Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Crotched Mountain - August 14, 2011

I organized a Cub Scout camping trip to Greenfield State Park for the weekend and figured we could also hike up Crotched on Sunday afternoon.  Only one other family joined us for the hike but that's OK, a small group hike is better anyway.

Alex and I last did this mountain a few years ago when he was 4.  This was before they built the new wheelchair accessible trails, parking lot, and pavilion on the knoll.  As well as before the massive clearcutting which they say they did so blueberry bushes could grow.  They also tore down the lean-tos which were part way up.

Alex wearing my socks - couldn't find his - quite the fashion statement
At the new parking lot and just up they have cleared away some trees opening up a nice view of the mountain which you could not see from here before.

The new Gregg Trail replaces the 1st half of the original Shannon trail and is quite a bit longer as it has many switchbacks to keep the grade to a minimum.  It is also wide, flat, and made of gravel.  The trail 1st opens out into a meadow.  Last time we were here this meadow was absolutley full of wildflowers of every color imaginable.  Probably the highest density of flowers over such a large area that I have seen and the aroma was just full in the air.  Now, the entire meadow is mowed :(  The trail winds its way through the meadow instead of going straight up.
Mowed meadow along Gregg trail
After many many many switchbacks the trail opens up on the knoll where it meets back up with the gravel road (gated at the parking lot).  Here they have built a very nice pavilion and have cleared more trees opening up the views.  There is also a map/photo on the pavilion that identifies the mountains to the south including the Wapack Range and Grand Monadnock as well as others to the west.  These views were not nearly as good before.
Alex approaching end of Gregg Trail

Crotched Mountain from knoll

Partial view from the pavilion
We took a short snack break there and found the original Shannon's trail easily and followed it into the woods.  Though these woods are apparently just a buffer just small enough to hide the massive clear cut that lies beyond them. Last time we were here if I remember correctly this was a nice walk through a mostly pine forest.  Now it is completely open and completely full of some very large blueberries.  The trail was still pretty easy to follow to the opposite side of the clearing where it re-entered the woods.
The clear-cut

Just some of the blueberries Alex picked - these ones were big

After entering the woods the trail meets up with the Bennington trail, turns right and ascends up the mountain.  Just before this there are several glacial eratics that are scattered around the woods.
One of the smaller boulders, but it was just perched here - should have had Alex stand next to it for perspective, its probably 10 feet tall.
Kids were getting a little tired so we turned around as soon as the trail opened up to the first outlook which was probably 5 minutes below the better views above.  But it was high enough and we made quick time back down.

I had my GPS with me and had downloaded several geocaches which were along the trail.  Each kid took a turn navigating to the caches as we found 2 of the 3 we were looking for.  The one we didn't find was where the lean-tos used to be and apparently that cache has since been moved - I didn't read the logs enough before we started looking for it.

The forecast called for rain but it held off and we were able to check out the new trails and just about complete a short walk through the woods up a local mountain.  Not a bad day at all!

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