Balanced. With Columbus? Maybe not.

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

Hiking. And trying to train Columbus at the same time. Regrettable decision.

Last weekend before babysitting Landon, I squeezed in a morning hike. We’ve been bringing Columbus for training and he’s so good in class. I decided I’d switch to his slip collar instead of the halti, and work with him walking nicely on that.

Not doing that again.

Okay, here’s the hike we did:


Balance Rock Trail to Balance Rock Road and last minute I decided to hike Donbrowo Trail because it’s kind-of an orphan trail. There are a few of those that just connect one spot/trail on the mountain to another. This connects the administration building/parking to the ski lodge (although you have to walk down a ski trail to get all the way to the lodge.)

Here’s the parking lot at the entrance to the trail. You’ll notice on the map that I didn’t highlight the trail all the way out to Mountain Road. That’s because it’s just walking across a parking lot. That really wasn’t part of my goals of hiking all the trails. Doesn’t count.

That’s my Forrester….

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Balance Rock Trail is part of the midstate trail.

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And thus has yellow and blue markers.

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There is a trail behind this sign. The sign points you to NOT take it. I learned further along that it connects to Balance Rock Road. But if you take it, you miss the balanced rock!

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Which you can see in the distance.

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Up close. Columbus may be a lot of work (gosh, I feel that’s an understatement), but he sure is handsome. And those rocks are HUGE.

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Here’s where we join up with Balance Rock Road. And we headed left. Across the way is Old Indian Trail. I’ll be taking that again another day to finish up the other part of Balance Rock Road.

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This is the trail heads back down to that sign that pointed us not to take it.

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Balance Rock Road crosses a bunch of ski trails. I didn’t take pictures of all of them.

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But here’s me on one, looking onto another.

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And a panoramic view looking both down and up the trail.

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I never get to see this because I don’t downhill ski. (Well, I have, but I don’t think I ever have at Wachusett.) This is Bullock Lodge. I think they serve hot coffee and cider and donuts here, maybe? Not really sure. But we went up to explore.

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This is the front, with some nice seats, which I took advantage of (wasn’t really tired, but wanted to drink in the spot for a moment).

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This made me smile. I spotted it on the side door.

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These are on the lawn in front of the lodge. Some ski-themed things. Love that snowboard bench. People are so creative!

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There was a pond near there. Columbus took a dunk.

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Such a beautiful time of year!

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We surprised a bunch of turkeys laying on the side of a trail. At the point of this picture they all had started getting up.

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Here’s where I checked the time (the kids were heading up with Landon and I was meeting them in Worcester for lunch). I decided I probably would be rushed if I hiked this trail but then remembered Tracey usually runs late so took the chance that she would again this time. She didn’t let me down and I wound up with plenty of time to spare.

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This is the end of Balance Rock Road (to to left of where I was standing when I took the above picture). It goes out to Mountain Road but there are “no parking” signs there. So you really can’t start at that end.

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Donbrowo Trail hugs Mountain Road at the beginning.

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Here are the remnants of an old house! Behind it is a ski trail.

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The trail ends at the parking lot where they have the check-in station for driving up the road.

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There picnic tables there. Never noticed them before in all these years of driving Mountain Road.


Here’s the sign to head back. We retraced our steps.

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At this point of the hike I was getting very fed up with Columbus’ pulling. So I decided make him heel. Only he kept edging forward. So I started swinging my arm in front of him. That wasn’t working so well, so I started swinging the leash. That wasn’t working so well, either. So I picked up a dead branch and swung it in the space he needed to be behind for his heel.

The darn dog kept edging up anyway. He eventually got it for the most part, but boy is he either dense or stubborn.

Back at the end of Donbrowo, we got to walk down the ski trail to get back to the parking lot.

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Then we headed home, I showered, and headed out to meet the kids and Landon and begin our babysitting fun!

Echos in the wind

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

Another day, another hike, another diary entry.

Today is my day off from work. I was actually planning on working this afternoon, but I was really consumed by work this week and neglected taking care of my body. So I went for a long hike and then, when I went to sit down – my body barked “too much sitting this week, get back up!” So I did.

Love non-work days, though, because they mean I have time for longer hikes. I’m finishing up the trails on the mountain. I decided to complete the east side. Or maybe it’s more south than east. I actually didn’t know if I was going to do as much as I did. Was playing it by ear on whether or not I’d do the Stage Coach loop (I did). Here’s the map….


We entered at the parking lot for Echo Lake Rd. Took a right on Administration Road, a left onto what looks like Lower Link Trail on the map, but it’s actually Jack Frost at that point, continued straight on Lower Link, left onto Harrington, right onto Administration Road until it ended, then turned around and walked all the way down to the parking lot. Went up Stage Coach Road, onto Stage Coach Trail, right onto Harrington, right onto West Road, right onto Administration, left onto Echo Lake Road back to the car. Phew! We were gone for about and hour and 45 minutes.

Now, let’s go through it pictorially (and I’ve got a video for you, too!).

The first picture was from home, when I realized that a squirrel had used my hiking shoes to store his nuts.

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One hickory nut. One acorn. Left them there for him. Done leaving my shoes on the porch, though. The squirrels can find another place to store food for the winter.

Here’s the entrance to the trail. It begins on Mountain Road, next to the old superintendent of the mountain’s house. I knew him from church. His name was Russ Vickery. Really nice guy. He used to live there. No one has, since.

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And here’s the house. All boarded up. On state land. Such a shame, it would be a beautiful place to have a home. Or an educational center. They tried to get someone to live there and spend their own money to fix it up (for free rent). I never thought that was such a great deal. Apparently no one else did, either. Because they never got any takers. I know a friend that looked into buying it when she was looking to move. They didn’t want to sell it. So it sits there, a silent sentinel of Echo Lake Road and a reminder of days gone by.

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Here’s my tree picture for the hike! Half of this big ol’ tree had broken off. Oh! I forgot to mention that I spotted red apples on a leafless tree on the side of the road on my drive to the mountain. I stopped and plucked one and plan on planting the seeds on my land.

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Here’s Echo Lake. It really does echo if you are in the right spot. I tried a couple of times. I wasn’t in the right spot.

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The theme of my walk seemed to be water and leaves. And leaves in water. It was beautiful.

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We passed by the entrance to Echo Lake Trail. (We’re on Echo Lake Road.)

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Hard to see this sign, but we’ve reached Administration Road, and we headed to the right, up the mountain.

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The one thing I don’t like is that they re-graveled Administration Road. I keep forgetting that. I think it’s too rough on my dogs’ feet. Koda wound up limping last year because Dot and I walked it a lot. So I tend not to hike it much anymore.

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I knew Lower Link Trail joined up with Administration Road here (although, technically it’s Jack Frost at this point), but I had forgotten my map and wasn’t sure where it ended, so I decided to hit that piece of the trail I hadn’t hiked first, and walk back down Administration Road.

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Jack Frost goes to the right, Lower Link goes straight.

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Shortly after (it’s a very short trail) you hit Harrington, and go left to get back onto Administration Road.

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This is usually as far as I walk on Administration Road. But the map shows it going further. You hit grass and picnic tables.

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It’s a nice picnic area, complete with outdoor grills. And I guess someone left their cigarettes and lighter (if that’s what that is, hard to tell. Wasn’t me. I hate those things with a passion, growing up in a house filled with smoke (from my dad).

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There is a parking area for this spot.

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And on the other side, I had intended to continue hiking, but this sign says they are regenerating the area and humans aren’t allowed. So we turned around.

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This picture is blurry, but it’s a favorite spot for the dogs. It’s a little pond right near where West Road meets Administration Road. They went for a quick dunk. I always want to get a picture but I’m holding onto two leashes and making sure I don’t get pulled in. So no picture of them in the water.

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This is also the point I decided I was going to extend my hike and not head back on Echo Lake Road when I reached it. We hiked to the bottom of Administration Road. This it looking back at it from the entrance.

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Directly to the left of that entrance is the entrance to Stage Coach Road. It’s not a very friendly entrance. Warnings about the windmills and enter at your own risk.

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So I did, but it kind of set me up for weird thinking. Hey, it was sunny. The sky is starting to look ominous up there. It was like the mood setting of a movie! And I looked to the left, where we had just been and it was blue sky still. Freaky. I guess I was a little spooked.

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Here we are at the top, and here is your movie. It’s even hard to tell just how HUGE these things are up close. I was going to try and hike the little trail from there down to Harrington Trail (because I didn’t hike it when I hiked Harrington). But in my slightly freaked out state I didn’t want to go under the windmill. (They aren’t really that intimidating when they aren’t running.) So I left it for another day. We entered onto Stage Coach Trail, which goes by the second windmill (trail sign is in the video).

Windmill #2.

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Eventually we joined up with Harrington, took a right.

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We are missing pictures for hitting West Road, taking the right, and hitting Administration Road and taking another right. We walked down Administration Road until we hit the junction with Echo Lake Road.

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And headed back home. We hiked for an hour and 45 minutes. It was a great way to start my day!

Loopedy loop

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

A belated entry in the hiking diaries.

Since I am writing this much after-the-fact, this hike will be mostly pictorial. Because I don’t remember much of what I was thinking, although it did spawn this blog post. But that was just my thinking on the last part of the hike.

So, the last few hikes I’ve mapped out how I’m going to hit all the trails, and for awhile I knew I was going to do this one. Here it is:


Bicentennial Trail from the mountain’s administration building, past Pine Hill Trail and on to Loop Trail, then Mountain House (hit that already, same with Bicentennial) up to the top, then Pine Hill down. How I usually do Pine Hill is up and back down. Or, sometimes up Pine Hill and walking back down the Summit Road. So it was fun – and rare – to just walk down it!

I took the goober with me.

And what a goober he is. Just look at that face!


Here’s the Administration building, in a sun-blown out photo.

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And the trail head.

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The markers are…wait for it….blue!

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This time we went up Loop.

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Which has this incredible view. (There is a farm house out there. Tough picture to take with the sun in that direction.)

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And where we saw this funky tree. Or it was somewhere along the hike. But I remember it being near the beginning.

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And I took a few pictures of oak leaves. I’ll just post one.

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It kind of amazes me that even baby oak trees have grownup-sized leaves.

Loop Trail hooking up to Mountain House Trail is actually at the juncture of a few trails.

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Which way, Columbus?

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This is where we met up with the road. You can see the sign across the street.

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And up at the top? Columbus’ reward. Only they don’t want dogs swimming in the pond. I tried to just have him drink. But the goober – did I say he was a goober? – jumped in before I could stop him. At least he didn’t pull me in with him.

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Then there is the real top. Where the sign they put up in place of the brass compass that was on top of the summit marker that someone stole is gone now, too. Say that three times fast.

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Every picture looking toward the east had the same problem. I was trying to get a picture of the sign for Pine Hill Trail. There are some picnic benches on the other side.

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Pine Hill Trail is an outdoor stair master. Literally.

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This is where we cross the road. The stair master started being built on the lower part of the trail. The stairs on the top part of the trail, which is me looking back at where we just came down, is fairly new.

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And this is us looking at the trail sign on the other side of the road. Where we are headed.

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Some parts of the trail they can’t make into rock stairs, because they are solid rock. Massive rocks.

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And so, we made our way down the rest of the trail and headed back home. Columbus did okay!

The goober.

Walking sideways on the mountain

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Yet another trail in the hiking diaries

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It’s getting later in the fall. And I’m trying to beat the snow and frigid cold with hiking every trail on the mountain. This hike, because I didn’t wake up early enough, I picked a relatively short trail. The rest of Bicentennial Trail. But it was a little more challenging than I expected.


See that little trail that goes from the highlighted yellow part down to Mountain Road just to the left of the Parking and house symbols? I looked for that trail. The best I can figure is that it is a shortcut up to Bicentennial Trail from behind the administration building. But everything is covered in leaves. So I couldn’t really find that trail, and I don’t want missing that one little piece of trail to count against me hiking all of the trails on the mountain. Okay? Deal? Because if anybody is going to hold it against me, I’ll go back and find that dang trail or walk through the leaves and trees and pretend I found it.

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

I hadn’t remembered that Bicentennial was so rocky on one part of it. Luckily (or maybe not?) Koda was my dog of choice for hiking it.

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I say “maybe not?” because at one point, on the rocks, she jumped too far ahead, pulled me off balance and I smashed my shin into the rock she had jumped to.

After that, we worked on “follow.” Koda doesn’t like to follow. So while distracted by making sure she followed, I also slipped on a leaf-covered rock – didn’t go down, phew! – and lost balance another time and smashed my finger into the rock I went to steady myself on.

Yeah, so that all was fun, and totally worth the hike. Always. Minor injuries are a small price to pay for this:

  • The golden color of the oaks leaves all turning.
  • The earthy smell of fallen leaves this time of year.
  • That “like a kid again” adventure of climbing over rocks.
  • The surprises that reveal themselves as you follow a trail.
  • The workout your body gets, even on a sideways trail.

I was actually surprised at how much of a sweat and heart-raising hike it was. Although it was sideways, there were ups and downs and all those rocks to navigate. Great for the joints, too, not just repetitively stepping along. Which is a big way where hiking differs from plain ol’ walking.

Here are some pictures from the hike. I forgot to get a picture of the trail head, which starts at the mountain’s administration building.

This is at the junction with Pine Hill Trail, although I took it from a different angle, so you can’t read the Pine Hill sign. We came from the left of this sign and we are headed to the right.

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And here is where we meet loop trail.

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We head down to the left.

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Eventually we get past the rocky part.

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A grove of some kind of mountain laurel-ish bushes.

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When we hit Mountain House Trail, we turned around. I would have loved to have gone on to the meadow, but didn’t have enough time.

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Those stone walls. Love em.

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It was a great hike. I really am enjoying hiking in the fall. What a great time of year.

Blessed. I am blessed. I say it all the time.



West road story

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So far, my favorite hike in the hiking diaries.

I wrote this post. It was part of this hike, which I am writing many days (okay, weeks) after hiking it. I wanted to take both dogs, so didn’t want to hike a skinny trail. There are a few dirt roads that are part of the hiking system on the mountain. West Road is one of them. I hadn’t hiked it since I used to let the dogs hike off-leash. So we went there. I really wanted a meditative time, to just be on the mountain, so it was a nice, easy hike. At least it was supposed to be. And was, until I turned around to go back.


I should have known it was going to be a great hike when I saw this on the way there. I actually turned around to go back and take the picture.


A picture NEVER is as beautiful as seeing something with your eyes. The way the mist had settled into the valley and the tops of the trees were poking up, and the sun was an orb filtered by the clouds.

Ahhhhh, bliss.

(And dang all these iPhone photos. Very blurry this hike.)

West Road, like North Road, has a back side of the mountain entrance. I’m pretty sure that the entrance is in Westminster, not Princeton.

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Big area to park.

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I was pretty bummed to see this. Perhaps more than just hikers park here. It is out of the way. Just hangin’ and dumpin’ my trash….

I should have picked it up on the way back, but completely forgot about it, because….well, you’ll have to wait for that part.

Here is the trail head, closer up.

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The dogs are ready to go!

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One thing about these wider roads. They aren’t just appealing to people who are walking two dogs. Horseback riders love them, too.

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(I never see any of them while I’m on the trail, just what they leave behind.)

West Road is kind of a damp trail. So lush. This is a huge wall of rock.

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Two thirds of the way on the road, we hit a little off-trail to Siplas pool. It’s a fun place to go with the dogs.

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Only, this time of year, it wasn’t a pool. Bummer. No swim.

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This is usually full of water up to the top of the stone wall. Only now you can really see the trees that line the bottom! There was a little water on the down side (right side in this picture) of the wall. So the dogs did get their drinks.

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Once again, I feel the need to apologize for these iPhone photos. Sheesh.

Here’s my obligatory tree photo. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know my fascination with trees.

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But, because of the picture quality, it’s hard to understand my fascination with this. In real life, the contrast between the white dead branches – tree bones – against the green of the living trees was like a story. A tale of two trees….

Harrington Trail crosses West Road. Or West Road crosses Harrington Trail. Take your pick.

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The one good thing about the iPhone is you can take panoramic photos. I wanted to get the signs on both sides of the trial.

And then. And then. I had my moment that you can read about in the post I linked to at the beginning.

the light

Soon after that we reached Administration Road.

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And we turned around to head back.

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This is the end of the photos, because here is what happened. Part of the reason I picked this road was because I had a limited amount of time before work and I had a (phone) meeting with my manager at 9am. But I guess I got a little distracted taking photos and by in my moment in the light. I had checked the time when I started, and what it was now, and I was in serious jeopardy of being late for my meeting.

So what did I do? I ran back most of the way with the dogs. I say most of the way because I am not a runner so I had to do it in spurts. But to give myself credit, there were some long spurts in there. And to take away the credit I just gave myself, that’s because much of it was downhill.

But I made it back with time to get back via the car (10 minutes). Only I completely forgot about the trash at the trail head. For all I know it’s still there.

So, this hike had it all. Relaxation, take-your-breath-away moments, momentary panic, and suspense (will I make it back in time?). What better way to start my day?!!!


Heading North

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Today the two dogs and I hiked North Road. North Road is on the far side of the mountain (from my house). It takes a good 10 minutes, maybe longer, to drive there. I know, I know, aren’t I lucky to be able to hike a mountain with a short 10 minute drive? Spoiled, I am.

It’s probably obvious that the picture at the top of this post wasn’t taken in November. I’ll explain later. But this is taken from North Road.

It can be challenging to figure out how to hit all the trails in the least amount of re-hiking possible with limited time many of the days and, of course, needing to return to my car. There are a couple of pieces of trails I’ve left hanging and I’m just going to have to do some retracing of my steps. Semuhenna is one of those. I seem to be hitting it in different hikes. There is a little piece of it after North Road ends that I decided I’d do. Which means I hiked up and back on the same trails. It also means I’m going to have to rehike North Road again and loop around on another part of Semuhenna and part of Balance Rock Road. There is no getting around the re-hike, but I don’t mind because it’s a place that’s easy for me to take the dogs, and there is an incredible view of Mount Monadnock near the end of North Road.


Okay, let’s hike!

Here we are at the entrance. Doesn’t that look inviting?

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Not too far beyond that I came across a horse plop.

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You come across them often on the road trails (as opposed to the skinny, rocky trails).

This is a road we take often when I do the North, Semuhenna, Balance Rock Road loop. Not today.

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These are the trail markers (?) that you see on a few of the trees while on North Road. Only you certainly don’t need them. You won’t get lost.

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Koda was playing hound dog on a good part of this walk. I mean, I love the smell this time of year with all the leaves falling and decaying on the ground. So, maybe she does, too.

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Here’s the view of Mount Monadnock. It was very hazy today. This picture is not really top-of-a-blog-post worthy, hence the picture from earlier in the year that I did post at the top.

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Shortly after the view, we reach the end of North Road and hit part of the paved road to the summit. I feel sorry for people who have to drive to the top of the mountain. I’m glad it’s available, though, because not everyone can hike (and boy, am I really thankful that I can.)

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Semuhenna is off to the left once you hit the road.

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We are going on the piece that goes up from here.

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So, we have midstate trail markers…

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and faded yellow markers…

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and, wait, blue markers, too. I give up. I can’t figure out the logistics of Wachusett’s trail marking. But that’s okay. I just look for a mark.

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When I hit this spot. I lost the trail.

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Well, I lost it a little beyond the midstate mark. There are so many leaves on the ground. I looked for a wider opening in the trees – there wasn’t an obvious one. I had found a yellow trail marker on a tree so I went the way I thought it marked. The ground got spongy fairly quickly so I realized I wasn’t on a well-worn trail. So I came back and studied some more and saw some exposed roots and went that way and picked up the trail.

Crazy. But the leaves on the ground, though masters of disguise and purveyors of trickery, are beautiful.

I walked past this little blade of grass (or some plant) nestled at the base of this tree and made the dogs turn around with me so I could go back and take a picture. For some reason it really grabbed me, that one little dying plant in that spot.

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We came to a bridge. Which is usually a good thing when hiking with the dogs because it means there is a stream and the dogs get to drink.


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Most of the streams are dried up this time of year, but there was a little bit of water.

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Right after that we came to the end of the trail / junction with West Side trail. And hit the summit road again. This is where Koda had to do her military pushups on our West Side hike.

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We turned around and made our way back. And it was uneventful except for one thing. I walked past this tree and felt some kind of energy. It was really strange.

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So I went back to it and put my hand on it. Just to feel it.

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I can’t explain it. If you don’t get it, that’s perfectly okay.

These hikes are more to me than just a nice bit of exercise to start the day. They are a connection to nature, her energy, and all that is good.


A quirky girl

Posted by & filed under my life.

listen to your song

As I was brushing my teeth the other day, and thinking about some of the people I’ve really been drawn to in my life (most of them outspoken and completely authentic and not into the status quo), and realized that some other people in my life would probably NOT relate to them (and haven’t), this is what I realized.

I think it’s profound.

I am a quirky girl stuck in an ordinary world.

Maybe that’s why I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole. I was taught that things are / should be a certain way, only my true self doesn’t fit into those rules. I didn’t realize that until I started waking up to who I really am a couple of years ago. And I guess I didn’t really realize it until that aha “quirky girl” moment.

We do this to kids (I did it to my own). We do this to others. We do this to ourselves. We want everybody to think and be like us. Only, they aren’t. And if we force square pegs to fit in round holes, they get hurt on the way in, if they can ever get there. Pieces of them need to break off. Ouch. And it hurt so much to get in, they don’t feel like coming back out.

And, I’ve written about this before. From 6th grade all through high school I was pretty unhappy. 5 years. And I thought of checking out. Because I didn’t fit into the world that the ordinary created. My happy world was one of much daydreaming, supreme kindness (I couldn’t find it), and getting lost in books. Probably because the real world didn’t appeal to me.

This morning, I realized I still am a daydreamer. And I write in my mind. Sentences that drift from my mind into the atmosphere. Some I remember, most I don’t. But I do remember where my mind drifted this morning.


I was walking down Pine Hill Trail on my hike. It’s been worked on multiple times to become a trail of stone steps. And I wondered….what would future generations (or maybe it will be future humans if we wipe most of ourselves out) think of these stone steps? Would they wonder what kind of natural occurrences could shape such a thing? Would they think this was a stairway to somewhere, but that somewhere got destroyed? Or it was some kind of creative artistry? Or maybe steps some primitive civilization created in an attempt to reach God? Would they come up with all these theories (like the theories our current society comes up with for things we don’t understand), not knowing that it was really just a bunch of AmeriCorps volunteers, making the trail easier for people to climb? I mean, really, who would come up with the idea of adding a gazillion stone steps on a trail, not just an occasional one here or there where it was especially steep? And this is where my mind landed….

What if we’ve gotten most everything wrong?

The End

Walking in the Light

Posted by & filed under my life.

It’s been a heavy couple of weeks. And yesterday was especially heavy. Lots of people needing lots of prayers.

Ever since letting go of man’s teachings of God and asking him to show me who he is, I’ve had a bit of a struggle. It’s almost like the words and beliefs that brought me so much comfort have pushed me away from the shore of the familiar. It’s been very odd. Like I’m drifting all alone in a sea of new discovery.

And then times like this hit and you are very tempted to swim back to familiar shores.

Only I can’t. I know I can’t. Because I feel like even though this is hard, I am headed to a better place. A place of only love. No judgement. No doctrine. All of us as one with each other and God. I have a long way to go. But I finally feel like I am moving in the right direction instead of spinning around in circles of belief and doubt.

One of the things I’ve come across in this journey is the Quaker concept of “holding someone in the light.” It is my way of praying for people now. I feel intimately connected to God when I pray this way. So, today, I headed to the mountain (a powerfully spiritual place for me) to hold a few people in the light.

The Bible says there is power in your thoughts and words, but I’m learning about it experientially now. So, as I walked the mountain, I entered this moment….

the light

(A picture can’t even capture it. Imagine how spectacular it was in person, I know you can.)

I approached in wonder. And I stood right in that spot of light, spread my arms open, and held my hurting friends, and our hurting world, in the light.

And then I wept and thanked God for loving me enough to give me this moment and for loving us all enough to provide the light.

Manifesting porcupines

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

A bit of hiking diary excitement.

A couple of days ago – I’ve been meaning to write this before now – I looked at the map to see what trails I still need to hike this fall. There was that little bit of Jack Frost trail we didn’t get to, and since I hit the top of Mountainside trail on the last hike, I figured I’d do the rest of it, circle down to the spot on Jack Frost I missed, then hike a piece of Bicentennial trail. And I also thought I was going to get another hike in this vacation, but that didn’t happen either.

Here’s the map:


And the entrance to the trail. Off of Mountain Road.


The markers are blue. As a matter of fact, so were the ones on Jack Frost trail. I think they need another color. But at least there are lots of signs.

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There were no cars in the parking lot, so I decided to let Koda loose for awhile. I only went with Koda this time. As I let her off leash it did cross my mind that another reason to keep her on leash, even if no one is around, is in case we run into a porcupine. But I took my chances. Because it’s so rare that she gets to roam free like this. And she’s good. She goes a little ways off, exploring, but always waits for me. She’s a sheepdog and I’m her sheep. She can’t help herself.

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Here she is by a big rock. There are lots of big rocks on the mountain. Lots of rocks, period. And at this time of year, lots of leaves. So pretty.

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And some BIG leaves, too! Crazy.

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Loved this cool log. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a thing about trees….

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Seems like something should be living in there, doesn’t it?

We eventually hit the junction with loop trail.

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That would head to the right, back to the visitor center. We’ll do that another day. A little further on…

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Hard to read, but this is the junction with Jack Frost trail. A family was hiking and loved Koda and asked to take her picture. I had toyed with the idea of going to the top then heading back down to here and onto Jack Frost, but for some reason (maybe a couple of late nights beforehand?) I wasn’t feeling highly energetic so I decided to skip the extra climb.

What surprised me was how quickly we hit the pine forest after turning onto Jack Frost, which I always come at from the other side. This will actually be an easier way to get to the pine forest in the winter, which a fellow hiker told me is magnificent at that time of year.

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Pretty, huh? Look at that brilliant red! This is the BEST time of the year to hike, in my opinion.

I tried taking some panoramic shots while in the forest. I couldn’t decide which one to post, so here are two. The sunnier (top) one starts further to the left of me, the darker one goes further right. The sunny side is uphill, the darker side heads downhill.

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You can see the overlap of the two photos via the split-looking tree that is about 1/4 of the way in the bottom picture, and 2/3 of the way in the top one (which is actually two trees).

Eventually we got to the rock I usually sit on to contemplate. Pine forests are as still as still can be. I think that’s why I like them so much.

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Someone had built a rock sculpture.

Despite having been in this spot dozens of times, I lost the trail. Not sure why. It just looked different this time of year. I eventually found this marker.

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Barely could see it. Someone should fix that.

Next trail junction….

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Headed down to High Meadow! Love High Meadow.

I noticed with the trees losing their leaves, that a view was revealed.

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I also noticed, just as I was getting the picture ready, that it looks like a man is standing there in the trees! And, interestingly, when I took this next picture, off in the other direction, I heard a heavy breathing that made me think “dang, that doesn’t sound like Koda, I hope it’s not a bear.”

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I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!

But I skedaddled.

Here is the view, opening up more:

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And more:

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I usually walk this in the other direction and never really noticed this spot. Sheesh. The things you miss when you only look in one direction. (There is a metaphor in that, people.)

A little further on….

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Isn’t this approach to high meadow charming? Iphone quality, but still charming. Waaaaayyyyy better in person. I sat down on that bench. And decided to let Koda loose again, to run around the orchard (I had put her back on leash when we ran into that family hiking).

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I was lost in my thoughts, but then Koda caught my attention. She all off a sudden ran to the far side of the field and laid down. I remember thinking, she looks like she’s herding something. So I got out my phone to start videotaping it. I’ll spare you that video, because at the end of it (which is pretty soon into it) I yell “Oh God!” as she approached a porcupine! Um, didn’t I just think about this at the beginning of my hike? (Hence, the title of this post.)


I yelled “NO” as loud as I could, and “LEAVE IT” and a drawn out “BA-A-A-A-D” like a growl and screamed her name and finally she at least ran in the other direction. Then I realized she wasn’t coming back to me if I was yelling at her so I started telling her she was a good girl and I got her on leash. Her nose had gotten so close to that porcupine’s quills that I checked her over. But she was clear. I was so thankful!

I tied her up and then went back to take a video of the little guy.

She waited patiently:

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And then we headed down Bicentennial Trail, back to Mountainhouse.

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Bicentennial parallels Mountain Road. It’s kind-of surreal hiking on a mountain and hearing cars zooming by at the same time. For that reason it’s not a favorite, but other than that it’s a nice trail, very level, you aren’t climbing or descending.

Oh, I forgot to mention, right after I was yelling at the top of my lungs at High Meadow so Koda wouldn’t take a bite of that porcupine, which she looked intent on doing, two fellow hikers came into the meadow.

“You probably heard me screaming.”

“Yeah, we did. But it didn’t sound like you were hurt or dying.”

I filled them in on why I had provided the noise pollution.

And really, I’m sure anybody anywhere on the mountain probably heard me that day.

But the porcupine was cute, and Koda didn’t get quilled.

West Side Story

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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.)