Manifesting porcupines

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A bit of hiking diary excitement.

A couple of days ago – I’ve been meaning to write this before now – I looked at the map to see what trails I still need to hike this fall. There was that little bit of Jack Frost trail we didn’t get to, and since I hit the top of Mountainside trail on the last hike, I figured I’d do the rest of it, circle down to the spot on Jack Frost I missed, then hike a piece of Bicentennial trail. And I also thought I was going to get another hike in this vacation, but that didn’t happen either.

Here’s the map:

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And the entrance to the trail. Off of Mountain Road.

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The markers are blue. As a matter of fact, so were the ones on Jack Frost trail. I think they need another color. But at least there are lots of signs.

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There were no cars in the parking lot, so I decided to let Koda loose for awhile. I only went with Koda this time. As I let her off leash it did cross my mind that another reason to keep her on leash, even if no one is around, is in case we run into a porcupine. But I took my chances. Because it’s so rare that she gets to roam free like this. And she’s good. She goes a little ways off, exploring, but always waits for me. She’s a sheepdog and I’m her sheep. She can’t help herself.

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Here she is by a big rock. There are lots of big rocks on the mountain. Lots of rocks, period. And at this time of year, lots of leaves. So pretty.

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And some BIG leaves, too! Crazy.

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Loved this cool log. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a thing about trees….

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Seems like something should be living in there, doesn’t it?

We eventually hit the junction with loop trail.

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That would head to the right, back to the visitor center. We’ll do that another day. A little further on…

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Hard to read, but this is the junction with Jack Frost trail. A family was hiking and loved Koda and asked to take her picture. I had toyed with the idea of going to the top then heading back down to here and onto Jack Frost, but for some reason (maybe a couple of late nights beforehand?) I wasn’t feeling highly energetic so I decided to skip the extra climb.

What surprised me was how quickly we hit the pine forest after turning onto Jack Frost, which I always come at from the other side. This will actually be an easier way to get to the pine forest in the winter, which a fellow hiker told me is magnificent at that time of year.

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Pretty, huh? Look at that brilliant red! This is the BEST time of the year to hike, in my opinion.

I tried taking some panoramic shots while in the forest. I couldn’t decide which one to post, so here are two. The sunnier (top) one starts further to the left of me, the darker one goes further right. The sunny side is uphill, the darker side heads downhill.

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You can see the overlap of the two photos via the split-looking tree that is about 1/4 of the way in the bottom picture, and 2/3 of the way in the top one (which is actually two trees).

Eventually we got to the rock I usually sit on to contemplate. Pine forests are as still as still can be. I think that’s why I like them so much.

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Someone had built a rock sculpture.

Despite having been in this spot dozens of times, I lost the trail. Not sure why. It just looked different this time of year. I eventually found this marker.

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Barely could see it. Someone should fix that.

Next trail junction….

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Headed down to High Meadow! Love High Meadow.

I noticed with the trees losing their leaves, that a view was revealed.

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I also noticed, just as I was getting the picture ready, that it looks like a man is standing there in the trees! And, interestingly, when I took this next picture, off in the other direction, I heard a heavy breathing that made me think “dang, that doesn’t sound like Koda, I hope it’s not a bear.”

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I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

But I skedaddled.

Here is the view, opening up more:

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And more:

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I usually walk this in the other direction and never really noticed this spot. Sheesh. The things you miss when you only look in one direction. (There is a metaphor in that, people.)

A little further on….

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Isn’t this approach to high meadow charming? Iphone quality, but still charming. Waaaaayyyyy better in person. I sat down on that bench. And decided to let Koda loose again, to run around the orchard (I had put her back on leash when we ran into that family hiking).

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I was lost in my thoughts, but then Koda caught my attention. She all off a sudden ran to the far side of the field and laid down. I remember thinking, she looks like she’s herding something. So I got out my phone to start videotaping it. I’ll spare you that video, because at the end of it (which is pretty soon into it) I yell “Oh God!” as she approached a porcupine! Um, didn’t I just think about this at the beginning of my hike? (Hence, the title of this post.)

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I yelled “NO” as loud as I could, and “LEAVE IT” and a drawn out “BA-A-A-A-D” like a growl and screamed her name and finally she at least ran in the other direction. Then I realized she wasn’t coming back to me if I was yelling at her so I started telling her she was a good girl and I got her on leash. Her nose had gotten so close to that porcupine’s quills that I checked her over. But she was clear. I was so thankful!

I tied her up and then went back to take a video of the little guy.

She waited patiently:

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And then we headed down Bicentennial Trail, back to Mountainhouse.

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Bicentennial parallels Mountain Road. It’s kind-of surreal hiking on a mountain and hearing cars zooming by at the same time. For that reason it’s not a favorite, but other than that it’s a nice trail, very level, you aren’t climbing or descending.

Oh, I forgot to mention, right after I was yelling at the top of my lungs at High Meadow so Koda wouldn’t take a bite of that porcupine, which she looked intent on doing, two fellow hikers came into the meadow.

“You probably heard me screaming.”

“Yeah, we did. But it didn’t sound like you were hurt or dying.”

I filled them in on why I had provided the noise pollution.

And really, I’m sure anybody anywhere on the mountain probably heard me that day.

But the porcupine was cute, and Koda didn’t get quilled.

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West Side Story

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Another episode of the hiking diaries…

westside story

Today I returned to the trails. I avoid Wachusett on the weekends, especially the leaf peeping season. SO crowded.

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember that today was Columbus day. This is what I saw when I reached the top:

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That doesn’t look like a lot of people, but that’s only the people that were on the tower. They were also milling around the rest of the top of the mountain, and on the trails. And in the parking lot near the top:

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If you look carefully on the left, there are even porta-potties set up.

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And the chairlift was running!

So many ways to get to the top of the mountain. And people were taking advantage of them.

But lets go back to the beginning, when I decided I’d hike West Side trail, go to the top on Old Indian (hiked that stretch already), and loop around, hitting some new trails.

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What I remember about West Side Trail is that I filmed a movie of walking my dogs in on that trail. Back when I could walk them off leash when no one was around. Back before Columbus ran off on a different hike and I couldn’t let him off leash anymore. I have fond memories of that trail and that movie. As I was hiking it again I was missing Pepper, my old hiking buddy who was so good off-leash. Thinking that if only my dogs would be more obedient, they would have so much more fun on the mountain. As would I.

Only today was too crowded for them to be off-leash, anyway.

I picked up my good camera before I left and, reminded of how heavy it was, decided the camera phone was going to have to do. It would be one thing if I was hiking alone, but lugging around a heavy camera and handling two large dogs was not appealing to me. So I brought my little hip pack that holds two water bottles and keys and phone (that’s about it). I also tucked the dog’s collapsable water bottle in the straps on the outside of the pack. And at first I had the trail map in the small pocket with my keys and phone. Then I decided to transfer it to my jacket pocket. All this seems like way too much detail, but it’s setting up a part of the story.

Here is the entrance to the trail.

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I see the phone pictures and then I regret the decision not to bring my nice camera.

The trail is marked with blue:

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We walked past a big rock with some pretty funky lichen…

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West Side Trail is steep in places. It really is hard to portray it in a picture. But I tried. We had to climb those rocks behind Koda.

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And this is the view from the top, looking back down:

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After that workout, I decided to take off my jacket and wrap it around my waist.

We went on a little ways, then I reached into my jacket pocket for my map. It was gone. Shoot. I hadn’t memorized the trail I was going to take for looping around. So I decided to back track. Went back to the spot in the above picture. Never found the map. Didn’t see it on the rocks, either. Oh well, maybe I’d run into another stash of maps as I transitioned to another trail. (I did.)

At some point I also realized that the dogs’ water dish had fallen off of the pack. All I could hope for was that someone would find it and leave it by the entrance to the trail. (Little did I know that it would be hours before I got back there!)

People build some cool rock structures. There is the one at the top of this post and then there is this one…

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This is my favorite spot on West Side Trail. The trail opens up on top of a bunch of rocks. The picture at the top of the post is from this spot. I remember sitting there for awhile while the dogs ran around, back when I was letting them loose. I figured I’d sit on the way back, today, but never did because the hike wound up taking so long.

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Here are the reasons the hike took so long.

  1. There were a gazillion people hiking the mountain. Exaggeration? I think not. And I pull the dogs off-trail when anybody walks by because some people don’t care for dogs, and some people hike with their dogs and Koda sometimes snarls. If she gets a bad vibe. I felt like I walked in a zipper pattern most of the way.
  2. Koda lunged after a dog. (Must have gotten a bad vibe.) And I barely got her under control. And so, after the guy (who was very nice about it – “these things happen”) left, I made her do military pushups. That’s what I call them. She has to down, then sit, then down, then sit. It took her forever to do this without me having to make her. But we weren’t leaving until she obeyed. And that was her last snarl at a dog for the day.
  3. I got into a wonderful conversation with a family who had a new puppy – an Aussie/Great Pyrenees mix. So cute! They were the ones who reminded me it was Columbus day. And I was walking Columbus on his day!
  4. I got into another wonderful conversation with a volunteer from NEADS, because I was wearing my NEADS t-shirt. The whole time we were talking, Columbus was leaning against her and she was petting his head. Because of this moment / conversation, I decided that I’m going to take him back into obedience classes and see if he is ready to be a therapy dog. Because he is a love bucket, and there are too many people walking through this world that could use a dose of that love that he so loves to give.
  5. I bumped into the lady in town who bought Rosie, the dog I almost kept, for her daughter. Her daughter moved to the midwest. I asked her how Rosie is doing. And got a glowing report (which I reported back to Tracey). That made me very happy.

So, we could say that I went hiking, or we could say that I went to feed my soul by connecting with nature and people. The up side of the mountain being crowded. Quieter days are more meditative.

I also decided, today, that I’m taking one dog at a time on these harder/narrower/steeper trails. I know the mountain well enough to know when I’m going to hit those. Hate to do it, but need to do it.

Interestingly, we hiked on 6 different trails today. West Side, Old Indian, Mountain House, Link, Harrington, and Semuhenna. Saw a LOT of trail signs!

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We’ve seen this colorful one before!

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(This is where Koda did her military pushups.)

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This is where Mountain House crossed the road. I want to mention that it is hard to find Mountain House Trail from the top. There is a sign, but when you follow the trail you wind up at the fish pond. Then what? I went straight onto some kind of a trail to nowhere. But really, you need to go to the left and into the parking lot and the trail picks up on the left corner of the parking lot.

You’re welcome.

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(This is where I had the conversation with the NEADS volunteer)

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Right beyond this point, I noticed wintergreen!

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Verified that it was by folding a leaf and sniffing. Sure enough, it was, unlike that faux wintergreen on Bolton Pond Trail. I harvested some.

And we ended the hike where we started, by the entrance to the trail, where someone had placed my lost dog bowl on the sign, and my trail map (I knew it was mine because I had marked out the trail) in the container of maps.

And I ended my hike with this comment, which I said out loud:

“People are so good.”

(Because they are.)

 

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A new twist on a familiar trail

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Episode 4 of The Hiking Diaries.

The plan was to hike to the top of the mountain starting on an old familiar trail – Echo Lake, to High Meadow, to Jack Frost and beyond.

I went with my friend Dot, again. And the dogs, of course.

Things didn’t go as planned. We were afraid we were going to run out of daylight. Unlike my usual hiking, this time we went late afternoon. So, sitting on a rock in our familiar pine forest, we pulled out the map, and decided to go back a different way. Here’s what we did.

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I forgot to take a picture at the entrance to Echo Lake Trail. But here’s Echo Lake…

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It really should be called Echo Pond. And it really does echo. As we were walking along we heard a man’s voice from somewhere along the pond. Turns out he was on a picnic bench on the far end, where we walked by as we headed onto High Meadow Trail. We told him we heard his voice echoing on the lake.

This is what you see once you go onto High Meadow Trail….

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You can’t see it in this first picture too well, but there is a wire down across the trail. For some reason I don’t like this part of the trail. I don’t know if there is some funky energy around the wire, or what. But I just really don’t like this part of the trail.

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Oh, and I don’t think they are working on fixing this. The sign is new, but the wire has been like that for years.

Here’s something, though, that has changed over the years…

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You walk over this stone wall Columbus is standing on, and there is a HUGE tree across the trail. So huge that they cut a notch through it.

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Here is Columbus, to give you a little perspective on its size. The thing that has changed is that when I first hiked this trail, that tree was standing. I even blogged about it on an older blog. It used to amaze me walking by this tree. I used to think about all the people who had walked by this tree besides me over all the years it was standing. I was so sad when I walked the trail and it was down. And I saw it down before they notched it. This trail is one of my regular hikes.

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This is one of the reasons I like this trail so much. It’s worth passing through that one spot I don’t care for to reach this meadow. (I forgot to take a picture of the view, the other way! That’s okay, hike it yourself and be surprised.)

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This meadow is full of old apple trees. Over the years, it had grown up and wasn’t really a meadow anymore. But a few years ago they cleared it again and put a little bench at the top where you can sit and look at the view.

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This is the sign at the top of the meadow. Bicentennial Trail (it’s hard to read it on the sign) goes to the right and would take you to Pine Hill Trail. High Meadow continues on straight ahead.

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Besides the big old tree that fell down, there were a lot of other cool trees along this part of the trail, and I took pictures of them!

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That’s a big tree down to the right of Columbus, and two dead trees standing as sentinels straight ahead.

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Even the trail marker was on an interesting tree!

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I mean, really, this should be called Dead Tree Trail.

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This part of the trail is steep.

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Oh look, another dead tree!

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And another, right at the trail junction.

We now went to the right on Jack Frost Trail.

Jack Frost Trail leads into my other favorite part of this hike. A pine forest!

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This is the entrance to it.

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And it appears the dead tree theme has extended to the pine forest. There were actually quite a few trees down. It made me wonder if that storm where people thought a tornado hit Princeton (the hail storm in August) actually did hit here. Or maybe not a tornado but some pretty high winds.

Right beyond the tree we sat on our favorite rock and planned our route back. Little did we remember (because I’d only hiked it once before) that we were entering into some steep hiking. Downhill. With two dogs. That I have to keep on leash or they’ll run off.

Let’s just say it was VERY slow going.

On the way back out of the pine forest, I noticed this fungus among us.

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That doesn’t even look real! Yellow brains growing on a tree. Actually, it looks like someone sprayed some kind of foam on it. I have NO idea what this is. (Although I just went googling and it might be something called Heart Rot. Sounds awful, and appears it is. Seeing fungus like this means the tree is dying. So, good for the fungus, not so great for the tree.)

Okay, back to the hike.

Before we got to the steep part, the dogs did this:

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Wasn’t paying enough attention. All I had to do was say Koda’s name, and she came back and went around the other way. Little Koda smarty-pants.

I pretty much tucked my phone away because I needed both my hands as we travelled down Jack Frost’s rocky slope. Here’s a picture from the bottom, looking back up. A picture really can’t convey the steepness.

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We zigged and zagged and at one point Columbus really leaned into my leg pushing me back against a rock. Either he had a bit of vertigo or he was trying to protect me. Maybe he was thinking “heck, woman, what’s up with this? This isn’t fun.”

But then we go to some nice stuff.

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That’s the shot in the other direction from the above hill one. Two bridges.

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And look at all the leaves that have fallen. I love this.

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We walked on and all of a sudden we were in a HUGE patch of Mountain Laurel.

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Look at this leggy old bush. There are leaves way up at the top, high over our heads.

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We hit the intersection of Jack Frost and Lower Link trails. We thought we were walking on Lower Link, but I guess that goes the other way.

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More mountain laurel!

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And then we hit Administration Road. This is the sign looking back into the trail we just came out of. That’s when we realized we were on Jack Frost, still. I’ll have to hit Lower Link Trail another day.

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One last shot to leave you with. Full circle. That road leads back to Echo Lake. We kept going straight which brought us back to the car faster.

There was still plenty of daylight. Maybe we would have had time to go to the top. But it wouldn’t have been the same adventure.

 

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The “Windmill” Trail

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Episode 3 of The Hiking Diaries.

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Today I hiked Harrington Trail. It is another trail that goes all the way to the top of Mount Wachusett. Another characteristic of this trail is that you can branch off to see the windmills, and you can also see them from a vista along the way. And lastly, it is quite steep in places. Quite a few places.

Here’s the trail on the map.

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The red dot I added is approximately where Harrington Farm is. If you don’t know Harrington Farm, it is a restaurant and event venue (think weddings) in Princeton. It’s very pretty.

Also, I mentioned in my first entry of The Hiking Diaries that I hike many trails very often, some not so often. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked the beginning part of the Harrington Trail. But see that Echo Lake Trail over to the right? I hike that trial to High Meadow Trail quite often. That’ll be a story for another day. Oh, and even though there is a parking sign on the trail map, you really just park on the edge of the road. You have to watch for it on the right as you are driving. It is easy to miss.

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You can get to the windmill farm by going up Stage Coach Road. But I didn’t realize there was a path (and sign) to get there from off of Harrington Trail. Also, when walking along the trail, you could see flickering shadows from the windmills, which were turning. I’ve never noticed that before. I actually didn’t like it. As someone that gets car sick, it gave me that same feeling. But we soon got beyond where that was happening.

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Harrington Trail has red markings. And yellow ones for when it coincides with the Midstate Trail. (The Midstate Trail goes over the top of the mountain via Balance Rock, Old Indian, Semuhenna, West Side, Old Indian (again), Mountain House, Link, and Harrington. It also goes on Dickens Trail, which goes from where we started on Harrington Trail in the other direction to Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary.)

There are a lot of trail crossings/intersections and signs along the way. Here are some of them:

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Oh, I forgot to tell you, I hiked with my friend Dot (and the dogs). She is my regular hiking buddy.

Of all the signs, this one was my favorite:

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When you look over toward where that sign points, you see this:

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Doesn’t look like you are going to see much, until you get closer.

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And this is the full view:

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See those windmills? Remember that we passed the sign to hike up to them? Didn’t seem like we hiked long enough for them to be that far away. (And they actually looked bigger in real life. But they still looked far away.) Maybe it’s just because I enjoy hiking and time flies when you are having fun!

I did remember that Harrington Trail had a steep part. What I didn’t remember was that there were quite a few steep parts. Lots of climbing.

This is the photo I took on the way back down to try to show that, but you really can’t capture the steepness of any of these trails with the camera.

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And this spot has stone steps. Most of the steep places weren’t “arranged.” You needed to find the best way to go through the rocks.

This was my second favorite sign. Because it made me laugh. I can’t even imagine someone trying to bike these trails. Although, come to think of it, the one mountain biking excursion I did a couple of years ago in Arizona had a steep part. Maybe hard core mountain bikers wish they could bike this trail.

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When you hike the mountain, you actually see bikers a lot. But they bike on the road. It’s a great workout for them.

So, that’s the scoop on Harrington Trail. So far I’ve picked trails that go to the top of the mountain. I didn’t take pictures at the top this time, but the birders were still there (see my previous post).

And I still just brought my iPhone for pictures. But I bought a new backpack today! A hiking one. So I’m going to try bringing my nice camera next time.

 

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Bolton to the top

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Episode 2 of The Hiking Diaries

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Today was a do-over of my first attempt to hike Bolton Pond Trail. But, because I took a vacation this week, I had more time and decided to go to the top. Took me about 2 1/2 hours round trip, with lots of stops to take pictures and untwist the dogs.

Hiking with two dogs is a dance. You have to keep on your toes to 1. not be pulled off your toes – as in tripping on a root or landing on an unstable rock while the dogs are still walking like nothing happened and 2. so that the dogs don’t each go a different way around a tree or large rock in the middle of the path. And somehow, Columbus always gets the leash wrapped around his neck and Koda always gets it under her front leg. So there’s lots of undoing of that.

I don’t think it would probably take you that long to hike it. We also relaxed a bit at the top and went down to the fish pond to get them a quick drink. Dogs aren’t supposed to go in the pond for some reason – it would disturb the environment or something like that – so they don’t get to dunk in that one. But there were no running streams on the way up (next time I bring water for all of us) and so I let them have a quick drink.

PS to any dog lovers that think I shouldn’t let them drink from ponds and/or streams. They get a lepto vaccine each year, and even if I didn’t let them drink water on the mountain, they drink from puddles and other water in my yard.

Here’s the trail we took:

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Bolton Pond trail to Balance Rock trail (for a very short time until it crosses Balance Rock Rd) to Old Indian Trail. The bulk of it, really, is Old Indian Trail, so the name of this post is a little misleading. So is the first picture. But most of the trails to the top involve hiking on multiple trails.

You know, at first I couldn’t see the part of Bolton Pond trail I missed last time. So odd, I don’t know what it is about that spot. But I found it, and our journey began.

Lots of roots and rocks, by the way. I think that’s the bulk of hiking Wachusett. More just rocks nearer the top, but at the bottom there are lots of exposed roots, too. I do a lot of my hiking looking down at my feet.

Interestingly, the other day at Best Buy I looked at an Olloclip, an attachment that allows you to take wide angle, fish-eye views, and closeups with your mobile phone. It’s so bulky to carry my nicer camera. But today I realized that my better camera was needed (didn’t have it). There were a lot of mixed shadows and light and the pictures didn’t really come out all that well. But I’m including some (not as many as I had intended).

One of the first thing I noticed was a curved, dead tree, still standing. The picture didn’t come out well. But soon after that there was a huge tree. I tried to convey its hugeness by making the dogs sit in front of it, but I really couldn’t. Here’s my attempt….

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Believe me, it was a BIG, old tree. Love to find trees this big!

I also found a lot of this yellow mushroom while we were still on the moist part of the trail.

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They were on rocks and logs. I don’t know my mushrooms and I haven’t looked them up yet. I shall call them Mustard Mushrooms. (I like this naming things new to me with my own names!)

Here’s another mystery thing I found. I found one of these the other day, too. Before then and now, I’d never noticed them on the trail. No clue what their purpose is.

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I shall call this “yellow marker.” The other one was white.

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The beauty that is Bolton Pond trail eventually ends at balance rock. Balance Rock is not your ordinary rock. You don’t see things like this every day. (Unless you hike this trail every day.)

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As you can see, Columbus was intrigued. Probably wondering how it got up there. Like you were, right? Sometimes there is something rumbling around in that noggin of his.

There is another cool rock formation a little further along.

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It doesn’t have a name, but I think it should be called Split Rock, don’t you? It’s fairly big. I should have put the dogs in front of it to give some perspective.

Balance Rock trail ends at Balance Rock Road. And turns into Old Indian trail at that point. Loved what someone did to the sign as I looked back down the trail. (That’s the picture at the top of the post.) On the way back, someone else had stuck their trail map on it, too.

Now, on to Old Indian Trail! Okay dogs?

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Once on Old Indian trail, you follow the yellow markers.

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On this tree, they were combined to make an arrow:

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That made me smile.

Sometimes the markers were also on rocks:

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I even found this, engraved into a rock:

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It’s hard to see, and I missed it on the way up, but “Old Indian Trail,” along with the double-pointing arrow, are chiseled into this rock. Wonder when that was done. And how. (This is nearer the top, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.)

At some point we cross Semuhenna Trail. That trail never makes it to the top of the mountain, as I found out one day mistakenly thinking it did (didn’t have the map with me) and walked around the mountain.

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My favorite part about Old Indian trail is that it crosses the ski trails. Four of them, to be exact. Only the lighting was very difficult, so this is the only shot I’m posting.

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And eventually you get to the road.

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At that point, you go left and the trail picks up again. Only it’s in the shadows in this picture.

Coming back, it’s easier. There is a sign almost directly across, blocking off another path that looks like a trail, pointing you further down the road.

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That’s the view from standing at the entrance to Old Indian trail across the road from the first picture with the dogs. If you look closely, following the road down from this blocking sign, you can see the trailhead sign all the way on the left edge of the picture.

And…in case all of this is confusing, they give you another chance to take a map. (That’s the green thing on the post.)

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Take a look at this sign, a little further along. It seems like people like to mess with the signs.

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Kind of colorful, though.

Up until we hit the intersection of West Side trail (a very steep trail), I would have said that Old Indian trail was a nice, gentle, uphill climb, mixed flat and sloped.

That all changed.

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It’s really hard to give you the perspective, but let’s just say I had to push/pull a couple of (big) dogs over those rocks when their paws couldn’t grab any footing.

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Since I don’t ski, this is the only time I get to see this part of the mountain.

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The rock stairs to the right of the sign are the way up to the top.

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We made it. I think it’s not just the lighting that made these shots come out so lousy. I think it’s also the dogs pulling on the leashes and me worn out from the climb. Haha.

There were bird watchers with big – I mean BIG – cameras parked out in the watch tower. Fun.

Since the thieves – whoever they may be – stole the East West North South brass (?) marker on the top of the mountain, someone replaced it with this.

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Not as pretty, but it does the trick. Still bums me out that the other marker got stolen. It doesn’t go along with the feel of the mountain nor the people that hike it.

And then, after trying to take pictures of Boston and Mt Monadnock and giving the dogs a quick drink at the fish pond, we turned around and walked back down.

It was a great hike. And a great day to be alive.

 

 

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An Idiot’s Guide to Bolton Pond Trail

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

Episode 1 of The Hiking Diaries

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I begin my hiking diaries series with a trail I’ve never hiked before. And it tripped me up. Hence the name of this post. It’ll all become clear as I go along. And I can’t even officially mark off this trail, because I only hiked a portion of it. Twice. In other words, I walked in circles.

But let’s start at the beginning. This is the beginning…

Bolton Pond Trail entrance

As I mentioned in my introduction to The Hiking Diaries, there is usually at least one special moment during a hike. Something that takes your breath away. Or something neat you notice. Or something that takes you by surprise, like the time an owl flew over my head.

There can be other surprises too. Like today. When Koda decided to poop right at the entrance of the trail. Not in the woods. Right on the trail. So I memorized the spot, walked back to the car, got a poop bag, found the poop, picked up the poop, brought the bag back to the car and left it outside so I didn’t stink up my car, then returned to the trail head.

Maybe I should have taken this as a sign that the hike was going to be no routine hike.

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One of the first picture-worthy things I noticed were these dead trees. I have a thing about trees.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Dead. But still standing as sentinels.

And right beyond them, a pine forest.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

I have a thing about pine forests, too. Really, pictures can’t capture them. They aren’t just in front of you. They are all around you. And if you’re like me, you become a part of them.

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I soon came to this sign:

Bolton Pond Trail Sign

The weird thing about it is that there was a trail that went off to the left. And a trail that went straight. And a trail that went to the right, where this sign was pointing.

It is highly unlike Wachusett to not label the other trails. Highly unlike them.

And like a good hiker, I followed the sign. And went to the right.

One thing I noticed as soon as I went that way was the abundance of this ground cover….

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Wintergreen? My herbal brain started going into overdrive. I already found a huge stand of witch hazel on the mountain.

I plucked a leave, bent it, and smelled it.

It wasn’t wintergreen. I haven’t looked it up yet. I shall call it “faux wintergreen.” It was everywhere. And it would have been a great foraging find. Alas.

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We passed by a big brook, with plenty of water. And this uprooted tree. Uprooted trees are a common sight on the mountain.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Continuing along the stream, it became clear that Columbus wanted a part of it. So I brought the dogs down. And they drank and dipped. By dipped, I basically mean Koda laid down in it. She does that a lot when she is hot and tired and thirsty. But we had just started out on the walk, so maybe she just does it because she likes water.

And then… AND THEN! The most magic moment of all. We came upon Bolton Pond.

Bolton Pond

Yes, it’s beautiful. But the magic moment was when a great blue heron took off from the close side of the pond, and with it’s beautiful broad wingspan, flew just above the pond to the other side, in a slow motion movie that I captured in my mind. As you see, the water was mirror calm, and the gentle motion of the bird as it flew created a few seconds of peace that filled my soul.

The dogs went in the water. I wish I could let them off leash, to have a good frolic and swim, but Columbus wouldn’t have come back. I know this about him. He would have been after that bird and that peace that filled my soul would have burst like a bubble.

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Soon after, we came to this spot.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

It is hard to tell from this picture, and I missed it the first time around, but there is a trail that goes straight ahead. It has a dead tree leaning in front of it. Tricky. But the larger trail goes to the left.

I went left.

See those two trees with blue markings like this in the prior picture?

Bolton Pond Trail Marker

Those are trail markers. And I missed them.

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As we walked on, down the wrong trail, I took this picture.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Because it always amazes me to find these stone walls in the woods, on a mountain. What, did people farm ON the mountain, at one point? Crazy.

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Soon, I came to another sign that looked just like the first sign.

Bolton Pond Trail Sign

Because, um, it was. Only I didn’t realize it. I actually came out from the straight ahead trail. If you remember, I went to the right. And so, it appears, the trail circled around and came out back at this same spot.

Okay, now I was confused. And really curious. This loop wasn’t on the trail map. I decided to follow the trail that, in this picture, goes to the left.

I followed it, came out to another trail. Studied that carefully (okay, when I hit this dead pine tree and the trail forks left, take the left). Turns out I needn’t have worried. The dogs knew the way back.

I eventually got to this bridge.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Kind of neat looking. Kind of rotted. But I walked over it without falling through and soon came upon a parking lot for the mountain where the ski facility stores all kinds of trucks and there is an outbuilding. Ugly. Did a 180, and pondered the following question….

“How the heck does this all relate to the trail map?”

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I eventually wound up back at the trail entrance and checked my phone for the time, and decided I needed to figure some things out.

So I re-hiked the trail. Which is when I figured out that I had missed the correct trail after the pond.

And, what this means, is that I have to go back and do this again. Because, as it stands, I didn’t complete Bolton Pond trail. But I did hit some unmarked trails and explored them. Not part of the plan, but adventures do not go as planned.

Otherwise, they’d be boring.

 

 

 

 

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The Hiking Diaries

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

I’ve hiked most of the trails on Mount Wachusett during all my years hiking it. But some of them not very often, while others I could hike in my mind, I hike them so regularly. As I was wondering if I’d hiked them all, I thought, “wouldn’t it be a fun fall activity to hike all the Wachusett trails?” And so that’s what I plan on doing.

Most of my hiking is done in the morning before work, but some of the trails beg more time than that. For instance…wouldn’t it be fun to walk from the Audubon sanctuary all the way up Harrington trail to the top of the mountain? That one will have to be done without the dogs, since the Audubon sanctuary doesn’t allow dogs. On second thought, maybe it wouldn’t be fun if I couldn’t take the dogs.

Okay, I’ve just amended this activity to be an adventure with the dogs. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get up extra early for some of the longer hikes. (Because, truthfully, it’s much more fun hiking in the morning when the mountain isn’t crowded than tackling it on the busy weekends.)

Just to get you oriented, here’s a map of Wachusett Mountain….

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Yes, it’s a small mountain. Someone once told me it’s actually the minimum height to be called a mountain (2,005 feet). However, in googling that piece of information, I found that there is no official definition of a mountain. Some geographers put a mountain at 1,000 feet above sea level. The Oxford Dictionary puts it at 2,000. By whatever definition, Wachusett certainly isn’t a tall mountain. Here are some other mountain heights to compare it to:

  • Mt. Greylock, Adams, MA: 3,491 feet (the highest natural point in Massachusetts)
  • Mt. Grace, Warwick, MA: 1,617 feet
  • Mt. Monadnock, Jaffrey/Dublin, NH: 3,166 feet.
  • Mt Washington, White Moutains, NH: 6,289 feet

By the way, you’ll be seeing more of this map as I mark off the trails I’ve completed. And blog about them. Because every hike has at least one special moment. And usually more.

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A rainbow of belief

Posted by & filed under faith.

How can a person go from one set of beliefs to another? I feel like I’m a case study for why we need to understand that a person’s set of beliefs does not define them. Have I gone from an intelligent person to a dumb one? Or the other way around? Was I okay when I believed one thing but I’m not okay now? I listen to people saying the things I used to say and think and it’s so surreal. I used to believe those things and now they sound so foreign! And truthfully, I don’t know where I stand on some issues and I don’t care.

Belief is complicated. I think if we just hang out with people who believe what we believe there is a comfort, but there is not enough room for growth and understanding. Our world needs growth and understanding. We need to step outside of our comfortable places and see the big, wide world as it is. Full of a jumble of people with different ideas. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet ideas. And those ideas overlap at the edges and blend, making a most magnificent, brilliant, cherished rainbow. Universally loved. If we could just see each other as a piece of rainbow, a slice of light….

And here’s another thing. When your beliefs do a flip – or partial flip – as mine have, you begin to learn that the beliefs don’t really matter. The people believing them do. And if my beliefs prevent me from loving you, then I’d just as soon toss them out the window and start again. And I’m pretty sure that’s what got me to where I am now in the first place. I’ve opened my heart to the sky and let my beliefs be carried away on the wind. My heart feels so much lighter.

photo credit: mini rainbow via photopin (license)

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A tale of two truths

Posted by & filed under poetry.

I speak my truth.
You speak yours louder.
There is no room for my truth
alongside yours.
You live your life
assured,
convincted,
hardened,
shut down to any new ideas.
They don’t matter.
Until,
one day,
you discover your truth is a lie.
Adrift,
confused,
humbled,
you finally open your heart.
And we walk side by side again,
you living your new truth,
me living mine.

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Our home

Posted by & filed under health.

planet

I watched a documentary called Home tonight.  Gosh, I got kind-of depressed and almost stopped it but at the end it mentioned positive things. Thank goodness!

There was good information in the tough parts, however….Our population is exploding and we are depleting our resources. It would well serve us to learn the lessons from Easter Island. The sun is free. As long as the earth exists, the sun will shine on it. And yet, we are raping our land using up fossil fuels. Monoculture is a problem. Our voracious meat-eating appetites are a problem. We NEED to live in a more sustainable way to survive.

Really. Truly. I know I talk about this a lot, but that’s because it’s really, really important. Critically important. Life-changing important.

Let me just tell you that I am one of the people who thought climate change was a hoax. I’m almost ashamed to say that, but I was. Until I started really connecting to nature and studying permaculture and herbalism. The thing is, whether you believe in climate change or not, living in a more sustainable way will benefit the planet.

Earth care. People care. Fair Share. A more moderate, sustainable society. We’d likely need to give up some of our conveniences. Is the betterment of our world worth that? I think so.

I’m really hoping that the people who want to move in this direction become the majority. My vote for our government officials from this point forward is going to involve me examining their stand on these issues. Not just their words – their ACTIONS.

And I pledge to continue to learn to live my own life in a more moderate, sustainable way. For all of us. Here’s to waking up.

Cheers.

photo credit: GEBCO_08 with Shaded Blue Marble Landmass via photopin (license)

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