Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Long Way

I haven't been to Long Mountain in ages. The last time was right after buying a GPS, which was then programmed to try to find a shorter way to the top rather than follow the well marked but roundabout Robert Frost trail. Big mistake. The GPS did plot a more direct route for me, but it made no mention of the mucky wetlands, endless pricker brambles and broad walls of rock that needed to be scaled or trudged around to maintain that direct route. In the end, it took longer to get to the top without the trail than with....

...I guess that's what trails are for.

We found the small parking area on Harris Mountain Road, where the Robert Frost trail crosses the street on it's ramble north.



The lower sections of the trail run under a mixed hardwood and conifer canopy, where long sections of the understory go leaf-filled and then leaf-less....

But a little higher up, and the hardwoods take over completely.



Sacajawea spotted and pointed out frogs and bugs as we travelled, which I dutifully clicked.





She's really phenomenally good at picking out some of the best hidden critters in the forest. I asked her once how she does it, and she said she's just constantly on the look-out for snakes, spiders, or any other creepy thing that might lodge on to her. This turned out to be a skill that would pay off on this particular hike. How?...follow on oh, faithful readers...

The trail winds, dips and rises for the better part of an hour, then gets really steep in a couple sections. At one point there's an impressive stairway made of basalt boulders, topped with some solid wooden steps, to aid in a particularly tricky rise: 'The Temple Steps', as we saw fit to anoint them...



Nearer to the top, the breezes were blowing a little cooler and stronger, and the wildflowers were becoming more numerous in the bigger islands of sunlight...



I remembered from the previous hike that we were getting close to the top, when I spotted this old border marker. One side of it has a 'G' for Granby, the other an 'A' for Amherst.



This caterpillar was apparently listed in both zip codes.



A couple more tall tumbling rises and dips later, and the trail finally dispensed us onto a beautiful bare overlook, with the entire Mt. Holyoke and Mt. Tom ranges before us...



Ah yes. This is why I returned...



While Kelly was taking a picture of the bloggerette and me on the rock, she suddenly jumped and nearly ran off over the edge. Her worst hiking fears had suddenly come true; she had spotted a snake. Kelly is one of those people who can not stand snakes of any kind or any where in the vicinity. I'm no snake fanatic myself, though I do find them a little fascinating. Over all, I could take em' or leave em'...

I traded her the baby for the camera, eased over to the tree, and was relieved to see that it was only a garter snake, sunning itself by the base. Harmless.



But it was pretty big for a garter, I thought. Here's my hand for comparison:



Knowing that this type of snake is relatively harmless, I managed to get in pretty close with the camera as it sat perfectly still, sniffing the air for dogs and humans...



Maybe a little too close...



...mesmerizing...

The little snake eventually began to slowly back up, turning it's head around and coiling backwards. At that point I had to turn around myself to hold back and secure the dog, who had also begun to get a little too close. It took all of ten seconds but when I turned back to the tree again, the snake was gone...I looked all around, but it had completely disappeared. There must have been a hole under the tree base, or it picked up some surprising speed and hightailed it out of there. Dang. It would have been a cool shot to get it going back into it's hole. I'll probably never get that chance again...

I called about a quarter mile up the trail to inform Kelly that the snake had disappeared. She returned, but maintained a wary eye to the grassy surfaces of the hill. Soon enough, another critter got her attention; a cool fluorescent beetle scurrying along the rock.



This little guy was really moving; possibly late for something... he came and went without so much as a hello...



A couple butterflies made an appearance fluttering around us, but Kelly was still permanently creeped out. We'd have to head back down. Strange; I've seen this woman eagerly pick up slimy, smelly toads from wet muck...

6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Great snake pix! I'm not one of those people who are afraid of snakes, especially garters. Spiders, on the other hand...

Mary E.Carey said...

Wow, great snake pics and I also love the shot of the beetle hurrying away.

Mattenylou said...

Thanks so much for taking all of us along on your hike thru the woods! I look forward to your new excursions. Wonderful pics, too!

VanDog said...

I've never been on Long Mountain. That view from the top is amazing. You could be fooled into thinking the land below is totally uninhabited.

Tony said...

I've always been partial to spiders; they're useful for dispensing with the creepier or more annoying bugs. I even like them in the house..!

Mary, I liked that last pic too, even though it's blurry; it somehow reminds me of some comic strip character...

Mattenylou, you're always welcome on our excursions..

VanDog, it does look primeval, doesn't it...

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Love the snake pics, fantastic.