Saturday, September 3, 2016

M-M Sections 3 & 4

Section 4 
For this hike, I stashed some water at the end of Section 3 so I wouldn't have to lug it around. Good call. Highly recommend it if it's warm out.  I used Uber again, parking my car along the shoulder of MA 202 and had an Uber driver there within five minutes or so. Nice. However, there was some kind of mixup in my destination address, there apparently being multiple Feeding Hills Roads in various towns. After realizing how far off course we were, I pulled up my Google MyMap to get directions to the correct location. If you use Rt 187 as a destination, be sure to tell the driver you want the Feeding Hills Road at Robinson State Park.

Sections 3 & 4. I-90 marks the end of each section.
SECTION 3 (3.9 miles):  After crossing Westfield Brook (see previous post) and a brief road walk, the blazes took me straight past another big NO TRESPASSING sign. I don't understand.

Breakin' the law! Or not. Who knows. 
Section 3 has a trail log box, set up by Harold, it appears. Thank you, Harold! And to all the other trail maintainers. It's a lot of work. And fun to read the trail entries. Every visitor has their own story. Some are thru hiking. Others are section hiking the entire trail, like me. And some people are simply locals out for a walk.

Thanks, Harold! 
This section was quiet and secluded and I didn't see a soul. Lots of little ups and down that don't seem like anything but can tire you out faster than you expected. At one point the trail seemed like it was headed straight for the quarry, which was surrounded by fresh haybales and silt fencing as erosion control, and I thought maybe the quarry had eaten the trail. But at the very last second, the trail took a sharp right and all was good with the world. 

For the most part, there's no ridgetop hiking on this section, and much of the trail is down low. The guidebook says that it was "relocated away from what used to be East Mountain (now a quarry)." Sad. Yet it's still a nice section.

Section 3 skirts a quarry

Eventually I could hear the sounds of I-90 up ahead and though I was almost there. But it was like a Monty Python movie where the characters keep charging towards the camera without ever actually getting anywhere. I kept getting closer to the sounds but it was always just up ahead.
I-90 Bridge at "Bush Notch"
But eventually the trail did in fact reach I-90 and the end of Section 3. Yay! I grabbed that water I stashed, and a good thing, because it was hotter than expected. 

SECTION 4 (3.9 miles) Had a hard time finding the trail here. Went up and down the road around the parking area and there were some white arrows on trees and a terribly eroded trail going up the hill, but no actually blazes. I finally pulled out the gps and discovered the trail on the closed part of the road. That's the second time in one day the gps saved me. The trail charged up hill pretty quickly to the ridgetop and a series of old lookout towers. 

You go first.
This section was all East Mountain ridgetop, classic NET hiking. Lots of views, towers, and of course that angular trap rock that tries so hard to twist your ankle.

Section 4

Class traprock ridge views

Ridgetop hiking at its best

Drought conditions
Up on the ridgetop, some plants species were succumbing to drought, while others were doing fine. 

Native Juniper growing on the edge of the cliff
Field Pussytoes, a native plant growing on the trail.

As the trail approaches McLean Reservoir, the evidence of ATV use is everywhere. There are multiple trails and old roads that they are using. I intentionally hiked on a weekday in hopes of avoiding the ATVs, and for the most part that worked, except for this one guy. I was in his way and would move. He took off his helmet so he could hear - this was a guy in his 30's maybe, not a kid. I explained he was on a National Scenic Trail, and would he also drive his ATV down the Appalachian Trail? Couldn't he ride someplace else? He said, no, not really, there's no place legal to ridge. Then maybe you shouldn't own an ATV.  I'm sure he couldn't care less, people like this never do. But if he was going to annoy me with his ATV, at least I got to annoy him back :)

The damage was extreme, though. Check it out: 

ATV damage

ATV damage
Near McLean reservoir, the trail does a sharp loop to the left, but there's also a trail that goes straight ahead, and both are blazed white, with the route head in a newer blaze. The NET maps shows the trail going up the hill to the left, so that's what I did, but the gps route I downloaded from a thru hiker showed him missing the western loop. It's a steep hike up, but the views are best of the hike so far. 

Big wide overlook at the top of the trail loop

Heading back to the car. 

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