Monroe-Dunbar Brook Trail, Ma Sept 2018

Saturday, September 8 we decided to do a 10 mile lollipop hike in the Monroe State Forest, located in Monroe, Massachusetts.  Actually the proverbial “we” was Mike who found the hike, as a trail run race and decided it would be a great hike to do, to get some miles in.

We haven’t hike 10 miles in years and to be honest I wasn’t sure my legs would make it.  I looked at the map and realized there were ways to cut it short, if “we” or rather I had to bail out due to legs giving out.  We followed this map to plot our course. It was really helpful to us to identify the wood roads and landmarks to look for.

We parked at River Road and followed the Dunbar Brook Trail that went down the stairs and followed the brook for about .5 miles.

To be honest I was fearful of those steps after descending them, knowing I would have to go back up them at the end of the hike and my tired legs would hate me for them.  We turned onto the Smith Hollow Trail with a sharp incline until the shelter.

At the shelter the incline was less and we followed the trail to the Raycroft Lookout Trail.

We followed the Raycroft Outlook to check out the views. It  was well worth it to add-on the extra mile and so out and back.

After we reached the junction of trails, coming out of the lookout, we followed Spruce HIll Trail to the summit of Spruce Mountain.

We descended Spruce Mountain via the Spruce Hill Trail. Some of the hike required rambling on old roads to reach the next trail junction.  Those road walks, increased our speed and allowed us to eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the go.

We then turned on the Dunbar Brook Trail, following the Brook and had a few water crossings, sometimes with the assist of bridges. This section of trail was beautiful, following the river.

The last section before we closed the loop and joined the stick of the lollipop hike required a walk across the brook.  My feet rejoiced as they hit the cooling water.  After 10.5 miles they were about done and overheating in my shoes.

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We closed the loop and headed out. Remember those stairs I was dreading? Well somehow I took a different path out and came out above them, avoiding them and let me tell you I rejoiced at having skipped them.

Throughout this hike I repeated two mantras “rock what ya got and those are those chubby legs, that are powerful” and “I can do hard things”.  Honestly I wasn’t sure if I would come off the trail smiling, when we began.  Guess what? I was smiling because I survived not a 10 mile hike, but an 11 mile one!

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Stats: 11 miles, 2400 elevation gain, 5.5 hours.

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Section 7 of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail-So Many Titles Come to Mind (Sept. 1, 2012)

View from M-M Trail Section 7

Well this post could be titled a few ways:

1. I never got my hiking legs

2. Hiking and Humidity are not the perfect couple

3. So many ups and downs

4.  Poor planning on our part

5.  I should have read Section Hiker’s report on this first
You get it don’t you? This wasn’t the best hike for us.  Our plan was an out and back of this section, going from the Notch parking across the Seven Sisters to the Tip Top House perhaps a little beyond that and then return the way we came.  Our plan didn’t happen, we made it 2.5 miles and then turned around.

The weatherman stated the humidity would break in the morning.  We have to drive an hour north from our house, so we believed it would be a touch cooler in Hadley, Ma.  We arrived at the Granby Notch Visitor Center Parking and quickly realized the weather was still hot and sticky.

parking

This trail attacks at the beginning with an elevation gain of 650 feet in .5 miles. No warm the legs up on this hike, you start the climb at the beginning.

start of trail

Along the way you cross over a shale field.

Shale Field

At the .5 mile mark you reach a rocky outcrop, with your first views out. The haze was just sitting out over the valley and there was no breeze to push it away.

looking through the haze at the valley

After a brief picture-taking session, we continued on.  The trail was a typical Southern New England hike, ups and downs, ups and downs. No nice little switchbacks to make it a little easier on the legs.

can you find me going up?
And down I go

This section was just a series of steep ups and downs. We did reach another area that provided a lookout, again the haze was hugging the valley.

bird soaring

What followed this view was another series of ups and downs, followed by a welcomed flat section.

 

ahhhh a bit of flat

Of course, this flat section was short-lived and we had to go up again….

more ups

We decided to go to 2.5 miles and turn around.  It was to hot and humid. I never gained my hiking legs on this hike and the smart thing to do for us was to turn around and head out.  We found a little spot to sit down and eat lunch, gather strength to return to the ups and downs.  After a 15 minute break, we gave ourselves a pep talk to tackle the ups and downs.

My strategy to tackle the ups was to pick a tree, hike to it, rest, pick another tree, get to it, rest.  This actually worked out mentally well for me.

We followed our path back.  We did stop one last time at the second outlook, the haze cleared a little.

Wearing Dirty Girl Gaiters

After the brief rest, we continued on, making good time, even in the heat and with tired worn legs.  The last downhill push went fairly quickly and we were very happy to end this hike and get in an air-conditioned car.

Somewhere on the trail, we realized we should have had another plan for this hike.  We should have not attacked this as an out and back, but rather a point to point.  We could have asked my sister, who lives in the area, to help us with a car spot.  Next time attempted section 7, that is what we will do.

This is a great hike for a workout and we did see one trail runner.  I would like to do it in the fall in cool crisp air with the leaves turning, so maybe we will return one fall day.  I would say this wasn’t my favorite hike and I know I need to give it another chance with favorable conditions.

The Details:  5 miles, 3 and half hours, elevation gain of about 2,000.  Short bursts of ups and downs.

 

Bashbish Falls and Alander Mountain

We started off at the south parking area off of Falls Rd. in New York.  We arrived around 8 a.m. and only two other cars were there, by our return in the afternoon the lot was full.

We ambled along an easy .75 miles to the falls.

Going so early in the a.m. resulted in having  the falls to ourselves and not have to worry about people populating our photos.

After taking the required waterfall  photos, we had to decide to follow either the blue or white blazes on our way to Alander Mountain.  We went with the blue blazes, which required a steep walk up the hill.  There was a metal rail system you could use to pull yourself up.

At the top there was a small scenic overlook of a valley.

Then we descended to a parking area where we continued on the blue to  the South Taconic Trail to Bashbish  Mountain and Alander.  This is where we “ignored” the blazes and followed the wide path to Bashbish Brook.  The brook was wide and flowing, so off the shoes went and off we went crossing the water.

After getting across the brook, we didn’t see any blazes, so Mike started to head off to find them, just as two park workers came into view.  They laughingly told us, we crossed at the wrong spot, had to come back and re cross the brook further down.  Back we went through the cold water.  We found the correct spot and saw the very obvious blue blazes.  Back to crossing one more time, without taking off shoes, trying to rock hop and balance on a log.  Mike did it well; I however wound up with very wet boots.

Once again we had a steep ascent with the assistance of a metal railing to pull ourselves up.

Off on the South Taconic Trail we started on the portion that was just an out and back.  It was a beautiful forest hike.

The trail was narrow with scrub oak and pine.

Not easy for a tall person to get through.

We summited Alander, with the surrounding hills and valleys socked in.

We watched a rain cloud approaching, so we packed up our snack and headed back.

Of course a mile from the summit the sun came brilliantly out and cleared away all clouds.

After two miles, we turned North on the South Taconic Trail for 1.3 miles to the parking area.  The descent was rough on the knees in some spots.

A huge blowdown blocked the path, causing hikers to create a new trail. Hopefully someone will come out soon to clear it.

At this point the path was wide and easy on the last leg of the hike.

Until the next hike….

The Details: 7.3 miles, 5 hours with 30 minutes of rest.  Start at Bishbash Falls parking area, walk .75 miles to falls, then follow blue until you see the white blazes for South Taconic Trail.  It is 2 miles until Alander Mountain.  Return trip back on South Taconic, until you turn north on it for 1.3 miles. Some steep ascents by the falls.

If you want an easy walk, just go to Bishbash Falls as an out and back for 1.5 miles.  Go early if you want to avoid crowds.

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Challenges

Since 2010 has begun, I have created my own challenges,  faced challenges out of my control, and watched others struggle with their own challenges.  Saturday I overcame a challenge Mike and I set up for us, a long loop hike up to Mount Greylock in Massachusetts.

We began our trek via the Hopper Trail inside of the Reservation.  The trail started innocently enough by a cow farm, where an escapee calf came out to greet us.  Luckily the little fellow wasn’t a hiker, so he stayed near the barn.

I really believed during the planning stages of this hike, the challenged we put ourselves up against was mileage.  Different sources referenced this hike being between 10 and 13 miles, which would put it as our longest one yet.  I was only half right, thinking mileage was our challenge.  The Hopper Trail challenged me in ways I never expected.  For lack of a better word, it was a strenuous uphill.

As I chugged along, stopping frequently to catch my breath. I could only think my job has thrown me some challenges this year that have tested my strength of character.  If I could deal with those challenges and not give up, I could do this.  I learned this year to ask for help and believe in other’s encouragement.  So I for once listened to Mike’s encouraging words to push me mentally up that trail.

After 2.4 miles we made it to Sperry Road Campsite and I congratulated myself for not giving up.  I realize my job this year has more obstacles that are coming my way, but I will remember to use other’s shoulders to support me and let their encouraging words guide me along.   If I can make it to the end of this demanding trail, then my job’s problems will no longer be challenges I can’t face.

At Sperry Road Campsite we then connected to the Appalachian Trail to the summit.  I believe when we face challenges we are rewarded.  To me this was the reward at the end of the Hopper Trail.  It wasn’t too demanding, had some beautiful scenes and the aromas of the forest flooded me with memories of fresh cut Christmas trees.

The summit was inspiring because the only inhabitants of this area worked hard for their right to be there, the roads weren’t open yet.  Challenges make us struggle, make us appreciate our growth more and if we rise to the challenge, meet it we feel proud.

At the summit, we rested, snacked and aired out.

We still had 7 plus miles to conquer. All of sudden my panic meter went off, we have 7 and more miles to do, how can I do it? One of personal challenges is I’m great at psyching myself out, so on this trek I just told myself stop it, you can do it.  I knew I had my friend, Karen believing in me and I hate to let people down. So with that realization, I just set my mind to do this.  Isn’t facing a physical challenge mostly dependent on the mental belief you can or cannot do it?

We continued off of the summit via the A.T. Down, down, down we went.

Finally we reached a point where we leveled off and had a stroll through the woods being rewarded by wildflowers and the overwhelming scent of pine.

Then we had to go uphill to Mount Williams, at 2.3 miles from the summit.  It was a rocky road to the summit, without a spectacular view as a reward.

Sometimes we expect our reward to be grand and we miss something smaller that is even better.  As I reflect on this, I realize our reward to this uphill was chatting with the Appalachian Trail volunteer of this trail section.  We swapped stories of wild flowers sprouting up and his quest for some rare plants.

We traveled the remaining 1.2 miles to the Money Brook Trail.  Once we reached the Money Brook Trail we had only 3.5 miles to go.  Only…..I’ve decided when facing challenges, only is an ugly word.  This was a trail that started off peacefully, relaxing and unassuming.  Mike looked at the GPS and realized in this last segment we still had to descend only 1,000 feet.  See that word only…here is one descent…

Ok, the descent resulted in splashing in the Money Brook, how refreshing.

Then I looked up. Up I tell you, we had to go up. Who put this up here?  I thought immediately about my friends facing challenges they never ever saw coming this year.  Those are the worst challenges, the unexpected ones that require you to stand on the sidelines, not being able to control a damn thing. I did what my friends did this year, pull themselves up, struggle with the challenge and keep chugging away.

The trail leveled out, but a constant annoying challenge started for the last 1.75 miles, two blisters, one on each heel.  I should have stopped and attended to them, but sometimes I think I can overcome an obstacle, by bulldozing my way through it, instead of attending and relieving the minor irritation.  Life lesson to be learned.

We all have our daily challenges, small challenges. This last segment was a wide, even trail full of wild flowers that we had not encountered before.   Focusing on that beauty, putting the petty annoyance of the blisters behind me, we ambled until we could smell the finish, literally.  The cows were nearby.

Reflecting on my lessons earned on this trail (not learned), I turned to the view of the Hopper:

The challenges that others place in your path are demanding, unexpected and heart wrenching.  I much prefer the challenges I set before myself because it allows me to set the course for my personal development and I find that so much more rewarding.

The details:  11. 4 miles, 7.5 hours, elevation gain of 2760 feet.  We went from Hopper Trail (hard, be in good cardio shape), to the Appalachian Trail to the Money Brook Trail, then connect to the Hopper for the last .2 miles.

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The Mountain Meets the Memory

I originally planned to hike Mount Everett on Father’s Day, as a tribute to my father, Everett, who passed away over a decade ago.  As usual life had other plans for me and I found myself slogging up Mount Everett on a beautiful April day.

Wondering if I would receive a sign of my father’s spirit watching over me, Mike and I  zipped along the back roads of Connecticut into the Berkshires.  As soon as we pulled into the tiny parking area of Race Brook Falls Trail, I was slammed in the gut by the realization my dad was with me.  Only something that would have happened to my father happened to us.  A stranger stopped and asked us if we would drive him to the Undermountain Trail, as he wanted to do a point to point.  We said sure, it was just the right and the kind thing to do.  Something my dad would have  done for a stranger.  You see, my father was a generous man, especially to strangers.   Some years at our Thanksgiving table we would have a stranger share the day with us.  My dad picked up these strays in his travels as an insurance man and later as a food vendor. Everyone was made to feel welcomed and part of our family, it was important to my father that people be surrounded by family love.

So what would be the next reminder of my father on this trail?  Perhaps taking the least expected path in life and finding great joy in that?  We started hiking after dropping Rick, the stranger off and shortly on the trail sounds of rushing water jammed our ears.  We knew we had a few stream crossings on this adventure and the first one was close at hand.  What a beautiful brook that awaited us to cross.  We rock hopped and headed up straight away on the blue trail.

Mike and I noticed a sign that informed us “loop to lower falls”, a little further up.  This wasn’t on our map or in our plans.  A quick decision was made and off we went to travel this path and we were rewarded with stunning lower falls nestled into a pine needle forest floor. 

My father,  in his late 50s abruptly retired from selling insurance and became a hot dog vendor.  He took an unexpected path in his life and was rewarded with being his own boss and financial security. Glad I followed his guidance of taking the path you want and not what others deem as the one you should take.

The trail wasn’t clearly blazed but as we were scrambling up the falls we found blue/red trail markers.

We followed them till they lead us back to the blue trail.  The path guided us to Race Brook Upper Falls, a dramatic drop of water cascading down.  These falls were powerful and playful at the same time. 

My dad’s given name was Everett Lee, but everyone called him Curly.  Everett means “strong as a wild boar” and Curly was due to my dad’s shocking curly/wavy hair but it really encompassed his flirty/fun side.  If my dad wasn’t represented here on our path to hiking Everett, I don’t know where then?

After leaving the falls, we meandered through a pine forest, silence stinging our ears and pine freshness teasing our noses.

We came up on Race Brook Falls campground, complete with platforms and a privy.  Word of caution here, use nature’s outhouse if possible…that was a scary outhouse, used for other things more than a pee break.   This was at the 1.6 mile point.

Next we were to meet the junction of the Appalachian Trail at 1.9 miles that would guide us to Mount Everett.

This was a rugged gruff climb up and it kicked me in the butt, but yet rewarded me with comfort in the end.  How reminiscent of the relationship I had with my father.

My dad was tough and could be a real grouch.  He wasn’t polished; he was honest and raw, just like the rock face that I was climbing up.  He frustrated me as a teenager and I’m sure I frustrated him more as a teenager. But as in life and this climb up, I could stop to regroup, refresh, forgive and continue upwards. 

When I started to bonk on the trail, I stopped, ate and started singing “Home on the Range” in my head.  My dad had two songs he sang to all six of us kids and I’m sure we all still sing them to ourselves when we need the support of our dad.  The food and song pushed me on.

I hiked on because my dad never gave up and he wouldn’t want me to wimp out.  He was a man who at 18 entered World War II.  He was stationed in the Pacific arena on the U.S.S. Greenling after Pearl Harbor.  He faced many hardships, but was a proud man. If I couldn’t do this simple climb, that what kind of daughter did he raise?  He taught all of us to be strong, believe in ourselves and persevere.

At the top finally, we were rewarded with views of Mount Race, Round Mountain and Mount Frissel.  It was a clear day and way off in the distance the Catskills peeked through.  For all the gruffness, huffing and puffing, it is the positives of our relationship I remember the most and hold dearest to my heart.

Dad was the one who took me to my first professional ballet experience, summer mornings he always treated me  to breakfast in a restaurant before dropping me off to camp and in high school we enjoyed watching General Hospital together.  It is the time we spent sharing moments, little pieces of life  and talking about nothing and everything that remain in my soul.

Yup, the rock face was a hard hike but the views surrounding us made that climb up a distance memory.I was able to look out and reminiscence about previous hikes on those mountains that filled me with a sense of accomplishment and joy.

I made it to the top of Mount Everett as a pilgrimage to a memory of a man who was gritty, rough, playful, supportive, frustrating and soft hearted.  My father, Everett, dad, Curly was a good person, who could want for more?

Until the next hike…

The Details: Out and back from Race Brook Falls Trail head to Mount Everett.  6 miles and 5 hours with about an hour of rest/phototaking.  We started on Blue Trail to Loop Trail Red/Blue back to Blue trail to the Appalachian Trail junction. Turn north and continue to climb up to Mount Everett on the white A.T. . It took us an hour to climb up the rock part of Everett and only 40 minutes to descend it.  We returned the way we came, except didn’t do the lower falls loop back, once we hit the blue trail from the A.T. we remained on that. Strenuous climbing up to Everett.

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