Today’s itinerary called for hiking from Lake Holland to the East Mountain Wildlife Management Area. But just when you think you’ve had your hardest hiking day, you haven’t.
So yeah, today was slated to be a great day. We’d planned to hike up Mt. Nonotuck at the Mt. Tom State Reservation, shuttle around the Connecticut River (too large for a water crossing), then hike around Mount Holyoke. We did do all those things, and it nearly killed us. Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But here’s how the day went.
We began hiking up Mt. Nonotuck in the morning. It was a long climb (a mile or so), but the grade was gentle and the footing wonderful, so it wasn’t bad at all. Once we got on top we enjoyed the beautiful vistas that have characterized this hike.
At one point, a young woman joined us. It was right at the point where we found the highest peak – which, unfortunately, was covered with various towers and gizmos. That’s one thing we’ve noticed on this hike. Every peak is topped with metallic structures. Not sure if they’re for weather monitoring, satellite stuff, etc., but it kind of ruins thing (although I’m sure it’s necessary).
Heading Out from Lake Holland
Nonetheless, it was a little funny here because someone had spray painted “Mt. Crumpit” (sic) and “Whooville” (sic) on top. It was also interesting to see a large Christmas star. The woman with us, who has lived in the area five years, said she didn’t think the star was lit during the holidays anymore. We also noticed some concrete steps and railings up there. She said there had once been a resort somewhere up there. Can’t imagine people being allowed to walk up to a railing right at the edge of a mountaintop, but years ago I suppose they weren’t as cautious.
Anyway, after hiking down the other side, we got into our car, picked up Parks’ car, then shuttled ourselves over the river. Then we dropped the cars for our hike along Mt. Holyoke. This is when things got rough.
First, it took us 90 minutes to do the shuttling. That seems so long, considering our cars weren’t very far apart. But you’re driving through tiny towns with curving roads and low speed limits, so that’s why. Long and short of it: we lost 90 minutes of hiking time. Our start from Lake Holland seemed a long time ago.
A Very Long Day
Then, with less hiking time than normal, Mt. Holyoke turned out to be the most difficult hike we’ve had. No one believes in switchbacks here. The terrain was uber-steep, and very rocky. In a lot of places it was scree: loose rocks that you slip and slide along. When you combine that with steep climbs and descents, it’s pretty dangerous. We were inching our way sideways on many of these.
Our pace slowed dramatically to 30- or 40-minute miles. By the time we got to a cool, old resort building on the final peak – where there were quite a few people lounging on its expansive back deck, taking in the beautiful sunset – we had to zip past, because we knew we were now in a race against the clock to finish the hike before dark.
As we descended down the mountain, we kept slipping into the woods, which were very dark. We fished out our headlamps, and of course mine instantly died. I almost stepped on some kind of snake I didn’t recognize, which was alarming because earlier I’d noticed a warning sign about snakes. It didn’t look dead, but it wasn’t moving. Ed was going to poke it! NO! So we walked around it, and luckily it didn’t do anything.
We got off the mountain right when it became completely dark. We were exhausted from the strenuous hike, the bottoms of our feet were killing us from the rocks, and we prayed we’d never have another day like today. Tonight we’re starting one of four nights at the Hampton Inn Hadley-Amherst. It’s lovely. I’ve been happy with all of our motel selections on this hike.
Map Miles: About 17
Map Miles to Date: About 173.3
iPhone Miles: 18.6
iPhone Miles to Date: 172.5
Steps to Date: 445,107
Flights Walked: 339
Flights to Date: 1,751
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