Thursday, October 17, 2013

the secretest little vernal pool in the Holyoke Range

For the last year or so, I've been on an obsessive personal quest to run every single navigable trail and trail-like route on public land in the Holyoke Range. Sometimes it's been frustrating, such as when I plan my general route using a combination of the 2009 AMC map (it's borderline irresponsible of them to still be printing and selling that one) and old mountain bike trail maps found online (detailed, but incomplete and about 10 years out-of-date). Or when I unexpectedly come across unmarked/unmapped trails that are so significant that it boggles the mind that they weren't previously mapped. Or when I go looking for a mapped trail that either doesn't exist anymore or possibly was never there on the ground in the first place. But mostly it's been rewarding, both in terms of the great physical training it's given me and the amazing sense of place that comes with really getting to know an area in depth.

In particular, I've really enjoyed getting to see all the little hidden geographic gems. Some fairly regular features found throughout the Range are vernal pools, those small ephemeral ponds that dry up by mid-summer but serve as important breeding sites for a variety of amphibians such as frogs and salamanders. I've seen a bunch of them in my foot travels, many right along trails and others tucked away in untracked pockets.

The other day I found myself following a faint old woods road (not mapped on the AMC map) in a fairly remote section of the Range. The route never faded into total obscurity the way some paths I've followed do, but eventually it dead-ended at the vernal pool pictured below. I was certain that very few other people had ever seen this particular sight, and I felt like I'd just arrived at the secretest vernal pool in the Holyoke Range.

So, if anyone actually reads this blog (does anyone actually read this blog?) and has some kind of a sense for the geography of the Holyoke Range in Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley, and wants to play along... any guesses as to where this is? Leave a comment with a guess that describes the location to within let's say a quarter mile or so of where it actually is. Just give as detailed a description as you can. Whoever gets it right wins the first amazing Northeast Adventures Mystery Prize (amazing NAMP).

vernal pool in the Holyoke Range
the secretest vernal pool in the Holyoke Range


  1. First, it's almost certainly on the south side of the range.

    If it's in the section east of route 116 heading over towards Harris Mountain Rd, but only as far as about 2/3 of the way over, then I've almost certainly been there, though perhaps not for about 25 years.

    My first guess would be the pool just north of #8 (and lust left of the line to #9) on this map:

    I've been to maybe half a dozen vernal pools in the area covered by the map, and this is the closest match. Of course if it is in a section of the range not covered by the map, I'm out of luck.

    What direction was the camera pointing? For the pool I'm guessing, it would be WSW (magnetic).

    Peter Gagarin

  2. My first guess was the small pool about halfway between #7 & #9 on Peter's map link in the clearing. But now that I've looked at the map, the contours don't seem to match what the photo shows.

  3. Excellent guesses, guys. Very impressive knowledge of the range. Both not it, though! Worth noting that Peter's first thought is true. It IS definitely on the south side of the range. As for orientation, the camera was pointing ENE.

  4. is that on long mountain? looks familiar

  5. Nope. Good guess, though; there's some crazy topography on the southwest side of Long and I bet there's tons of tucked away pools in that area.
    Next hint: west.