Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Mt. Tom Range Ridge Walk, Holyoke, MA, May 6, 2018

Mt. Tom Ridge Walk via Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, Holyoke, MA, 5/6/2018

Mileage:  6.2 (RT)

Elevation gain: 1,237'

Trailhead:  This hike starts just before the southwest entrance to the Mt. Tom State Reservation.  The entrance, listed as Christopher Clark Road in Easthampton, Massachusetts, is directly across from Log Cabin wedding venue (500 Easthampton Road [Route 141], Holyoke).  

Part of the New England National Scenic Trail system, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail begins at the Connecticut/Massachusetts state line and ends at the summit of Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire, a total of 114 miles. The hike described below is along Section 6.

Hiked with Lindsley on this rainy day.  We parked at the cutout just outside the Reservation gate and carefully walked south along busy Route 141, hopping onto the path at the end of the guardrail.  

There's a labyrinth of unmarked paths here. They go every which way but eventually intersect the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (M-M) as it heads up the mountain.  It gets confusing as to which path to take but Mt. Tom's antennas are in clear view and we walked up the slope toward them, quickly finding the white blazed M-M trail.

This part of the M-M trail is short but steep; a mixture of slab and gravel.  Within minutes we were high enough to get glimpses of view through the trees.  It continued to rain; luckily, there were breaks in the clouds and we could see parts of Easthampton below.  

View at the top of Mt. Tom.

The top of Mt. Tom (1,201') was ahead of us on a craggy outcrop.  Years of graffiti littered the rocks.  There's a sidewalk (parts broken) and railing facing the valley. We stopped for a minute to put on our rain jackets.

Graffiti.




Note the sidewalk in the center, completely broken and fallen.

For the next few miles we were treated to a ridge walk complete with scrambles and narrow aisles skirting steep drop offs. There's more rocky cliff than woods on this hike - the terrain reminds me of the Blue Hills near Boston.  Rocks are pretty sticky though even wet but there were a few areas we chose not to scramble down, opting instead for the walk-around (most of the steep areas have less steep side paths).



The trail is the cliff here.

No one was out hiking today and we wouldn't have been either except this was our only free day. It wasn't cold and the trail is very interesting so we kept on.


Next bump to summit.

The ridge has all sorts of interesting waypoints.  We passed another antenna and a horizontal windmill but never did see the abandoned ski slopes.


Fog blew in.

Descent here is steep but there's good footing.

We reached Deadtop Mountain (1,093'). The rain was really coming down. Discouraged, we talked of turning back.  But we had rain jackets and ponchos, leaving no excuse for wimping out so we continued on.


To the left is cliff, and the abyss.

The trail is well marked and footing is good for the most part, though there's a place or two that we took extra care.  In several areas you can see 50-100' down the side, wouldn't want to slip!


Turbine was used to power the ski area at one time.

Trail provides incredible views at the edge.

We topped out again  - at Whiting Peak (1,003'), headed down and were back in the woods.  When the junction to Quarry trail (right) came up, we went straight.  



A Baltimore Oriole was chirping/hopping around the ground on the trail.  His wing looked broken, feathers facing the wrong way.  He was quite chatty and seemed interested in us.



The trail continues to descend and there's even a switchback.  We were heading toward Reservation Road, in the middle of the park.


Switchback.

There's an area of broken concrete and old picnic tables, the park dump perhaps.  A few minutes later we were on Reservation Road.  The rain had let up and a group of kids were at the pavilion a few yards down the road (glad the weather had improved for them).


Trail sign at the road.

Map of Section 6.


Here, 3.1 miles in, we turned around. The other option would be to continue to the lookout tower on Goat Peak but we were pretty sure it would be closed (still early in the year). 



The hike back was pleasant; the weather had improved and people were on the trail.  The areas that were hard to descend in the wet were much easier to manage on the ascent.



At that same spot in the woods we found the Oriole chirping and hopping.  I threw a little of my granola bar to see if he was hungry.  He wasn't interested but stayed with us for a minute or two.




Heading south back to the car.

Good view of some of the cliffs.

Past the summit of Mt. Tom and heading back to our car that maze of trails stumped us again.  We kept going south and then headed right where we thought we came in. We got it right  (even if you wind up on another trail you can see the highway and make your way back to the car).

We enjoyed this hike and want to come back in better weather. Between five and six miles of the M-M trail runs through this reservation so if you want to hike the entire park, plan to be on it a good part of the day.




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