NEW TRAIL: Mahican - Mohawk Trail
This isn’t really a new trail; in fact, it’s one of the oldest trails in this area. Native Americans used a trail that basically followed the Deerfield River east from the Connecticut River, up over the Hoosac Range to the Hoosic River and on to the Hudson. This trail (more or less) eventually became Route 2, which was called “The Mohawk Trail.” (A) Lauren Stevens, Williams College students and others have worked to reestablish the old trail, as close as possible to the original route. Unfortunately, with more private land and new roads and bridges, only about 30 miles have been laid out for hiking, mostly on the Hoosac Range, which will be covered here.
For a long time the only recognized part of the old Mahican - Mohawk trail (blazed white) was the steep climb from Mohawk Trail State Forest to the top of the ridge. (Here a spur, blazed blue, goes east 3/4 of a mile to the summit of Todd Mtn.) This is not only the most scenic and historically accurate part of the trail, but about the only one that offers several good hiking loops, including one to Trees of Peace Grove, home of a White Pine that’s the tallest tree in the state. (A Massachusetts DCR map of thIs area is available at Mohawk State Forest headquarters, just off Rt. 2 at the bottom of the eastern side of the Hoosac Range or at this link: https://www.mass.gov/doc/mohawk-trail-state-forest-trail-map/download)
SOCIAL DISTANCING NOTE: MASS STATE PARKS ARE OPEN, BUT THE M - M TRAIL FROM MOHAWK TRAIL STATE FOREST UP TO TODD MTN. IS NARROW AND POPULAR
Going west on the ridge from Todd Mtn., the M-M trail follows or roughly parallells the original trail. It swings down into the forest, then up along some ledges and onto an old wood road that ends at Route 2 in Drury. (For those who plan to hike east on this section, there is small parking lot on South Country Rd. just off Rt. 2 at Brown’s Garage.)
Here is where it gets interesting. To begin with, the trail up to Todd Mountain and west along the ridge was probably used by scouts looking for activity in the Deerfield River Valley. But the main Native American trail followed the path of least resistance, which was up the Cold River. (A, B) Today, Rt. 2 construction, bridges and flooding have erased all sign of this Cold River Trail. The well defined trail from Todd Mountain is now blocked west of Route 2 by private land. So a new section was laid out to go from the Rt. 2 crossing 1.5 miles east and south to the Cold River. (This can be seen on the Mass. DCR Savoy Mountain State Forest Map which can be accessed at this link: https://www.mass.gov/doc/savoy-mountain-state-forest-trail-map/download ) It’s blazed white, but not very well marked or much traveled. I won’t say that only a Mahican could follow it, but it’s a bit of a challenge. Still, it’s a nice hike and you can’t really get lost, with Rt. 2 behind you, fields on the west and the Cold River to the east.
NO SOCIAL DISTANCING WORRIES ON THE M - M SECTION SOUTH FROM RT. 2
So, to continue from the end of the Todd Mountain section, cross Rt. 2 .and start uphill along the guard rail, looking left. You should see a small yellow M - M disc on a tree marking the trailhead, and the brown wooden sign at the far end of the second bridge isn’t impossible to see. Here the trail, now on Savoy Mountain State Forest land, heads southeast, parallel to Rt. 2. It crosses several small bridges, winds uphill and onto an old road. After a short distance, the trail leaves the road and goes up and along below the edge of a field Then it enters a hemlock forest and angles southeast downhill, where it joins another old road that goes down the side of the hill to the junction of Tannery Brook and the Cold River. This is a peaceful wooded little spot with a campsite, bench and stone fireplace. The road and trail run down the bank to an old ford across the Cold River, which the MASS DCR website says is “easily forded” in low water, but possibly “un-crossable” in high water. A large yellow rope had been tied across here, but it’s now broken.
On the other side the Cold River, a small Mahican-Mohawk disc on a tree shows where the trail climbs the bank on some log stairs to a flat terrace and up on an old road that becomes Sherman Road. After half a mile on Sherman, the M-M turns right onto the Carpenter Trail. From here the M-M follows Savoy State Forest trails: Carpenter to New State Road, north to Bog Pond Trail and Haskings Trail to the State Forest Campground. From there it continues on the North Pond Loop, Blackburnian Loop, Lost Pond and Busby Trails to the top of Spruce Hill, then turns north on BNRC’s Hoosac Range Trail to a trailhead and parking lot on Rt. 2 at the Western Summit.
A short walk west on Route 2 will bring you to the historic and now renovated Wigwam Gift Shop where (when it’s open) you can admire the view and get a cold Sasparilla, a snack or whatever. At the north end of the Wigwam parking lot a small sign marks the Mahican - Mohawk trail dropping off down the mountainside to North Adams. This trail, which mostly follows the old road down (shorter and steeper than Route 2) is probably best hiked in the opposite direction, up from the parking lot on Rt. 2 just north of Central Shaft Road, with the trailhead at the north end of the lot.
Mahican-Mohawk Trail from the Mass DCR website: https://www.mass.gov/location-details/mahican-mohawk-trail
- Hal March
A. The Mohawk Trail; It’s History and Course. Booklet, William B. Browne (1920) plus Addendum,Paul W. Marino (1998), reprinted 1998 by The Hoosic Bank.
B. The Mohawk Trail, showing old roads and other points of interest, David L. Costello. Self-published 16 X 19” spiral-bound book, 1952.
UPDATE 4/11: Due to conditions and uncertainty surrounding the spread of the Coronavirus, the print version of the Spring/Summer issue of The Stepping Stone newsletter has been postponed until at least May 15. But the digital version will appear on our BenningtonGMC.org website under NEWS. Lorna, Hal, Ann and Billy will post notices, features (Nature Notes has already been added), reports and most importantly: the Schedule of trips and events when we are next able to schedule something. The Green Mountain Club Headquarters and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy both consider the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail closed until further notice and ask that no one hike on the trails.
Newsletter: Hal March and Lorna Cheriton
Is this the last ski??
INFORMATION BELOW IS FROM THE MAIN GMC, 25 March 2020
Thank you for your patience as we work with our partners and landowners to protect public health and manage recreation resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Governor Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order for Vermonters, you are encouraged to get outside for exercise and fresh air. We encourage you to spend time outdoors locally with members of you own household and to stay 6’ or more away from anyone you may encounter.
We are in the middle of a health emergency and to avoid the spread of COVID-19, we all must stay home as much as possible. As of April 3, the Long Trail and side trails on state lands are closed by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. The Green Mountain Club doesn’t have the authority to close trails on other lands, but we are asking everyone to please avoid using the Long Trail, Appalachian Trail, side trails, and facilities until the Governor lifts the Stay at Home order.
It is important to know:
I look forward to writing you about upcoming hikes and outings, but until then I thank you in advance for your cooperation. If we all do our part, we can keep the public safe and protect our vulnerable trail resources.
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