Fitness editorial -- part 2 -- Local hike affords beautiful vistas, rigorous workout

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Timm Huffman
  • 439th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
 If you're like me, you can only take so much of the weight room, treadmill or the elliptical. If so, why not try one nearby hike that offers beautiful views of Western Massachusetts and will also get you closer to your PT goals?

     Just a short drive through Granby will take you to the Mt. Holyoke Range State Park, home to miles and miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the 114-mile Metacomet-Monadnock (M-M) trail; this trail is officially known as the New England National Scenic Trail. You can park at the Notch Visitor Center and head up the hill to the trail head. Be sure to grab a trail map at the information kiosk just in front of the trail.
     "The Mt. Holyoke range has some really spectacular ridges," said Mr. Patrick Fletcher, who has been hiking and maintaining trails in the area for twenty years.

     To start this hike, follow the Robert Frost (R-F) trail, marked by the orange rectangles, down into the trees. The initial portion of this trail shares the woods with the M-M trail, but soon splits to the left.

     The R-F trail is easy going, save for a few ups and downs, as it follows the elevation lines around the middle section of Mount Norwottuck. As I followed the markers deeper into the woods, I couldn't help but wonder what the trails name sake would have thought as he walked through these woods.

Perhaps these woods inspired him to write the lines:
"They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay."
     The trail eventually meets back up with the M-M trail and you will continue following the combined trail for a few hundred more yards until you see the sign for Rattlesnake Knob.
     This cliff-top overlook affords beautiful, unobstructed views of Long Mountain and the surrounding low-lands. After you've soaked in the vistas for a bit, turn around and follow the M-M/R-F trail back to where they met.
     At this point you depart from the R-F trail and follow the M-M trail up Mount Norwottuck. This portion of the hike is much steeper and rockier, so be sure to watch your step. Take a few minutes on your way up this trail to examine the rock formation known as the Horse Caves before finishing the last quarter mile or so to the summit.

     If you time it just right, you can enjoy a few moments of sunset at the 1,106 foot summit and still have time to make it back to the parking lot before dark. The top of this mountain isn't exactly bare, but it does clear out a bit, offering views to the north and northwest.

     The descent down the mountain is rocky and steep in places but much milder than the climb to the summit. The trail eventually turns to graded gravel trail before reuniting with the R-F trail for the last jaunt to the parking lot.

     Mister Fletcher jokingly cautions that hiking can be addictive and fun.

     "The most scenic part [of the trail] is the one you're on now," he added.

     If this hike wasn't strenuous enough for you, try lacing up your running shoes and running the same route. Also, remember that anything you carry in needs to be carried out. Out of respect for the environment and other hikers, don't leave anything behind.

     For more information on local hiking or to get involved with trail maintenance, visit Stay tuned for next week's venture out onto one local bike path.