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benches and concrete slabs on summit of Blueberry hill

Picnic tables and concrete slabs on summit of Blueberry hill

Phelon Memorial Forest is located on North Lane off of rt 57 in Granville Ma.  The great thing about this hike is that you can get a spectacular view of 5 states with a walk of little more than a quarter mile.  I parked on the east side of North Road in a parking lot one and a half miles down the road from rt 57.  The parking lot is noticeable because it is a short sharp uphill dirt road to the small lot.  Once parked you will seed the sign for the forest.  Walk up hill and you will shortly come to several paths that will lead you to a gigantic 54 acre field on the summit which has a huge view of the Pioneer valley and beyond.

Known locally as Blueberry hill the the 1476 foot summit is owned by the New England Forestry Foundation.  The summit is a fantastic place for bird watching and raptor viewing as it is on a migration route.  Star gazing is also fantastic from this location because its remote location cuts down on light pollution and its clear horizon lines provide unobstructed views.  Many ham radio operators also use the summit for their amateur broadcasts as well.

A longer hike can be made of this by walking up the gas line that is near the intersection of Blandford or Wendy roads.

Large Boulder near summit

Large boulder near summit

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west-river-trail-jason-cooper

I biked the West River Trail the other day in southern Vermont,  It is basically an old railroad bed that went from Brattleboro to Londonderry Vermont along the West River.  It is broken up now into several sections and I have done two so far.  The first section starts in Brattleboro and goes up to the old covered bridge on Rt 30.  This section round trip is about 10 miles and hugs the West river tightly with lots of great views.  The trail is a combination of single track, gravel dirt road and sparsely used tar roads.  If you look closely there is an old granite quarry that is quite spectacular about midway though the trail.

The next section of the trail did was also about ten miles and goes from South Londonderry down river along the West into the Winhall Campground.  Again the trail is a mix of single track and well maintained dirt roads and uses a significant section of the campgrounds roads for its path.  Eventually the trail dead ends into an steep uphill trail that is more suitable for hiking than biking.  This part of the West trail continues to the backside of the Ball Mountain.

wrt-2

The parts of the West River trail I rode are not suitable for road bikes but hybrids or other wide tired bike would be fine.

Here is a link to the West River Trails website

http://westrivertrail.org/

Sodom Mountain Hike

I hiked up Sodom Mountain from the trail head in Granville, ma near the Powerlines. The trail I took up is very steep and is the most apparent one from the parking lot and I really do not recommend it. The better way up is if you follow the trail along the parking lot it will split upwards shortly and go up at a more gentle pace. This trail kind of fades in and out but is always there you just have to pay attention. Another way to the summit is from the bottom of the mountain off of rt 57 in southwick but that option adds considerable vertical, also you could just hike up the gas line and keep looking to you left and just as the line gets real steep you will see a left off in the woods which will take you up a switch back to the summit of the gasline.

Once you hit the gas line check out the views both ways and then look for a pile of rock or a prominent little bluff and this will take you to the rocky outcropping overlook about a mile away. On the way there you will pass a cell tower and its maintenance road, cross it and in a about a half mile you will come to the cliff view. There are some paint trail markings but they are faint and kind of randomly placed so follow them and your gut instinct.

Another two miles past the cliff view is Sodom Mountain road. Heavy logging has been done here but the trail is still intact. Because of the logging there are some views of the valley here but they are limited in nature and I am pretty sure this is all private property of some sort. You can park your car by the gate here if you want and it is a quarter-mile in to the trail head. This trail head is not shown on my map.

On this hike I also crossed the road and walked down into the Granville Gorge which is beautiful and mysterious unfortunately there are not trails on the other side of the brook from here to get to the Drake Mountain Trail system.

 

MAP
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Spring Paddling

I have paddled several times on flatwater so far this year twice on my lake, Lake Congamond  and once on rainbow resevoir.  Paddling both times have been in flooded lakes which really open up new areas to paddle that were to shallow in the past.  Saw a giant snapping turtle last time gigantic probably 30 pounds and 2  1/2 feet long shell.

Lake Congamond

Rainbow Resevoir

Skiing 2009/10

DAY 1

Started the year by skiing at Stratton in VT.  It was about 70 percent open great conditions relatively cold, got to wear my new cold weather gear which performed admirably.  Still had cold toes though.

No wipe outs!!!  New skis performed great.  Dynastar Legends, they  ski very similarly to my old k2 mods but they spread they’re bite out more so it does not feel like I am as connected to the mountain as before, this is good and bad and I do not know how I feel about it yet.  They get the job done it just does not feel like they are doing it, it is like skiing an automatic car.

DAY 2   ALPINE VALLEY

Alpine Valley Resort

http://alpinevalleyresort.com/index2.php

Skied in Wisconsin at a little place called Alpine Valley.  Granted in Wisconsin they are all small even by Southern New England standards, but skiing is skiing and I would be dammed if I would have christmas vacation go by without skiing at all.

335 vertical about a dozen distinct trail with a similar amount of connectors.  Some fairly steep sections wide trails, really well groomed and nice edgeable hard pack snow.Wind that day was about 30- 40 mph on occasion and was blowing up hill which in some cases slowed me down or stopped me, which is kind of a first.  All the snow blew back up hill so conditions remained excellent.

Ticket prices even on a holiday were 35  and rentals were like 25.  I rented a snowboard to give myself a little challenge, no falls no problems nice to know I still got it after not riding for three years.

Day 3  SKI SUNDOWN

http://www.skisundown.com/

Went to ski sundown 625 vertical my favorite local mountain. Sundown is a  really well laid out mountain for such small vertical.  Generally about three hours is all i can take of it before getting bored but it was fun and I got a free lift ticket cause I skied with our school kids.  I want more snow here so I can seek out the fabled hidden glades off of gunbarrel.

DAY 4  SKI CATAMOUNT

http://www.catamountski.com

Skied Catamount, MA 1000 vertical.

Completely mobbed on the Sunday of MLK weekend, I know this is to be expected and the mountain absorbed the crowds relatively well but it still was the most crowded I have ever seen it.  Lift lines were 5 minutes.  They have proposed a whole new base village, I hope they do crowds like today show how undersized its infrastructure is.  Still, it is probably in the top 3 ski mountains in southern New England and only an hour away.

Skiing conditions were edgeable groomed hard pack with bits of soft ice and some powder puffs every now and then to slow down in, actually more enjoyable then  I describe it.  Cloudy skies and eventual snow made light conditions the biggest threat I could not read any of the features today and skied very tenatively.

DAY 5 Skied Stratton

www.stratton.com

Crystal clear skies, sunny realtively warm, near perfect day weather wise.  Trail conditions were awesome as well.  Super crowded even for stratton but fortunately their lift system is so good that the wait for lifts was never more than 7 minutes or so.  The exception I heard was the gondola, but that is always a nightmare so we never bothered. Bonus we skied for free cause they never scanned our X2 card.  We skied only the upper lifts which are not scanned and it all worked out.  Mental not to stratton get rfid readers and rfid chips in all your cards and lifts that way no one will be able to scam buy like me .  Also rfid is good because they staff used to scan tickets slows lines.  You should still have staff checking tickets but just visually.  The electronic scans are just to much of an impediment.

DAY  6 SK I BLANDFORD

Skied at Blandford today which is in Blandford Ma.  Suprisingly good conditions for a local ski club non profit place especially considering the low snowfall we had this year.  Blandford only has like 465 vertical but it is very wide and has a great diversity of trails for such a small place.

Snow boarded today to mix it up and make the small place more interesting.  Really did anumbe on my knees though.  Do not know if it is because i skied two days in a row or whether it is casuse of snow boarding but ouch.

Ski Mohawk

Cornwall, Ct

Small mountain big powder.  Hit Mohawk after maybe 10 years absence forgot how cute it is.  Small mountain 650 vert technically the biggest in ct but sundown skis much bigger and is a much more interesting mountain.  They got about 7 inches of powder so it was my first powder day of the year and my new skis handled the pow well.  Skied into a coil of wire hidden in the pow and fell.  Did not hurt myself and i was off trail so i could not get mad but i notified management and told them they should be more careful.  Lots of little tree shots by the side of the trails and a little mini glade above the mid mountain restraunt made it fun. Would not go back unless i had a specific reason or cheap tickets, other better mountain are closer.

Ski Butternut

Great Barrington, Ma

Windy,  crowded, slow lifts, fifteen minute lift lines mobbed slopes.  Avoid in the future during february break.  Lots of new mini glades here as well and I noticed a larfer one off of the lower mountain above the tubing area.  Must check out.

About two months ago I snapped the frame of my mountain bike near where the rear wheel inserts into the frame.  I was riding at the Chesterfield Gorge in Huntington Massachusetts on an old dirt road paralleling the gorge and my tire started rubbing for no apparent reason and after about 15 minutes of curious investigation I found a the snap very discreetly hidden in one of the joints .  After a nervous ride back 3 miles to the parking lot without a blow out, I embarked upon an epic quest to remedy the situation.

My bike is a GT  Karakorum and I have owned it for fifteen years and like it a lot.  It is a steel framed bike and I have upgraded most of the components several times over by now.  I took the bike to numerous bike shops none of which would or could weld it.  Most would not even recommend welding it and of course highly recommended I buy own of their fine products, which if I was not about to buy a house.  By the way I test road a Santa Cruz Superlight dual suspension and it took all my will power not to buy it on the spot, what a sweet bike.

Eventually I out my thinking cap on and brought my bike to a major motorcycle dealership figuring one of their mechanics must be able to weld.  Such was not the case unfortunately but they did refer me to a guy who welds aircraft at the Westfield airport named Pete Most.

Pete was super helpful and cheap, the welded bike looked flawless, if it were repainted no one would be the wiser.  He charged me 20 bucks for all the work, which compared to the $700 for a comparable steel framed bike or 1200 for an entry-level competent dual suspension bike is the bargain of the century.

But will the weld hold??  The answer, so far so good.  I rode the new rail trail in Southwick immediately when I  got home without incident.  I was worried that maybe when he welded it, he did not line up the frame correctly, but this was not the case and there was no rubbing or other signs of ill performance.

Next I took the bike out to ride the tobacco fields around my house for a true dirt experience.  Now the tobacco fields are pretty flat with only a few small hills but they are certainly no rail trail either and most importantly they are local.  The bike performed flawlessly and while this ride really isn’t a full test of the welds strength it is certainly a This site does not support embedded trip maps. View the trip here instead.

I am super happy to have my bike back and will probably ride Robinson state park or the gorge again to fully test its metal.

So the moral of the story is next time your bike shop tells you that some repair isn’t worth it or is too complicated think outside the shop and you could save yourself a ton of money

Wilcox Park Trail Map

I hiked Marion K.Wilcox Park in Bloomfield this past week. It was a gorgeous sunny 50 degree december day with 40 mph + winds blowing all day.  Fortunately the lay out of the trails here kept me sheltered from the wind until I hit the summit.

This park is kind of hidden gem, not many people know about it as it is squirreled away in northern Bloomfield away from high traffic areas, near the intersection of 187 and 189. It is on Hoskins road in Bloomfield, about a mile on the righthand side.  Keep a sharp eye out for the sign as it is more apparent heading north than heading south. There is a small parking lot at the bottom and then a tar path leads up to a meadow area and a yellow brick building, which is probably the park headquarters.

Cross the open field and at the end you will find a yellow blazed trail that splits initially left or right.  I took the right branch, which gently climbs to the ridge and the Metacomet Trail with its blue blazes. You will cross a dirt road on the way up with a stop sign. Do not be deterred by this sign, simply cross the road and you will  reach the ridge and Metacomet shortly where you will find an old chimney and a partially obscured overlook.

Continue on the Metacomet to the south and you will shortly reach a large rocky out cropping with views of the Farmington Valley, primarily Granby, Avon and most prominently down town Simsbury. Nearby you will see another yellow blazed trail heading down, this is the cliff trail and it will lead you back to the lower park.

I continued on the blue blazed Metacomet trail all the way to Penwood State Park, where a large rocky out cropping gave me even better views of the Farmington Valley and a really neat view of the southern Metacomet Ridge.  About mid way to Penwood I encountered Wintonbury Road in Simsbury. Once you hit the pavement you can go either  slightly uphill and continue on the Metacomet or you can go slightly down hill and go on a relatively flat trail that parallels the Metacomet at the base of the ridge. The lower trail would make an excellent cross-country ski or mountain bike trail in my opinion. This trail will eventually meet up with the Metacomet trail near what I think is Lake Louise.   From here take the Metacomet trail  up a stone stair case to the ridge and then circle back to Wintonbury Road and Wilcox Park which begins here again.

There are several other trails in the park a red blazed trail which I could not find and a dirt road which is in good shape and used for access to power lines which are extensive. On future visits I will explore these options more and probably bring my mountain bike or skis. Pray for snow.

Hi, I am Paxton Berardy.  I am a library media specialist, an entertainment media geek and outdoor enthusiast.  I am starting this blog to share my outdoor experiences and learn from others.  Please feel free to comment on and add relevant knowledge to my posts. I ski, kayak, hike, mountain bike and scuba dive extensively in the northeast and am also the co chair of the AMC  Berkshire chapter young members group and a hike leader of long standing.