Thursday, October 6, 2016

MA NET Sections 9b -11 Part 2

Welcome to Section 11 of the NET and Cadwell Memorial Forest. I LOVED this section. It starts on Enfield Road in Pelham, or possibly at the top of Mt. Lincoln, if you are looking at the New England Trail website. There's not really anywhere to park where the trail crosses the road, so if you wanted to start here, you would need to drive west a bit to the Tower Road and walk back.

Trailhead map shows the old M-M
The trail slowly climbs up Mt. Lincoln, which is more like a high point in the terrain than a mountain. Did you know it's a lot harder to go uphill with 25 lbs on your back? Also, it's very hard to tie your boot laces. Or get up from a crouch because you got down low to take a photo.

Now how do I get back up?

Towers on Mt. Lincoln
There's a lookout tower at the top of Mt. Lincoln. I thought briefly of going up it, but noticed an old 'no trespassing' sign on the tower, and I had seen so many vistas while hiking Mt. Tom and the Holyoke Range, I had no burning desire for another one just then.

Mt. Lincoln at lower left, Quabbin Res. at right

The blazes follow Tower Road for a bit, a gravel service road for the towers that is closed to traffic, then takes a right turn and head north into the forest for a spell before briefly joining another gravel road which is called Cemetery Drive on the Cadwell Forest Map.  (Note that on the map, the M-M route they show is the old one. Also, the "streets" are closed to traffic). Here Cemetery Drive crosses a stream that was all dried up as I passed by, although it looks like it gets a pretty good flow based on the size of the culvert under the road, and the trail turns left off the road immediately after. In two days of hike (weekdays), I only saw one person on the trail, and he was on Cemetery Drive.

The big reroute begins about 100 feet north of Cemetery Road. Many thanks go to Rocklun for sending me a photo of the spot so I could find it. There's a big hemlock with a right turn double blaze, and if you look closely, a former left turn blaze was blackened out. Behind it there was a fire ring and a spot that looks like it gets used for camping. The old M-M goes left here down the hill to a ravine.

Junction of the old M-M (left) and new NET (right)
I had plenty of time, so I stashed my pack and went exploring down the old route. The path is easy to follow along the bottom of the deep ravine where water normally flows. It was bone dry while I was there, however. I got all the way down to some dried up falls in an area that looks like maybe it was quarried a long time ago. Hard to say. It was nice walking without a pack and doing more of a mozy than a hike.

Later on I got my pack back on and ventured down the new trail. At one point there's a routered "Queen Street" sign that made me laugh because there didn't seem to be any street. It's an old woods road shown on the Cadwell Forest map.

Queen Street

The forest is lovely. There was no water anywhere until I reached a stream called Dunlop Brook on my Garmin map, which still had a trickling flow. The deep, dark forest made for difficult picture-taking with a cell phone camera. I used to carry a much heavier camera that takes better photos in low light, but I couldn't afford to carry the camera on this trip.

Fern growing in a tree about 6 feet up

Sometimes the trail tread is completely new, and at other times the trail follows old woods roads. After Cadwell, the trail comes out onto Amherst Road, where there were no blazes and I had to pull out a map. The trail turns right onto Amherst Rd and then pretty quickly takes a left onto a quiet street called North Valley Road. It follows this road for a good ways, but the road soon turns to gravel and there are a few homes but no traffic. 

Are they offering hikers a ride? I accept!

A vibrant, healthy forest
I just loved the forest and the trail in through here. It was so refreshing to walk through a healthy forest with trees of differing ages and size, saplings everywhere, and thick herbaceous layer. The forests in Southwest Connecticut where I live have mostly been stripped by too many deer, and people get offended by logging or hunting, so the forest is sadly bare.  The trap rock ridges the NET has been following are naturally pretty sparse because it's so dry and rocky, although there are probably too many deer there as well.  

Hobblebush Viburnum

The forest is so wonderful I began to slow down intentionally to make the hike last longer, stopping now and then to linger.  The woods along the trail no longer feel like the illusion of wilderness, but actual wilderness. It reminded me of the northern woods of Wisconsin where we had a lake place when I was growing up. The area was surrounded by miles and miles of woods owned by paper companies. There was logging and hunting, but no marked hiking trails. You didn't go for a "hike", you went for a walk, using old logging roads and deer paths, and you didn't have a destination. You just mozied along depending on your mood. The trail here, at least on a weekday, was so quiet, and the woods were so thick. I felt lucky to be able to hike the NET now.  Maybe some day in the future it will become super popular like the Appalachian Trail or the Long Trail, and lose some of that wilderness feeling. But for now, you really do feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, and it's perfect. 

In spite of my slow walk, I popped out onto Shutesbury Road by about 9:30 am on the second day. I didn't expect to be done so early. 

The trail follows Shutesbury Road 2 for over half a mile. It's a wide paved road, but a total of only three cars passed me the entire time I was walking it. The mix of forest, meadow, and a few scattered homes made for pleasant scenery in the morning light, especially with the leaves starting to change color.

And then I was back to my car, which survived the night intact. But the day wasn't over yet. I drove to a couple more old M-M sections to check them out before heading back to Connecticut. 

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