Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Laurel Lake hike

Jen and I finally got around to exploring some more up at Laurel Lake (most of which is part of Erving State Forest) about half an hour east/northeast of us in Erving, MA. We'd been to some of the trails west of the lake before (The Chute, etc.), which are a mix of doubletrack snowmobile trails and wide forest roads, but never ventured up to the lake itself. It's just far enough away up Rte. 2 and known for being a busy state park-ish swim area that it's been off our mental radar of local outdoor adventure spots, but when we went it was nice and not too crowded and we really enjoyed it. 

the swampy western end of Laurel Lake

We parked in the big lot above the swimmer's beach, which seemed pretty sparsely occupied to me considering it was the end of a nice Labor Day weekend, and started hiking uphill on the very pleasant, mile-long Laurel Loop trail. After rising gently along a little stream, the trail passes through some dense stands of mountain laurel and climbs steadily to a set of semi-open summit ledges with views to the south. A little farther along there is a small clearing with a view north to Mt. Monadnock. 

ledges at the top of Laurel Loop

Monadnock view

trail through laurel

Jen on the trail

Back at the bottom, we decided to attempt a loop of the lake. We weren't really sure we'd be able to get all the way around, as there are a string of private camps along a road on the north shore that doesn't go all the way through, but sure enough there is a little path that goes through the woods above the cabin at the end of the road. On the far side, we watched some bald eagles above the causeway road, then continued west along a path called Nature Trail at the western end of the lake. This section was very pretty, undulating along the edge of the woods and passing alongside some boggy wetlands. The trail blazes split at one point, with no signage of any kind, and I'm fairly sure both options lead south to the main park road. We took the longer one that sticks close to the wetlands. At the end we just walked back along the road to the lot. Total mileage of our loop was about 3.5 miles. 

Nature Trail

boardwalk bridge west of Laurel Lake

I'd wanted to take a swim in Laurel Lake afterwards, but some strong storm clouds rolled in just as we got down to the beach and looked like they were ready to send down some lightning strikes. Sure enough, a few thunder booms sounded in the distance and kept me from venturing in. But it looked really nice and I'd definitely go back at a not-busy time to give it a go. 

Storm clouds approaching the beach at Laurel Lake

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Leyden WMA

I hesitate to post about this site since I know a lot of people regard it as a well-kept secret favorite spot, but... I mean it's basically a super-sweet little hike right in our backyard (or at least on the first ridge above us as you head north up out of town) and it's on all the trail apps and there's only so long I can not talk about it before it just feels weird. 

passing through the dramatic third clearing

The lower trailhead is near the end of a dirt road at the Greenfield/Leyden town line, right about where the terrain changes dramatically from the lower rolling open areas of the Valley to the steeper slopes of the hilltown uplands. The route described here rises up for several miles to some open hilltops and a small trailhead off of E Glen Rd up in Leyden. There's no officially marked, mapped, or named trail, and there are several forks along the way so you definitely want to have a trails app handy if you go (but beware lack of cell signal there). Jen and I hiked it as an out-and-back at the start of this Labor Day weekend. 

The first part of the route rises through open meadows, managed as wildlife clearings by MassWildlife. After climbing a steep pitch back up into the woods at the upper end of the clearing, we turned right at the first major intersection (left leads about a mile across the slope to the reservoir ponds along Glen Brook). We climbed through woods for about a mile to the next clearing. There appear to be 5 total along this route, though you really only pass through 4 of them (the fifth being this one, which you sort of skirt the edge of). 

The middle clearing is the sweetest. Hardly anyone goes there but there are wide, sweeping views to the south and you can see so much of the Pioneer Valley. Of the two branches of trail you can choose from here, I'd pick the southern one (the northern one is more direct but passes through some briars on the slopes and a wet area at the bottom). 

After rolling through more woods between clearings 3 and 4, we rose through blackberry and raspberry bushes along the edge of clearing 4 and were delighted to see tons of monarch butterflies flitting about among the goldenrod flowers. Between clearings 4 and 5 the route passes below some houses and along a wet area, and to be honest I don't like that part very much. There are blowdowns to scramble around and it's quite soggy. It smells a bit, too. 

blueberry fields at the top

Clearing 5 is the main high point of this section of ridge, known for its copious blueberries patches in season. It's only a quarter-mile walk up an old road from the upper parking area. 

hiking back down through the lower clearing in late-afternoon light

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Hallockville Pond hike

There's a pretty cool little 1-mile loop trail around Hallockville Pond in Hawley. It's on the current (undated) DCR map as "Pond Loop" but I'd never seen it before. Makes a great short hike up in them thar hills.  

Hallockville Pond

Pond Loop trail

botanists gonna botanize

cascadelet along a nearby stream

Pond Loop trailhead sign

bridge over brook at the far end

super pleasant woods

pondside flowers

occasional rocks

log bridge

another log bridge



bridge over brook

bridge over a different brook

big rocks above the pond

fern path


dam at the north end

trail towards Hawley Pass

Monday, July 12, 2021

Coming Soon...

Visitors to this site are likely already well aware of Trail Running Western Massachusetts, the guidebook I created several years ago profiling 51 great trail running sites in the west half of the state. I'm very pleased to be able to announce that a companion volume is in the works, and scheduled for release just 8 months from now in March of 2022. It will be called Trail Running Eastern Massachusetts and cover the rest of the state not already profiled in the first book. The completed manuscript is being edited at present, will get finalized later in the summer and go into design/layout in the fall, and finally will get printed over the winter. 

There's SO much great stuff out there I can't wait to share. For now, here is a very brief teaser: a sampling of some of my favorite photos taken during site research over the past year: 

There's a reason it's called the Skyline Trail (Middlesex Fells Reservation)

Descending a ski slope in summer at the Blue Hills Reservation

Deep woods singletrack at Willard Brook State Forest

Winter trail running at Leadmine Mountain Conservation Area

Lush hillside swooping in Sutton

Peak autumn color at Mt. Wachusett north of Worcester

Rainy day along the Western Greenway Trail near Boston

Pamet Hollow on the Outer Cape

Fancy trail bridge at the Ward Reservation in Andover

Sandy singletrack at a conservation area in Sandwich

Check back here in a few months for more details about when and where you can pick up a copy of Trail Running Eastern Massachusetts

Monday, July 5, 2021

Hawley Again

Having previously explored the mountain bike trail network from the Lime Kiln trailhead in Hawley (see 2019 post here), Jen and I set out from Hawley Bog a bit further north to try out a new hiking trail loop in Dubuque State Forest. I've cobbled together trail names from several sources but wouldn't vouch too heavily for their accuracy. It looks like DCR is in the process of adding a LOT of new trail signs to their properties, however, so it may already look different on the ground. 

Poverty Square Trail in Hawley

We headed west on the doubletrack-width Poverty Square Trail, which rolls along through the woods for a mile or so until it rater abruptly starts dropping down the slope to the west. At a junction not quite at the bottom, we veered hard left on Marsh Trail and climbed, steeply at times, back up the slope to the south and east. Then we headed east on Hunt Rd, taking a brief out-and-back excursion on an unnamed singletrack trail leading right/south. 

singletrack trail at Dubuque

At a near-4-way junction with State Forest Rd, we turned left and climbed north on Bog Trail, which we followed all the way back around to the trailhead. Then we took the short out-and-back spur trail out into Hawley Bog, which was totally worth it because a bunch of the peat-mat flowers were in bloom. 

hiking at Hawley Bog
Our full route (about 5 miles total)