Wachipauka Pond, Webster Slide Trail, Doane’s Falls, and High Ledges
We packed a lot into this weekend. Still searching for the best fall leaves, we started by heading north into NH. We knew that the Whites are pretty much past peak, so we went west and stayed a bit south, this time choosing a section of the Appalachian Trail. If you are like Joe and just want to look at the pictures instead of reading all my words, you can find details about the first hike on this site.
The leaves were fairly at peak, though there was still a lot of green. I feel like this fall is more patchy than usual. Some trees (probably the native ones) seem to be in a real rush. The others haven’t caught on yet and I hope there’s no surprise snow like there was last year, when we were caught on Halloween with limbs full of leaves and then days without electricity. I guess we’ll find out.
After being in Acadia so recently, I was surprised by how difficult the Appalachian Trail was to follow – this stretch, at least. The blazes are pretty good, but the trail itself is quite narrow in some spots, and tends to go over rocks instead of staying where it might be easier to follow. It was a fun trail, though, and we certainly got a good workout hiking up the first small hill. We met a few day hikers and passed one well-stocked long-distance hiker. But once we turned off the main route onto the Webster Slide Trail, there was no one around at all. We startled several birds roosting close to the trail (woodcocks, maybe? We never got a good look), and sometimes the trail looked as if it had been cleared and then ignored a long time. At the top, though, we found a nice view, and what would have made a nice camping spot if I had even remote interest in camping. But no, I want my hiking to finish with a bowl of pho and then a bed.
Here I am taking a load off near the campfire I mentioned above. If you did decide to brave a night out here, you’d get incredible views of the stars.
Back at the bottom of the trail, it was getting close to dusk as we found the car again. As we started to remove our backpacks, a hiker emerged from the other side of the road and waved a hand to stop us. He wanted to know how far it was to a small town with a hostel, so we looked it up on the map for him. It was nearby and we ended up giving him a ride. He told us on the (short) way that he’s taking a year off from school to hike the whole AT. He started at Katahdin about a month and a half ago, and will winter over in New York where his parents are. In the spring, he’ll continue on down the rest of the trail to Georgia, where he goes to school. The whole trip is a chance for him to think about what he wants to do with himself. We told him how smart he is for doing this while he doesn’t have to worry about taking vacation time or mortgages or other such nonsense. Then we gave him all the granola bars we had and sent him on his way. Hope he makes it!
The next morning we got up and discovered it was raining. We waited it out for a while, and then decided to just get in the car and head west until we go to clear weather. There are leaves in the west, right? We ended up first at Doane’s Falls in Athol. This is part of Yen’s quest to photograph all of the (worthy) waterfalls in Massachusetts. I don’t know that this one is really worth a special trip to see, though it’s certainly a nice little spot. It’s near Royalston Falls, so if you go there, definitely stop by and see this guy.
After Doane’s Falls, we carried on to High Ledges, just past Greenfield. It’s a little out of the way, but it’s a very pretty drive.
We found the Ledges quickly and admired them for a bit.
What Yen really wanted was a sunset, so we took one of the little trails in order to kill 45 minutes. We really, really liked this trail. It wanders through the trees, following and crossing a brook. If we’d gone far enough, we would have ended up near a wolf den. But as we needed to be back before the sun left, we didn’t get through the whole circuit.
Our timing turned out to be perfect, though (and the loop really was just 45 minutes – almost exactly). The Ledges face west, so it’s not perfect for photography, but we enjoyed it just the same. I think next time we will try to come back in the morning so there will be better light for this view.
This last view is looking back behind where I was sitting in the previous pictures. Always remember to turn around and admire what’s behind the big spectacular view too.