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.
Skunk Cabbage, (Symplocarpus foetidus), a member of the Jack-in-the Pulpit family, emerges in early spring often before snow melts. It is a plant of wetlands and moist slopes, that due to strange internal chemistry uses oxygen to create heat, a process called thermogenesis. The flower sprouts first enclosed by a mottled purple hood called the spathe. Temperature within the spathe can reach 70 F. Inside the hood the flower, (spadix), resides, pale yellow and tubular. The leaves don’t sprout until late spring and die back in summer. The spadix turns black and releases marble sized seeds. Pollen produced by the flower and the warm temperature within the hood are enjoyed by insects including bees, carrion beetles and flies. Although the plant is toxic, causing burning and swelling in the lips and mouth, bears eat the young leaves and the roots, ducks, and grouse enjoy the seeds. The common name, Skunk Cabbage is apt, as the flower gives off a rotting meat and skunky aroma.
Native Americans dried the the plant, reducing the toxicity and used it to treat everything from headaches to epilepsy.
INFORMATION BELOW IS FROM THE MAIN GMC, 25 March 2020
Under Governor Scott’s new “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order for Vermonters, you may be wondering about outdoor activities. During the press conference regarding this order, the governor endorsed getting outside for exercise and fresh air. Please just do this locally (not traveling to the Long Trail or other trail systems), with members of your own household, and stay 6’ or more away from anyone you may encounter. We recommend taking walks right out your door and exploring your neighborhood on any trails, dirt roads, or sidewalks you have available. Trails and parks in other states have been overwhelmed with use and had to close because people were not practicing correct social distancing. If we all enjoy the outdoors locally and responsibly, we may be able to avoid that outcome in Vermont.
This is a constantly changing situation and we are in daily discussions with our land management partners. We will continue to update you here with news when we have it.
Book review: Earl V. Shaffer "Walking With Spring" (1981 )
It seems as if when you can't be out hiking the trail you could just waterproof your boots or you could read about hiking the trail. There are quite a few good books about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but the one to start with is Earl V. Shaffer's "Walking With Spring."
First of all, he was the first to hike the AT continuously from end to end, which he did in 1948 after serving 41/2 years in the Army in World War II. Certainly any 2000 plus mile hike is quite an accomplishment, but in 1948 it was exceptionally difficult. Just following the trail in those days was quite a challenge, and it was made even harder when the maps that Earl ordered from the Appalachian Trail Conference didn't arrive in time, leaving him to depend on gas station maps.
In addition, his equipment seemed to be a little shaky, especially by modern standards. In his "bulky" Mountain Troop rucksack he carried a Marine Corps poncho, a "paper mill" blanket (whatever that is) and an Air Corps survival tent (which he ditched after a week.) When he developed blisters early on, he decided the "…best thing was to put sand in my boots and wear no socks until my feet toughened." (!)
But maybe most importantly, reading "Walking With Spring" gives the reader a unique opportunity to go back in time and experience -even if vicariously - the early Appalachian Trail as it was in 1948, and a very different America along the way . Neither the trail nor the country would ever be the same again.
Finally - and thankfully - Earl Shaffer's writing is more than equal to the promise of his great adventure. He tells you, in quite a bit of detail, with a few photographs, just about everything you might want to know about this first AT thru-hike in a style that's as natural and inspiring as a walk in the woods.
INFORMATION BELOW IS FROM THE MAIN GMC, 23 March 2020
Yes, you can still hike! We want you to get out on the trails and your safety is our top priority. We ask that you limit your hikes to local day trips and avoid traveling and congregating in groups. Please continue to maintain social distance of at least 6’ between people even on the trails.
For the safety of all, we ask that hikers do not use any overnight sites, shelters, or privies until further notice. These facilities cannot be sanitized and may contain surfaces for the coronavirus to spread through. We also cannot guarantee a COVID-19 free experience while hiking.
The current conditions are showing that it is mud season on some trails, while it’s still full winter on others, especially up high. Please be prepared for the conditions and be safe. Please consider that any accidents in the woods are dangerous for you and put a strain on first responders and our already overloaded healthcare system. You can reference more safety recommendations from Leave No Trace.
We know that hiking is good for our mental and physical health and can be a source of inspiration in difficult times. The Green Mountain Club is here to help you find your connection to the mountains. Our visitor center staff are taking calls and answering emails. We are working on virtual activities to keep you connected to the hiking community. Reach out using (802) 244-7037 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit our website for GMC related COVID-19 information.
Please be safe when enjoying your outdoor pursuits.
Click here to find information about hiking during Mud Season.
GMC Director’s Report 3/21/20
The GMC board meeting was held remotely via Zoom.
GMC is currently operating in remote mode – the Visitors’ Center is closed, and staff are working from home. All group events have been cancelled through at least April. Hikers are asked to limit themselves to day hikes both to limit group congregation and because shelters and privy maintenance is not yet underway, as well as the usual caution not to hike above 3000’ until the trails dry out in late May, for trail protection.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, plans had been in place for an active field season in our neighborhood with an extended volunteer project to harden trail with rock placement just south of Sucker Pond, and replacement of the Melville Nauheim privy. Now, the options for group work, housing of seasonal staff and volunteers, and deployment of caretakers are all uncertain. We do anticipate increased trail use and anticipate multiple challenges throughout the state.
Fortunately, our budget is balanced and club membership has increased slightly. Staff will be working to maintain operations as best they can as the situation evolves. The status of the Annual Meeting, June 12-14, at Sterling College, Craftsbury, is uncertain. For updates, visit greenmountainclub.org
The annual meeting and potluck originally scheduled for March 15th has been postponed due to the COVID-19 virus including food restrictions at the UU. We are planning to reschedule in late April, but will confirm as we know more.
Here is the Proposed Agenda for the meeting:
5:30 Gather at the UU
5:45 Potluck begins
6:30 Business Meeting
•Approval of Minutes of 2019 Bennington Annual Meeting
• Elections: new officers are in bold
•President: Reed Goossen (taking over from Lorna Cheriton)
• Vice President: Tim Marr
• Secretary and Director: Martha Stitelmann
• Treasurer and Membership Coordinator: Bill Lyons
• Other officers
• Co-ordinator of Trails and Shelters: Matt Vezina (taking over from PJ Beaumont)
Communications (website and Meetup): Ann and Billy Martin
Newsletter: Hal March and Lorna Cheriton
• Trails: Matt Venzina and/or PJ Beaumont
• Director: Martha Stitelmann
• Communications: Ann and Billy Martin (website); Hal March (newsletter)
• Treasurer's Report: Lorna Cheriton for Bill Lyons
• Other Business
7:00 Presentation: Hubey Folsom will share photos and stories of his 2018 Mexican volcano climb, his 2019 Ecuador trek and volcano climb, and his 2020 Mexico City trip which includes climbing three smaller volcanoes.
7:45 Dessert and Questions for Hubey
Keep up with the happenings around Bennington !
Click COMMENTS on any blog post to leave a comment
Subscribe to ALL GMC podcasts in your RSS reader using the following: