West Side Story

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Another episode of the hiking diaries…

westside story

Today I returned to the trails. I avoid Wachusett on the weekends, especially the leaf peeping season. SO crowded.

Unfortunately, I didn’t remember that today was Columbus day. This is what I saw when I reached the top:

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That doesn’t look like a lot of people, but that’s only the people that were on the tower. They were also milling around the rest of the top of the mountain, and on the trails. And in the parking lot near the top:

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If you look carefully on the left, there are even porta-potties set up.

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And the chairlift was running!

So many ways to get to the top of the mountain. And people were taking advantage of them.

But lets go back to the beginning, when I decided I’d hike West Side trail, go to the top on Old Indian (hiked that stretch already), and loop around, hitting some new trails.


What I remember about West Side Trail is that I filmed a movie of walking my dogs in on that trail. Back when I could walk them off leash when no one was around. Back before Columbus ran off on a different hike and I couldn’t let him off leash anymore. I have fond memories of that trail and that movie. As I was hiking it again I was missing Pepper, my old hiking buddy who was so good off-leash. Thinking that if only my dogs would be more obedient, they would have so much more fun on the mountain. As would I.

Only today was too crowded for them to be off-leash, anyway.

I picked up my good camera before I left and, reminded of how heavy it was, decided the camera phone was going to have to do. It would be one thing if I was hiking alone, but lugging around a heavy camera and handling two large dogs was not appealing to me. So I brought my little hip pack that holds two water bottles and keys and phone (that’s about it). I also tucked the dog’s collapsable water bottle in the straps on the outside of the pack. And at first I had the trail map in the small pocket with my keys and phone. Then I decided to transfer it to my jacket pocket. All this seems like way too much detail, but it’s setting up a part of the story.

Here is the entrance to the trail.


I see the phone pictures and then I regret the decision not to bring my nice camera.

The trail is marked with blue:

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We walked past a big rock with some pretty funky lichen…

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West Side Trail is steep in places. It really is hard to portray it in a picture. But I tried. We had to climb those rocks behind Koda.

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And this is the view from the top, looking back down:

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After that workout, I decided to take off my jacket and wrap it around my waist.

We went on a little ways, then I reached into my jacket pocket for my map. It was gone. Shoot. I hadn’t memorized the trail I was going to take for looping around. So I decided to back track. Went back to the spot in the above picture. Never found the map. Didn’t see it on the rocks, either. Oh well, maybe I’d run into another stash of maps as I transitioned to another trail. (I did.)

At some point I also realized that the dogs’ water dish had fallen off of the pack. All I could hope for was that someone would find it and leave it by the entrance to the trail. (Little did I know that it would be hours before I got back there!)

People build some cool rock structures. There is the one at the top of this post and then there is this one…

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This is my favorite spot on West Side Trail. The trail opens up on top of a bunch of rocks. The picture at the top of the post is from this spot. I remember sitting there for awhile while the dogs ran around, back when I was letting them loose. I figured I’d sit on the way back, today, but never did because the hike wound up taking so long.

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Here are the reasons the hike took so long.

  1. There were a gazillion people hiking the mountain. Exaggeration? I think not. And I pull the dogs off-trail when anybody walks by because some people don’t care for dogs, and some people hike with their dogs and Koda sometimes snarls. If she gets a bad vibe. I felt like I walked in a zipper pattern most of the way.
  2. Koda lunged after a dog. (Must have gotten a bad vibe.) And I barely got her under control. And so, after the guy (who was very nice about it – “these things happen”) left, I made her do military pushups. That’s what I call them. She has to down, then sit, then down, then sit. It took her forever to do this without me having to make her. But we weren’t leaving until she obeyed. And that was her last snarl at a dog for the day.
  3. I got into a wonderful conversation with a family who had a new puppy – an Aussie/Great Pyrenees mix. So cute! They were the ones who reminded me it was Columbus day. And I was walking Columbus on his day!
  4. I got into another wonderful conversation with a volunteer from NEADS, because I was wearing my NEADS t-shirt. The whole time we were talking, Columbus was leaning against her and she was petting his head. Because of this moment / conversation, I decided that I’m going to take him back into obedience classes and see if he is ready to be a therapy dog. Because he is a love bucket, and there are too many people walking through this world that could use a dose of that love that he so loves to give.
  5. I bumped into the lady in town who bought Rosie, the dog I almost kept, for her daughter. Her daughter moved to the midwest. I asked her how Rosie is doing. And got a glowing report (which I reported back to Tracey). That made me very happy.

So, we could say that I went hiking, or we could say that I went to feed my soul by connecting with nature and people. The up side of the mountain being crowded. Quieter days are more meditative.

I also decided, today, that I’m taking one dog at a time on these harder/narrower/steeper trails. I know the mountain well enough to know when I’m going to hit those. Hate to do it, but need to do it.

Interestingly, we hiked on 6 different trails today. West Side, Old Indian, Mountain House, Link, Harrington, and Semuhenna. Saw a LOT of trail signs!

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We’ve seen this colorful one before!

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(This is where Koda did her military pushups.)

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This is where Mountain House crossed the road. I want to mention that it is hard to find Mountain House Trail from the top. There is a sign, but when you follow the trail you wind up at the fish pond. Then what? I went straight onto some kind of a trail to nowhere. But really, you need to go to the left and into the parking lot and the trail picks up on the left corner of the parking lot.

You’re welcome.

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(This is where I had the conversation with the NEADS volunteer)

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Right beyond this point, I noticed wintergreen!

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Verified that it was by folding a leaf and sniffing. Sure enough, it was, unlike that faux wintergreen on Bolton Pond Trail. I harvested some.

And we ended the hike where we started, by the entrance to the trail, where someone had placed my lost dog bowl on the sign, and my trail map (I knew it was mine because I had marked out the trail) in the container of maps.

And I ended my hike with this comment, which I said out loud:

“People are so good.”

(Because they are.)


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