Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chapel Brook to DAR Trail

A few weeks back I posted a quick trip report about exploring the Two Bridges Trail that connects two properties owned by the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), the Chapel Brook Reservation in Ashfield, MA and the Bullitt Reservation (an airborne Steve McQueen at the wheel comes to mind every time) in Conway, MA. Since I'm new to the neighborhood, it was unexplored territory, and I was really pleased to find that the trail was very well laid out and marked, and that it was more geographically and ecologically interesting than I'd expected. I had a great run all around. This week I went back to explore the other side of the road.

From the parking lot along the Ashfield/Williamsburg Rd, a wide doubletrack trail leads up the slope to the west and soon arrives at a junction at large sign below Chapel Ledges on Pony Mountain. A set of wooden steps cut into the hillside leads up to the base of the ledges that apparently are very popular with rock climbers (it's easy to see why). From the base of the ledges you can take either leg of a loop trail that goes to the summit. I went straight up the steeper part, which ascends along the base of the ledges via a series of impressively constructed log cribs. Near the top, a spur path leads up to the actual top of the knob. The true summit is mostly forested, but the tops of the steep ledges are open and there are pretty sweet views to the southwest from there. I ran the loop back down around to the base of the hill, taking it east as occasional loose rocks were totally obscured by a thick duff of fallen leaves.

Back at the big sign, I took the barely noticeable (due to fallen leaves) singletrack trail southwest towards the D.A.R. State Forest. At present, this trail is saddled with the painfully unwieldy name of "Chapel Brook Reservation to D.A.R. State Forest Trail" (ouch). Let's hope it gets a more concise name soon! Labeling aside, I have to give major props to the people who made this trail happen. I think it was a collaboration of the Town of Ashfield with TTOR and the Franklin Land Trust. At least that's what I learned from this document on the Town of Ashfield's website. Here's a map of this trail. Anyway, the point is, this is a really sweet trail, and it made for another great run in the area.

Heading west from the sign, the trail gently rises and falls towards D.A.R. State Forest several miles away. It passes by several rustic wooden benches, crosses a couple of scenic streams, skirts a pond, and comes close to two old stone foundations. It's all very runnable, and it wasn't even as leaf-covered as other trails in the area have been lately. It was a real pleasure to do an out-and-back on this trail, and I can't wait to come back in the spring to string it together with the Two Bridges Trail and a large loop at DAR for a nice long, scenic, and fun trail run.

L: start of the trail to the base of Chapel Ledges
R: rustic cedar bench along the Chapel/DAR Trail, with Pony Mtn. in the background

southwestern view at the top of Chapel Ledges

 forested hillside just to the west of Pony Mtn.

bridge and swooping trail about 0.1 miles west of the ledges

crossing Chapel Brook about 0.5 miles west of Pony Mtn.

UPDATE (11/29/13)

I went back about a week later and took these photos while doing a longer, lollipop loop run using this trail and the Moose Run Trail at DAR State Forest (7 miles total). 

sundown along the Moose Run Trail at DAR State Forest

L: One of many low bridgeways along the upper end of the Chapel Brook / DAR Trail
R: rustic pondside bench near DAR State Forest

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