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Metacomet-Monadnock Trail

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The '''Metacomet-Monadnock Trail''' (M&M Trail) is a {{convert|114|mi|km|adj=mid|-long}} [[hiking]] trail that traverses the [[Metacomet Ridge]] of the [[Pioneer Valley]] region of [[Massachusetts]] and the central uplands of Massachusetts and southern [[New Hampshire]]. Although less than {{convert|70|mi}} from [[Boston]] and other large population centers, the trail is considered remarkably rural and scenic and includes many areas of unique ecologic, historic, and geologic interest. Notable features include waterfalls, dramatic cliff faces, exposed mountain summits, woodlands, swamps, lakes, river flood plain, farmland, significant historic sites, and the summits of [[Mount Monadnock]], [[Mount Tom (Massachusetts)|Mount Tom]] and [[Mount Holyoke]]. The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, maintained largely through the efforts of the Berkshire Chapter of the [[Appalachian Mountain Club]], is currently being studied by the [[National Park Service]] for possible inclusion in a new [[National Scenic Trail]] tentatively called the [[New England National Scenic Trail]]. ==Trail description== [[Image:Cragmountain.jpg|left|180px|thumb|[[Crag Mountain (Massachusetts)|Crag Mountain]], a [[quartzite]] peak on the M&M Trail in [[Northfield, Massachusetts]]. Northfield Reservoir visible in the background.]]The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail extends from the [[Connecticut]]/ [[Massachusetts]] border through [[Hampden County, Massachusetts|Hampden]], [[Hampshire County, Massachusetts|Hampshire]], [[Franklin County, Massachusetts|Franklin]], and northwestern [[Worcester County, Massachusetts|Worcester]] counties in Massachusetts, and [[Cheshire County, New Hampshire|Cheshire County]] in [[New Hampshire]]. The southern terminus of the trail is located on [[West Suffield Mountain]], near the gap between it and [[Provin Mountain]] in southwest [[Agawam, Massachusetts]], just south of the city of [[Springfield, Massachusetts|Springfield]]; the northern terminus is located on the summit of [[Mount Monadnock]] in southern New Hampshire. The [[Metacomet Trail]] in Connecticut and the [[Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway|Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail]] in New Hampshire continue where the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail leaves off. These trails extend the overall hiking possibilities another {{convert|101|mi}} to the south (along the Metacomet Trail and its logical extension, the [[Mattabesett Trail]]), and {{convert|50|mi}} further north into central New Hampshire. Other long hiking trails that intersect the M&M Trail include the {{convert|47|mi|adj=on}} [[Robert Frost Trail (Massachusetts)]] in the [[Pioneer Valley]] region, and the {{convert|22|mi|adj=on}} [[Tully Trail]] in the [[Royalston, Massachusetts|Royalston]] area. Significant networks of shorter hiking trails intersect the M&M trail, most notably on the [[Holyoke Range|Holyoke]] and [[Mount Tom Range|Mount Tom]] ranges, in [[Wendell State Forest|Wendell]] and [[Erving State Forest]]s, on [[Northfield Mountain]], and on Mount Monadnock. The M&M trail is primarily used for [[hiking]], [[backpacking (wilderness)|backpacking]], and in the winter, [[snowshoe]]ing. Portions of the trail are suitable for, and are used for, [[mountain biking]] and [[cross-country skiing]]. Site specific activities enjoyed along the route include [[hunting]], [[fishing]], [[horseback riding]], [[boating]] (on the Connecticut River), [[bouldering]], [[rock climbing]], and [[human swimming|swimming]]. {{-}} ===Southern section=== [[Image:Bare mountain talus.jpg|thumb|right| Talus slopes along the M&M Trail on [[Bare Mountain (Massachusetts)|Bare Mountain]].]]The southernmost {{convert|40|mi}} of the M&M Trail traverse a northern section of the [[trap rock]] [[Metacomet Ridge]] which extends from [[Long Island Sound]] to the Massachusetts/ [[Vermont]] border. This ridge, rising hundreds of feet above the [[Connecticut River Valley]] in Massachusetts, is a prominent landscape feature. [[Mount Tom (Massachusetts)|Mount Tom]], at {{convert|1202|ft|m|0}} above sea level and with vertical cliff faces of several hundred feet, is the high point. From south to north, the M&M Trail uses the ridges of [[Provin Mountain]], [[East Mountain (Hampden County, Massachusetts)|East Mountain]], the [[Mount Tom Range]], and the [[Holyoke Range]]. Abrupt vertical cliffs with visible [[Scree|talus]] slopes and frequent viewpoints are common throughout. Views are generally to the west on Provin Mountain, East Mountain, and the Mount Tom Ranges; and to the north on the Holyoke Range. The [[Connecticut River]] cuts through the ridgeline between the Mount Tom and Holyoke Ranges in [[Holyoke, Massachusetts]], and the [[Westfield River]] separates Provin Mountain from East Mountain in [[Westfield, Massachusetts|Westfield]]. Historic features along the trail include the Horse Caves on [[Mount Norwottuck]], the ruins of the 19th-century hotel Eyrie House on [[Mount Nonotuck]], and the refurbished Mount Holyoke Summit House on [[Mount Holyoke]]. The Mount Holyoke Summit House has been restored as a museum, open during weekends in the summer. The trap rock ridges and talus slopes are also home to several unique [[microclimate]] ecosystems that support species of plants that are unusual or endangered in this part of [[New England]], and are a seasonal migration path for [[birds of prey|raptors]]. [[Viewshed]]s from the ledges include agrarian land, suburbs, small towns, river corridors, the eastern [[The Berkshires|Berkshires]] ridgeline, metropolitan [[Springfield, Massachusetts|Springfield]], and the skyline of the [[University of Massachusetts, Amherst]]. ===Northern section=== [[Image:2007 11Nov 10 Mount Monadnock Summit Rocky Plateau.jpg|thumb|left|200px|[[Mount Monadnock]] summit]] North of the Holyoke Range in [[Belchertown, Massachusetts|Belchertown]], the M&M Trail follows an elevated plateau of 400 million year old [[metamorphic rock]] punctuated by occasional [[monadnock]]s. The terrain is a rural and largely wooded, [[glaciated|post-glacial]] landscape with sparse viewpoints, deep ravines, and a few bare mountain summits. The trail follows the western edge of this plateau in a northerly direction, then jogs east along the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border before turning north again to reach Mount Monadnock. Prominent features on or easily accessible from this part of the M&M Trail include, from south to north, Holland Glen Falls, the [[Mount Lincoln (Massachusetts)|Mount Lincoln]] fire tower, Buffum Falls, [[Mount Orient]] ledges, [[Rattlesnake Gutter]] (a boulder-filled chasm), Ruggles Pond in [[Wendell State Forest]], the [[Millers River]], [[Farley Ledges]], Briggs Brook Falls, [[Northfield Mountain]] and reservoir (a [[hydroelectric]] reservoir carved out of a mountain top), the historic Hermit Cave, [[Crag Mountain (Massachusetts)|Crag Mountain]], [[Mount Grace]], Highland Falls, and [[Royalston Falls]]. In New Hampshire, the trail crosses the summits of [[Little Monadnock Mountain]] (in [[Rhododendron State Park]]), [[Gap Mountain]], and [[Mount Monadnock]]. All three of these peaks have exposed summit ledges. Mount Monadnock is the most prominent peak of southeast New England. At {{convert|3165|ft|m|0}} high, it is {{convert|1000|ft}} higher than any mountain peak within {{convert|30|mi}} and rises {{convert|2000|ft}} above the surrounding landscape. Its bare, rocky summit provides expansive views. ===Trail communities=== The M&M Trail passes through land located within the following incorporated towns. In Massachusetts (from south to north): [[Agawam, Massachusetts|Agawam]], [[Southwick, Massachusetts|Southwick]], [[Westfield, Massachusetts|Westfield]], [[West Springfield, Massachusetts|West Springfield]], [[Holyoke, Massachusetts|Holyoke]], [[Easthampton, Massachusetts|Easthampton]], [[Hadley, Massachusetts|Hadley]], [[South Hadley, Massachusetts|South Hadley]], [[Amherst, Massachusetts|Amherst]], [[Granby, Massachusetts|Granby]], [[Belchertown, Massachusetts|Belchertown]], [[Pelham, Massachusetts|Pelham]], [[Shutesbury, Massachusetts|Shutesbury]], [[Leverett, Massachusetts|Leverett]], [[Wendell, Massachusetts|Wendell]], [[Erving, Massachusetts|Erving]], [[Northfield, Massachusetts|Northfield]], [[Warwick, Massachusetts|Warwick]], [[Royalston, Massachusetts|Royalston]]; and in New Hampshire: [[Richmond, New Hampshire|Richmond]], [[Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire|Fitzwilliam]], [[Troy, New Hampshire|Troy]], and [[Jaffrey, New Hampshire|Jaffrey]]. ==History== [[Image:Eyre house.jpg|thumb|right|Eyre House ruins on the summit of [[Mount Nonotuck]] of the [[Mount Tom Range]].]] The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail receives its name from the [[Metacomet Trail]] in [[Connecticut]], of which it is a logical extension, and from [[Mount Monadnock]] in [[New Hampshire]]. The name '''Metacomet''' is derived from [[Metacom]], the 17th century [[Native Americans in the United States|Native American]] leader and son of [[Massasoit]] of the [[Wampanoag people|Wampanoag]] tribe of southern [[New England]]. The term '''[[Monadnock]]''' is an [[Abenaki]]-derived word used to describe a mountain. It has come to be used by American geologists to describe any isolated mountain formed from the exposure of a harder rock as a result of the erosion of a softer rock that once surrounded it. The M&M Trail was designed in the 1950s by the late Professor Walter M. Banfield of the [[University of Massachusetts, Amherst]] as an extension of the {{convert|50|mi|adj=on}} [[Metacomet Trail]] in Connecticut. The route was constructed utilizing newly blazed paths, abandoned farm roads, and existing hiking trails (many of them several hundred years old) where available. Portions of the route on Mount Monadnock and the Holyoke and Mount Tom ranges date back as far as the 18th century. Early trail-building was supported by various summit resort hotels popular in the 19th century. Such resorts once stood on Mount Holyoke, Mount Nonotuck, Mount Tom, and Mount Monadnock (at the Halfway House site). Most of them had burned down or had become defunct by the early 20th century and never recovered. Encroaching development and modern transportation hastened the demise of these businesses by shifting tourism to more remote and exotic locations. Many of these properties were eventually bought, taken, or donated for inclusion in various state parks. The terminus of the trail, [[Mount Monadnock]], barren from {{convert|2000|ft}} to its {{convert|3165|ft}} summit and known for its fine views and rugged topography, was once mostly wooded. Fires deliberately set in the early 19th century by nearby farmers concerned with wolves denning in blowdown snags resulted in the denudation of the mountain. The fires burned so hot that the soil was destroyed and subsequently washed away. Since then, the summit has recovered to the degree that it appears natural and scenic, although it is still very barren and reminiscent of the [[alpine climate|alpine]] peaks of the [[White Mountains (New Hampshire)|White Mountains]] to the north. Vegetation has begun to slowly reclaim some of the ledges and ravines, but the process of soil generation on windy slopes will likely take many hundreds of years. As described in [[#Conservation of the Trail Corridor]] below, the M&M Trail is currently being studied for inclusion in a new [[National Scenic Trail]]. ==Landscape, geology, and natural environment== The geology and natural environment of the M&M trail can be divided into two distinct sections: the '''Metacomet Ridge''' of the [[Pioneer Valley]] and the '''upland plateau''' of central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. One common denominator, evidence of recent [[glaciation|glacial activity]], can be found throughout all parts of the M&M Trail. Such evidence includes [[glacial erratic]]s, glacial scouring, [[glacial striations]], [[deranged drainage]], mountain notches, [[valley#Glacial valleys|U-shaped valleys]], highland swamps, and [[Roche moutonnée|roches moutonnées]], so called "sheepback mountains" because they often resemble the shape of a sheep in profile. The extremely steep south and/or east faces of these hills were carved by the movement of glacial ice down lee slopes. ===The Metacomet Ridge=== [[Image:Eastmountain snakepond.jpg‎|thumb|left|220px|Snake Pond, a [[kettle pond]] along the M&M Trail on trap rock [[East Mountain (Hampden County, Massachusetts)|East Mountain]].]] The ridge that forms the spine of the M&M Trail across Provin Mountain, East Mountain, and the Mount Tom and Holyoke ranges was formed 200 million years ago during the late [[Triassic]] and early [[Jurassic]] periods and is composed of trap rock, also known as [[basalt]], an [[extrusive]] [[volcanic]] rock. Basalt is a dark colored rock, but the iron within it weathers to a rusty brown when exposed to the air, lending the ledges a distinct reddish appearance. Basalt frequently breaks into octagonal and pentagonal columns, creating a unique "postpile" appearance. Huge slopes made of fractured basalt [[scree|talus]] are visible beneath many of the ledges; they are particularly visible along the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail on [[Bare Mountain (Massachusetts)|Bare Mountain]]. The basalt ridges are the product of several massive [[lava]] flows hundreds of feet deep that welled up in faults created by the [[rifting]] apart of [[North America]] from [[Eurasia]] and [[Africa]]. These basalt floods of lava happened over a period of 20 million years. Erosion occurring between the eruptions deposited deep layers of sediment between the lava flows, which eventually lithified into [[sedimentary rock]]. The resulting "layer cake" of basalt and sedimentary sheets eventually [[fault (geology)|faulted]] and tilted upward. Subsequent [[erosion]] wore away the weaker sedimentary layers a faster rate than the basalt layers, leaving the abruptly tilted edges of the basalt sheets exposed, creating the distinct linear ridge and dramatic cliff faces visible today. One way to imagine this is to picture a layer cake tilted slightly up with some of the frosting (the sedimentary layer) removed in between. One of the best places to view this layer-cake structure is just beneath the summit of Mount Norwottuck. The summit of Norwottuck is made of basalt; directly beneath the summit are the Horse Caves, a deep overhang where the weaker sedimentary layer has worn away at a more rapid rate than the basalt layer above it. The Horse Caves are located a short distance off the M&M Trail via the Robert Frost Trail. The sedimentary rock of the Connecticut River Valley is also well known for its fossils, especially dinosaur tracks, which have been discovered in several locations near the ridges that the M&M Trail traverses. The Metacomet Ridge hosts a combination of [[microclimate]]s unusual in [[New England]]. Dry, hot upper ridges support [[oak savanna]]s, often dominated by [[chestnut oak]] and a variety of understory grasses and ferns. [[Juniperus virginiana|Eastern red cedar]], a dry-loving species, clings to the barren edges of cliffs. Backslope plant communities tend to be more similar to the adjacent [[Berkshires|Berkshire]] plateau containing species common to the [[northern hardwood forest|northern hardwood]] and [[oak-hickory forest]] forest types. [[Tsuga canadensis|Eastern hemlock]] crowds narrow ravines, blocking sunlight and creating damp, cooler growing conditions with associated cooler climate plant species. Talus slopes are especially rich in nutrients and support a number of calcium-loving plants uncommon in Massachusetts. Many bogs, ponds, and reservoirs lie cupped between trap rock ridge shelves, demonstrating the value of these ridges as important [[aquifers]] and [[wetland]] ecosystem habitats. Because the trap rock ridges generate such varied terrain, they are the home of several plant and animal species that are state-listed or globally rare. Other ecosystems on the southern sections of the M&M Trail include the [[northern riverine forest|northern riverine]] community which supports species such as [[willow]], [[American elm]], and [[American sycamore|sycamore]]; this ecosystem can be found along the Westfield and Connecticut Rivers. [[Image:Royalston falls.jpg|thumb|220px|right|[[Royalston Falls]], on the M&M Trail near the New Hampshire border]] ===The upland plateau=== North of the Holyoke Range, the M&M Trail traverses an upland plateau composed of much older [[metamorphic rock]], mostly [[schist]], [[gneiss]] and [[quartzite]]. The plateau, averaging {{convert|1000|ft}} above sea level, is geologically related to the higher [[White Mountains (New Hampshire)|White Mountains]] of New Hampshire, farther to the north. The terrain is rugged, with deep ravines and isolated mountain peaks called [[monadnock]]s. Notable monadnocks along the M&M Trail include Mount Grace and Mount Monadnock. Other mountains on this section of the M&M Trail, including Mt. Lincoln, Mt. Orient, and Northfield Mountain, represent high points on the steeply ravined edges of a [[dissected plateau]]. The upland plateau section of the M&M Trail supports transitional forests of species common to both the [[oak-hickory forest|oak-hickory]] and [[northern hardwood forest]] types. Ravines support significant stands of [[Tsuga canadensis|eastern hemlock]], and stands of [[Eastern White Pine|white pine]] are common throughout. Tree and shrub species also include [[sugar maple]]; [[red maple]]; gray, black, paper, and yellow [[birch]]; [[white ash]]; [[Quercus velutina|black oak]] and [[Quercus rubra|red oak]]; [[striped maple]]; [[mountain laurel]]; and, on exposed dry ledges, [[pitch pine]]. Northern boreal species, particularly [[red spruce]], become apparent on peaks in the northern part of the M&M Trail. The high, exposed ledges of Mount Monadnock support several alpine and sub-alpine species of plants, including [[sorbus|mountain ash]], [[cotton grass]], [[sheep laurel]], [[Arenaria groenlandica|mountain sandwort]], and the [[lingonberry|mountain cranberry]]. [[Krummholz]], trees stunted by harsh weather, are found on Mount Monadnock, as are several [[bog|alpine bogs]]. The northernmost stand of native [[rhododendron]] (growing naturally, not planted) in eastern North America is located just off the M&M Trail on [[Little Monadnock Mountain]] in [[Rhododendron State Park]], New Hampshire. ==Hiking the trail== [[Image:Mount Holyoke view.jpg‎|thumb|left|View from [[Mount Holyoke]] ledges]]The trail is blazed with white rectangles. It is regularly maintained, and is considered easy hiking, with sections of rugged and moderately difficult hiking along the Holyoke and Mount Tom ranges. Mount Monadnock is regarded as a challenging hike for novice hikers during favorable weather conditions. Guidebooks recommend hikers take a map and compass. As the crow flies, the M&M Trail route is never more than a mile or two from a public road, however, cliffs and steep terrain on the Metacomet Ridge and on Mount Monadnock and other peaks make access much more difficult in some areas. There are several primitive [[lean-to]]s and campsites, and a few state park campsites with facilities along the trail. However, camping is discouraged in many areas. [[Campfire]]s are generally prohibited, except in established fire rings in state park campgrounds. Trail descriptions are available from a number of commercial and non-commercial sources, and a complete guidebook with [[topographic map]]s is published by the [[Appalachian Mountain Club]]. Weather along the route is typical of [[Massachusetts]] and southern [[New Hampshire]], with slightly warmer temperatures in the Connecticut River Valley versus the upland plateau to the east. Conditions on exposed hill tops and summits may be harsher during cold or stormy weather. Weather atop the exposed and isolated {{convert|3100|ft|m|adj=on}} summit of Mount Monadnock can be much more severe than conditions below; high winds are common year round and winter storms on the summit can be life-threatening. [[Lightning]] is a hazard on exposed peaks and ledges during thunderstorms. High flooding is common during rainy periods on the portions of trail that dip into the [[Connecticut River|Connecticut River Valley]] and the [[Westfield River|Westfield River Valley]], sometimes obliterating the trail. The Westfield River can be forded only during dry periods, and even then not without risk. The Connecticut River is not fordable; the trail terminates where it meets it (one must walk or drive to the [[Northampton, Massachusetts|Northampton]] Route 9 bridge or arrange for boat passage to the other shore). Snow is common in the winter and may necessitate the use of cross country skis or snowshoes. Ice can form on exposed ledges and summits, making hiking dangerous without special equipment. Snow and ice tend to linger on Mount Monadnock well into the spring. Biting insects can be bothersome during warm weather. Parasitic [[deer tick]]s (which are known to carry [[Lyme disease]]) are a potential hazard. The trail passes through [[American Black Bear|black bear]] habitat (especially the northern portions of it), although problems with bears are rare. More likely are problem encounters with feral and domestic dogs. [[Skunk]]s, [[raccoon]]s, and [[porcupine]]s are common and active after dark. [[Poisonous snake]]s are considered extinct along most of the route with the possible exception of the warm, dry microclimates on the Metacomet Ridge. [[Poison ivy]] is native to the M&M Trail ecosystems, but it occurs with less frequency north of the Holyoke Range, and does not thrive on Mount Monadnock at all. Many water sources along the trail flow through inhabited areas or swamps and may be contaminated. Except during the winter, trap rock ridges tend to be dry, leaving long stretches of trail with no dependable water source. ==Conservation and maintenance of the trail corridor== [[Image:Round Mountain Quarry.jpg|left|thumb|180px|Obliteration of Round Mountain by quarrying. 1989 photo; significantly more rock has been removed since then.]] The M&M Trail passes through public land (state parks, forests, and wildlife management areas), land managed by conservation non-profit organizations, private land under conservation easement, and unprotected private land via permission of individual land owners. Significant threats to the trail, its ecosystems, and its viewshed included [[quarrying]] (especially on the trap rock ridges) and [[suburban sprawl]]. The Metacomet-Monadnock Trail is maintained by volunteer efforts largely facilitated by the Berkshire Chapter of the [[Appalachian Mountain Club]]. Many groups are invested in preserving the pathway and viewshed of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, including [[The Trustees of Reservations]], [[Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust]], [[Friends of the Mt. Holyoke Range]], the [[Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests]], the Amherst Conservation Commission, the [[New Hampshire|State of New Hampshire]], and the [[Commonwealth of Massachusetts]]. Other organizations invested in the conservation of land along the trail corridor are listed under '''External Links''' below. In 2000, the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail was included in a study by the [[National Park Service]] for possible inclusion in a new [[National Scenic Trail]] now tentatively called the [[New England National Scenic Trail]], which would also include the [[Mattabesett Trail|Mattabesett]] and [[Metacomet Trail|Metacomet]] trails in [[Connecticut]]. Some sections of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail have already been designated as a [[National Recreation Trail]] (not the same as a National Scenic Trail). ==See also== * [[Metacomet Ridge]] * [[Metacomet Trail]] * [[Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway]] * [[Robert Frost Trail (Massachusetts)]] * [[Tully Trail]] ==External links== * [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.1528: U.S. Congress ''New England National Scenic Trail Designation Act.''] * [http://amcberkshire.org/trails/mmtrail Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club] * [http://www.mass.gov/dcr/ Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation] * [http://www.nhstateparks.org/ New Hampshire Department of Parks and Recreation] * [http://www.sportslandtrust.org/ Sportsman's Land Trust] * [http://www.kestreltrust.org/ The Kestrel Trust] * [http://www.valleylandfund.org/ The Valley Land Fund] * [http://www.pctland.org/ Pascommuck Conservation Trust] * [http://www.spnhf.org/ Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests] * [http://www.mountgrace.org/ Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust] * [http://www.thetrustees.org/ The Trustees of Reservations] * [http://www.westernmacc.com/ Western Massachusetts Access (Farley Ledges rock climbing preserve)] {{coord missing|Massachusetts}}