Sunday, June 15, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Part 1: Clarksburg State Park

This past Memorial Day Weekend we camped with a group of friends at Clarksburg State Park. Having lived most of my life in the northeastern portion of Massachusetts, I've been enjoying our trips to the western part of the state. We followed the Mohawk Trail (Rt. 2) out to North Adams and prayed that it wouldn't rain. The camping trips in 2013 were terrible with rain. Memorial Day Weekend last year we were cold and wet most of the weekend except for when we were heading home. Labor Day weekend it was lovely until it rained and flooded most of the campground! We did hit some downpours on the road but once at the campground we managed to miss most of the precipitation.

Saturday morning we decided to stop in at the ranger station to pick up a trail map. We wanted to take our breakfast trash to the dumpster anyways. So Big and Lil' Dude, myself and Zazu wandered down the camp road. The ranger let us know that the weather was looking good for the weekend and gave us a map. We continued to the dumpster and followed the road to the bath house at Mauserts Pond.

We passed the trail head for Timberline and Shoreline Trails on the way. We decided that we would hike Shoreline back up towards the campsite after we checked out the beach. 

The pond looked full and the hills in the distance were lovely. I'm fairly certain that those hills are actually across the state line in southern Vermont. 

The bath house looked like a new facility. It had a clean and tidy look to it. I'm often surprised when I find a MA state park that appears to have had some money put into it. Many of them have fallen prey to budget cuts. 

We knew before we left home that swimming was out of the question. They had just treated the water for aquatic vegetation. :-(  

The beach itself appeared sandy and looked like a great place to picnic and spend the day. The fence and benches looked like they had seen better days. They were at strange heights. Lil Dude found one that he could climb up onto by himself. The other benches he needed assistance to climb on.

We spent some time examining the beach. Then we decided to head back towards the trail head. We crossed through the grove of picnic tables and charcoal grills. 

Then we hit the trail. The map we had was the basic one that state provides. There is a second one on their website that gives a better description of the Pond Loop and the legend of Mauserts Pond. The second map is much more entertaining, I advise printing it out before heading to the park. A park with a history of "sin" is an added bonus to the beauty of the woods. 

The trail starts out as a track for four-wheeled vehicles. Eventually it downgrades to a single track. There is very little elevation gain and it was a short while before we came to the junction of the Headquarters Trail. We continued on the Shoreline Trail and came across this curiosity.

We spent some time examining it and attempting to figure out what is could have been used for. Clearly it had been there for some time but we still don't know it's purpose.

A bit further down the trail we came to a lovely clearing looking north to Vermont. Soon after that we noticed a beaver lodge on the other side of the pond. Unfortunately, I did not have my DSLR on me so my point and shoot had to do.

About this time, we noticed lovely blue blazes marking the trail. We had not seen them early on but later I learned that they were to designate the Pond Loop. 

Lil' Dude remembered from our last hike that he should keep an eye out for blazes. So every time he saw one he let us know.  

And then the trail got muddy. There were bridges and boards laid out to aid against erosion and trail destruction. However, many of the boards were rotten and sinking into the muck. 

We came across this lovely marbled rock on the path. After finding it we noticed there were several along side the trail and through the campground.

And then it got very muddy.  

Like stinky mud.

As we moved up to higher ground and closer to the campground we spotted this boulder surrounded by tree roots. I loved it! Nature will work to overcome and adapt to it's neighbors.

Did I mention that we brought Ansel with us? Yup, muddy paws emerged once more. Don't worry he had a good grooming when we got home.

We sat at Lookout Point for some time. The skies were starting to clear up. The park had a picnic table there and it was the path for small craft boats to hike down from the campground. 

Not too far away we could see a line of windmills in the distance. They weren't moving very fast but I'm sure they catch some decent breezes on the ridge. 

While we were sitting, a father and pre-teen daughter came down with their kayaks. They launched and had the pond all to themselves. They were headed out to the beaver lodge when we left the pond. We walked up the short path to the campground road. From there we found our campsite and relaxed. 

The campground itself is relatively small. Reservations opened this year later than all the others in the area. So we managed to get in without issue. Our group had 4 sites. We tend to be relatively quiet campers (even with small kids). There was one large group that started it's parties up after quiet hours. There did not appear to be a campsite manager through the night. It probably would have helped with the noise control. There is a newer bath house in the campground as well. If we were to camp there again, I would try to get a campsite close to the pond. Our friends' were farther away from the road and experience less traffic noise. Given our history of bouncing from campground to campground, we probably won't be heading back to this one in the near future.

Where: Clarksburg State Park, 1199 Middle Road, Clarksburg, MA 01247

Directions From the East/I-91: From I-91 take Exit 26 in Greenfield and follow MA Rte. 2 west for 34 miles to North Adams, to intersection with MA Rte. 8 north. Turn right and follow Rte. 8 north for 3 miles to Middle Road. Turn left onto Middle Rd. and continue for 0.1 mile to park entrance on right.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Mother's Day Hike at Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH

Today was Mother's Day. A day I typically leave open on the calendar for my husband to work some magic into for me. After a huge meal at Parker's Maple Barn, we drove over to Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH. Big Dude and I had been there many times but I don't believe we have been there since the Lil' Dude was born. It's one of my favorite local hikes and I have yet to explore the entire property. The Beaver Brook Association runs school programs and seasonal programming as well as maintaining the 30 miles of trails. 
Sign post at the trailhead 
We parked at the main office where you can purchase a map for $2. We opted not to (when will we ever learn!) and followed the trails based on our memories. We should have known better as there had been changes to the main lot, including the lovely yurt you can see in the picture of the sign post.

Giant Paper Wasp Nest (about the size of a basketball) near the yurt
Before we even hit the trail, we spotted this gigantic wasp nest. It was definitely inactive but I couldn't get over how big it was. It reminded me of something out of Winnie the Pooh.

We set off down Cow Lane. It's a wide, flat, hard pack path. We both remembered that it would head us down to the wetlands. The sun was shining and very warm. Lil' Dude opted to be carried in his backpack. He actually had fallen asleep in the car on the way from brunch and was still waking up.
Cow Lane
 Along the lane there was a patch of what I believe are wild violets. It had been such a long winter, I was pleased to see some of the wildflowers are starting to bl
Wild Violets
I must have been inspired by the violets. The next sign post was for the Wildflower Trail, which we of course followed. Big and Lil' Dude took off pretty quickly as I took pictures. They even missed the pretty yellow flowers I found. I really need to brush up on my flora knowledge. When I get a chance I want to match up all my flower pictures with actual names.

Wildflower Trail
 We did not see too many flowers on the Wildflower Trail, so when we found the junction of Big Tree Trail, we followed it.

Awesome Tree Id Posts
 The Big Dude had to stop at EVERY Tree Id Post and read them aloud. He does this in museums too. I doubt he remembers half of what is on them and still can't idea a Black Birch from a Paper Birch.  The Id Posts were very well constructed and had interesting information along with how to identify the trees.
Little White Flowers

Big Tree Trail

Now that I'm looking at the map, I think we walked all of the Big Tree Trail. The field was hot and sunny. Lil Dude was looking for birds the whole time but didn't find any. 

At this point Lil Dude decided he wanted to hike. Of course he did! The trail was a steep drop down and he was terrifying his poor mother the entire time. We reached a lovely marshy junction at Maple Leaf Trail. I was amazed that the bugs weren't worse.

We hiked along in the cool of the trees and spotted some unusual plants. I really liked these plants that decided to grow on top of this huge rock. 

Eventually we wandered towards some running water (really we should have brought a map). It was lovely to hear the brook. 

Lil' Dude popped in and out of wanting to be in the backpack and hiking. He did really well on the flatter areas. 

The Cow Path was lush and green. There were wildflowers on the side of the trail if you kept your eyes open. 

We arrived at this junction and opted to follow a path that we saw some other hikers coming down. It of course was a wrong turn. I realized this as I could hear the traffic on Rt. 130 getting louder and louder. So we turned back. 

Compared to the rest of Beaver Brook this trail was the least scenic, though I did get some great photos. The trail was clearly being worked on with trucks and logging operations. Here's a few pretty sights that I spotted. 

Random cairn in the water

Mossy area

We hiked up and Lil Dude managed to climb this pretty big hill. I was a bit out of shape (and 4 months pregnant) and found it to be slightly challenging.

Up a big big hill

He heard airplanes flying overhead so of course we stopped to look for them. I also found more wildflowers.

We stopped for a snack and water break. I heard some rustling in the leaves and spotted this lovely little garter snake. He politely posed for photos.  

On the other side of the hill, our littlest hiker was getting tired and cranky. After he tripped some he decided that the backpack was for him. So he was back in the carrier.  We found the bridge that crosses the top of Spatterdock Pond to Cow Lane. Lil Dude decided he wanted to cross. Bravely, Big Dude and I let him go. I pointed out the frogs and fish. 

For his first hike of the year, Lil' Dude did real well. He navigated tough terrain for a 2 year old and let us know when it was too much. 

Big Dude and I made the parental decision that he would carry the Lil' Dude back to the parking lot. There was lots of protesting but we all were rather tired at that point. Back in the carrier he went and he actually rested his head a few times on the short hike back up to the car. 


I love Beaver Brook. It's one of those areas that I often wish was a bit closer. The miles and miles of trails to explore, not to mention the programming they offer, make it a terrific place to enjoy nature. I know we'll be back there again. Hopefully sooner than later. 

Where: Beaver Brook, 117 Ridge Road, Hollis, NH 03049

On the web:

Directions: From South on NH Route 3

Head north on NH Route 3. Take Exit 6, then turn left onto Broad Street/Route 130. Drive approximately 6 miles. Bear right at the fork and travel to the set of lights in Hollis. Turn left at the lights onto Route 122 South. Drive approximately 1 mile and turn right onto Ridge Road. The Brown Lane Barn entrance is approximately .7 miles on the right. Continue .25 miles on Ridge Road to reach the Maple Hill Farm (117 Ridge Road).