Thursday, September 3, 2009
The Hike Ride
My buddy Radar Check gave me a call late on a sparkling afternoon, and asked if I was interested in taking the bikes out for a ride on one of the rail trails. I agreed but with the condition that we stop in Holyoke first for a quick look at the cool ruins of the Mt. Tom ski area, before we hit the rail trails; since I know RC, like me, appreciates these kinds of things...
We met up at the Mountain Park entrance and pedaled up the paved road to the defunct ski area. By pedaled, I really mean huffed, puffed and hauled our bicycles up the hill on foot; as it was wayyyy too steep for my first ride of the year. I was not ready.
We gave the ski area a quick look around, and marveled at it's ideal potential for revitalization now that Mountain Park is coming back online next door...
Then, just as we were about to head back and continue on with our original rail-trail plan, we heard what sounded like a river rushing nearby. We went over for a look and found that it was in fact the heavy machinery digging away at the huge quarry.
This was something RC could sink his camera into.
We circled the quarry a little for different views, and that's when I came up with the smart idea of continuing uphill, and checking out the mountain ridge and Easthampton beyond. 'We must be half way up already anyhow', I postulated. He bit.
Boy was I wrong.
It turned out we were in fact only about half way up to the first ridge...
...then up and over another ridge...
...then, (now cursing profusely,) another.
All the while pulling our useless bicycles along and heaving under the now seemingly heavy, humid air.
The views to the east improved by the minute, however, and we finally reached the uppermost section of old skiing slopes. They're now marked by the small ruins of the lift house and some other tottering structures.
Right nearby are a few still operational cell towers side by side with much older radio equipment..
And right behind that was a long fence. We had the frontier of the ski area property, but still no sight of the ridge and top of the mountain. We found an opening in the fence, then back down another slope to where we found an old reservoir,
...with equally old pump machinery.
From there it was a haul up a couple more smaller but no less vicious slopes, heavily wooded and gaining and losing trails until at last, wide open sky and Easthampton broke through the trees before us.
We soaked in the views for a bit, but realized that the sun was disappearing fast. We had about an hour or so of daylight left.
Hmm. What now.
We could always back-track and bomb down the abandoned black-diamond ski runs on the bicycles, in a spurt of youthful abandon. But the Life-Flight helicopter would probably have trouble landing on the steep slopes to haul our mangled, foolish, overweight, middle-aged carcases out of there...
No; we would have to trek south along the entire ridge, to the antennae arrays on the end of the mountain, and hopefully catch the paved road that goes down to Mountain Park from there; before sunset.
And so we continued our huff, but in a vastly more scenic way.
We definitely should have started out earlier and had more time to take all of it in.
Although it was a cumbersome hike pushing, pulling, and carrying the bicycles through and over narrow rocky crevasses...
We maintained course and pace as the trail weaved from the rocky edges, into the woods, then back out to the edges again...
...reaching the old maintenance road just as dusk was settling in.
The road used to be a railroad bed for transporting visitors to the old resort house that stood atop Mt. Tom in the early 20th century. So the current paved path is pretty much a straight, high-grade shot down to the bottom. Radar Check and I were bruised, scratched, dirty and sweaty; and fully ready for an easy, breezy coast back to the starting line...
It was pure acceleration, and with overheating brakes we barreled down the chute.
We had to make one quick stop an the way down, though, to check out a memorial at the crash site of a B-17 bomber that tragically killed 25 soldiers on there way back home from World War II.
It's a beautiful little memorial, well laid out and respectfully maintained, with a flag and white birch lined walk way leading up to a rock-walled circle where the crash occured. I've heard the heat from the crash was so intense that there are areas where plants still will not grow. There's also many shards of metal and aluminum piled on and near the memorial, remnants found in the area from the plane, I assume.
A humbling finish to our great hike ride; and we finally got to the cars as night fell. Exhausted, but better for the adventure, we vowed to hike up the mountain again, without the bikes, as soon as possible...
...And thus the stage was set for the great 'Night-Hike', just a couple of nights later...(coming up...)
Topics: ^Mt. Tom