Local – I keep meaning to get out more, and they keep telling me the weather is going to improve. Where can I go for a hike?
Dear Jim –
Here’s a range of options, depending on your time and fortitude. They are all within 2 1/2 hours of campus, and all provide a great getaway. It’s probably a little early for any of the major hike just yet, since we’ve had so much snow, but you should be okay in a couple of weeks. Call ahead to make sure, though.
Easy: Try Mt. Alander in the Berkshires (Western MA). This 5-mile hike should take you no more than 3 hours, with a very gentle slope up and down hill. Traveling along old roads you will pass through some great old forest, and come out on top of Alander Mountain, with fantastic views of the Western part of the state. The views are particularly spectacular in the fall when the foliage is at its peak. For more information, check out the GORP website at www.gorp.com/gorp/publishers/countryman/hik_berk.htm.
Moderate: Head North to Mt Cardigan in New Hampshire. The hike is only 3 miles, but it’s steeper and a little more strenuous. Cardigan is topped by a ranger lookout station, and if the ranger is there when you arrive you are welcome to go in for a look around. The summit is always windy, but there are enough nooks and crannies to hide in that you can stop for a snack at the top before heading back down. For an amusing description, go to leisurely backpacker
Strenuous: If you’re really feeling strong, head up to Franconia Notch in New Hampshire to hike Franconia Ridge. While this hike has been called “the Stairmaster from Hell”, the views from the top are well worth it, looking out over the White Mountains National Forest and the Man in the Mountain (that strange shape on the New Hampshire license plate and quarter). There’s also an Appalachian Mountain Club lodge at the top where you can go to the bathroom and refill your water while you contemplate the descent. Check out some cool pictures at www.alpinezone.com
Close: One final idea that doesn’t even merit a listing with the above, but if you really want to go for a walk, is the Middlesex Fells Reservation. About 10 miles north of campus off of route 93N, the 2,575-acre reserve is a great local spot for a quick hike, or for mountain biking, with enough miles of trails that you can forget you are still in the middle of the city (suburbs). Get more info at www.state.ma.us.com
Let me know how it goes, Jim!
Ps – If you get to Franconia and are feeling less robust, you can always take the Cannon Mountain Tram to the top during the summer. It’s more crowded, and less of an accomplishment, but the views are still wonderful. Check out cannonmt.com to see when they open.