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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