd. to NH 123-124 Crossing 5.6Mi.
(3.) NH 123-124 crossing to Nashua Rd. 2.2Mi. (Plus a 2Mi. Round trip leg to Kidder Mt.)
(4.) Nashua Rd. to NH 101 4.7Mi.
(5.) NH 101 to Old Mountain Rd. 5.4Mi.

Mt. Watatic    The 119 section around Mt. Watatic has a nice 3+ mile loop up the Wapack trail to Watatic summit, connecting to the Midstate trail, and back to the Rt. 119 parking lot. It’s a nice winter afternoon hike after church. It’s also a really cool trip for first time hikers, and kids. I bring a troop of 9, 10, & 11 year-olds out for this loop every year. Not part of the Wapack trail, but one of the most hiked trails up Mt. Watatic is an old trail under the old power lines, (no-longer there). This is a quick 1/2 mile rock scramble, straight up the side of Watatic. This trail is located 3/4 of a mile east of the Wapack trail on Rt. 119. There is obvious parking for 10+ cars, the trailhead is obvious, but not marked. index

Wapack Trail Trip report 12/31/00
Trail: Watatic power lines
Mountains: Watatic
Attendance: John & Simone
Distance: 2 miles total.
Weather: Sunny, 30’s, windy, and 14 inches of new powder

The last day of the year, and that’s more than enough excuse for a hike. Add to that 14inches of fresh powder, and a new pair of MSR’s Denali’s to try out, and there just wasn’t any way I’d be anywhere else. I wanted to give the new MSR’s a serious test, and the steep rock slide up the side of Watatic was just the place. They seemed to slip just a bit more than Simone’s Atlas’s, but not much more. I liked the way the MSR’s track, and they are much lighter, and easier to handle than my 36inch Tubbs. I don’t think I would have had the steam to make it to the top with my Tubbs, (even if they might have done a better job of it.) The summit had a couple of snow-mobiles leaving just as we got there, and the wind was a bit stiff, but it was nice as always to be there. No snowshoe would do well going down this trail, so we decided to bush whack, traversing the hillside; The MSR’s did this very well. (we found a dear bed on the hill side.) I noticed that with the extensions on, if I leaned back, I could do a controlled ski for a few feet of the steep sections. (like glissading). We hitched back up with the Power lines trail just at the tail-end of the steep section, and the MSR’s did as well as Simone’s Atlas’s. Then I did the neatest thing, I took off the extensions as soon as they weren’t needed. Just the idea of not having any unnecessary weight on my feet is cool! index

Sharon ClifsOne of my most pleasant winter hikes was during a 1998 snowstorm, hiking the stretch between Nashua Rd. and NH 101. The Sharon Cliffs stretch. Visibility was just a few hundred feet. We didn’t hike through, but turned around at Holt peak. A fresh coat to new falling power was silently covering our tracks within minutes of our passing, and by the time we turned back from Holt point, our tracks were totally gone. Normally this might have been a scary situation, but not on the Wapack. We felt safe, and at peace. Three inches of fresh snow had fallen in less than three hours. We’ve done this stretch other times, and it is just as pleasant every time, rain, sun, or snow. Without giving too much away, there is a must see, modern day stone-henge between the Nashua Rd. and Rt. 101 leg of the trail. You’ll love it………… We’ve hiked this with another couple, spotting cars on each end. A fantastic winter hike with great views from numerous clearings along the ridge. The trail crosses the summit of the Temple Mountain Ski area, and on a busy ski day you have to share the slopes with the skiers. The people at Temple are the best. After the hike, stop in at the lodge and buy some hot food. index

Wapack Trail Trip report 01/01/01
Trail: Sharon Clifs
Attendance: John, Simone & Gabe
Distance: 3 miles total.
Weather: Sunny, 30’s, and 14 inches of new powder

What a great day for snowshoeing. The trail had been packed in by a few hikers before we got there. We didn’t mind, because we weren’t planning to spend much time on the trail, and we didn’t. As soon as we reached the cliffs we branched off on a wonderful bush whack all along the length of the cliffs. We followed the tracks of what we believe was a quite adventurous fox. His tracks travelled as close to the ledges as possible for man or beast. At some points, even standing out over the cliffs to search the valley below. He marked his territory all along the edges of the Sharon cliffs, cool territory! This was my second snow shoe trip on the new MSR Denali’s. I like em! Nice and light! Even with the extensions on. I love the feature of removing the extensions when ever they aren’t needed. This is worth it’s weight in gold for me. My 36″ Tubbs may be a superior product, but I just haven’t got the strength or stamina to handle steep, and long stretches of breaking trail in them. With the MSR’s I’m more than willing to give up on some quality, for the weight difference. I’ll do far more with the MSR’s than I would ever with the Tubbs, if only because I’ll be wearing them more because the experience is so much more fun with the MSR’s.

Pratt Mountain    Binny Hill Road to Pratt Mountain, (1817ft.) Saturday, January 28, 2000 12:00.

Simone and I hit the trail a bit late, but we were only expecting a short afternoon snowshoe trip up Pratt. The dirt section of Binny Hill road after the last house is not plowed in the winter, so we had to hike a 1/2 mile to where the Wapack trail branches right into the woods towards Pratt Mountain. The road was easy hiking because it’s very well traveled by snowmobiles and 4 Wheel drive vehicles. Most of this section of the Wapack presents very little elevation gain, but once you reach the base of Pratt the 800ft of elevation is covered in a 1/4 mile. The hiking is typical Wapack woods trails, past swamps, and beautiful woodlots. On this day we just happened to be the first to break trail up Pratt. The snow was pure powder averaging 12in. through out, with drifts up to twice that. There is something to be said for breaking virgin snow to a summit, even if it’s only 1817ft. The sky was memorably deep blue, and the views east to Boston, and west to Mt. Mondanock were wonderful. This was our first time out this season on the snowshoes. The four-mile round trip was about all we could have done for our first hike out. We met a tele mark skier hiking up the steep sections of Pratt that we had just blazed, and another snowshoe hiker just a few hundred feet from the trailhead. We got back to the car at 4:00, it was a welcome site. Our legs were beat. Our trip on this day was about 4 miles round trip, but in the summer if you drive up Binny Hill road to the Wapack Trail this will cut the round trip down to 3 miles.

South and North Pack Monadnocks

Another highly recommended hike is the stretch between Miller State Park NH101, over South and North Pack Monadnock to Old Mountain Rd. If you can’t spot a car, a hike from Miller State Park, to North Pack, and back is a nice 6+mile trip. Or from Old Mountain Rd. to South Pack (6+miles). If your looking for a quick jump, just doing the stretch from Old Mountain Rd. to North Pack (3-mile round trip) won’t eat up more than 2.5 hrs. An added bonus to these hikes are their proximity to the Peterborough EMS headquarters. The hikes are short enough to leave time for a quick check in the returns/closeout room.

At the Rt. 123/124 crossing is The Windblown Cross-Country Ski Area that is shares part of the Watatic Trail. There is a cabin in this section that I understand can be rented for a modest fee. It might be worth checking into for small group winter camping. It sounds like a great place to take a scouting troop.

Notice how many pictures have lunchtime in them. ….1/2 of Dawn and Scott, or,… “I can’t believe I can look so good after having just fallen on my butt!”
Ipswitch Mtn. Wapack Trail Trip report 8/22/00
Trail: Rt124 (by Windblown X-country ski area) south, to Pratt Mtn.
Mountains: Barrett, Ipswhich, Rocky Top ledges, Pratt.
Attendance: John & Simone.
Distance: 5.8 miles each way 11.6-miles total.
Weather: Hot (85’ish) dry, and sunny. The trailhead is about 100yards east of the Windblown Ski area, on a posted private drive called “Watatic Rd.” The sign to the trailhead is about 100 ft. off of Rt.124. There is a wide shoulder to park on, (don’t park on Watatic Rd.). The trail starts out as part of the Windblown Ski area trails. At times the many intersections of X-country ski and snowshoe trails make it confusing as to which trail to follow, but to the credit of “Friends of the Wapack” they have taken much care to keep you on trail; there are plenty of signs and blazes. In that section, if you don’t see a blaze every few moments, you may be off the trail. For that matter, the Wapack Trail is one of the best blazed trails I’ve hiked. Within the first 15 minutes you hike up to a view spot that lets you check out the entire ridge to Pratt Mtn., and a nice preview of the views available all along the hike. We had sun and dappled shade on our woods hike, and enjoyed the lush green fern covered forest floor along the trailsides.index

Barrett Mtn. is the first “big hill” to summit. The top is wooded, and is the ramp up to the ridge you’ll be on for the rest of the day’s hike. There is a spring along the side of Barrett that was the only source of water. (I have no idea how reliable this spring is). This proved to be critical for us because we weren’t expecting the high temps, and we only packed a liter &1/2. We began to ration fluid on the return leg of the trail, knowing we wouldn’t find water until we got back to this point. By the time we did replenish our water, we were definitely in need. From he summit of Barrett, the trail does a lot of ups, and downs through a wide forest path, until it reaches the summit of Ipswhich Mtn. The path was wide enough for an ATV to travel. (We saw ATV tracks.) The trail map lists a lower and higher peak of Ipswhich.

The trail from Ipswhich to Pratt begins to be less traveled, but is the best section of the ridge. It too has a lot of ups and downs, but at most of the ups, you’ll find nice open ledges and lots of spectacular views of Mount Monadnock. The trail follows a peak of ledges called Rocky Top, just before you reach Pratt Mtn. Pratt is a fun peak that makes a great winter hike from Binny Hill road. We spent a well-deserved nap in a thick patch grass under the shade of pine tree. index


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 Falls 45Ft. water falls

Trail: Royalston Falls trail from the Rt. 32 trailhead. 
Jan 31 2010
Olivia, Simone & john
2.2 Time: 2hrs.
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


“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


Mt Tom


Pick one!
anytime you can
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


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

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.


“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


The Long Trail (North to South)
September 17’th and 18’th
Simone, & John Chicoine
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…


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!


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.


Mount Holyoke Range State Park


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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