Posts Tagged ‘Holyoke Massachusetts’

layeredMy first road ride: 5 layers, winter gloves, winter cap, booties

My second road ride: 4 layers, winter gloves, head band, booties

My third road ride: 3 layers, winter gloves, head band, booties

By my fourth ride I was getting away from winter gloves but kept the 3 layers on. My headband seemed mostly unnecessary but the stiff wind kept the riding cool.

See second—March 31, 2015 Ride

See third—April 4, 2015 Ride

See fourth—April 5, 2015 Ride

Its been consistently cooler for road riding than I am used to doing or even want to do. I’ve given up waiting though. Typically I will start the season out mountain biking but until about now, the trails have been snow covered. (Sunday may have worked but it would have been hit or miss.)

I like mid 40’s or above and if its mid 40’s, it has to be sunny. I’ve learned though that my standards can be lowered. Desperation caused that and now I see that I don’t mind. Whether its 3, 4, or 5 layers, I’m comfortable. Sometimes I strip one layer off…better than not being warm enough.

Rides have been slower than I want. I think my muscles move slower in the cooler temperatures…kind of like riding in molasses. But, I’ve also forced myself to hit all the local hills early…Southampton Road, Apremont Highway (not a highway), Mountain Road (in Holyoke), and of course Mt. Tom’s access road (see my first road ride: March 30, 2015).

I’ve found the potholes to be not as bad as I thought they would be (so far). I have enjoyed the head start snowshoeing and spinning classes have given me. I am wondering if I will be conflicted with mountain biking now. I’m sure my friends will want to hit the woods. I do too but hate to loose the road conditioning.

I got an early Easter ride in with Mike 11. We did a hard 20 miles. Going into Southampton from Holyoke, it was windy and we had a hard time maintaining 15 – 16 mph on a flat road. The hills were rolling with some steep sections. When we got back Mike exclaimed “We did 1,500 feet of climbing.” I was surprised as well. Between the climbing and the hills, it felt like the end of a longer ride. More conditioning and more hard miles to come. Finally biking season is really here.

I was done waiting for the snow to melt. I was riding Sunday no matter what. The day before it lightly snowed most of the day. It didn’t stick but it didn’t leave me hopeful.

The weather prediction promised sunny skies Sunday, low 40s at best in mid afternoon.

Good enough.

See March 29, 2015 Ride

Mt Tom 3-29-15

I met up with Ron in Holyoke at route 5. I had on a short sleeve bike shirt with arm warmers and a shirt over that. I added 4 more layers including 2 coats. I also wore long tights, winter gloves, and “bootie” covers over my shoes. My toes would get a little cold, but I stayed comfortable during the whole ride. Ron had warmer gloves but still had to stop to warm up his hands.

We rode a slow pace to avoid the wind chill, especially when going down hill. Slower speeds also helped us avoid potholes that littered the roads.

Following route 5 north, we turned onto Ron’s favorite hill…Mt. Tom Reservation’s access road. He climbs it 20-30 times a year. I have been keeping up on spinning classes and felt good about this early climb. What neither of us anticipated though was the ice and snow on the roadway. Sitting in the saddle, we steered carefully through the snow and ice at a consistent pace.

At the top of the road both left and right were blocked to traffic. The right turn hadn’t been open for a long time. The left turn towards route 141 gate has been blocked since the microburst that happened last fall.

From my many walks up to the Mt. Tom summit, I could see the damage along the road from a distance. Now I was getting a closer look. At first no damage was evident and it looked as it always has. Then it changed quickly. As Ron said “the view is now spectacular.” I was saddened by the damage but impressed by the power of nature. Logging was going on even on that Sunday which I appreciated. I look forward to when it will be cleared out.

The gate at 141 is at the highest point on the road. The damage abruptly stops feet from the gate. Trees on the other side of the gate, close to the road were mostly untouched. A restaurant and banquet house across the street seemed unfazed. Just below that is Mt. Joe’s where I park for Mt. Tom hikes. From there you would never know what happened a few feet away.

Biking towards Mt. Joe’s to Go , I looked forward to the rest of my ride knowing the season was starting with a bang.


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.

2-8-15 Mt Tom Snowshoeing

Carl’s dog Tucker was missing. We were heading back on a trail midway down the mountain. Carl had just discovered that his dog took off and took off through the woods following Tucker’s tracks.

Mike 10, Carl and I  (and Scout and Tucker) started by crossing route 141 from the Mt. Joe’s Coffee shack. We had a touch climb snowshoeing up Mt. Tom. I had wished I brought my poles. Mike and Carl were doing better than I was. Scout was following Tucker along the trail. Once in a while I had to yell to him to come back. Sometimes I had to yell more than once. Closer to the top he disappeared for a bit. I figured I knew where he would be but I would hate to be wrong.

Last time Mike 10 did this hike, it was in the other direction. We ended up going down the steep hill from the top. That bothered his knees and he was unsure that he wanted to do that again. He was finding this route much better.

At the top we followed the edge of the mountain. It was a cloudy day, the snow was heavy and the snowshoes were absolutely necessary. The dogs stayed close following the existing tracks.

Until we descended to the B17 memorial. Tucker started sprinting down the access road with Scout following obediently behind. I had to run down the road yelling like a madman…”Scout, come, come…” I must have made a nice impression with Mike. So much for a peaceful walk.

Carl was mostly unaware at first but was soon close behind me. He figured that Tucker must have gotten the scent of deer and was following his nose. Our yelling did the trick though and the dogs came back, chugging back up the road almost as fast as they did running away.

Following the trail, Scout was in front of us on a “verbal” leash. I made sure he stayed well in sight. Tucker stayed behind Carl…until he wasn’t.

Mike and I were not shuffling off trail with Carl. We went forward slowly thinking that he could have circled around us and could be up the trail. More than once with my old dog, I would think he was gone and he would just show up looking at me with a “what’s the problem” look.

We kept in contact with Carl by phone. He called back saying he found him. Found him 20 yards below him on a steep, icy hill. Tucker had gone looking for those deer he smelled. “Its very steep but I’ll try to get him to come to me.” Five minutes later Carl was heading back towards us with his dog. He would meet us back at the cars.

We got out of the woods just before Carl. Carl offered to buy us coffee for our troubles. They were his troubles but I was accepting anyway. Mt Joes to Go…damn good coffee.

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.

It turned out to be a rather cool, but beautiful day for a hike up Mt. Tom. Frankie, Eleni, Carl, Joe and Scout joined me. Frankie’s girlfriend Julia got treated to the 1-1/2 hour walk as well.

Some of the kids needed convincing…as they always do. Its easy to do. I just say “you’re going!” I never ask them.

This is a regular walk of ours. We head up Mt. Tom from the Log Cabin lower parking lot next to Mt. Joe’s “coffee and pastry cabin.” (It was closed for the holiday…so sad.)

The longer walk consists of heading almost straight up the mountain, with a stop at the shale cliffs. Then we follow the M&M trail along the edge of the mountain to the orange trail that brings up down to the B-17 crash site. Then we cross the road following the trail back down the mountain.

Even the kids that complain end up having a great time. Scout pulls us all the way. He was very excited to be on this walk. I mostly enjoyed my children, and the time spent with them.

New Years walk

Good, Good Friday

My wife and I were home from work. Work being a Catholic institution, we had the day off. I decided to go for a early morning ride…actually I had that decided a few weeks earlier.

See Friday, April 18 Ride

Scott takes a moment to do a yoga stretch.

Scott takes a moment to do a yoga stretch.

I had sent out a text saying “I’m heading out.” I got no hits, but that just meant I would put the iPhone tunes on while I rode through the woods solo. I didn’t get very far at all when Scott texted back that he would join me in a half hour.

Starting at Morgan Road, I circled around Bear Hole on nearby trails waiting for Scott. Thirty minutes turned into 45 before he got there. My plans for a 1-1/2 hour ride was changing. Scott just got here and I was ready to get farther away from my car now.

First I showed Scott the lower trails away from the ridge. These have the short, steep hills with a lot of dirt. Really fun, a different kind of ride from the ridges. I show off a little on the hills I know so well. At first glance they don’t look so doable, but I show that they are.

We ride over to McLean Reservoir before heading up to the ridges. The trails are a little wet but that somehow makes the loose rocks hold firm under my tires. We climbed to the highest point before my phone went off. “Where the hell are you?” It was my wife, she though I was only going for a morning ride. I did too. It was after 11 a.m. already and I still had to turn around. I gave her a promise to get home by lunch and took the trail down to route 202 then turned around.

The next day my brother-in-law Todd was in town. I had just gotten home when my inlaws stopped by with their dog and his. He had taken off with his 29er and went riding with a friend. He planned on riding with me Sunday morning, Easter.

I just got a free pass for an Easter morning ride! I texted the group and got Ron and Scott to tag along.

See Sunday, April 20 Ride

I got up early and picked Todd up. I broke it to him at that moment that we would have a few friends riding along with us. I didn’t want to tell him too soon and scare him off. I was betting he was up late with hometown friends.

When we showed up at the parking lot Ron and Scott warned him that I was an “a-hole.” They said it with love though, warning him that I can choose rides that put a hurt on. Truth be told, I did think about riding at Robinson where the trails were smoother but twisty. “Nahhh.”

It reminded me of a story that I shared with the guys. Someone I worked with in the 90’s came back from vacation saying he and his wife went biking in the woods on nice gravel-covered trails (roads). “That’s not mountain biking,” I said.”Mountain biking has rocks and roots, and trees you ride over. That’s mountain biking.” And I took him here, just like I was doing with Todd. Somehow, that coworker loved it. Todd, I think so?

Todd, Scott and Ron take a break after taking in the view of Barnes Airport in Westfield.

Todd, Scott and Ron take a break after taking in the view of Barnes Airport in Westfield.

Riding into the woods, there are a lump of rocks we ride over before following the pine needle covered trail. On this side of the reservoir, the trails are mostly clean with a few roots thrown in. The tall pine trees were planted there as a wind break and reach tall to the sky. It’s a nice warmup.

Todd should have gone around the rocks and ended up “endo-ing” right away (flipping over the handle bars). He’s pretty tough though and got right back up.

We cut through the woods then on the gravel road (not for long!) crossing to the other side of the water. Back into the woods around more pine trees. These led to a stream. It was pretty high and we decided not to cross it but to ride alongside. I warned about sliding off the mud into the water. Todd didn’t take my warning seriously enough and did just that! Too bad it was a bit cold out.

That was the easy part. Back on the gravel road momentarily my right turn came up. Now the real fun began. Loose rocks…steep hill…let the hard ride commence.

We brought him up the hill, then it was up towards McLean Reservoir (again), then up the same rocky trail that leads to the ridge. I was a total showoff. We know these well and I was feeling good. It didn’t take much longer before Todd did call me an “a-hole.” He did admit though it was like being on the other side of the hurt. He’s an excellent skier and has beaten up many friends of his.

Unlike Friday, we travelled across the road, across Apremont Highway (not a highway) and up to the next ridges. It was a climb to the hill that I finally beat back at the first of the year. Then another ridge before stopping at a great view we always enjoy.

I had to turn us around by taking a more technical trail back towards the Pipeline trail. It’s a very rocky descent, crosses a stream, then goes down steep with a hairpin turn halfway down. Quite difficult. I guess I am an a-hole after all.

The Pipeline Trail takes us back towards the cars quick. When we got back, the guys said “we told you so” about me. It was smiles all around though. We got a great ride in and I could eat in peace at dinner knowing I worked hard for my food.

I hope Todd enjoyed himself, despite me.

It was after work on April 2 and I had it in my mind to take advantage of the beautiful evening. Instead of making dinner, it was McD’s. We had the dog and ate it outside. Then I surprised the kids with a hike up Mt. Tom. Usually they will at first balk at doing a walk. The evening was too beautiful for them to put up a fight. It was a much needed although temporary break from the winter that had overstayed its welcome. From there what was just another walk turned into a great memory.

4-2-14 walk up Mt Tom


Exactly two weeks later…

4-16-14 Spring Snow

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

It was just short of the new year 2014, not too cold, there was a dusting of snow at best on the trail, the surface was solid and fast…conditions were great.

It was an awesome day for a bike ride.

See December 29 Ride

12-29-13 Victory

It was Dave, Ron, Mike 10 and I. We had taken Dave through many of these trails before, but would add in something new to him. We were heading for the Hellgate Trail.

Crossing 202 eventually as we always do, we took the short hop through the woods crossing Apremont Highway (not a highway). This section of trail heads up towards a ridge we follow. It’s tough enough on it’s own but doable to the ridge. I think God’s purpose for this stretch of trail was to soften us up for the ridge itself. When you get to that last hill, you are done. We always stop there to regroup and refresh, then make a feeble attempt up the last hill. It’s always just a little too tough, the leaves underneath our tires a little too slippery, and with just enough rocks to stop us every time.

When we got there, I had stopped just short of the hill. I considered the conditions as Ron made the first attempt (that we never make). I was next and had a goal…get to that tree…that would be good…all the way up was out of the question.

I started out and shifted my weight forward. The butt (my butt) is just in front of the saddle giving me the right weight on both tires. Not too far forward, not too far back.

I saw that tree ahead and went for it. Crossing the trail from right to left, I got to the tree. Pulling to the left, I was as far as I thought I would be. Now there I was thinking “maybe I can get a little farther.” I pulled right. It wasn’t until just after that when I realized, “I have a shot of getting up the whole thing.” Ron was watching at the first top (the trail continues up from there slightly but I’ve ridden up from that point.) As I got close to the top, Ron realized he better get out of the way. I was coming up. Victory was mine.

I could have turned right, but didn’t even bother. This was victory. This showed it was possible. Dave went next, then Mike, then Ron attempted again. Only I succeeded this day. It was all mine.

Following the ridge we stopped at the lookout before heading down the bolder-strewn trail towards Hellgate. I knew Dave was in for a treat.

Hellgate was as hard as ever. Dave showed how he fit right in. Where others dislike the challenge, he relished it. Getting off your bike here is a necessity at times. The trick is to do it as little as possible. That is victory in itself. That is what makes this so much fun. That and a little red-lining on the pulse.

New Year’s Day

1-1-14 Victory Return

We had such a great time 2 days before, we had to return.

We had such a great time, 2 days later three of us returned (sans Dave). Back to the hill. Back to the challenge. The guys wanted another shot. I was ready to enjoy my victory and not tempt fate again.

Getting there Mike said, “what about staying way left and follow the shadow (it was sunny this time) up to the top. With victory behind me, I was willing to try something different.

Made it on my first attempt. Made the original way on my last attempt.

Ron finally got his weight/butt right on the seat and got close.

Mike was ready to give up but tried again, made it and kept going!

We could have spent the whole ride right there going up, back down, try it again, back down. It was a great day. Happy New Year to us.