Monday, September 12, 2011

3 is a Magic Number

So once again, it's been a slow hiking season for me and The Hubs.  After we completed the Midstate Trail, I immediately purchased the Wapack Trail Guide.  I made plans and put them on my calendar.  Then I became very very very very very tired.  What I didn't know then is that my body needed quite a bit of rest to prepare for a new family member.  So all those hiking plans for July and August never happened.  The Hubs and I are very excited to be welcoming a baby.  Now that I've finished the first trimester I seem to have a lot more energy.  I hope that I can get out and do some small hikes this fall.

The subject matter of this blog will change a bit.  I can see it perhaps evolving from it's Peakbaggin' beginnings towards my geocaching explorations and some family friendly hiking and an occasional high peak tossed in.  For a long time, I have been fascinated with all the local trails out there.  My home town has a few that might need highlighting.  So with our baby news comes a new focus on playing outdoors.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flag to fly over all 48 of NH's 4,000-footers as tribute to memory of 9/11 victims | New Hampshire NEWS10

It's been 10 years since the terrorist planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, and the flight that went down in Pennsylvania. For some reason, I can't believe that it's been a decade. That was about the same time I started tracking my hiking and seriously began Peakbagging. The following article in the Union Leader, reminded me about how the hiking community comes together on that day to honor that date. Here's the link to the article:

Flag to fly over all 48 of NH's 4,000-footers as tribute to memory of 9/11 victims | New Hampshire NEWS10

It's been true that I've not been hiking much since July. Unfortunately, I won't be able to hike in this event. One day in the future I would like to participate in Flags On The 48. If you are able to participate please register at Flags on the 48's webpage.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Midstate Trail- End of the trail or is it the beginning?

On Saturday, we set off on the final segment of the Midstate Trail.  Three off us planned to hike the final 7.72 miles to the northern terminus.  We met up at the Mount Watatic parking lot and left one car and drove down to Rt. 12.  Ben checked to see if his snake friend from the week before was there but the snake had moved on.  We set off down the road a piece until we noticed that they yellow triangles disappeared.  Fortunately, we hadn't gone too far as we found this sign tucked back in the woods next to a yard and pointing us towards the trail.  

I must say it is super generous of the private land owners to allow hikers to hike on their property.  I don't think I saw once instance of a hiker abusing the trail on private property (on public trails that's a different story).  I hope that these properties continue to be owned by people who enjoy nature and spending time in the woods.

 We spent some time in this path, mainly because there was quite a bit of water running through it.  Some of the step stones were covered and we had to work our way gingerly through the streams. 

We crossed Russell Hill Road and started the climb up to Mount Hunger.  It was steep but had "flat" portions in between each ascent.  We gained about 350 feet of elevation in a little over a mile.  

We stopped for a snack on Mount Hunger because it seemed the thing to do.  There was a lovely vista north.  We could see our destination just beyond Stodge Meadow Pond.  Eventually we would climb down from our view point and walk along the shores of Winnekeag Lake (not shown).

When we did reach Winnekeag Lake, we were feeling pretty warm and were tempted to jump in.  We followed the road Camp Winnekeag parking lot and started our hike through the camp.  On the way we saw this shelter. 

A little further down was a fire circle with an amphitheater.  It looked like a fun place to be!  I have to admit, I miss camp during the summer.     

 The trails were hot and sticky.  At times the overgrowth was covering the trail.  I, unfortunately, wore shorts that day and managed to cut my legs on several raspberry bushes and pick up a few of my enemies, ticks.  We emerged from the brush and walked through a forest filled with ferns.  This of course led to comments about bears and velociraptors hiding in the woods, waiting to pounce. 

We saw neither bear or velociraptor but we did find Pierce Road and an older couple that let their GPS get them lost.  We tried to help them but the road they were looking for wasn't on my map.  They ended up turning around and heading back to Rt. 119.  We crossed 119 cautiously as the traffic was flying by and entered the Watatic Parking area.  We started up the trail and saw lots of families coming down.  We were told there were lots of blueberries up top.  Of course, many of these hikers thought we were just starting out, even though we had already hiked about 6 miles or so.    

The hike up wasn't too bad.  We did stop a few times to catch our breath but I just wanted to push on as I knew we were close to our goal.  I took a quick self portrait while waiting for my hiking buddies to catch up just before reaching the summit.  And I found this sign post which made me think of a smilie face.   

Finally we reached the summit!  Really it WAS an easy hike up but we were hot and tired.  There were lots of people up there and on the knoll to the east.  We stayed for a bit and took a few pictures.  I should have taken more but I was itchin' to find the end of the trail.  

 We found the trail that pointed towards the Wapack trail and NH and quickly went down the path towards Nutting Hill.  The trail probably wasn't as long as it seemed but its like when you know you want to go somewhere but you don't know exactly where it is, sometimes the journey seems a lot longer.  We crossed Nutting Hill and met up with a small group of hikers.  Then we went off down the old jeep road.  The trail signs were a bit confusing and we were pretty close to giving up when we found a small side trail with blue blazes.  I'm glad I brought my trail guide that day.  I almost left it in the car since I had a topo with me.  We followed the Blue Blazes and found the original Terminus Monument. 

After quickly snapping a photo because the bugs were thick, we started back south towards the fork in the trail.  We found a tiny garter snake getting some water.  
 When we reached the fork wit the crazy trail signs we took the path back towards Rt. 119 (State Line Trail).  It was significanly quieter than the main trail and a gentler grade for my knees.  The day was very clear and when we walked past the small pool near the parking lot the reflection of the sky and trees was lovely.   

So I started hiking this trail March 2008.  Obviously, this past year, I was determined to complete the trail.  I enjoyed the Northern Half more than the Southern Half.  I found that the road hiking in the south was uncomfortable and hard on the legs.  And of course I would prefer to be in the woods than in the neighborhoods.  
I am extremely grateful to have found this trail though.  I feel as if I have developed a better understanding about the state I live in.  Usually I hike in the White Mountains for a day hike or overnight.  This trail gave me an appreciation for neighborhood trails and local conservation groups.  I hope that it is a trail that can remain and not be overtaken by the nearby developments.  After all, we need a little bit of space to get back to reality. 

What's next?  Hmmm well the Wapack doesn't look too challenging (or is that just challenging enough?).  There's a few 4000' mountains calling my name too.  Guess I'll have to make sure to use my summer off wisely!

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Midstate Trail Part 9- Graffiti Bridge to Route 12 in Ashburnham

We started off our next section of the Midstate on a lovely sunny Sunday.  I had decided to cut the "last section" in a short piece and a longer piece so that we weren't hiking a 15-mile hike with elevation change as our finale.  It worked out very well.  We met Mel at the side of Jewell Hill Road in Ashburnham.  While waiting for her on the memorial triangle our dog found this lovely creature.
As you can tell Mr. Water Snake was not too pleased that Ansel The Inquisitive Dog wanted to be his friend.  I took the dog to the other side of the island and Ben took pictures and pretty much harassed it.  Mel arrrived and we drove down to Graffiti Bridge.  We went behind the jersey barriers and over towards Bragg Hill Road and South Ashburnham Road.  Then we found the entrance into the field and power lines.  I took this picture of the rusted farm equipment.  I really like how it came out.    

We crossed the pasture and went down into the woods.  It was quite damp from the rain the 3 days before.  But the trails were manageable enough and our feet stayed dry.  Well us 2-footed creatures stayed dry. 

This was the first time we took our dog on the Midstate.  I checked to make sure we could bring him on this segment.  Some sections don't allow dogs or are on private property and I would worry about it even if it was okay.  I noticed he was getting rather hot though so we took a break right at the sign for the Westminster Conservation Commission.   

Ansel wasn't really interested in water or a snack so we humans ate ours and then went on.  This was a very nice area to hike it.  It was well maintained and the forest was lush and green.  It is so nice to be on trails that are not littered or packed with people.  

As we rounded the corner to head up the hill to Muddy Pond Shelter, Ben spotted this guy in the middle of the trail.  Another Water Snake.  I only know this now because I compared our photos to the ones online.  I'm not afraid of snakes when I know what they are.  On this hike, I managed to come across an unknown snake in two different areas.  Ansel never saw this one.  Ben and Mel had no fear.  I managed to be quite nervous but I made it by.  I definitely advise having a camera with a decent zoom to take photos for flora and fauna identification later.  And keeping a safe distance.  I know now that I was overly cautious with this guy but I'm okay with that.  
We reached the Muddy Pond Shelter in Westminster.  It was a lovely spot for camping!  I totally want to go back.  The amount of beer cans littered about was sad but the shelter is situated in a rather clear area over looking the pond.  While we were there a family came out with fishing gear for an afternoon of fun.  I think they had the right idea!   

We moved on and then the trail became a bit of a bear.  There was LOTS of overgrowth.  The vegetation has just flourished with all the rain and sun.  Here's Ansel heading into the ferns.    

We managed to get through the brush carefully.  Some of the vines had huge prickers on them!  But I think we only had one or two scratches.  Then we found the cart road the trail cleared out again.  While in the woods we started hearing some strange noises.  As I moved into the woods and took this picture of the abandoned truck I realized that the "dog" was actually a rooster.  Even though the truck is a sure sign, the rooster confirmed that we were getting close to the main roads again.

Directly after we passed the truck we had to gingerly get our way past the stream that was in the midst of the trail.  Ansel of course went right down the middle. 

I found a hollowed out tree that was playing with the light.  I love taking photos through the frame of nature.  

We could tell that we were heading down hill towards Rt. 12.  The sounds of cars and a lawnmower were getting louder and louder.  When we reached Philip's Brook I took a quick picture of Ansel the Muddy Dog and of Philip's Brook from the bridge.  The water was moving downstream very quickly.  

We made it back to our car and our first snake (yes, he was still there) in about 2 and a half hours.  That seems to be about right for us.  So we finished at mile 7.72 from the north terminus.  The FINAL trip has been scheduled.  Even though this was a shorter day for us, I know we're going to appreciate it next time.  I just hope that my photos continue to get better.  I really like the shots I took on Part 9.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Midstate Trail Part 8 - Wachusett to Grafitti Bridge

So I started this post right after the hike but a week has gone by and it's now time to finish. On June 11 Ben and I decided to hike the next section of the Midstate. Little did we know that the showers predicted for that day were to be more like heavy rains.

Through the beginning of the hike, I kept checking with him to see if he wanted to bail. I wouldn't say I wanted to head for home but if he did I was right on board. Alas, neither of us wanted to wimp out so we trudged on. I complain but it wasn't too bad. The rain kept the bugs at bay for most of the trip.

About 2 miles in we came to Redemption Rock. We climbed up it and looked for the engraving. The engraving was quite worn down and barely readable but it was there. 

It was here in April of 1676 that King Philip’s War hostage Mary White Rowlandson was released from Indian captivity.  You can find out more about this park by going to the Trustees of the Reservation website.

We crossed Highway 140 and entered Leominster State Forest. The rain became increasingly worse and unfortunately, we were starting to get cold. We pushed on and the rain started to let up. Fortunately, we were up on the top of Crow Hills and there was a breeze. This helped us to dry off some of our rain gear. The hills in this park had stone stairways that were quite slippery. We had to use extra caution when climbing them.

We traveled to the end of the park and behind new housing developments. There was a brief moment of confusion as we came to the junction of Stone Hill Road and Narrows Road. A new house had been built and the trail marker was up the driveway. We felt as if we were trespassing briefly but then we crossed back into the woods and followed the trail to the Wachusett Village Inn.  
We crossed over Rt. 2 on the Waterman Memorial Bridge. The rain had decidedly stopped (for the moment) and we stood briefly over the traffic to let the breeze dry out our raincoats. Both of our coats were wet inside and out.

East Bound

West Bound
About a mile after Rt. 2, we crossed Highway 2A. A little bit later we heard people hiking behind us. For the first time that day, there was another couple on the trail. As we worked our way to the power lines we lost the trail. They blazed through and found it again. We leapfrogged each other on the trail. They pulled ahead as we entered the pasture lands.   
Throughout this hike we've followed and crossed over many stone walls. This was the first time we actually walked on the walls. The grasses were quite high in the pasture and the trail markers were directly next to the walls so it seemed to be the most practical thing to do. 
We hiked along the walls in the woods after we left the pastures. The trails in this section were a tad confusing. The other couple lost the trail and we could see why. For some reason the trail started to switchback downhill and then over to the gravel Syd Smith Road. It seemed like we could have gone straight to the road and downhill.

We walked on through the woods and started seeing signs along the border of private property. At this point, I was pretty done with hiking for the day and starting to feel miserable. Fortunately, there was a boardwalk and we could hear construction vehicles. Ben thought we were near the end. Turns out he was right. We found Graffiti Bridge and our car.

I must admit, I feel that the bridge is a bit trashy. I understand that it is a tradition in Westminster for students to put their mark on it. However, the amount of rubbish that was on the ground under the bridge was awful. If only people would clean up after themselves. Oh and create better artwork.

At this point, we are 13.5 miles from the north end of the Midstate Trail. Our next hike is on the calendar. It seems as though our hiking buddies have found other summer fun, but that's okay. We miss them on the trail but we're determined to finish hiking this in 2011! And then back up north for the real mountains. :-) 

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Midstate Trail Part 7 - Wachusett Mountain

It was a bright sunny day when we struck out on the trail. I was excited because we were going to be hiking one of the last 3 segments of the Midstate Trail and we'd be hitting the high point, Wachusett Mountain. We parked at Intervale Road, covered ourselves in DEET and went into the woods. We wondered how the trail was going to be after the tornadoes that had struck western Massachusetts and threatened the area. We quickly came upon a the Ware River. The water seemed low and slow to travel.

As we walked on we found that the trails had brand new foot bridges. As we crossed over a few of them, I remembered that National Trails Day was the day before and wondered if the bridges were installed that recently. The mud and water wasn't too bad but the bugs were pretty fierce.As pretty as the woods and river were, we quickly found that we would be road walking for a good portion of the morning. In fact, nearly the entire portion from Intervale to Ball Hill Road in Princeton was along paved streets. I do think that the paved streets might have been a blessing in disguise. When we were on the old dirt roads, the mosquitoes were outrageous. We pushed through very quickly to be rid of them.

At the end of the last dirt road we came to this old horse farm. The house looked as if it were empty, but the mail box was the coolest thing. Unfortunately it did mean more street walking for us.I got excited when we came upon the Providence and Worcester Railway bridge. I knew that this was a sign that our pavement pounding ways were at an end soon.

Soon we entered into the Massachusetts Audubon Society Wildlife Sanctuary. For the rest of the hike we would be in the woods. We entered the Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary off of Rt. 62. The trails were well maintained and pretty.We followed the yellow triangles through the sanctuary. We went through several old pasture lands. Some had bird houses and benches for wildlife watching. We had a snack at a small pond and noted the beaver chew marks on the trees. Some of the ferns were extremely large. It appeared as if they were three to four feet tall. The greenery throughout the forest was lush and lovely.

At the end of the Chapman Trail we came across a marker that told us the distance to the summit. This is when we realized how quickly we had been hiking. We were about an hour ahead of schedule!We left the Audubon and entered Wachusett Mountain State Reservation. All of us had hiked Wachusett Mountain before. Dan has skied it many times. It's funny, whenever I think of the word Wachusett, I immediately get the jingle stuck in my head. Since we all live close enough to the ski area, we've heard the advertisements for Wachusett Mountain Skiing many times. I really should get out there to ski one of these days.

We followed the Dickens and Harrington Trails to the top. About half-way up we started hearing people. Being such a nice day, I knew there were going to be many hikers. When we found the summit, we saw all sorts of people and dogs. The trails at Wachusett State Reservation are good for nearly all levels.

When we arrived at the summit, we stopped for lunch. We also realized it would take us at the most an hour to get to the car. We phoned our friend that was to meet us for dinner to warn him that it would be an early dinner. While we snacked we watched families explore the pond. There were koi fish swimming around happily. We saw a few frogs and newts too.

About this time we noticed a change in the weather. The clouds had started to roll in and it seemed to cool off quite a bit. After we finished eating we wandered the summit a bit to see what we could see. From the summit, a clear day reveals views of Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire, the Berkshires to the west, and the Boston skyline to the east. We climbed up on one platform and could make out the outline of Boston pretty well. As you can see from the photo, there was a little bit of haze. We could see Monadnock pretty well but couldn't make out the Berkshires.

I did learn that this year the auto road was still closed. It had been for about a year. The summit was taken over by huge amounts of fencing and several construction vehicles. They also had removed the displays that were mounted up on the summit. Hopefully, they will finish construction soon. We started down the north side of the mountain and found the ski lifts. Ski lifts always look strange without snow. We also found this bronze plaque memorializing the 10th Mountain Division.

We looked down the mountain a bit and then followed the Old Indian Trail to West Side Trail and Semuhenna.There were many people coming up the trail. Towards the top we would hear questions like "how much further" and "are we close?" It always bothers me when I see people hiking without water bottles though. I understand Wachusett is a busy mountain with short hike options but the Girl Scout in me says "Be Prepared!" After all, you never know what could happen.

When we found the Old Indian Trail again I knew that Balance Rock was very close. It is pretty easy to spot a glacial erratic. A huge rock deposited in the middle of nowhere is just a fun discovery. Balance Rock led to photos of us looking strong. See I can lift this rock all by myself! After all, I didn't want it to roll down the hill.

We hiked the last half mile to the parking lot and found Dan's car. There were a few more cars there in the afternoon compared to when we arrived in the morning. Dan drove us back to Intervale Road and we picked up my car.

Our last stop was to Gardner Ale House. As much as Ben enjoys hiking, I know he enjoys beer too. So I visited the MA chapter of Views and Brews and found that Wachusett is one of the hikes for The Gardner Ale House. So the three of us went off to have some food and sample their beer.

I'm not a beer drinker myself so I can't judge that for you. But if you want good food near Wachusett, I would say try this place. The food was pretty good.
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