Thursday, September 15, 2016

M-M Section 6 Mt. Tom

Mt Tom, looking NE towards the Oxbow lake and CT River.

Mt Tom is probably the most popular destination along the M-M Trail, with lots of dramatic views, and much has been written about it. The initial ascent is moderate but relentless, climbing 600 ft in less than half a mile, but once you're at the top, the rest of the hike is much easier as you walk along the top of the cliffs for about the next mile. The trail then descends to a notch with a paved park road (and a drinking fountain in season), then continues on to the Goat Peak tower with the best views of the entire New England Trail so far. After that is a recommended detour to the Eyrie ruins overlooking the Oxbow, and then an easy descent to the boat ramp on the Oxbow.

Location Map
There is pull-off across the street from the Holyoke Animal Hospital for maybe ten cars that was empty at 8:30 am on Thursday morning but looks like it fills up pretty quickly during the weekend. The address for gps is 320 Easthampton Road, Holyoke (MA 147).  The destination for this section is a state boat launch off MA 5 at the Oxbow, or you can stop at Underwood Lane to skip the roadwalk at the end. Section 6 technically starts back further on MA 141 (completely previously) for a total length of just over six miles and reported elevation gain of 1775 feet up and 2190 feet down over the course of the entire hike.

Looking south along the Metacomet Ridge, with quarry dust at Section 3
It's always rewarding to look back and see where you already hiked. A cloud of dust hung over a quarry that must be the one Section 3 detours around. The distinctive trap rock ridge profile of a taller mountain in the distance looms behind it. I wish I knew which one. Talcott? (click the photos to enlarge).

Looking north
There is obviously a lot of history along this section. There was a huge Summit House at the peak where the antennae farm is now located, and remnants of this remain. And there was a train that climbed the hill steeply to the summit house, now converted to a park path.

Looking west through a notch in the cliffs
The trail through here is relatively easy, but there are still some ups and downs and the occasional short scramble.
I admire the sentiment, if not the spray paint.
Bristly Aster 
"Not all who wander are lost." May I say that this applies to women as well as men? I mention this because I am often asked if I'm lost, or looking for the trail, or whether I'm OK. This happens when I set my pack down to pull out an apple. Or stop to look at my letterboxing clues. Or check my map. Or my gmail.  I can't get mad, because people are just trying to be helpful. More bothersome is the tone of voice with which I'm asked these questions, a tone similar to one used on a small child while you pat their head. Both men and women do it. Before asking the question, think to yourself, "Would I talk this way to a guy hiking by himself?"

This day, however, I had a hiking partner, so no one asked if I was lost. We had a great time poking about the ridgetop and taking a break for lunch towards the end of the cliff section. After this the trail drops down through the trees to a park road (Reservation Road), where we were able to refill our water bottles at a drinking fountain.

Lunch break

From there, it wasn't far to Goat's Peak, with a bench alongside the trail and a viewing tower a short ways up a path. 

Overlook near Goat's Peak. 

Wood Asters
Do the Goats Peak viewing tower. It has 360° views. I've hiked the Metacomet Ridge now all the way from Guilford, CT, and the only view that compares is the one from Heublein Tower on Talcott Mountain. I think the Goat's Peak one is better, though, because you're not inside a solid structure looking through glass, but on top a more precarious deck with the wind blowing through your hair. It feels more dramatic. 

The Goat's Peak tower is breathtaking. 
Looking NE along the Holyoke Range. 

Zoom view south including Hartford and some trap rock ridges
(click photo to enlarge)
Continuing on down the trail, a great view of the Oxbow opens up. This is a former bend in the Connecticut River, and is still connected to the river. My plan for the next day was to explore the Oxbow by kayak with my husband, then cross the Connecticut River and continue hiking up Mt. Holyoke. More on that later.

The Oxbow
Overlooking the Oxbow, built into the side of the ridge, are the ruins of "the Eyrie." It's a short detour off the M-M trail, but worth it. Just another summit house that burned down, but there's something different about how this one is laid out.

"The Eyrie"
Columbine foliage at the Eyrie ruins
From the Eyrie, the trail follows an old carriage path down the mountain. It's easy walking, and there's not even any loose trap rock to trip over. When the trail came out onto Underwood Drive, we decided to walk a few more minutes down the road to the state boat launch and official end of this section. On a Thursday evening, the boat launch was nearly empty. 

Something small was jumping in the water, catching the sun and making the water sparkle. We asked a fisherman pulling out his boat what it was, and were told it was shad jumping. You can see some of them in the photo below.

My husband was there to pick us up, and after some car shuttling, we headed to our hotel room for a long weekend. On the agenda was kayaking, more NET hiking, shopping, golfing, eating out, and the Big E in Springfield. 

No comments:

Post a Comment