Sunday, April 10, 2005

Saturday Hike -- Midstate Trail: N.H. to Camp Winnekeag

Michelle and I have decided to hike the entire 94-mile length of the Midstate Trail which runs from the New Hampshire state line to the Rhode Island state line. Our plan is to hike it in six or seven mile stretches each weekend over the course of the spring and summer. We hoped to start last weekend, but because of the heavy rains the week before, we decided to put it off a week and hiked near Quabbin Reservoir instead (see entry dated April 5).

Unfortunately, there isn't a parking area at the N.H. state line trail head, so we needed to hike in over a mile to reach the northern terminus of the trail. We parked at the parking area on rte. 119 and hiked the State Line Trail up to that point. The State Line Trail traverses a line that bypasses Mt. Watatic and runs more or less directly to the, um...state line (shocking!).

The photo below is of Michelle and I at the trail head, which is marked by a granite monument in the stonewall. I believe the stone pillar marked "A&A Mass 1894" marks the boundaries between New Hampshire to the north, Ashburnham to the southwest, and Ashby to the southeast.

From the state line, we hiked south along a fairly well worn trail which carries both the Midstate Trail and the Wapack Trail (which runs from the parking area we used north for 27 miles over a number of peaks to Greenfield, N.H.). The trail was pretty wet in a number of spots and there was still some snow in areas that were protected from the sun. There was melting ice hidden underneath the surface of the trail in some spots, which occasionally caused the trail to crater five or six inches under our feet. The trail heads over Nutting Hill to the top of Mt. Watatic, and is quite gradual as it approaches from the north.

Nutting Hill offers unobstructed views to the east and southeast as far as Boston, while Mt. Watatic offers a nearly 360 degree overlook, with Boston visible to the southeast and Mt. Wachusett visible to the south. Only the view toward Mt. Monadnock to the northwest is obstructed by trees. The photo below looks to the south and includes Stodge Meadow Pond and Mt. Wachusett.

Surprisingly, we met few people at the summit of Mt. Watatic. Watatic is usually one of the more crowded peaks in Massachusetts. We only saw a dozen or so people at the top and along the trail to the summit. The hike down the west side was much more steep that our loop to the top of the mountain, although switchbacks have been cut to make the trek easier.

After stopping at the car for lunch, we continued south another 2.5 miles to Camp Winnekeag where we had parked our other vehicle. The hike to Winnekeag was over easier terrain, although we did cross the peaks of both Fisher Hill and Blueberry Hill along the path. The trail was significantly drier, and there was much less snow and ice aong the way. This stretch was also much more secluded than the first, as we only passed two other hikers along the route.

Total hike: 6.6 miles.
Midstate Trail to date: 5.4 miles.
Total summer to date: 11.9 miles.
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