Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday - Peakbagging

I started out early on Sunday, very early. At 4:00 AM I was up and out the door 15 minutes later. I was hoping to get to the Notch so that I could get to the first summit by sunrise. I pulled into the visitors center for the Holyoke range at 6AM. That gave me just enough time to get organized and run up to the summit of Norwottock before the sun came up.

The early part of the M&M trail is very smooth and wide which made for easy running in the nearly dark (still 25 minutes before sunrise). The 1.6+ mile climb of 525 felt pretty easy and I topped out in 17:10. That left me at least 10 minutes to kick around getting cold waiting for the sunrise. The view was awesome and the valley below was wrapped in low fog. After the sun rose, I headed down (just as an early hiker approached). I was back down 15:49 later and in the car heading for the next Peak by 7:10.

I drove from Mt Norwottock and arrived at a parking area near the Quabbin spillway. I ran up via a nicely groomed trail along a telephone line cut. The trail was marked with yellow markers after some climbing. The trail was very well marked and I enjoyed the 446’ climb to the 1,026’ summit of Quabbin Hill. The park is open at 6:30 AM (and it was now 8 AM) but I had the top to myself probably due to the viewing tower being closed on 11-09. I’ll have to return sometime next year. I chose to run down via the road and was back to my car with a total (running) time of 32:41 for the approximately 4 mile loop. Next up: Soapstone Hill.

I headed from Quabbin Hill at 8:20 AM on my way for the next climb of the day. Soapstone hill is listed ( as having a tower and I’ve visited 52 of the 54 towers in MA. The bicycle access maps of Quabbin are pretty useless when trying to navigate via car. There are tons of roads that are not shown on the map. I drove down Monson turnpike until I reached the gate. I had a good copy of the USGS map which worked fine. I ran down the hill and crossed over the stream (161.0 m on the USGS map) then continue on up the road until the height of land. I then bushwhacked in a Northeast Direction and basically hit the middle of the Hill. I ran North until the trail began to drop then ran South on a great trail on the ridge. The trail was signed with blue triangles. I did not find a platform, but got some good views on the Southern end of the hill. I followed the trail down and it came out right at the stream (161.0 m on the USGS map). It was an easy jog back up the hill to the car. Total was about 450’ of climb and about 3.7 miles of running in 37:45.

I wasn’t happy about not finding a tower on Soapstone hill so I headed back up the Monson turnpike then turned left on West road. Unfortunately West road was a bit too rocky for my car. I was turned back by a bridge that was about 100m shy of my goal! I turned around and headed back to Rt 122 then found the Forest Park road that is signed for the Federated Women’s club. I headed south and reached the gate which was only about ½ mile short of where I wanted to go. I ran up to the picnic area and checked out Gate 35. I continued on up Soapstone hill hoping I just hadn’t gone far enough earlier that morning (from the other direction). I reached the top and found no tower, but confirmed I had run the length of the ridge earlier in the day. I decided to check out the Gorge and the hill to the east of Soapstone in the off chance that the tower was on that hill. There was a small trail that ran alone the Gorge but seemed to keep going South (and I wanted to go East to the top), so I headed off whacking through the very open woods. I scoured the top but found no clearing or tower, so I returned to the car. Total of about 3.5 miles (29:14). Next off to Prospect hill.

I decided to make a quick stop at Prospect hill in Westminster as it was pretty much on my way from Soapstone hill (earlier in the morn) and Blood hill (my final goal of the day). This was pretty easy although the park looked like it might sometimes be gated. I approached from Route 140 and drove to the top and kicked around a bit to try and find the highest ground.

From Prospect hill in Westminster I drove up Route 140 to Route 101 to Route 119. Albee had told me that there was a trailhead off of the East side of the hill so I headed for that side. From 119 I took a right onto Erickson road at the Ashby Diner. Erickson forks then the next right takes you to the trailhead. There is a sign at the intersection noting that the trailhead and parking is 600’ up the road. I parked and went for my final run of the day. The 505’ to the top was very gentle and I was on top in 10:45. I took some pictures then ran down in 9:35. I had thoughts of trying to whack over to Spring hill but I was pretty tired from the previous peaks and 15+ miles of running. All in all a fun day!

No comments: