Saturday, November 10, 2007

The East in the West

Just up the hill from Ashley Reservoir, in Holyoke, is McLean Reservoir. Just up the hill from Mclean are trails through the woods, to a tall ridge line running north to south, dividing Holyoke from Westfield. On this ridge is a crest with a great lookout, called East Mountain.

A section of the Metacomet-Monadnock trail (section 4) runs along this ridge. The section goes from Rte. 90 (the Turnpike) in the south, to Rte. 202 in the north. Last few times I did this hike, I came through the reservoirs, into the trails in the woods there that lead to the M&M trail. This time we had the dog with us (not allowed at the reservoir) so we parked on Rte. 202, just passed the Mclean reservoir entrance/gate, and started our hike at this sign.

This is a great little hike. Very moderate, and most of it runs along the top of a long, 500'-600' ridge, affording lots of great views to the west along the way. The trees are way past peak now, but there is still plenty of color, and it's nice to wade through the leaves on the ground.

One thing easily noticed right away on this hike is that there are a lot of glacial 'erratics' (boulders left behind by glaciers) scattered around this trail.

Some seemed like they were placed there, kind of precariously.

The trail climbs pretty gradually. There is a nice section of green Hemlocks that contrast greatly with the bare deciduous trees all around.

Just as your getting warmed up, you start to come across viewpoints and ledges inviting you to stop and look around.

The trail is well marked with the familiar white blazes of the M&M. As you go higher the terrain gets rockier, and the basalt bedrock starts to peek up through the earth more and more.

This ridge is part of the same tilted lava field that make up the Mt. Tom and Mt. Holyoke ranges, and it actually is an extension south from the Mt. Tom range.

Many sections of the trail are heavily used by ATV's, 4x4's, and motorcycles. There is a lot of scrapes on the rock, and many sections of the trails are heavily eroded.

I'm probably on the wrong side of the fence on this, but I've never really been too concerned about trail erosion, my logic has always been if a trail gets too eroded, there's some fresh ground two feet away for another trail.

One thing that does bother me though, is beer cans, car seats, and muffler exhausts left scattered about. That's not even using the trail, that's just crapping on something beautiful. You have to be real ignorant or drunk or both to do something like that.

Anyway; farther up, the trail veers off a little and you have to climb a short steep section to get to the true top of East Mountain. Here is the best view on the trail.

The west side is a sheer cliff very much like Mt. Tom, though not quite as high. High enough though.

Off to the left you can see Barnes Air Force Base stretching out below. At the end of the tarmac we could clearly see two of the F-15 Eagle fighter jets newly stationed there.

It was too bad they weren't taking off at the time. The local residents are making a (probably justifiable) issue about the noise they make, I would have liked to hear it for myself.

Straight out to the west and slightly north, are the Hampton Ponds.

And to the north you can just see the summit of Mt. Tom and Easthampton in the distance.

We sat and enjoyed the view for a little while. Then we calculated our time and distance, and decided we had enough sun left to continue on for a bit. The trail from the peak is more of the same. About a mile further are a couple lookout or beacon towers. I remember climbing one of them years ago, it was a beautiful, though terrifyingly creaky and wobbly, 360 degree view. I am curious to see if they're still there, and climbable. I knew we wouldn't have enough time to reach them before sunset though. We did make it as far as Snake Pond, about two miles (halfway) into this section of the M&M trail. We turned around there, and headed back.

Coming back around, we passed a section of woods that looked like it recently burned. Trees were knocked down all around. There was fresh green vegetation growing from the burnt earth.

That sparked some conversation about the folly of Californians building in fire prone areas, and the Indians' land clearing techniques before the Pilgrims arrived, and the blotting out of the sun, and Kelly's STCC teacher blaming it all on Bush, ect. et al., pretty much the whole way back to the car.

We got there just in time to see this strange, almost cartoonish cloud formation turning pink in the setting sun.

Aaaaaah. Bush who?

1 comment:

Mary E.Carey said...

I, too, saw an unusual pink cloud as I stepped out of the Big Y in Amherst at about 4:30 p.m. I didn't have my camera on me, d'oh! The cloud I saw didn't look cartoonish like this one. It does look like a stork or some other water bird, now that you mention it.