Friday, August 27, 2010

Views of Long Mountain

Growing up in South Amherst we crossed the road and hiked and sledded on Long Mountain many times. We always called it "the mountain." It was our mountain, close and welcoming. At 920 feet it is diminutive, but distinctive.

The mountaintop is not visible from our house, so I was happy to catch a view of Long Mountain from a different vantage point. Yesterday Kodi and I walked along a section of the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst, Massachusetts. This popular biking/walking trail runs 10 miles from Amherst to Northampton. On the stretch that we walked I could look across Lawrence Swamp (a large, ecologically rich wetland that serves as a drinking water supply for the town) and see our mountain.

 Long Mountain viewed from the Norwottuck Rail Trail

One lament that I have about living in New Hampshire now is that the state puts no general fund money into state parks and trails. Such amenities are funded only through user fees. By contrast, the Norwottuck Rail Trail is open to anyone, young and old, rich and poor. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts and local towns have also funded land protection along these trails to protect water quality and farmland, so the trails run through scenic parts of town.

Norwottuck Rail Trail

Kodi and I liked the rail trail so much that we returned this morning with my mother for a short walk. I wanted to show her the view of Long Mountain. Later in the morning, Kodi and I took to the mountains, hiking up one of the many trails that leads to the Holyoke Range, of which Long Mountain is a part. We hiked a favorite stretch of trail that leads to the top of Rattlesnake Knob. From here we had another good view of Long Mountain, from yet a different vantage point.

 Long Mountain viewed from Rattlesnake Knob

The network of trails that thread across the Holyoke Range, including the 110-mile Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, lead through beautiful hardwood forests of oaks and beech, maples and white pine.

We did not see any rattlesnakes (those have probably long since been extirpated from these parts), but we did cross paths with a four-inch millipede. It was in the middle of the trail; Kodi skipped right over it.

 Millipede on trail to top of Rattlesnake Knob

The smooth, gray bark of American beech

The woodland trail to Rattlesnake Knob passes through one of the most beautiful beech stands. Many beech trees in New England and beyond are warty and scaly from beech bark disease. These beeches were smooth and beautiful in their light shade of gray. The leaves of small beech saplings in the understory, cast shadows on the bark of their elders.

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