Wednesday, October 12, 2016

MA NET Section 15b Ruggles Pond to Millers River

Bridge at Millers River, constructed 1889
Welcome to Day Four of our Massachusetts vacation, and what a beautiful place to spot a car! This is a bridge built in 1889 over Millers River at Farley Road. More on that when I finish the hike, but it was beautiful in the morning sunlight and early autumn foliage.

Millers River
Our intention was to just spot my car here, but it was such a gorgeous spot, and so interesting, we lingered for over half an hour. We had fun checking out the old bridge as well as a streamgage nearby. But eventually we drove over to Wendell State Forest near Ruggles Pond so I could do the second half of Section 15.

Section 15b
I knew I might not be able to get back to the NET before winter, so I wanted a natural stopping point, and Millers River seemed a good choice. It runs through a deep valley and the terrain north of it seems markedly different than the easy stuff I've been walking across.  If I can make it back, great. If not, that's OK, too.

Ruggles Pond again
My husband dropped me off at the Park Ranger Station near Ruggles Pond, and it was a very quick walk to the pond.

M-M Trail enters woods at picnic area

The day before, I hiked part of the section of the M-M trail north of here, so I had the choice of walking the easy park roads back to my stopping point (about 1/2 hour) or walking the M-M Trail again (about an hour). The M-M Trail here had been so nice, I decided to take the long way and savor it.

Walking this section a second time because it's worth it.
The section immediately north of Ruggles Pond shows years of loving improvements by trail volunteers: A shelter, bridges, and stones placed just so.  The light was different in the morning and it made for better photos with my pathetic cell phone camera (so sorry).

Witch Hazel in bloom
The trail passed the shelter as it went down deep into the ravine with the sound of water gurgling nearby.

There was Trail Magic here. It's a feeling when you slow down and everything feels special.

Conversation with a Barred Owl. 
A Barred Owl flew up into the trees. I pulled out my phone and downloaded a Barred Owl call (this is amazing that you can feel so isolated and yet download bird calls). As soon as I played the call, the owl snapped his head around and regarded this intruder into his domain. I got pretty close - the photo is with a cell phone, remember. We did this for about five minutes before he flew off.
"Orange Peel" mushroom
The trail climbed up out of the hole and onto the old woods roads again, until it came alongside a big rock ledge. Normally this kind of rock formation is no big deal along the NET, but it's been many miles since I've seen more than a few boulders or a low ledge. I think the last real ledge was along the Holyoke Range. This marks a change in the terrain.

The first major rock since the Holyoke Range
Here's where I finally got to hike a new section of trail. The white blazes head steeply up to the top of the cliffs, and before long there's the first of two look outs. 

A vista!! We've got a vista!! The first one since Long Mountain, I think, and the Holyoke Range. I saw a tower in on a nearby ridgetop and figured that explained the great cell phone reception. 

First lookout
OK, now it's time to start that descent to Millers River. The ridgetop hike was quite enjoyable and the trail was well-blazed. As the trail began to drop, however, I had to slow down due to the dreaded trail marbles.

Try walking down a trail on THIS.
The trail is variable once it starts downhill, alternating between a single-track path, old road, and pavement.
Wolf tree along an old road
The only time I had any difficulty following the blazes was after a footbridge where the next blaze is a left turn blaze right after the bridge. The sun was glaring on the tree making the white blazes hard to see (I do think CFPA's sky blue blazes are superior for visibility).

Don't drink untreated water!
The trail then followed the stream and went right through the ruins of some old mill. I liked the steps.

What was this?
And then the trail sadly comes out onto pavement and it's a roadwalk all the way to Millers River. A pretty walk, though, especially in fall, with very little traffic. Worryingly, my foot started to really hurt. This is the foot that has kept me from hiking for several years. I limped down the road.

I'll check my pack. 

Fall maple leaves along the road
Approaching the river, there was a freight train parked alongside the road making all kinds of noise like it was getting ready to go. I picked up the pace and was able to cross the tracks in front of it before it took off.

Parked train getting read to take off
And I was back at the bridge! Even though my car was spotted there, my husband had driven back and was waiting. We had fun checking out the bridge again. He's a civil engineer and was making some strained faces while looking closely at the steel members. Later I Googled the bridge and stumbled upon this entry on It's listed as "functionally obsolete" and the structure is in "fair" condition, but it is also eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Well, whatever, we liked the bridge.

"Functionally obsolete"

There was a guy fishing the river and when he came out we asked how the fishing was. He said he got three trout. Nice. 

Will we get back again this fall? Who knows if the foot and our schedule will allow, but I sure hope so. Had a blast.

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