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Sean's Blog

One Redo, One New

Over the 4th of July weekend I went on a hike covering sections 10 and 11 of the M-M Trail.  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:

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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.  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).  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.  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.  The trail twisted around a while, and went over some rickety bridges made of logs and wood pallets, which were broken in spots.  I did fine crossing the bridges, but I can’t imagine that horses would have a very easy time with them.  Eventually, this trail dumped me out on a road.  If I had kept on the correct trail, I would have come out on a road as well, but a different one.  Gulf Road was what I wanted, and walking to a nearby intersection told me I’d come out on Gold Rd.  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.  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?):

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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.  At the top is a radio installation and old fire tower:

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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.  I did take a picture of a tall radio tower, though:

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From here the path went down through more woods, eventially crossing the somewhat busy Amherst Road in Pelham.  On the far side of that crossing, the guidebook warned of poison ivy, which I noted and avoided.  The trail then went through a lot of pine forest, with little to no undergrowth.  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.  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).  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.  Here is the waterfall coming off the dam:

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Best shot I could get, really.  The path followed this stream for a while after that.  Here’s another shot of the stream:

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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.  I took a picture of this bit of falls/rapids:

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and then found that I was at the end of the trail section just after that.  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).  Total hiking time: 4.25 hours.

Posted by seaking on 07-12-2009 at 09:07 pm
Posted in Hiking with 2 Comments

Fall Up and Down

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This is a catching up post, which I intended to put up here months ago.  Back in October I went for a hike – my longest one to date.  I hiked all of section 8 and most of section 7 of the M-M Trail.  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.  To start out, I drove to Skinner state park, and left the car near the Western end of section 7.  I had taken my bike with me, and I then biked home.  A bit later in the morning, I got a ride to the Eastern end of section 8, and started walking.  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.  Above is a picture of Mount Norwattuck seen from that vantage.  Here’s a closer view:

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From here I descended a ways, and went through some low areas.   Eventually the land rises to a ridge, which has a lookout facing back East.  Here’s a picture of Long Mountain from there:

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Just after this, one starts to ascend Norwattuck.  The top of it is the highest point in this hike.  It was a nice place from which to see the Fall colors.

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The descent from Norwattuck is fairly long, and drops one off at the Notch visitors’ center.  I stopped there to eat lunch.  The center was closed, since it was after Columbus Day, so I couldn’t go in and refill on water.  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.  Here is a pic from the top of Bare, looking at the other side of Norwattuck:

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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.  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.  I was getting pretty close to Skinner Park before there were more vistas to look at.  From one of those, I took this shot of the Connecticut River, and farmland on the other side in Northampton:

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Asthe trail enters Skinner, it goes down to the park’s access road, in Taylor’s Notch.  From this point, the trail continues up to the summit of Mt. Holyoke, which is where the road winds its way as well.  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.  My total time was about 6 hours, including the stop for lunch.  Hopefully more longer hikes will happen this year.

Posted by seaking on 02-01-2009 at 06:02 pm
Posted in Hiking with 0 Comments

Berries and Ruins

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In mid-July I went on a solo hike through the Mount Tom Reservation, which I had done with a friend in 2007.  Since I was doing a one-way hike by myself, I had to park the car at one end of the trail and ride my bike back to the starting point.  Unfortunately, this involves riding up a steep hill on Mass. route 141, just before getting to the trail head.  It was quite a warm day, and I had to rest a few times on the way up the hill.  I also used up 20 to 25% of my water supply, and had to rest up a bit before starting to hike.

The trail does start out easy, and is almost completely level for the first 10-15 minutes.  Then it ascends and ascends and ascends.  I took the above picture at the summit, but didn’t need to take many, as I have plenty of the same view from last year.

Further along, when I was near the second summit (Whiting Peak), I noticed something that I’d missed the previous time: wild blueberries were growing among the rocky slopes.

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I ate several handfuls of them as I worked my way along the cliffs.

The total hike along through the reservation is about 6 miles, but about 60% of the way through one descends to a park road and picnic area, and there is a drinking fountain where one can refill on water, which I did.  In the remaining part of the hike, I crossed Goat Peak and Mount Nonotuck, each of which had features that we’d not taken the time to see last year.

First, on Goat Peak, just off the path a little ways, there is a lookout tower:

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I went up and took a look.  What’s great about this tower is that you have a 360-degree view.  All the vantage points on the trail just look to one side of the mountain range (Northwest).  Here are pix from the top of the tower, looking in various directions:

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The path passes near, but not directly over, the summit of Nonotuck.  It does cross an old road, though, that you can follow up to the summit.  At the summit are the ruins of an old hotel, The Eyrie House, which burned down about a century ago.  Here I’m looking up at the ruins from below:

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and here I explore a little bit:

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Those are all the pictures from that hike, and nothing too eventful happened on my way down to the car.

Posted by seaking on 11-30-2008 at 09:11 pm
Posted in Hiking with 1 Comment

Hike one!

Over Memorial Day weekend I went on my first decent hike of this year. I did another section of the Metacomet-Monadnock trail – namely Section 5.

This section is less mountainous than other sections I’ve done (like 6, 7, and 8), but still hillier than I thought it would be. There is a nice ridge that one climbs and hikes along for much of the path, and it has some good views.

This trail section starts in the Southwest part of Holyoke, and heads up to a point near the city’s border with the Town of Easthampton. Here are a couple of pics of the first good view I came across, looking off to the West at the Town of Southampton.

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And a little further along the ridge I saw similar views:

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Shortly after those vantage points, I ran across some small trees whose leaves looked as though they were a bit…infested.  I don’t know what might have done this to the leaves, or whether it’s harmful to the tree.  If anyone can tell me anything based on these pics, I’d love to hear it.

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There were other views like the ones above – so much so that I didn’t take pictures.  I did get to one point that looked out Eastward toward the river and the town of South Hadley, and here is a picture of that:

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This section of the trail goes past an old radio beacon tower, long out of use at this point.  I always think it’s cool to find abandoned human-made stuff in the middle of otherwise wilderness settings.  It’s kind of like visiting ruins, only they’re relatively recent ones.

Here are pics of the tower:

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Soon after this point I got a bit lost.  The trail is marked with white blazes on trees and rocks, but part of the trail had been moved in the recent past, and they didn’t do a good job of marking the new path.  I could only find blazes that had been painted over, marking the old path which one wasn’t supposed to use any more.  This happened because a piece of the trail was on private land (many pieces are), and the owner had changed their mind about allowing hikers, or the land had been sold to someone who didn’t want to allow the use.  I eventually followed something that turned out not to be much of a path, but took me quickly downhill (and I almost stepped on a snake).  I knew there would be a road soon, and if I got to it quickly I could walk along it to find the correct path again.  I did get to the road without incident, and found where the path actually comes out and enters the woods again.  The rest of the trail section was pretty short at this point – only about a mile or so.  This piece was not very hilly, so I made quicker progress.

When I was almost to the end of the section, I saw 3 odd, puffy flowers growing alone in the middle of the woods.  I couldn’t identify them, but here are some pictures in case anyone else can:

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That finished section 5, which is just over 5 miles.

Posted by seaking on 06-28-2008 at 03:06 pm
Posted in Hiking with 3 Comments

Another effect of global warming

I went on a hike this past weekend with my friend David. It was the same hiking trail we went on in July, but we scheduled to do it again over Columbus Day weekend specifically to see the Fall colors from on high. It turns out that not that many trees’ leaves have turned. The weather has been warmer than it should for leaf turning (I hesitate to say ‘unseasonably warm’, because warm October seems to be the new norm).

Nevertheless, it was a fun hike, and I took some different pictures from the last time. As we hiked up to the summit of Mt. Tom, I did take this photo of the view:

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And I had David snap this photo of me, proving that I was on top of the mountain:

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These photos were taken in a spot just a few feet below the summit itself. Instead of a trail or rocks to climb for those last few feet, though, this mountain has concrete stairs:

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These stairs and the walkway they lead to are the remnants of an old hotel that stood on the peak. You have to be a bit careful, though, because the concrete has crumbled away in places:

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The mountaintop is now home to several towers supporting all manner of radio antennae, satellite and microwave dishes, etc.:

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After that peak, the hike went quicker than last time, because we knew where to find the trail (we had lost track of it shortly after this area the previous time, because you have to get really close to the cliffside to follow it). Quite a ways further along, after a bit of descent, we ascended again to Whiting Peak, and there we saw what we thought at first to be hawks. On closer inspection, we decided they were probably turkey vultures. It helped that one landed on a tree downhill from us, so we could get a better look at it:

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We did a shorter section of trail than the last time – about 2/3 of the distance – and so finished up less than 3 hours after we’d started. I definitely plan on doing some more hiking this Autumn, hopefully to see more spectacular colors and to take advantage of cooler temps (so as not to get so sweaty).

Posted by seaking on 10-09-2007 at 10:10 pm
Posted in Hiking with 0 Comments

Fogs and frogs and birds in bogs

Last weekend I hiked section 8 of the M-M trail, which I had done once before (about a year ago). This was different from my other hikes, in that I got up early and hit the trail at 7:15am, as opposed to hiking in the afternoon. This had the big advantage that it wasn’t blazing hot – the temp was around 60 degrees when I started out.

Click Here to Read More »

Posted by seaking on 08-19-2007 at 02:08 pm
Posted in Hiking with 1 Comment

West side hike story

The weekend before last, I went on a hike through the Mt. Tom state reservation with a friend I hadn’t seen in several years. The path of this hike is also known as Section 6 of the M-M Trail, and passes over 3 or 4 mountains (depending on how you count).

This is the first hike that I’ve done on the West side of the river (which is the side I’ve been living on for nearly a year). I think it’s one of the most traveled sections, and the summit of Mt. Tom itself was voted as having the Best Views in this year’s reader poll in the Valley Advocate. Which makes it even stranger that the trail blazes seem to be farther apart in this section than others, and that the trail is confusing to follow at times.

Click Here to Read More »

Posted by seaking on 07-30-2007 at 10:07 pm
Posted in Hiking with 1 Comment

Where are we going?!

Well, I went to Section 10 of the M-M Trail a couple of weeks ago, and it is a very pretty hike. Unlike other hikes I’ve done in the area, it does not have great views (there’s only one place where you can sort of see a view through the trees), but the first bit of this section is a rocky forested area with a stream flowing and falling among the rocks.

I took a few pictures, but they didn’t turn out great. Part of the problem was patches of sun coming through the tree cover, which created a very high-contrast environment. That’s the kind of thing that film is much better than CCD image sensors at capturing.

Here is a picture of the stream soon after I entered the trail section:glen1.jpg

After I went further into the woods, I came upon a waterfall:

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From this point the path goes upstream right next to the water for a while. Eventually, you have to cross the stream, and when I did, I saw something fall from the bank that I thought was a leaf. However, it then leaped a few times in the water to get out of my way. It turned out to be a little brown frog:

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You can’t tell the size from the photo, but it was less than 2 inches long.

I didn’t take any more pictures after that, though there were a few more interesting things I passed, including an old stone wall in the woods which the path follows near and crosses a few times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to complete the section that day, as I got to a point where my trail guide book said to cross a street into the woods, but there was a newly constructed house across that street. There were trail marks on a couple of telephone poles along the side of the street, but then they seemed to disappear, so I had no idea where the trail went. So I headed back at that point (fortunately I had already planned to return to my starting point, so that’s where the car was parked). Later, upon checking the online guide, I saw a note from last year that the trail was moved because of the house being built (the print guide was published in 2005).
Ah, well. At least I got to do 3/4 of that section.

BTW, for those confused about the title of this post, the question is from a movie, and the answer, in this case at least, would be “Section 10!”

Posted by seaking on 07-29-2007 at 08:07 pm
Posted in Hiking with 6 Comments

Catching Up, Part III

This past August, I went hiking on Section 8 of the M-M Trail. Unlike the previous hike in section 7 (see previous post), I did this one by myself. I hiked this section from East to West, starting at Mt. Harris Rd. in Southeast Amherst, and finishing at the Notch Visitor Center on Route 116. In order to do the hike just one-way, I first drove to the Visitor Center with my bike in tow. I parked the car there, and rode the bike along surface roads to the other end of the trail section. Then, locking the bike up there, I did the hike, and had the car waiting for me at the end (so I could drive to pick up the bike and then home).

I also took some pictures on the hike. Click Here to Read More »

Posted by seaking on 11-25-2006 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Hiking with 1 Comment

Catching Up, Part II

Here in Western Massachusetts, we have a lot of hiking trails, and some of them go over mountains (they’re really more like big hills, but we call them mountains).
In particular, trails run along the Holyoke Range, which is just to the East of the Connecticut River. Every year, the students and staff of the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Mathematics go on a hike over part of the range, and I’ve gone along the past 2 summers. This year, I took a camera, so there are pictures to be seen (and posted).

This particular trail is part of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail. Specifically, it’s Section 7. We started at the Eastern end of the section, at Hwy 116, and hiked West to the summit of Mt. Holyoke in Skinner State Park (so not quite all the way to the Western end of the section).

Here’s what I saw along the way: Click Here to Read More »

Posted by seaking on 11-25-2006 at 08:11 pm
Posted in Hiking with 0 Comments

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