Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Tom’

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.

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

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 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

Joined by Ron, Mike 10 (for half the ride) and Scott, we were traveling from the Elks in Holyoke to Mt. Tom and back. It’s a pretty epic ride with hill after hill. These are complimented though by view after view. With fall at its best, we were looking forward to each effort. It doesn’t get much harder than this ride.

See Sunday, October 27, 2013 Ride


We brought Scott along for one of our hardest rides. He doesn’t always get to join us but chose well this time (or did he?).

From the Elks, we traveled into Ashley Reservoir and quickly took the quickest route across 202 to the Pipeline and Trolley Trail. We followed the trails past the Holyoke Gun Club and to our first hard climb up to a great view.

This trail up here is a newer one and a favorite. It led us along the white dotted M&M trail and to our left turn to route 141. Mike 10 left us here following the trails back.

Our bikes followed the rollercoaster trail down to the main road. Crossing to Whiting Street Reservoir, we came out of the trees to a spectacular view of Mt. Tom. This was the only break we would get as we circled half way around the water.

A trail leads up off the oval track around the reservoir. From there we pass a transformer at the road, follow that road past the closed quarry, and circle around to the access trail.

It’s just up now for a bit. In the beginning from this point I start to feel this is a mistake, but the trail slowly becomes manageable. Still it’s a “heartbreaker” as I called it earlier to Scott. He sees the wisdom in that as we all reach our breaking point at one point or another. I found that whoever excelled over the others at one point, fell behind up ahead. Each of us seemed to leapfrog over the other up the steep hills.

We took a left onto a red marked trail. We are traversing across the mountain at this point with much less climbing but with plenty of small challenges. After crossing a stream, we climb hard once again to the ridge. If anyone was due for a heart attack, here is where it would happen (hence the term “heartbreaker”).

This is more fun than you think!

As we round the bend, we are at that breaking point and pushing it forward a little. I see our left up ahead and make my way along some rocks before resting. Ron passes me by this time—it was his turn to leapfrog. Scott comes up behind suffering and smiling at the same time.

The right turn onto the ridge trail was a welcome relief. Cleaning the short trail to the ridge, we turn left and follow the edge. The view is appearing brilliantly between the trees and soon it opens up. There are some walk arounds up here but again, TOTALLY WORTH IT. We follow it just far enough before descending down the old ski trail.

Getting back is faster than you’d think. Still it’s hard. Taking a wrong turn (sort of), we do one more ridge before hitting the Pipeline trail and back towards 202 and the cars. As hard as it was, I felt sorry for everyone else in the world.

Our walk up Mt. Tom is becoming one of our regular walks. With the shale cliffs, steep trails and almost 360 degree views, it’s fun, a good workout, and a great destination. It was October 5 and the color was not at peak yet, but still worth seeing. Plus, it was a  warm fall day.

My kids may complain sometimes, but when we finally get going, they have a great time. It doesn’t hurt to give them a treat when it’s all over though.

10-5-13 walk

Two weekends ago I brought Joe to the route 141 gate at Mt. Tom. It was Saturday and I was intent on riding the road to the center of the park. It’s mostly flat with very gentle hills. Along the way we stopped at all the lookouts. Getting to the center where the road coming from route 5 meets up with this one, we turned up the road to the fire tower lookout.

The lookout consists of metal grates welded together. Climbing up the stairs, you can look right down to the ground through the metal bars. Joe had no issues climbing up the stairs. One of the young women climbing behind us couldn’t quite make it to the top…until I goaded her on. Her friend was in front of us and she wanted her to take a photo. “You can’t post someone else’s photo. You have to come up here and take one for yourself.” Eventually she made it but I was wondering if she would get back down.

Go down the hill to the road again, Joe played on the pretend-rock play structure. With the unique swings consisting of a flat, round disk that swings back and forth, Joe would stay here forever. On the way back we looked up to see the para-gliders floating along the top ridge of the mountain. Joe said to me “can we do that?” I texted his mom and she said “you said no, right?” “I said not right now.”

Mt Tom fun


Riding along the road this past weekend, I had all four kids…Frankie, Eleni, Carl and Joe. The weather was threatening and we would be heading back rather quickly as I tried to keep my phone from getting too wet.

Right now though we were riding to the tower. Joe was proud to know about this place over his siblings and was trying to tell everyone what to do. He was just excited to have the others along with us. Stopping at the Visitors Center, a park ranger who kind of reminded me of Zach Galifianakis including beard and attitude. He stopped the kids, then me saying “there is no mountain biking in the park. Where did you come into the Mt Tom?” I told him at the route 141 gate. “Well didn’t you see the sign? No mountain biking. Why did they let you in?” I told him “we aren’t mountain biking, we are riding on the road.” “Well,” he said, “I’m not going to stop you but if the Environmental Police give you a ticket I warned you.” I said to him “I ride my road bike up this road all the time.” “That’s okay,” he said. “It’s a road bike.”

I shook my head and left. Riding up to the tower I said to Frankie “that guy is an idiot. You mean because these tires are knobby, I can’t ride on the road in here?” “We are riding mountain bikes, we AREN’T mountain biking!”

I will make a point of coming back with the bikes.

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.