Walking sideways on the mountain

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

Yet another trail in the hiking diaries

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It’s getting later in the fall. And I’m trying to beat the snow and frigid cold with hiking every trail on the mountain. This hike, because I didn’t wake up early enough, I picked a relatively short trail. The rest of Bicentennial Trail. But it was a little more challenging than I expected.

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See that little trail that goes from the highlighted yellow part down to Mountain Road just to the left of the Parking and house symbols? I looked for that trail. The best I can figure is that it is a shortcut up to Bicentennial Trail from behind the administration building. But everything is covered in leaves. So I couldn’t really find that trail, and I don’t want missing that one little piece of trail to count against me hiking all of the trails on the mountain. Okay? Deal? Because if anybody is going to hold it against me, I’ll go back and find that dang trail or walk through the leaves and trees and pretend I found it.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

I hadn’t remembered that Bicentennial was so rocky on one part of it. Luckily (or maybe not?) Koda was my dog of choice for hiking it.

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I say “maybe not?” because at one point, on the rocks, she jumped too far ahead, pulled me off balance and I smashed my shin into the rock she had jumped to.

After that, we worked on “follow.” Koda doesn’t like to follow. So while distracted by making sure she followed, I also slipped on a leaf-covered rock – didn’t go down, phew! – and lost balance another time and smashed my finger into the rock I went to steady myself on.

Yeah, so that all was fun, and totally worth the hike. Always. Minor injuries are a small price to pay for this:

  • The golden color of the oaks leaves all turning.
  • The earthy smell of fallen leaves this time of year.
  • That “like a kid again” adventure of climbing over rocks.
  • The surprises that reveal themselves as you follow a trail.
  • The workout your body gets, even on a sideways trail.

I was actually surprised at how much of a sweat and heart-raising hike it was. Although it was sideways, there were ups and downs and all those rocks to navigate. Great for the joints, too, not just repetitively stepping along. Which is a big way where hiking differs from plain ol’ walking.

Here are some pictures from the hike. I forgot to get a picture of the trail head, which starts at the mountain’s administration building.

This is at the junction with Pine Hill Trail, although I took it from a different angle, so you can’t read the Pine Hill sign. We came from the left of this sign and we are headed to the right.

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And here is where we meet loop trail.

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We head down to the left.

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Eventually we get past the rocky part.

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A grove of some kind of mountain laurel-ish bushes.

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When we hit Mountain House Trail, we turned around. I would have loved to have gone on to the meadow, but didn’t have enough time.

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Those stone walls. Love em.

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It was a great hike. I really am enjoying hiking in the fall. What a great time of year.

Blessed. I am blessed. I say it all the time.

 

 

West road story

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

So far, my favorite hike in the hiking diaries.

I wrote this post. It was part of this hike, which I am writing many days (okay, weeks) after hiking it. I wanted to take both dogs, so didn’t want to hike a skinny trail. There are a few dirt roads that are part of the hiking system on the mountain. West Road is one of them. I hadn’t hiked it since I used to let the dogs hike off-leash. So we went there. I really wanted a meditative time, to just be on the mountain, so it was a nice, easy hike. At least it was supposed to be. And was, until I turned around to go back.

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I should have known it was going to be a great hike when I saw this on the way there. I actually turned around to go back and take the picture.

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A picture NEVER is as beautiful as seeing something with your eyes. The way the mist had settled into the valley and the tops of the trees were poking up, and the sun was an orb filtered by the clouds.

Ahhhhh, bliss.

(And dang all these iPhone photos. Very blurry this hike.)

West Road, like North Road, has a back side of the mountain entrance. I’m pretty sure that the entrance is in Westminster, not Princeton.

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Big area to park.

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I was pretty bummed to see this. Perhaps more than just hikers park here. It is out of the way. Just hangin’ and dumpin’ my trash….

I should have picked it up on the way back, but completely forgot about it, because….well, you’ll have to wait for that part.

Here is the trail head, closer up.

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The dogs are ready to go!

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One thing about these wider roads. They aren’t just appealing to people who are walking two dogs. Horseback riders love them, too.

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(I never see any of them while I’m on the trail, just what they leave behind.)

West Road is kind of a damp trail. So lush. This is a huge wall of rock.

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Two thirds of the way on the road, we hit a little off-trail to Siplas pool. It’s a fun place to go with the dogs.

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Only, this time of year, it wasn’t a pool. Bummer. No swim.

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This is usually full of water up to the top of the stone wall. Only now you can really see the trees that line the bottom! There was a little water on the down side (right side in this picture) of the wall. So the dogs did get their drinks.

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Once again, I feel the need to apologize for these iPhone photos. Sheesh.

Here’s my obligatory tree photo. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know my fascination with trees.

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But, because of the picture quality, it’s hard to understand my fascination with this. In real life, the contrast between the white dead branches – tree bones – against the green of the living trees was like a story. A tale of two trees….

Harrington Trail crosses West Road. Or West Road crosses Harrington Trail. Take your pick.

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The one good thing about the iPhone is you can take panoramic photos. I wanted to get the signs on both sides of the trial.

And then. And then. I had my moment that you can read about in the post I linked to at the beginning.

the light

Soon after that we reached Administration Road.

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And we turned around to head back.

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This is the end of the photos, because here is what happened. Part of the reason I picked this road was because I had a limited amount of time before work and I had a (phone) meeting with my manager at 9am. But I guess I got a little distracted taking photos and by in my moment in the light. I had checked the time when I started, and what it was now, and I was in serious jeopardy of being late for my meeting.

So what did I do? I ran back most of the way with the dogs. I say most of the way because I am not a runner so I had to do it in spurts. But to give myself credit, there were some long spurts in there. And to take away the credit I just gave myself, that’s because much of it was downhill.

But I made it back with time to get back via the car (10 minutes). Only I completely forgot about the trash at the trail head. For all I know it’s still there.

So, this hike had it all. Relaxation, take-your-breath-away moments, momentary panic, and suspense (will I make it back in time?). What better way to start my day?!!!

 

Heading North

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Today the two dogs and I hiked North Road. North Road is on the far side of the mountain (from my house). It takes a good 10 minutes, maybe longer, to drive there. I know, I know, aren’t I lucky to be able to hike a mountain with a short 10 minute drive? Spoiled, I am.

It’s probably obvious that the picture at the top of this post wasn’t taken in November. I’ll explain later. But this is taken from North Road.

It can be challenging to figure out how to hit all the trails in the least amount of re-hiking possible with limited time many of the days and, of course, needing to return to my car. There are a couple of pieces of trails I’ve left hanging and I’m just going to have to do some retracing of my steps. Semuhenna is one of those. I seem to be hitting it in different hikes. There is a little piece of it after North Road ends that I decided I’d do. Which means I hiked up and back on the same trails. It also means I’m going to have to rehike North Road again and loop around on another part of Semuhenna and part of Balance Rock Road. There is no getting around the re-hike, but I don’t mind because it’s a place that’s easy for me to take the dogs, and there is an incredible view of Mount Monadnock near the end of North Road.

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Okay, let’s hike!

Here we are at the entrance. Doesn’t that look inviting?

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Not too far beyond that I came across a horse plop.

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You come across them often on the road trails (as opposed to the skinny, rocky trails).

This is a road we take often when I do the North, Semuhenna, Balance Rock Road loop. Not today.

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These are the trail markers (?) that you see on a few of the trees while on North Road. Only you certainly don’t need them. You won’t get lost.

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Koda was playing hound dog on a good part of this walk. I mean, I love the smell this time of year with all the leaves falling and decaying on the ground. So, maybe she does, too.

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Here’s the view of Mount Monadnock. It was very hazy today. This picture is not really top-of-a-blog-post worthy, hence the picture from earlier in the year that I did post at the top.

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Shortly after the view, we reach the end of North Road and hit part of the paved road to the summit. I feel sorry for people who have to drive to the top of the mountain. I’m glad it’s available, though, because not everyone can hike (and boy, am I really thankful that I can.)

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Semuhenna is off to the left once you hit the road.

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We are going on the piece that goes up from here.

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So, we have midstate trail markers…

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and faded yellow markers…

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and, wait, blue markers, too. I give up. I can’t figure out the logistics of Wachusett’s trail marking. But that’s okay. I just look for a mark.

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When I hit this spot. I lost the trail.

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Well, I lost it a little beyond the midstate mark. There are so many leaves on the ground. I looked for a wider opening in the trees – there wasn’t an obvious one. I had found a yellow trail marker on a tree so I went the way I thought it marked. The ground got spongy fairly quickly so I realized I wasn’t on a well-worn trail. So I came back and studied some more and saw some exposed roots and went that way and picked up the trail.

Crazy. But the leaves on the ground, though masters of disguise and purveyors of trickery, are beautiful.

I walked past this little blade of grass (or some plant) nestled at the base of this tree and made the dogs turn around with me so I could go back and take a picture. For some reason it really grabbed me, that one little dying plant in that spot.

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We came to a bridge. Which is usually a good thing when hiking with the dogs because it means there is a stream and the dogs get to drink.

 

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Most of the streams are dried up this time of year, but there was a little bit of water.

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Right after that we came to the end of the trail / junction with West Side trail. And hit the summit road again. This is where Koda had to do her military pushups on our West Side hike.

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We turned around and made our way back. And it was uneventful except for one thing. I walked past this tree and felt some kind of energy. It was really strange.

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So I went back to it and put my hand on it. Just to feel it.

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I can’t explain it. If you don’t get it, that’s perfectly okay.

These hikes are more to me than just a nice bit of exercise to start the day. They are a connection to nature, her energy, and all that is good.

 

A quirky girl

Posted by & filed under my life.

listen to your song

As I was brushing my teeth the other day, and thinking about some of the people I’ve really been drawn to in my life (most of them outspoken and completely authentic and not into the status quo), and realized that some other people in my life would probably NOT relate to them (and haven’t), this is what I realized.

I think it’s profound.

I am a quirky girl stuck in an ordinary world.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I was taught that things are / should be a certain way, only my true self doesn’t fit into those rules. I didn’t realize that until I started waking up to who I really am a couple of years ago. And I guess I didn’t really realize it until that aha “quirky girl” moment.

We do this to kids (I did it to my own). We do this to others. We do this to ourselves. We want everybody to think and be like us. Only, they aren’t. And if we force square pegs to fit in round holes, they get hurt on the way in, if they can ever get there. Pieces of them need to break off. Ouch. And it hurt so much to get in, they don’t feel like coming back out.

And, I’ve written about this before. From 6th grade all through high school I was pretty unhappy. 5 years. And I thought of checking out. Because I didn’t fit into the world that the ordinary created. My happy world was one of much daydreaming, supreme kindness (I couldn’t find it), and getting lost in books. Probably because the real world didn’t appeal to me.

This morning, I realized I still am a daydreamer. And I write in my mind. Sentences that drift from my mind into the atmosphere. Some I remember, most I don’t. But I do remember where my mind drifted this morning.

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I was walking down Pine Hill Trail on my hike. It’s been worked on multiple times to become a trail of stone steps. And I wondered….what would future generations (or maybe it will be future humans if we wipe most of ourselves out) think of these stone steps? Would they wonder what kind of natural occurrences could shape such a thing? Would they think this was a stairway to somewhere, but that somewhere got destroyed? Or it was some kind of creative artistry? Or maybe steps some primitive civilization created in an attempt to reach God? Would they come up with all these theories (like the theories our current society comes up with for things we don’t understand), not knowing that it was really just a bunch of AmeriCorps volunteers, making the trail easier for people to climb? I mean, really, who would come up with the idea of adding a gazillion stone steps on a trail, not just an occasional one here or there where it was especially steep? And this is where my mind landed….

What if we’ve gotten most everything wrong?

The End

Walking in the Light

Posted by & filed under my life.

It’s been a heavy couple of weeks. And yesterday was especially heavy. Lots of people needing lots of prayers.

Ever since letting go of man’s teachings of God and asking him to show me who he is, I’ve had a bit of a struggle. It’s almost like the words and beliefs that brought me so much comfort have pushed me away from the shore of the familiar. It’s been very odd. Like I’m drifting all alone in a sea of new discovery.

And then times like this hit and you are very tempted to swim back to familiar shores.

Only I can’t. I know I can’t. Because I feel like even though this is hard, I am headed to a better place. A place of only love. No judgement. No doctrine. All of us as one with each other and God. I have a long way to go. But I finally feel like I am moving in the right direction instead of spinning around in circles of belief and doubt.

One of the things I’ve come across in this journey is the Quaker concept of “holding someone in the light.” It is my way of praying for people now. I feel intimately connected to God when I pray this way. So, today, I headed to the mountain (a powerfully spiritual place for me) to hold a few people in the light.

The Bible says there is power in your thoughts and words, but I’m learning about it experientially now. So, as I walked the mountain, I entered this moment….

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(A picture can’t even capture it. Imagine how spectacular it was in person, I know you can.)

I approached in wonder. And I stood right in that spot of light, spread my arms open, and held my hurting friends, and our hurting world, in the light.

And then I wept and thanked God for loving me enough to give me this moment and for loving us all enough to provide the light.

Manifesting porcupines

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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.)

porcupine

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.

West Side Story

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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.)

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.