Mt. Greylock December 30, 2014Posted by Jenny in hiking.
Tags: Mt. Greylock, state high points. Hopper trail, western Mass., Windsor Plateau, WWI monuments
I spent five days recently in central Massachusetts, the city of Northampton, visiting my sister over the holidays. Incidentally, I’ve noticed that the Boston Globe calls this western Massachusetts. That is the perspective of city-dwellers in the east. It is not western Mass. If you look at the map, the Connecticut River valley goes right through the middle of the state. That’s where Northampton is located.
I was very fortunate to cross between Northampton and North Adams the other day. THAT is western Mass. I drove west on Rt. 9 a short distance, turned north on State 112, then west on State 116. This took me across the endless forests of the Windsor Plateau. I might not have recognized this so readily if it were not for my companion Bob Parlee, who explored all of the streams and forests of that area. I thought of him constantly as I drove through that area.
One thing that’s great about the Windsor Plateau is that it hasn’t changed at all from the way it was a hundred years ago. There are no shopping malls, no franchise businesses. It is all local. The buildings—houses and small stores—are all made of wood. No big signs. I hope to God it stays this way.
I passed a huge pond (would be called a lake in the South, where there are no natural lakes, only fake lakes. Don’t get me wrong, I love the South. But not its fake lakes (a.k.a. reservoirs).) There were all kinds of folks out there doing ice fishing. Great!
I drove up, up, up to the high elevations of the plateau, then down, down, down into the Housatonic River valley and the town of Adams, a place of factory workers. You still see the millworkers’ homes as you drive north on Route 8. Thank goodness this is north of the gentrified, touristy areas around Stockbridge and Lenox.
You get up to North Adams and more gritty industrial stuff. Great!
Then you turn west and go to Williamstown, a college town. A lot more wealth. A pretty little town.
I was headed for the trailhead of the Hopper trail on the west side of Greylock. I’ve been there many times. Once Bob and I bushwhacked up the Hopper. It is a huge, rounded stream basin with steep sides, an utterly beautiful place.
It was surprisingly difficult to reach that Hopper trailhead. You have to go on a dirt road about half a mile. Well, with the heavy rains recently, it had turned into slippery clay, and all uphill to get to the trailhead. I got a running start in my rented Nissan Versa and made it up, slithering a bit on the uphill section, negotiating steep ruts.
The Hopper trailhead has the distinction that it is right in the middle of a working farm.
I headed up the Hopper trail, a climb of 4 miles one way and 2500′ vertical. I noticed many signs of recent heavy snow, but the weather had been warm and the snow had all melted at the lower elevations.
I passed healthy looking hemlocks, a novelty for someone who lives in the South.
As I climbed, I got into icy packed-down sections of trail, the kind of place where the ice is actually created by hikers. The surrounding woods have no ice.
It got snowier as I got above 3000′ or so.
Eventually I reached the summit of Greylock, the state high point of Massachusetts, 3,491′. Don’t underestimate it. You generally start below 1000′. I have climbed it many times. I won’t bore you with the times I’ve climbed it with Bob, from all directions, off-trail and on-trail.
This was strangely comforting to me. I have been writing about WWI in my history blog.
It was pretty severe up there, with the strong winds. Experience is a great thing—I knew to layer up before I ventured onto the upper summit. I had the usual great view into the valley of the city of Adams.
So I climbed back down the mountain. I passed a frozen pond.
I passed many gurgling streams that were running high from the recent warm temperatures.
I reached the farm at the Hopper trailhead. This time I heard loud, angry “moos” from the cows on the right side of the barn. On the left side I heard an answering “moo” from this incredibly large bull. Quite a conversation! And so my hike ended.