(Solo) Miller Forest Tract – Monson

This past Saturday, Jess was out of town with her mother, so it fell to me to take Evie to gymnastics and then fill a few hours on my own.  I made two important choices: I was going to pick up some beer, and get a hike in.

After packing a lunch, I first dropped off some growlers at Tree House Brewing in Monson.  Tree House is a world-class brewery which I’ve been following since they first opened in a barn in Brimfield in 2011 (they were brewing a test batch when the famous tornado struck; you can read about it here).  They’ve gone from being the area’s best-kept secret to being listed as the brewers of the world’s best American IPA by Beer Advocate. If you’re at all a beer fan, it’s worth seeking them out.  It’s worth browsing their site just to see their great beer photography.

With a few hours to wait before my growlers would be full (not so secret any more!), I had plenty of time to go for a hike.  Since I was already in Monson, I decided to return to Peaked Mountain, this time visiting the nearby Miller Forest Tract instead of the primary mountain property.  I chose this property because knowing I was “on the clock” and alone, I wanted a place with clear trail markings and known terrain.  As always, the Trustees of Reservations came through.


It was a chilly day. Some light snow had fallen recently and the temps in the shade were not really getting above freezing.  It was a good chance to try out my new Merino Wool socks (they worked great, by the way).  The trail begins alongside a huge field that borders the yard of a neighboring home.


I started by heading into the woods on the Forest Loop, and then continued along the Lunden Pond Loop.  The trail starts out wide and flat, an easy and well-traveled trail.  I saw plenty of evidence of recent hikers and dog-walkers on the first part of the hike.  Where the sun cleared the trees, the snow was gone, but in areas of denser shade the snow remained.


Lunden Pond is a beautiful spot; I was wishing I had saved my picnic lunch to eat here instead of at the car.  The trail first crosses over a small “arm” of the pond.  Here, the pond was enough in the shade that ice was beginning to form (you can see it below).


The trail then continues around the pond, and I paused frequently to admire the scenery and take pictures.


Others were doing the same; I saw several families, couples, and others all enjoying the sunny crisp day.


After looping around the pond, I cut over onto a less-traveled area of the tract, the Temple Brook Loop and Ridge Trail.  Things quickly got narrower and steeper, with much less evidence of human or animal traffic, but the trails were still easily navigated and clearly marked.


The trail went through some shaded areas which still held the weekend’s earlier snow, which made for some striking contrast to the sunny open areas near the pond.


I try to remember to look up periodically, especially in the woods.  I remember reading once that happy people statistically look up more frequently than unhappy people.  Even if you can’t trick yourself into being happy by checking out the sky more often, it can’t hurt, right?


Right before climbing the ridge from which the Ridge Trail gets its name, Temple Brook Loop parallels Temple Brook for a while.  It was a lively brook, splashing over rocks.  I didn’t test my theory that the water looked pretty chilly, though.  The quiet sounds of nature were somewhat overshadowed by nearby road traffic and the sounds of a leaf blower close by, however.  It’s part of the cost of having such nicely maintained trails so close to civilization, even if it’s rural civilization.


From the brook, I followed this loop up the ridge and then back down it.  I tried to capture the steep descent along the leaf-carpeted trail down into the shaded snow-filled area in the image below.  The trail was a little sketchy in a few spots, steeper, narrow, rocky and covered with leaves.  But overall it was still well-marked and not a trouble to navigate.


After circling both the pond and the ridge, I was left with a little time to explore some connecting trails.  Back in the more frequently-passed areas of the tract, I again started meeting families.  The sun was bright and had melted all the snow in this area.  I snapped one last picture to capture the feel of the day and the property.


With the clock ticking, I wrapped up the hike after 3 miles and headed back to Tree House (no samples, just growlers please…), and then to get Evie.  I enjoyed the quiet time in the woods, as I always do, but all I could think of was heading back here with Jess so she could see some of it herself.

I guess that’s a good sign, right?

I hope to get a few more hikes like this in before the snow really begins to cover the trails….