In mid-October, a new hiking trail on newly conserved land was opened here in Hadley. The Trustees of Reservations, a private non-profit, purchased the property to protect it from development, and are now making it available for the public to enjoy. Mount Warner (a reasonably-sized hill in the north part of Hadley) is the location of this new reservation.
I attended the formal opening ceremony that weekend to check out the new place. I arrived a bit early, and there were already many people there (click pics for larger versions):
And there were tents set up with information displays on the history of that area of town, and on the Trustees and their other properties (a couple of which I’ve been to, such as the Chesterfield Gorge):
Some various remarks were made about the acquisition of the land and preparation of the trail:
They fortunately had setup a PA system for this, as the crowd was easily up to 60 or 70 people by the time things got started.
They had a ribbon cutting with the obligatory giant pair of scissors, and all children in attendance were invited to take part (along with State Rep. John Scibek and State Senator Stan Rosenberg):
After the cutting, there were a couple of guided tours offered of the trail. I started out following a tour group that included a Trustees naturalist talking about various flora along the way, but as I didn’t have a lot of time, I ended up moving ahead of the group to hike the entire trail on my own. The trail is a loop that’s a bit over 2 miles long, so I had just enough time to cover the distance before I needed to get going on other errands.
At the apex of the loop, there was a side trail that led to a lookout point. Mt. Warner is a very gradual hill, unlike many other large hills in the area, so one looks across a field to the view, but it’s still a pretty nice view:
That view looks north, including some of the Connecticut River and, in the distance, Mt. Sugarloaf.
The trail did involve some climbing, and so was a good workout, but overall I did not find it as interesting as the trails on the Holyoke Range (around the border between Hadley and South Hadley). It was nice to visit once, but I don’t know that I’ll head to Mt. Warner to hike again.
On my third day in Iceland, I had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola, or rather, of yogurt drink and granola. It turned out that the stuff I thought was yogurt, Skyr, is more like a thin smoothie. It still worked fine, as I even like having granola with plain milk.
Outside, before getting on the bike, I took a picture of Héradsskolínn itself (click any picture to see it bigger):
And here is Óli Stef up close:
And here is the peak across the road, without its summit obscured by clouds:
I started riding west, back up Route 365. When I say ‘up’, I mean that there is a long hill that I had to climb as I headed out of Laugarvatn. Here’s a view of that same peak from a ways up the hill to the west:
This is a view looking downhill at the town:
While I was paused at this point, there was a pretty stream off to the side of the road:
As I rode along 365, I took pics of mountains that I hadn’t stopped for when I came through earlier in the week:
I also saw some more sheep, including a variegated one:
When I came within view of Thingfallavatn, I could see what looked like a geyser on the other side of the water:
Soon I got to Route 36, and headed north into the Thingvellir park. A little ways after getting into the park, I turned off on a side road that goes west along the north side of the lake. There I was able to get close to the lake, as at this parking area:
The lake, complete with a fisherman off to the left:
I walked along the water a bit, and observed some interesting seaweed, which was very brightly colored:
It was also very stringy:
The plant life on the ground was mostly low-growing stuff, and not all of it green:
Continuing along toward the center of the park, I soon came to the odder parts of the landscape. Namely, various geologic fissures:
Iceland, and the national park in particular, sits on the divide between the North American and European tectonic plates, which are moving apart very slightly each year. It’s this action that causes much of the ground breakage there.
Around these fissures, I also saw my first view of this long rock wall:
That wall borders the parliament plain (the Althing Vellir) itself. This is where the world’s first parliament met, established in the 10th century by the Viking settlers of Iceland.
When I got to the plain, I locked up the bike in a picnic area, and headed up some steps toward the rock wall. Here are some views of the plain from most of the way up:
There was a path in front of the rock wall, which went slightly downhill to the north:
And uphill to the south:
I followed the line of people uphill, and came to the top of the wall, with a viewing platform, and a good view of the lake and plain:
I could also see Óli Stef from up there:
At the top, there was also a parking area and visitors’ center. I went in and watched a few videos on the history and geology of the place. Apparently, the land in the plain is slowly sinking, which is why water flows over so much of the places that people once camped for the annual assembly.
Here is the view back down the path along the wall, just before I headed down that way:
More of the wall:
Here, marked by the flagpole, is the Law Rock, where the Law Speaker would recite the country’s laws:
Looking down at the plain from here:
Further along the wall, I came to water flowing down from above:
Looking down from a bridge over the stream:
And here the water flows onto the plain:
I headed down onto the plain after that. Here’s a view looking south:
And looking back up to the Law Rock:
I wandered through the little collection of buildings on the plain, including a small church. There is a graveyard there:
And behind the buildings is this mysterious tree:
A wider fissure:
And here there is a diver getting ready to swim along the tectonic divide:
I headed back to the bike at this point, and noticed the lava rocks found around the picnic area:
On my way away from the plain, I saw some geese – a type that I don’t generally see in the US:
Riding eastward, I stopped to check out a couple of hiking trails in the park. The first one took me through some tundra:
There was a cable running across the ground, for some reason:
I came to a waterway which had more of the neon seaweed, as well as a much stranger growth of stuff on and in the water:
The other trail I hiked took me through a stand of evergreen trees:
And then up a hill which has a neat gully cutting across it:
There was another pleasant view from up there (looking west):
Once I hiked back down from there, I rode out of the park, back toward Laugarvatn. At the park exit, I stopped and took this picture to the north:
I had a rain-free day this time, but still wanted a shower when I got back to the hostel.
I met this individual in the hostel parking lot when I arrived back:
It was very friendly, and must belong to someone, as it was wearing a collar (but no tag).
After cleaning up, I had dinner in the hostel cafe, this time getting an item not written on the menu. It was local trout, baked with a cheese sauce, and with fried potatoes and salad on the side:
It was quite delicious, and a nice end to the day.
Next: back to the city
A couple of weeks ago (well before our big snowstorm), I decided to test a claim that I had made some time ago, I believe in a previous blog post (actually, the post is here). My claim was that I could walk from my house to the top of nearby Bare Mountain in an hour’s time.
I set out in the mid-afternoon on a partly sunny day. The hike started with a half-mile walk down the road to the trailhead.
The trailhead is in the middle of those trees. Here you can see the entrance, down a driveway where Hadley residents are allowed to park (if they get a permit, I believe):
That guardrail looking thing is actually a gate.
I had hiked in here and up to the Notch last winter, but had kind of haphazardly made my way up. This time I tried to be a little more systematic in my choice of trails. As it turned out, I did not head East enough, but focused on heading South (i.e. straight up) before turning East. I did get where I wanted to go, but ended up having to cut through on some narrow mountain bike trails to get to the proper main trail.
Just before the trail emerged from the woods, I found these concrete vent things:
Or access hatches, or whatever they are. Seeing them, I figured that I was close to the old military reservation. Sure enough, only steps later I came to the fence:
I turned left and made my way along the fence to the military road, and then soon came to the Notch area on route 116. There, I was able to head up Bare Mt. on the good old M-M trail (now heading mostly West up the side of the mountain).
The path up to that peak is steep, so it was tiring going up it, but I tried to keep up my momentum. I reached the summit with time to spare, though; the total from house to mountaintop was about 53 minutes.
Of course the sky had clouded over while I climbed, so there’s no sunlight to speak of in my pictures from the top:
That picture above is looking back toward Hadley (I crossed into the town of Amherst on my way up). Here is the view East to Mt Norwattuck:
I spent about 10 minutes up there, and then went back the way I came. The sun came out as I was heading down – here is a picture of the Notch visitors’ center when I got back down to it:
A lot of people were out recreating that day, apparently, as many of them had to park on the grass.
I went back around part of the old military base and then back down the main trail, this time following it all the way back to see exactly where I should have turned off to begin with (turns out that I should have taken the first left turn after entering the woods). Just before getting back to the first trail, I passed this little reservoir:
I had passed that on the way up, but I was on the other side of it. Soon enough I was back on the road and then home.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I was visiting Philadelphia, and went walking in the Heinz Wildlife Refuge. I had not been familiar with it before, but it’s many acres of preserved wetland, located right near the Philly airport. It’s surprising, but cool, that a chunk of nature has been protected in such a heavily urban area.
A number of animal species seem to live in or visit the place, as chronicled below.
Here’s the main lake/waterway in the refuge:
There was a boardwalk across the water at one point, and it had lots of small birds flying around it. This one hung out nearby on the railing (almost as though it was expecting to be fed or something):
I’m not sure what variety that is, but there were some blue swallows around as well. Here’s one sitting on one of the many birdhouses constructed in the refuge:
And I (amazingly) caught one of them in flight:
I spotted this creature in the mud at the end of the boardwalk:
A turtle spotted from the walking path:
Further along, there was an egret hanging out in the water:
But then, on the other side of the water, I startled 3 egrets that I hadn’t spotted sooner. I managed to snap a picture as they flew away:
The best find of the day, however, was seeing someone lumbering along the path ahead:
This turtle was at least 14 inches long (not including the tail).
It was obviously scared, and my flash probably didn’t help (sorry!).
Not pictured, a deer that ran away too quickly for me to photograph it, and several mallard ducks and Canada geese (which one can see almost anywhere). I’d highly recommend visiting the refuge in you’re in the Philly area, as admission is free, and it’s a lovely place, at least the portion of it I got to see (which was less than half).
2 weeks ago I went on a hike in the hills near home. This was a few days before the big snowstorm that I chronicled in my last post, so while it was snowy, there were only a few inches of it on the ground. That Sunday was otherwise sunny.
I hiked a half-mile down the road to the trailhead I’ve used many times before. Here’s what it looked like once I was a little way into the forest:
I soon took a different fork than the one I’ve taken in the past – one I’ve never followed before, though I had an idea where it would take me.
It had snowed the night before, so there was stuff still clinging to the trees:
As I started climbing up toward the ridge, I noticed a number of bike tracks in the snow (usually crossing the path I was on). I marvel that people will mountain bike in such slippery conditions, but then I’ve never been the type to be very risky, so there are a lot of things people do that seem dangerous to me.
Here’s a shot of the path being more inclined:
I also noticed little tiny pine trees that had sprouted before winter:
There were a few forks in the trail, where I had to guess which way I should go. I was sometimes able to sight by the top of the ridge, and sometimes looking at the sun helped. Eventually, when I got near the steep part of the ridge and started moving laterally, I followed a wide bike track (which could have come from a motorized bike of some kind).
Eventually, I spotted a chain link fence, and knew that I had gotten to the point I was expecting. This is an old military installation:
It’s no longer run by the government, but is owned by Amherst College. I don’t know offhand what they use it for. I had known of the place’s existence for some time, but had never laid eyes on it before.
I followed the fence around to the front gate:
And just as I emerged from the woods onto that access road, I saw these trucks parked nearby:
Much of the Holyoke Range is state parkland, and so it would make sense that they have a facility for fighting forest fires. Here’s the facility proper, which is on the same road (called Military Road) as the college’s property:
From there, I headed up the road toward Rt. 116, which is the main road crossing the range. It passes through The Notch, and the point where it goes through is about where Military Road intersects it. I crossed the highway and headed over to the Notch Visitor Center, and from there started heading downhill on another trail that I’ve used many times before (which parallels Rt. 116).
That trail dumps one out near Atkins Farms market, where I took a look at the construction they’re doing. It looks like they’re building an addition:
Here are some pictures taken from the same spot of the peaks on either side of the Notch. This is Bare Mountain:
That’s the Eastern end of the portion of ridge I followed, and the military reservation is a bit downslope from it.
Here is Mt. Norwattuck:
From there, I walked along the road to home. As I passed back by the first trailhead where I’d started, I noticed the sungoing down behind the ridge, and I’ll end this post on that note:
I previously posted about my bike trip over the July 4th long weekend. On the Monday of that weekend, I went for an extended hike. This was another hike of parts of the Metacomet-Monadnock trail – I covered sections 3 and 4.
As with other one-way hikes, I brought my bike along on the back of the car, parked at the end of section 4, and then biked around to the beginning of section 3.
Section 3 begins on the Northern bank of the Westfield River at a point in West Springfield (but very close to the Westfield line). The river flows behind a bunch of businesses on US-20, and I locked up my bike in a parking lot there, then took a very short path down to the river to get some pics. Here’s the view upriver to the West:
And downriver to the East:
From there, I went back up and crossed Route 20, to begin the hike in earnest. This involved a bit of walking on side streets until I got to the spot where the trail actually goes into the woods.
Once that happened, I spent nearly half a mile walking near a quarry, partially using its dirt access roads. Then, the trail went off into deeper woods near a marshy area. Just a little ways into those woods, I came across this structure:
It was very run-down, so I don’t think it gets used any more. Who knows what it was used for in the past – maybe camping for hunters? (there is a sportsman’s club of some kind near the quarry)
Just after that, I came across some large and weird fungal growths:
There’s nothing in the pictures for size reference, but each of these big ones was a good 8 inches in diameter.
The trail started skirting the edge of the marsh, so I started getting pestered by mosquitoes. I also got a few more pictures:
That lower area wasn’t completely wetland, I think, because there’s a sort-of road there, which is probably for access to the power lines that ran overhead.
Lots more traipsing through woods followed that area, without much to photograph, but I did come across an open area where a tall tree had split:
Not sure what caused it.
Eventually, section 3 comes out of the woods by the Massachusetts Turnpike. At that point, one has to walk West alongside the pike (and a bit downhill), until you come to an underpass for an old quarry road. Apparently, a number of people have been here – and they’ve left their marks. Here is the underpass before I went through:
At the far end of the tunnel is a gate you have to climb through:
Here it is from the other side:
On the far side there are railroad tracks coming by at an angle, which also go under the Pike:
And a bunch more graffiti – these being focused on flowers!
Perhaps someone wanted to help Nature reassert itself on all this concrete in its midst. 🙂
Once I crossed the train tracks, I was at the end of section 3. I sat down and ate the lunch I’d brought. It was a very hot day (temp in the 90’s) so I was trying to make my 2 bottles of water last. Fortunately, I’d packed a nice, juicy peach, and didn’t need to drink so much with my food. (a peach has never tasted so good)
Having eaten, I commenced section 4. It differs from section 3 in being on higher ground, so even though it’s also very wooded, there are views to be seen. Also, there are old communication towers:
Those are 2 different towers that I passed. These are on a ridge that runs North-South, and which has a number of views to the West. Here’s a view of Barnes Airport in Westfield:
Last Fall, I had taken a picture of that airport from the other side, while biking past on Route 202. At the time, I remember seeing the ridge and the towers beyond, and though of that this time.
I was also high enough up to have birds of prey flying around. Here are 2 that passed almost directly over me:
Later in the section, I saw some views of the Western part of Holyoke:
Soon after that, I got a little lost. The M-M trail is marked with white paint blazes on tree trunks (and occasionally on rocks). There was a point where I found a double blaze, which indicates a change in trail direction, and then saw a blaze on a tree off to my right. I headed off in that direction, and then had trouble locating another blaze or a well-traveled path. I did find one old, faded blaze, but nothing beyond that. I tied looking in several directions for 15 minutes or so (worrying about my water supply), until finally I made my way back to the double-blaze marker and looked further along that trail. Sure enough the trail continued on what looked like a trail, and then made a slight turn to the left. So, I got underway again. After nearly another hour, I came down to US-202 in Holyoke, near the McLean Reservoir, where I had parked the car (in which I had extra water stashed).
Total hiking distance was about 8 miles.
A week ago I went for a hike on trails that are nearby our house. When I say nearby, I mean that they’re behind the houses that are across the road from us.
I hadn’t had a chance to explore these trails much the last time I was on them, but I had time to go further this time, hiking uphill on something called the “College Trail.” This leads up the North side of the Holyoke Range, joining other trails and eventually linking up with the Metacomet-Monadnock trail. I didn’t make it quite that far up, as it was late in the afternoon and I needed to get back home before sundown.
I did see something I don’t think I’ve noticed on other local trails – a tree with graffiti carved in it:
The oldest carving seems to be from 1979, assuming that it was actually carved that year and not backdated by the carver.
In an unrelated event, I was in the grocery store the following day, and I saw an unusual sign in the frozen foods aisle. This is something one hears a lot about in modern American political discourse, but I didn’t think it was available for purchase at one’s local supermarket:
There you have it.
This is my final post from the trip to Canada last month.Â Toward the end of the week there, I got a chance to go hiking in Kouchibouguac National Park, which is about an hour North of the city of Moncton.
Something that’s interesting about the park is the variety of different types of forest and other vegetation found there.Â The first trail we hiked was through a fairly deciduous forest, with some tall pines (and wild blueberry bushes!), and it came out on a tidal bay, pictured here:
Here’s a slightly different part of the bay, seen at a different point on the trail:
I don’t know exactly what this thing is for, but I would guess it’s supposed to be visible from well out in the water:
The next trail was a boardwalk that went out onto a dune and barrier island:
The estuary between dunes and shore:
After that, we took a short trail that went through a salt marsh.Â Here’s a picture of the marsh grass:
According to one of the signs, some of what grows there is known as elephant grass, which can get as tall as 3 meters!
On the way back from that trail, near the parking area, I spotted this critter:
To give you an idea of its size, here it is in front of my foot:
Next we went on a trail through a cedar forest.Â The cedars are traditionally considered sacred by the Mi’kmaq Nation, and the tribe has a wigwam near the trailhead for teaching visitors about their customs and culture:
Nothing was going on inside while we were there:
The trail itself certainly had a number of cedar trees, some of which had a strange-looking moss growing on them:
We went on one more trail after that, which supposedly contained an abandoned beaver lodge, but at the point where a sign talked about the lodge, it was completely hidden from view by bushes.Â No pictures from that trail.
The total hiking distance was around 10 km, and we spent about 4.5 hours there (including a break for lunch).Â It’s a lovely park, and I hope to go again sometime.Â If you should ever find yourself there, though, bring some mosquito repellent, because there are great hordes of the insects there.
Over the 4th of July weekend I went on a hike covering sections 10 and 11 of the M-M Trail.Â As longtime readers may remember, I attempted section 10 once before, but didn’t finish it because of a change in route that I didn’t know about.
The hike started out in pretty Holland Glen, which is home to this waterfall:
From there the path crosses the stream and ascends along the bank for a while, then eventually heads away from the water and along a ridge.Â Then it descends a ways and comes to an old dirt road, then gets away from that and follows an old stone wall for a while, before meeting up with a horse riding trail (some of which is described in the post from 2 years ago).
At one point, the horse and hiking trails are together, but the white blazes which mark the M-M Trail have been erased from that section, at the request of the land owner (though you can still hike it).Â The trail comes to a junction where one can go straight or turn right, and the signs for the horse riders point to the right.Â I thought I remembered that right was the direction to go for the M-M as well, so I went that way.
I remembered wrong.Â The trail twisted around a while, and went over some rickety bridges made of logs and wood pallets, which were broken in spots.Â I did fine crossing the bridges, but I can’t imagine that horses would have a very easy time with them.Â Eventually, this trail dumped me out on a road.Â If I had kept on the correct trail, I would have come out on a road as well, but a different one.Â Gulf Road was what I wanted, and walking to a nearby intersection told me I’d come out on Gold Rd.Â This was the intersection with Gulf, so I hiked West along Gulf to where I would have come out, and then kept going down the road to the new point where the trail continues into the woods (I had read the online trail updates this time).
Once I was back on the right trail, there wasn’t too much left of section 10.Â I did come across an interesting sight before reaching the end of this section – a tree that grew in a circular path (perhaps helped by humans?):
I got to the end of that and took a bit of a rest, and then continued with section 11, which I’d never hiked before.
At first, section 11 ascends a hill known as Mt Lincoln.Â At the top is a radio installation and old fire tower:
The guidebook mentions the great 360-degree view from the fire tower, but there are “No trespassing” signs on the tower, so I couldn’t go see for myself.Â I did take a picture of a tall radio tower, though:
From here the path went down through more woods, eventially crossing the somewhat busy Amherst Road in Pelham.Â On the far side of that crossing, the guidebook warned of poison ivy, which I noted and avoided.Â The trail then went through a lot of pine forest, with little to no undergrowth.Â There were just a lot of dead needles all over the ground, so the trail markings on trees were very useful, as there wasn’t always a clear path.
The trail came to a dirt road, and went along it a bit, before heading into more woods.Â I saw a couple of people walking dogs on the road – besides them I had encountered 2 other hikers earlier, and those were the only people I saw the whole time (except when I crossed a road and cars went by).Â Just after leaving that dirt road, I was in water supply land for the towns of Pelham and Amherst, and came to a stream just past a reservoir dam.Â Here is the waterfall coming off the dam:
Best shot I could get, really.Â The path followed this stream for a while after that.Â Here’s another shot of the stream:
I think this might be Amethyst Brook, but I’m not positive.
Eventually, it came together with another brook, and the path started heading upstream along the other one.Â I took a picture of this bit of falls/rapids:
and then found that I was at the end of the trail section just after that.Â I passed a sign that labeled this area as the Buffam Falls conservation area, so I think that last picture may be Buffam Falls itself (alluded to in the guidebook).
Overall, I covered about 7.5 miles (maybe closer to 8 with some backtracking and my wrong turn).Â Total hiking time: 4.25 hours.
This is a catching up post, which I intended to put up here months ago.Â Back in October I went for a hike – my longest one to date.Â I hiked all of section 8 and most of section 7 of the M-M Trail.Â Total distance was about 10 miles, over lots of rising and falling terrain (including a few small mountains – or big hills by some standards).
I had done both of these sections before, but on separate occasions.Â To start out, I drove to Skinner state park, and left the car near the Western end of section 7.Â I had taken my bike with me, and I then biked home.Â A bit later in the morning, I got a ride to the Eastern end of section 8, and started walking.Â As we had recently moved into a house with a wood stove, and needed to start making fires in the near future, I collected birch bark as I went (it makes the best tinder).
Just past the first summit (Long Mountain), there is a nice vantage point looking ahead to the West.Â Above is a picture of Mount Norwattuck seen from that vantage.Â Here’s a closer view:
From here I descended a ways, and went through some low areas.Â Â Eventually the land rises to a ridge, which has a lookout facing back East.Â Here’s a picture of Long Mountain from there:
Just after this, one starts to ascend Norwattuck.Â The top of it is the highest point in this hike.Â It was a nice place from which to see the Fall colors.
The descent from Norwattuck is fairly long, and drops one off at the Notch visitors’ center.Â I stopped there to eat lunch.Â The center was closed, since it was after Columbus Day, so I couldn’t go in and refill on water.Â Fortunately, I’d been careful, and had only drunk half my supply.
In the Notch, I crossed highway 116 and started section 7, which begins with a steep climb up Bare Mountain.Â Here is a pic from the top of Bare, looking at the other side of Norwattuck:
Near the base of Norwattuck, just South of the visitors’ center, is a gravel quarry which you can see a bit of in the picture above.Â You can also see a random person who is not me (the hair is a dead giveaway).
There is a lot of up and down climbing after Bare Mt., but not much in the way of views.Â I was getting pretty close to Skinner Park before there were more vistas to look at.Â From one of those, I took this shot of the Connecticut River, and farmland on the other side in Northampton:
Asthe trail enters Skinner, it goes down to the park’s access road, in Taylor’s Notch.Â From this point, the trail continues up to the summit of Mt. Holyoke, which is where the road winds its way as well.Â I was pretty tired out by the time I got to the road, though, so I walked downhill on the road, to the parking area at the bottom where I’d left the car.Â My total time was about 6 hours, including the stop for lunch.Â Hopefully more longer hikes will happen this year.
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