Yesterday morning, Yvonne and I went a different direction than usual for a day hike– south, into Massachusetts and toward the Mount Holyoke range. Yvonne had never been, and I hadn’t climbed the mountains since I hiked across them in 2009, while hiking the New England Trail. I remember liking that range quite a bit, and we all know how much I like to revisit places from the past.
Life has been pretty hectic in the past few weeks, and it feels like I haven’t gotten out much, so I definitely needed a good hike to set my mind straight. Stick season is on us, with all the leaves down and no snow in the low hills, and that always knocks down my hiking time by quite a bit. Between that, working back at EMS again, and spending as much time as possible programming my apps, I’ve been neglecting my hiking life a bit more than I intended for this fall. But it seems like the inevitable cycle I go through– after leaf season each year, my outdoors time drops drastically as I try to make life work through the winter.
|Looking across the Seven Sisters to Mount Holyoke, and Northampton below.|
The initial climb up to Bare Mountain from “The Notch” on route 116 was as steep as I remembered, but not nearly as long. Once up top, the overcast and bare trees made for a pretty dreary morning, and the constant sounds of traffic below made me wonder why I had liked this section of trail so much. I didn’t get the wilderness feeling that’s been so necessary for me in the past few years, or the sense of solitude. Just the pleasant rush of endorphins from the climb, but not much more. I’m beginning to think I’m turning into more of a hermit as far as my relationship to the wilderness goes. I crave long and remote sections of trail, and little contact with humanity. The graffiti and litter on Bare Mountain were exactly the opposite of what I want in the mountains.
|Nice, open forest.|
Soon after, though, we got to the good stuff. It was a bitingly cold day, with precious little sunlight (until we finished the hike, of course, when the clouds finally cleared), and the views were dreary and grey. But there’s something comforting about the kind of forest that covers southern New England. It’s so open and clear, especially during stick season. There was a steady cover of leaves on the ground, and rolling contours between the exposed ledges of the mountains. The crunch of leaves underfoot drowned out the sound of traffic after a while, and the views of farmland closer to the Connecticut River opened up just enough.
|The view of the Connecticut River oxbow and Northampton from Mount Holyoke is the best part of this hike.|
Since “disconnecting” a few months ago, I’ve felt much more at peace with the world, but it’s kind of killed my urge to write. I’ve spent most of my creative energy on programming instead of writing, and most of my reading time on books (made of paper!) rather than blogs and web forums. I feel a lot more productive and relaxed. Of course, with my goal of turning the apps into a semi-reliable income, spending more of my creative energy on them is as much necessity as desire. But it feels good to put them together, especially knowing that they’ve already been well-received by PCT hikers this year. It feels good to know I’m helping other hikers, and staying a part of the trail community in a way.
|The leaf cover on the ground was thick enough to make the trails difficult to follow.|
After a chilly lunch at the Holyoke Mountain House, Yvonne and I took a different trail back to the Notch, passing by Lithia Springs reservoir, and enjoying the more remote southern side of the range. We didn’t see a single person on the trails all day, which is to be expected on a cold Monday with less than ideal weather. The open forest turned out to be extra useful, since we took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up bushwhacking a half mile back to the trail (and I must say, the bushwhacking was much more entertaining than a lot of the secondary trails on the mountain).
To finish off the day, we had a nice drive up Route 63, and a short detour to the Leverett Village Coop, a place I discovered while hiking the New England Trail. With a planned relocation to the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, the Coop will no longer be on the trail, but it’s a lovely place to stop for snacks to finish off a day of hiking on Mt Holyoke.