Today, Sarah and I hiked 3 miles: a short walk, but maybe, a new start.
Last year, we didn’t lace up our hiking boots or strap on our binoculars as often as planned. To kickstart our 2018 hiking, birding, and blogging, we are participating in the New England Scenic Trail’s Hike 50 Challenge. If we can log 50 miles on the NET, we’ll earn a commemorative patch (and the pleasure of learning our local trails). The NET spans 215 miles, from a boardwalk overlooking Long Island Sound to Royalston Falls, a 45-ft waterfall on the MA-NH border. The Massachusetts sections cross the Pioneer Valley and the Mount Holyoke Range, visible from our windows. (A good motivator!)
HIKE 1: S10 Scarborough Brook to S11 Mt. Lincoln
(1.5 miles one way, 3 miles round trip)
We didn’t begin at the beginning. Our point of departure was Section 10’s Scarborough Brook Conservation Area, a 70-acre tract of meadows and woodlands nestled in the Pelham Hills. We followed the NET/M-M trail through Scarborough Brook, across Packardville Road, and to the summit of nearby Mt. Lincoln (Section 11).
I was needlessly worried about finding the trailhead. A friendly, well-marked blaze greeted us at the edge of the parking lot.
Scarborough Pond was just beyond the footbridge. It was a shallow, brook-fed pond, bordered by pines. This was an active area: despite our afternoon start, we saw two bluebirds, a wagging phoebe, and a pine warbler with brilliant yellow-green plumage.
As we neared the woods, three circling red-shouldered hawks began to cry.
The trail led us on a gentle ascent through a hemlock/hardwood forest. We found multiple many-leadered white pines, hoary giants who had survived logging days.
The end of Section 10 passed through private land. On one stretch, “No trespassing” signs were aggressively posted on each trail blaze. Unsure whether the owners didn’t want us to leave the trail—or didn’t want us on the trail at all—we hurried by.
I’m always surprised at how quickly the character of the land can change. Across Packardville Road, we entered Section 11’s Caldwell Memorial Forest, where the trail was framed by wintergreen and studded by rock. Old fences and rock piles remained from prior use as pastureland. Animal sign was abundant: a coyote and raccoon had marked the trail with their scat, and we spied freshly chiseled pileated woodpecker holes.
Mt. Lincoln was an easy 0.6 mile climb. At the summit, red maple and scarlet oaks encircled a gravel drive, fire tower, and active radio tower. The air buzzed. The forest obscured the vista, but a summer hiker could claim wild blueberries as a reward. (We made do with Easter candy.)
Before returning to the car, we stopped to admire the nesting boxes near the pond. A male and female wood duck rested on the bank—hopefully there will be a clutch of ducklings this spring.
This was a gentle, quiet start to our year’s adventure. In two rambling hours, we didn’t see another human. This portion would be worth a return—for meadow wildflowers, ferns, and wood ducks.