Last weekend we were in the Berkshires to celebrate Fielden Stream’s birthday with friends at their lake house. While the girls were off enjoying a Yoga and meditation retreat, I headed for the mountains once again. The goal this time was to check out the Mount Tom State Reservation for the first time. In the process, I could also contribute towards my miles for the #Hike50Net challenge. This is the challenge to accumulate 50 points in the calendar year on the New England National Scenic Trail by a combination of hiked miles, sharing images, writing Hike-u’s and volunteering.
As you may remember I brought my brother out on part of the Mattabessett trail section in Connecticut earlier this summer. Here in Massachusetts the N.E.T is comprised of the Metacomet and Manondnock trails, stretching from the Massachusetts state line to its finale atop Mt. Manodnock on the New Hampshire border.
As I didn’t have anyone along with me or a shuttle arranged, i did an out-and-back from the south side of the park, so I will have to go back another time and do the same from the north end to complete the section sometime in the future. No problem. Not only should it be an easy one to convince someone to come along on just for the views, but its no more than five miles out and back from the north end so not too bad mileage-wise either.
There seems to have been some re-routing off the road which wasn’t on my map, but to make sure I was sticking on the route in my tracker, I did the .4 road walk at the beginning and end. I see now why it was re-routed, but it was also much further into the woods in that area, and I had limited time.
It was a very steep climb up from the base of Mt. Tom to the summit, over a mile of loose, basalt scree. Basalt is the red volcanic rock prevalent along this trail’s ridgelines. It was slow going both up and down the big climb for this reason. I realize it probably helps prevent erosion, but it felt like being on roller skates sometimes. There were not many switchbacks to ease the ascent, but fortunately it was only about 7-800ft tops.
Once at the summit of Mt. Tom, there were many hikers enjoying the long views in all directions. This used to be a ski area when I was a kid and I remember seeing its trails lit up for night skiing whenever we would pass it on 91 north on our way to Vermont. There are a bunch of large radio towers up there as well as old foundations for the ski lifts and infrastructure. I don’t know if there are any old ski buildings left on the other side. I believe they have a winter park there for tubing and such, so they may have left the lodge.
The NET follows the western ridge so this was the steep side with no trails. There are trails that go along the front and I imagine there are traces left of the ski trails. At some point I will do those as I would be interested to see that. I never did ski there, which is a shame.
For the entire ridge line, the trail hugs the cliff edges, with the occasional dip back into the woods here and there. But this was not to ease an ascent or descent – there were plenty of those along the steep ledges. This is similar to the sections in Connecticut as well, so it was not new for me by any means. These trails are where I cut my teeth and faced my fears in preparation for similar terrain on the Appalachian Trail. The basalt however is looser and broken in many places, making it all the more important to take your time.
It was encouraging to me to realize that over the miles of cliff walks I needed to do on this hike, I have come a long way in facing my fear of such things, and it made me feel strong and confident. I hiked over three peaks and back: Mt. Tom, Deadtopp, and Whiting Peak. Next time I will conquer the remaining three in the range from the northern end.
Another highlight was I was able to view the Oxbow in the famous Thomas Cole painting from the ledges. That painting was actually made from the ledges of nearby Mount Holyoke in Northampton, however. You can see it in the last photo.
(with a short .4 out and back in the wrong direction at the start!)