Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Carl, Eleni and Frankie pose in front of a pine tree cathedral.

Carl, Eleni and Frankie pose in front of a pine tree cathedral.

Happy Spring! It was snowing when Spring officially started as well as Saturday, the first full day of Spring.

But it did finally change for the better. Not liking to stand still, I got Frankie, Eleni and Carl to join Scout and I for a walk. After stopping at Nick’s Nest for a hot dog, I drove over to the old Mt. Tom ski entrance. around Whiting Street Reservoir and along the Mt. Tom ski area.

The Whiting Street Reservoir and Mt. Tom behind it.

The Whiting Street Reservoir and Mt. Tom behind it.

Back 25 years ago, I was skiing here at Mt. Tom. Before that I was going to Mountain Park (drive past the ski area) with my parents to go on the amusement park’s rides. Before that, my father used to come to Mountain Park to dance to the big bands. (He was quite a dancer!) Now at least they hold summer concerts here near the entrance.

We cut along an access road and entered a forest of tall pines. It seemed like we were passing through a cathedral as we entered the path around the reservoir. After walking around partway, we took a right onto an access path and walked towards the old Mt. Tom ski area. I pointed out the old trails, and the old wave pool that got Eleni’s interest. Then Carl and her saw the old ski lodge and decided to do a little investigating. They were fascinated by the graffiti decorating the walls inside and out.

The old Mt. Tom ski area.

The old Mt. Tom ski area.

When they all emerged from behind the buildings, I told them some family history…of how I came here skiing, about the amusement park called Mountain Park where I played and my dad danced.

Then we too a look at the massive quarry. After the ski area closed in the late 90’s the owners started excavating the quarry. Looking into it the size seemed intimidating. The day was finally warming up and I could here icicles breaking off the walls and small rocks tumbling down the sides. Eleni and Scout walked down and I followed behind. She seemed swallowed up by the size of the place. The rocks were being heated by the sun making it much warmed inside the large bowl.

Carl, Eleni and Frankie in front of the Mt. Tom quarry.

Carl, Eleni and Frankie in front of the Mt. Tom quarry.

Eleni descends into the quarry with Scout.

Eleni descends into the quarry with Scout.

My words echoed off the walls as I called her and Scout to come back up. There was no danger but the cracking ice and trickling stones just made me nervous. The kids were enjoying themselves and Eleni especially.

I brought them to a trail that climbs far around the rim of the quarry before going up towards the ridge at the top of the ski area. I didn’t get too far before the kids convinced me to turn around. I was tired of slipping on patches of ice hidden by the recent snowfall anyhow.

We circled back past the ski lodge and I had one more look at the old ski lodge. I wished of getting rich so I could resurrect the old ski area.

January Hike

Posted: February 20, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

1-25-15 Winter Hiking

Frankie joined me on a Sunday hike with my friend Ron. My dog Scout got a treat as well, joining us for a Sunday walk.

Typically, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing take the place of my biking Sundays this time of year. Some years not so much. This year very, very much. So this was kind of the first time my son joined me on a guy’s hike.

Frankie knows my hikes though, always done with the other kids. So the only difference this day was in my mind. But its just another reminder to me that my boy is growing up!

It was January 25, 2015 and it was a bright, sunny but cold day with a stiff wind. Starting from route 202 in Holyoke, we crossed the street and entered the pipeline trail. The snow was thick enough to slow us down a little but not so much that snowshoes would make much difference.

In the woods, we were soon warm enough to be comfortable. I let Scout off the leash (my youngest son Joe would be flipping out), and we were soon enjoying being outside. I chose for us to take the steep trail to the left after the pipeline. Climbing up the steep trail, we were warming up quick. Frankie had his coat off and I was working up a pretty good sweat. Funny how fast things change. It was very cold at the Ashley Reservoir gate.

At the top of the trail we took in the view while cooling off very quickly. As expected, the wind was gusting even harder along the ridge but the sun was shining. I was cold and warm at the same time. Frankie kept his coat off long enough to get his body temperature down close to normal. The boy is a furnace!

Backtracking just a little, I got Scout turned around on the right path and we followed the trail along the ridge. We were somewhat more protected from the wind but more exposed than at the pipeline trail. Enjoying the view along the ridge, we headed slowly down the path towards the trolley trail.

It was cool having Frankie along with Ron and I. I was enjoying this time. As the kids get older, they want to be away from their parents, even if in the same house. Frankie will spend a lot of time downstairs either doing homework, or just listening to music. Quality time becomes important. Sometimes its just in the car, sometimes its a walk. Either way we don’t always say much to each other. Ron a I did much of the talking. But talking is not always as important as just experiencing a little bit of life together.

Mt Tom

I finally got the snowshoes to work this year. Just in time too. Ron, Carl, Dave and I were going up Mt. Tom a few weeks ago and we couldn’t do it without them. This was Ron’s first time on snowshoes and he was very impressed, never expecting so much fun and success. A few weeks earlier we had made the hike without them and he had a terrible time up the orange trail then back down the mountain.

This time Ron had the smart idea to do it in reverse. We headed right up the mountain, followed the edge then down the trail to the B-17 Memorial. Then we crossed the access road and followed the orange trail back down. It’s much easier and safer coming back on the flatter route.

Since then, I’ve done it with Dave, then a Saturday hike with my four kids and Scout, then this past Sunday hike with my wife Toni, Joe and Scout again.

Starting with the kids on that Saturday snowshoes haven’t been necessary, especially with all the hikers flattening out the route. Some days the snow is soft, some days it’s icy going up.

When I was with my kids, we discovered a group of para-gliders preparing to “launch” (not jump) off the mountain. They were waiting for the winds to change forcing us to move on and miss the show.

Turning down the mountain, the kids appreciated the B-17 memorial and then the large icicles. That next Sunday, Joe enjoyed showing his mom all that stuff all over again.

As always, the hike finishes with treats at “Mt. Joe to Go” below the the Log Cabin.

Mt Tom Kids

We had gotten our new puppy Scout just before Christmas. With the holidays, and the kids home, I found it to be a good time to be home with them, focus on the dog, and take some time for myself…

Christmas Vacation

December 24, 2013 Ride

Getting out of work early, I rode right from the house to the Bear Hole trails off Morgan Road. My time was limited but I found riding from home gave me more time.

I love riding with a group. I do it almost all the time. I hated riding alone. Now on a day like today I can enjoy it. I take time to explore, maybe play my music, and just see where the trail takes me. There is nobody around to complain and nobody to see my mistakes. Many of the trails we ride now are ones I found on my own.

This time I stayed on this side of the Mass Pike exploring some of the less used trails. I found a white dot marked trail that led to the quarry. I explored around West Springfield’s water works. I found some trails that led to Paucatuck Park off Dewey Street. I can’t say they were spectacular trails (although there was some great stuff going to the quarry), but it was fun to explore and perhaps add parts to a future ride.

December 26, 2013 Ride

The day after Christmas is a big shopping day…I’ll never make that mistake again.

Getting up early, I jumped on my bike again for a short but sweet ride before the house got busy. With 5 kids between us, the house can get real busy. With 4 of them at or close to being teenagers, most wouldn’t be up for a while. I could go out and be back before they rolled over in bed.

Again leaving from the house, it was back down Morgan Road, follow the meandering trails around the beaver dam, under the Mass Pike this time and onto many of the short, steep trails I love. The ground had a dusting of snow to test my tires. I found the traction to be much better than I anticipated. Getting to Ashley Reservoir, the gray morning along with the dusting of snow on coating the ground and branches was my after Christmas treat.

December 27, 2013 Walk

It was a bright, blue sky outside. The day was crisp and cool, but the sun made up for the chill in the air. I dragged any available kids for a walk along with our dog Scout. Joe was eager to go. And Frankie was fine with a walk as long as we brought his girlfriend Anna. Going back to the reservoir, we walked partway along the gravel rode circling the lake. With the brisk wind, my young puppy was getting cold. I could see I couldn’t do as much as I hoped. Going across the ice would be our best, quickest option back. Hearing kids play hockey across the ice, I knew it would be safe enough to walk on. Still, I made sure to lead the way and took the shortest route across. It was a unique walk to be sure. On the other bank, the yellow sun was making the trees glow bright.

We had plenty of family time during the week between the holidays. That can mean sitting around the house, visiting and eating. Taking time for a ride, or walk, helps me take the edge off hanging out…and a good excuse to have more dessert.

It was December 22, 2013. Carl and Dave had joined me for a walk. I wanted to repeat the walk I did the year before with Ron and Mike 11. I hoped for Ron again but he was unavailable. Mike 10 was busy as was Mike 11.

Carl was happy to be back amongst us. He is still recovering from injuries and can’t mountain bike. Maybe never.

Conditions were right for a hike. Warming temperatures meant soggy trails, but not along this ridge. We were climbing up Mt. Tom. Dave brought his pack to train for an Alaska adventure next summer. He got us to do the steepest trail up. I had never done it. First thing I thought of was to bring the kids up this one day. Hope they don’t hate me.

DEC 22 3013 Walk

Looking up at Monadnock's peak from the first plateau.

Looking up at Monadnock’s peak from the first plateau.

Doug’s been telling me about his Mt. Monadnock hikes for a while. Recently he gave me a trail map showing his most recent route. It’s a 5-hour roundabout route, less traveled by the public. It sounded nice, but I wasn’t getting my kids on a 5-hour hike. Instead I took coworker Dave’s advice and chose the most popular route up the mountain—the White Dot trail, a 3-hours total hike. Aside from the more crowded trail, I and my three kids enjoyed the rock climbing/navigating parts of the trail.

I did take Doug’s suggested driving directions to the trail. It was beautiful but probably added about a half hour to the ride. I could not take one more “when are we going to get there” from my son Joe. Just as we entered New Hampshire, Mt. Monadnock appeared ahead and my anxiety melted away.

When we arrived, we had lunch and got fueled up for the hike. At Doug’s suggestion, I made sure I brought plenty of snacks for the walk, and plenty of water.

The weather was perfect…sunny and clear, with a cool and crisp breeze. My stepson’s soccer game got postponed to this day. I wanted him along as well but he had his game to go to. I decided conditions wouldn’t get better than this. It was my Fathers’s Day gift to myself.

Starting on our way, Frankie got in front. My son used to be in back all the time and I am happy to see him be competitive and much less adverse to pain and hard work.

Eleni has come into her own as well and is enjoying the exercise. Months away from being a teenage girl, her fitness is important to her. Instead of dreading activities like this as some girls her age do, she enjoys it.

Joe, is quite the rock climber and very strong. Despite this, he was a bit whiney at first. The initial path is flat but with plenty of mud from recent deluges and rocks that can trip you up. With his shorter legs, this was quite a nuisance at first. Eventually though, he got to show off his climbing skills…which admittedly made me a bit nervous.

Getting just past the halfway point, we came to a large rock in the way, most people climbed up to the right. Joe instead went left. I told him to stop. It was steep and seemed to dangerous. He assured me it was okay saying “there are handholds, see?” He climbed right up the thing…amazing for a 6-year old.

Later on the way down, we saw a young woman standing there at the same spot. Her friends were trying to coax her to the right. I suggested the left saying my 6-year-old did it easily. She appreciated my advice but had to think about it saying she’s afraid of heights.

As we climbed Frankie and Eleni were going full steam ahead. Frankie was looking for more difficult areas to climb…he likes the rock as well. Eleni kept going ahead of Joe…much to Joe’s chagrin. I don’t know many girls her age that would be so happy to do this climb. I must be doing something right. In fact, I had suggested that she invite a friend along but she said they wouldn’t enjoy it. Joe’s early whining was gone. He loves to climb rocks and I was kind of glad his mom couldn’t see him. She would have been much more nervous than I was.

Near the first peak, one spot in particular was very difficult to manage. Somebody told us “this is the hard part.” And he was right. The kids were up to the challenge though and weren’t deterred. They didn’t need their dad’s help. Joe found a small tunnel nearby and was fascinated with walking through it.

As you get close to the top, you come out of the tree line. The top is like a bald man…except with granite. We came out of the trees and onto a peak, but not THE peak. I pointed up ahead and said we still had to go up there. You can’t come this far and not go to the top. I was imagining my stepdaughter complaining if she was here.

Stopping for this first peak’s view, I told Frankie that he should bring some future girlfriend here someday. He told me he was thinking the same thing. Then he told me he wished he had brought some friends. He is in better shape than them and would have enjoyed making them suffer. Like father, like son!

Looking up we saw the crowd at the top of the mountain. To join them we first had to travel a bit down before going up. There were a few sporadic trees, a stream I was ready to sit in, and then bare rock. Going up, my three kids got in front of me. We came upon a groove of rocks that formed a “V”. As I walked up the “V” I found small rocks trickling down on me. I seemed like a small rockslide. Coming around the rock I found my little one Joe tossing rocks at me around the corner. He had a big smile on his face and knew he had pulled a good trick on his dad.

Near the top Joe had found another tunnel. He had to climb around in a big circle then go in under my feet. The tunnel shoots right and forces you to turn sideways to get out. He wanted to do it twice. On the way down he had to show his sister.

Getting to the top, we took in the sights using the binoculars I had brought. Eleni also decided to get some sun on the light colored granite. I decided to go a little farther to get the 360 degree view. Totally awesome. I wished my wife and stepson were here as well. I didn’t want to rush home or off this mountain.

When we left it was all in reverse of course. Getting to the flatter section, Joe’s whining came back. Maybe next time I’ll try another trail down below. Or, maybe his legs will have grown!

Monadnock hike

With Spring still a bit ambiguous, I’m making the season up as I go. Some runs. Some walks with the kids. And, some mountain biking.

Wednesday, April 3—See Ride.

Andy joins up with MFR for a nice, fast mountain bike ride.

Andy joins up with MFR for a nice, fast mountain bike ride.

Getting to the parking lot, I saw another car in front of me with someone out for a mountain bike ride as well. My eyes are good but not perfect but I thought he kind of looked like an old biking buddy, Andy.

I got ready to go and just as I finished getting ready, Andy called out to me. He wasn’t sure it was me either. Mike 10 showed up right then and we invited Andy and his friend John to join us.

I was looking to match my pace in the woods from last time so I took off pretty fast. Robinson’s smoother, twisty trails can allow for a steadier pace. It gives me something between road, and mountain bike fitness.

Twisting through the woods we kept it fast. Everyone seemed to match me pretty well. I know Mike can. In the woods, our fitness and skills seem to match up pretty good. Andy’s friend John wasn’t though. After one steep ascent, he fell and soon him and Andy had split off from Mike and I.

Down the trail, we had twisted through a few more sections when we came upon Andy riding solo in the opposite direction. John was done for the night which Andy assured us was unusual for him. He had ridden hard the night before. We continued on in the opposite direction and met up above.

For Andy, he had to repeat one trail. I wasn’t changing my plans. This was my favorite trail. We three riders continued the hard pace out to the main trail then continued on to the largest, and hilliest trail before finishing.

While riding Andy professed that Robinson can get tedious with its twisty, turning routes. We all agreed though that it can be excellent for a solid, hard workout. I found it a nice substitute for a road ride. It was still cold out as my toes could confess. This was the next best thing.

I thought this ride was slightly slower than my previous mountain bike ride but I was wrong. Our moving average was slightly faster. No wonder I was slightly more tired…okay, much more tired.

Saturday, April 6, Hike Up Mt. Tom

I love hiking with the kids and despite their sometimes protests, they make it fun.

I love hiking with the kids and despite their sometimes protests, they make it fun.

After a morning run, I brought the kids…Frankie, Eleni, Carl and Joe, up to the top of Mt. Tom again. Last time there was snow on the ground and my boots provided some meager traction. This time is was dry and my new trail running shoes provided plenty of traction. If I didn’t have to pull both Eleni and Joe up the hill, I probably could have gone even faster.

Frankie lead the way and Carl trailed behind. To his credit though, I didn’t have to pull him up the hill.

Before we got to the steep part, we first went back to the cliffs. Frankie waited above—he was too cool for them. We went along the base of the shale cliffs and again observed layer upon layer of solidified silt that makes up most of the cliff. One section has a concrete type of rock that sits between the layers. I wished a geologist was nearby to explain what it was all about. It was gray, porous and had a concrete-like consistency. I guessed it was from a lava flow but couldn’t be sure.

Getting near the top, we had to catch up with Frankie. We stopped just below along an outcrop of rocks that protruded over the steep cliff. Frankie was still too cool hang with us and was waiting at the top.

After stopping for a snack, I kept us moving along the ridge. There were many more hikers out today. It was sunny and getting warmer. I wanted to explore a little farther before turning around.

Before we went on the hike I offered both Frankie and Eleni to invite a friend or two. Neither wanted to. I tend to believe it’s because they think (or know) that their friends will not like it. I know when I get my kids moving, they really enjoy it.

Getting back, we stopped at Mt. Joe’s to get some drinks and snacks. A great hike is its own reward but sometimes kids need a little more incentive to be willing to do the next one.

Sunday, April 7, in the Woods…Again. See Ride.

We sent Ron this photo just to annoy him.

We sent Ron this photo just to annoy him.

Mike got farther up this hill. Someday one of us will do it…right?

Mike got farther up this hill. Someday one of us will do it…right?

Mike 10 and I had planned on doing a road ride for sure this time. We even planned a 9 am start to give the day time to warm up. Temperatures in the 60’s were promised but it was still chilly at 8:30. Plans changed quickly and I had Mike come over to my house instead. We traveled together down the road to Morgan Road and entered Bear Hole for some (hopefully) dry mountain biking.

It was much drier than we expected. Many areas that usually have seemingly decades-old puddles were dry. The dirt wasn’t dusty though but rather thick…in other words, perfect!

The dirt trails leading to the reservoir are short, steep hills. Not too long but at time just short of impossible. We love them. Mike’s big 29-inch wheels did him well. It was his third ride on the beast. I found some of these hills easier than usual. I like to think it was my fitness but it was probably a combination of that and the great condition of the dirt.

Getting to the reservoir was a blast. The 2-Tired Guys-made trail cuts in-between the crap on either side in a great way. It snakes through the woods, up and down a short hill.

We took our typical route off the reservoir where the hills start getting much longer and almost as steep. We find the loose rocks at points along the way as just another obstacle. Mike said we need to come here more. I told Mike that sometimes I get tired of the “bouncy-bouncy” through the woods and find Robinson a nice change. I agree though with Mike. I think some of the long hills can be intimidating. Plus it’s one hard hill after another. Every ride through her is a stress-test.

On the other side of route 202 we headed up again. More happy suffering. Getting up on top of the ridge Mike and I were talking and riding away when a short steep climb revealed itself quicker than I thought it would. I didn’t have much hope getting up it but somehow did. Mike didn’t and decided to try again.

On his second attempt he bent his derailleur hanger. He would be limited to a few gears in back but was determined to keep going. That was good because I was too.

After harassing Ron via texting (he was at church with the scouts), we followed the ridge all the way down to Hellgate. Instead of taking that (which would have really pissed Ron off), we followed the Trolley Trail back in the direction we came then walked our bikes back up to the ridge. We discovered last year that following the ridge back in the other direction is a blast.

We followed the trails back a fun, but more direct route. The day went from chilly to warmer and back to chilly again. The wind had picked up substantially. At times we may have had to convince ourselves that we chose the right bike today. The great ride proved that point though.

Art versus the world.

Art versus the world.

The way up.

The way up.

It’s late winter, or early spring…depends on your point of view. The cold weather was back so I guess it’s the former. Weather and trail conditions at this time of year make Sunday biking decisions tenuous.

I had a plan though. After stopping at my mom’s, I called my brother to see if he wanted to join me for a walk. I was heading down to his neck of the woods…Suffield Connecticut…on my way to East Granby to check out the ridge. Knowing the way the snow and rain runs off the top, I was confident that I could get a good ride in the next day. I wanted to be sure though.

It turned out that a walk was just what my brother needed. We don’t usually get the chance for a walk together, much less just the two of us. For all I know, it may have since childhood that we’ve walked in the woods like this. Right there it was a win-win for both of us.

I was going to park where I usually do on Newgate Road off of route 20. Instead, Art recommended parking in a gravel parking lot next to East Granby Farms. The wide trail leads up the side of the mountain and is generally steeper than going from where I would have. It’s also shorter and much wetter.

Traveling up the trail, I knew my theory of winter’s snow draining off the ridge was correct. I could see where it was going. It was below freezing the night before so the mud was thicker in spots. The closer we got to the ridge, the wetter it was. We were mostly able to avoid the wet spots by getting off to the side of the trail, and some areas were wetter than others. I maneuvered around the trail at times hoping to find a way around the muddiest parts.

Art finds the footing a bit tough despite the flat rock.

Art finds the footing a bit tough despite the flat rock.

What made that clawed footprint?

What made that clawed footprint?

The mud revealed footprints. With deep claws we were pretty sure it wasn’t from some dog. We saw those nearby and they seemed much different. Art theorized that maybe a racoon (seemed too big), or a bobcat. Maybe I don’t want to find out.

As we went up, my heart was speeding up, but head was in the clouds—I was imagining how I well I could do on my bike (during a dryer time of the year). The hill wasn’t consistently steep, but was a series of plateaus. Eventually the road turned right parallel to the hill before it made its final ascent. That was where we got off. It was too wet here. We climbed to the summit along our own path through the trees.

We were just north of the lookout between two cell towers. I loved being outside but I think Art enjoyed it more. It was good to get him out. It was good to talk without kids interrupting.

We turned left to the lookout. Getting to the open space, there was nothing between us and the sky. We were standing on a rock shelf. I told Art how my groin gets sore every time my kids get withing five feet of that edge. I can stand there but they can’t! Art confided how he gets afraid of heights. He has this urge to jump…not to die…but to jump into water. I understand, our youth-based swimming hole experiences are similar. Typically we wouldn’t have been on this rock if there wasn’t water underneath it.

The original purpose for the walk panned out. The ridge was very dry. We would be riding here the next day. Good, because there was no way I was going to get Ron to do a road ride. Highs for Sunday weren’t supposed to get better than 37 degrees. We would be done before that.

We found the walk down much faster. My car was the only one in the lot still and it was left untouched. East Granby isn’t a very dangerous town but I like potential thieves to have a few cars to choose from.

Going out to get the newspaper, I knew I would take advantage of such a fine fall day.

Ron and I brought some of our kids for a walk today. He brought 2 (Charlotte and John, I brought 4 Frankie, Carl, Eleni and Joe).

Fall has hit its peak around here. The color is brilliant and the sun was out lighting the color on fire. It doesn’t get any better and I am just loving it.

Carl was determined at times to try to be bored but I saw right through him. He wanted to bring a book with him on the walk but I had him put it back in the car. Despite himself, I know he enjoyed it. They all did.

We started near the top of 141 again just before the Easthampton line near the Mt. Tom gate. I have written about this walk before. We go to the shale cliffs and hang around there for a bit writing in the log book that’s there, climbing the rocks as well as breaking some off from the cliff’s edge. Then we head up hill, first along the path. Then to the view with the lookout of the Holyoke Range along with the Connecticut River as it cuts between Chicopee and Holyoke. The view is spectacular and Ron thought it to be the best view of Holyoke ever—from a distance.

Images of the trail, the shale cliffs, the kids (and Ron) walking and climbing along them and some other images as we made our way down.

Ron has brought his kids through some of these trails before but hadn’t done exactly what we showed him. After taking in the view we went off trail following the series of rock floors up to its highest point. Sort of the peak of an oblong hump. Up above us was one of the peaks of Mt. Tom where many towers and antennae sit. We declined to go there today.

We traversed a few more rock formations before heading down a steep hill. We were still off trail and my only concern was Charlotte’s arm. She had broken it and was still not quite healed. Her father kept her safe though. He is used to my off trail excursions.

It was a fabulous 2-hour walk and a great way to spend a fall day. It was also rather warm out for late October. Most of us were in shorts. Carl suffered in long pants. Funny thing since he tries to sneak shorts for cold days at school but wears long pants today. Must be some karma thing.

What the kids don’t know is, they are taking another walk tomorrow. Like the song says…”it’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

A great view of the Holyoke Range and beyond.

 

…and the other way looking down the Connecticut River.

Frankie decided to give Joe some room and follow far behind.

I haven’t had the chance to talk about my kids recently. The warm weather made it difficult for me to get the kids out for walks and bike rides. The other factor was my daughter’s foot. She broke one of the toe bones in her second soccer game of the season. Despite wearing a boot and getting around well, I didn’t feel right about making her walk in the woods.

Well, just in time for Fall, all kinds of things have changed. The weather is cool and sometimes nice and brisk, my daughter went to the doctor and while she can’t yet play soccer, he told her she can bike (and thereby walk), and as a bonus, Joe has learned how to ride he bike.

Two weekend ago I got him riding in the grass in our back yard. He felt safe in the grass. I tried a new tact. I noticed that he was leaning over to one side too much, mimicking the style he would have to ride the bike with training wheels. So first I would have him sit on the bike and have him just try to balance with the bike in one spot. By not moving he understood how he would have to sit on the bike to help keep it upright. From there the learning was fast. He was soloing for a short distance in the back yard.

All last week I capitalized on his improved skills. I brought him to the ball field at the middle school where he could have more open space on a grassy surface. He started riding even farther on his own until he got bogged down, or slowed down, by the long grass. After that we quickly decided to ride on the road surface next to the ball field. Lasting only 100 yards, it gave him plenty of room to ride back and forth. Soon he mastered that as well, even rolling all the way up the hill.

From there (same day, only about 25 minutes later from when we started), we went to the the parking lot above where he tried to maintain a straight line, weave in and out of obstacles and just keep on peddling.

Later that week we went back for a little more practice.

Saturday Ride With the Kids

Joe chased Eleni all the way down the trail.

Joe was ready to ride with the kids. Olivia was not inclined to join us and Carl had soccer. I brought Frankie and Eleni along with Joe and I to ride on the Easthampton bike path. Neither of the kids knew just how prepared Joe was to solo. Later that weekend, Carl was still convinced that he must have done it with training wheels. Fall is such a beautiful times to ride and this was no exception. Being October, the carpet of leaves were decorating the trail’s surface as well as the trees. Riding along the ponds near the town’s center, parts of their surfaces were decorated with leaves as well. It was neat to see the colors laying across the surface of the water.

We started at the end (beginning?) of the trail—the newest section and rode all the way past the center to the recreational area next to the pond.

Fall is such a beautiful times to ride and this was no exception. Being October, the carpet of leaves were decorating the trail’s surface as well as the trees. Riding along the ponds near the town’s center, parts of their surfaces were decorated with leaves as well. It was neat to see the colors laying across the surface of the water.

We stopped for a break before turning back. Joe rode about 5 miles total which is much farther than all the other kids ever did on their first group ride. He has always been willing to spin his legs fast and nothing changed now that he was on his own. Despite a little weaving, he did very well, not falling once.

Getting back we were being followed by a red-tailed hawk that was flying from tree to tree. My thoughts ran to Joe—maybe he thought he was small enough to pick up and fly away with. He’d get ahead of us and watch us pass by, not seeming to care one bit that we were watching him as well.

After we finished, Joe was starving. Before returning home we stopped at Bashista Orchards in Southampton where Joe got to eat a large apple along with a pumpkin whoopie pie filled with maple flavored filling. I had one too and it was awesome!

Sunday Walk With the Kids

Joe and Eleni pose for photos along Hellgate’s edge.

Olivia is 17 and  knew there was no way I could get her to join us. No surprise there. I had just finished a mountain bike ride with the guys and Ron put a thought in my head. He had walked with his son along the Hellgate trail opposite Bear Hole Reservoir the day before. The weather was changing quickly that day with increasing clouds and wind and quickly decreasing temperatures. Sunday wasn’t much better. The morning was good but there was a strong chance of rain in the late afternoon.

We left after 1 p.m. for a drive over to where we would walk. I parked farther up Apremont Highway than I usually did. We crossed the street and found the end of the Trolley trail. A hundred years ago(very roughly), it used to be an actually route for a trolley. We walked along it’s flat, rocky suface and looked for the end of the Hellgate trail. My inlaws’ dog Seamus pulled eagerly on his lead as we took the left up the hill. Hellgate runs along a ridge like all great trails along here and ends down the way, farther up the same Trolley trail. Along the way I showed the kids where I came down the trail on my bike. The steep, rocky surface has many obstacles and turns and I enjoyed “trying” to impress my kids with my awesome feats.

We came along the ridge with an unobstructed view to the ridge on the other side of the valley outlined by the Trolley trail. We had walked along the opposite trail in the Spring. Walking carefully along the edge, I first showed the kids a rock where large birds of prey like to perch on the edge to watch for a meal. Just the day before Ron and his son saw a bald eagle above. We are both pretty sure about the rock since there is a very large, white spot on its surface created from bird scat.

What I like about the ridge is how it changes at the peak. The peak gets narrow dropping off quickly on either side. While it is very safe, I like how unique the trail gets up here. I let the dog’s lead out a bit. That and his fatigue helped to stop him from pulling so much. Walking along the trail, Eleni’s foot seemed to be holding up well. Joe wasn’t yet tired and Frankie is a tall, strong boy and was just fine. I could see where Ron must have added some logs on either side of downed trees to help us bike over the next time we came up here. At the turn, I let the kids figure out which way was back. The rocks started getting looser, and the trail started getting steeper. More downed trees started blocking the way as well. If I was biking up, this would be the toughest part.

Joe wanted to get up on the tree suspended over the trail.

For the kids though it is just fun. Joe got on top of one of the trees blocking the trail. The kids don’t like boring trails and seemed to enjoy this one just fine. With all its dips and turns, it is a fun trail to walk.

Getting to the bottom, it was a straight walk back along the Trolley trail. Joe eventually convinced me to pick him up. He did well and deserved the ride.