|The Metacomet Ridge is in red. |
Sections 8 -9a are at the very tip of it.
|Section 8 in purple, Section 9a in red|
We decide to do this piece in reverse and also include part of Section 9, starting on Bay Road and hiking west to the Notch Visitor Center, a hike that includes Long Mountain, Rattlesnake Knob, the Horse Caves, and the grand trap rock finale, Mt. Norwottuck, elevation 1106 ft.
|Rope assistance at Bay Road|
Well, we got a good taste of trap rock after only a few steps out of the car. The trail went straight up a basalt ledge and a rope was there to help.
|The broken inner cover|
|The last people to sign the register|
|Trail benched in to trap rock cobbles|
|Granby - Amhearst boundary marker|
This was the first hike that felt like fall. It was wonderful. We had the hottest summer on record, and September was hot, too. But today was cool and cloudy with a chance of showers. It was also a weekday, so the trails were peaceful. We passed only a pair of trail runners and a mountain bike for the first few hours there on the "quiet side" of the Holyoke Range. It was such a relief after the barrage of trail runners and power walkers I had to keep stepping aside for during the last hike.
|View west from Long Mtn. Mt. Norwottuck in forground, |
Mt Tom/Goat's Peak in background
|Maple Leaf Viburnum, upper leaves probably damaged by drought|
|"End of Cuddeback Trail" at Rattlesnake Knob|
Great views were to be had from the knob looking back at Long Mountain, the end of Metacomet Ridge. In the distance are the Eastern Uplands. The last time the trail was on the Eastern Uplands was in Guildford.
|View of Long Mountain from Rattlesnake Knob|
|Polypody on Rattlesnake Knob|
|Approaching the Horse Caves|
The cliffs are several hundred yards long, with an unmarked trail running along the base. Follow it. Some of the best geological features of this formation cannot be seen from the NET. In particular, I'm talking about some arches and oval caves that are unlike anything I've ever seen in southern New England.
At first glance I wondered if they were man-made, but after studying the rocks a bit, it seems it's all natural. This was confirmed by a quick Google search at home, with sites simply referencing 'erosion'. But why would the rock erode into these shapes here and nowhere else along the Metacomet Ridge? The cliff was sculpted as if it where along the banks of a river, but it's not, and it doesn't look like it ever was.
The rock is mostly a conglomerate -- basically sandstone with some gravel -- that looks a bit like concrete. My best guess is that water seeps down from up above through some joints in the rock, coats the rock below, and causes spalling when it freezes. That's when the outer layer of rock pops off. Anyway, that's my theory. What's yours?
|Crazy erosion for this area|
|This looks almost like a concrete pipe|
|Inside a small 'cave' with three sculpted openings|
|View from Mt. Norwottuck|
Approaching the Visitor Center, the trail skirts a quarry, but all you can see from the trail is a quarry sign that says 'no trespassing'. I'm told this section of trail used to be closer to the quarry and was recently rerouted away from it. The trail there was a nice looking section, going up the hills at an angle rather than straight up, and well-benched into the side of the hill. It's a lot of work building a trail like that, but it will be worth it in the end.
This is probably the last day hike I'll be able to do while 'commuting' from my home in southwest Connecticut. It was dark at 6:00 am when I left the house in the morning, and it was dark when I got back at 7:00 pm. There was about 5 hours total drive time, including the Uber drive and stops to pick up a friend in Springfield. The traffic was horrible on I-91, as it always is. Future sectiona will need to be done differently, and by that I mean I need to step into the world of backpacking.