Rock House Reservation – West Brookfield

I last wrote about Rock House in November of 2014.  On that day, we went for a long hike in the rain.  This time around, it was a shorter hike, but the weather was much more pleasant.

I started the day by pitching in at a town cleanup of a vacant lot, and spent several hours doing the kind of physical labor I went into engineering explicitly to avoid.  So while we still wanted to hike, I wanted something a little less taxing.  We picked Rock House because we know the trails well (map here), it was close, and we knew we could do a shorter loop and still get some fall scenery in.

We started by hiking up the hill on the red “inner loop” trail towards Carter Pond.


There we paused and took pictures of the stunning foliage reflected in the still water.



From there, we picked up the Outer Loop trail and took it around the property.  We’ve done these trails several times in the past so it was a relaxing hike, with frequent pauses to admire the foliage.  As is always the case on our Saturdate hikes, it gave us a chance to catch up on topics both serious and frivolous without the impatient ears of a seven-year-old.



It was a short walk in the woods, but a much-needed escape from the hectic pace of life.

Rock House Reservation – West Brookfield

The weather forecast today was for temperatures in the low 40s, wind, and rain.  We briefly considered staying indoors, but we knew we’d regret it.  So we added some layers and headed west on Route 9. Nearly all the way through West Brookfield, right before Ware, is the Rock House Reservation.

This property, maintained by the Trustees of Reservations, is a favorite local natural retreat.  We’ve been here a half-dozen times with our daughter, exploring and geocaching, but this time we went because we knew we could get a few miles of hiking in on familiar trails (map available here) while being sheltered from the worst of the weather by the trees.  We’d also never come without her, and wanted to enjoy the scenery of the area at our own pace.

When we arrived, the lot was empty, and we posed for a quick photo in our still-dry rain gear before heading in.


We started at the Outer Loop, through lightly wooded rolling terrain dotted with boulders.  To our left was an area of the Reservation open to hunting, but on this lousy day even the hunters were staying dry.

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We followed this loop to Balance Rock and admired the view, and then forked north under the power lines, first through an open meadow area and then up the steeper wooded Summit Trail.


The Summit Loop crests a hill and then parallels a field near a neighboring farm before heading back into the woods.


It loops back to where it begins, and we continued our hike by following the Fullam Loop to the east.


All along the hike, the mixed forest changed around us — in some areas sparse, in others thick.  Sometimes we stood exposed to the elements, others under the quiet shelter of towering pines.  Periodically we paused to admire, through gaps in the trees, the beautiful post-peak New England foliage.


As the rain picked up, we returned to the Outer Loop that we began on, and skirted around Carter Pond on the Inner Loop trail.  The trail wove around and through giant boulders, and we felt like kids, dwarfed by the size of the rocks around us.  We stopped taking pictures here, as the rain became steady and heavy.

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We covered around three miles today.  We got half-soaked (maybe three-quarters), but we were laughing and content as we climbed back into the car for the toasty drive home (where the heat was promptly turned up, and coffee and tea made).  Nothing feels quite so good as warming up after being honestly chilled and soaked doing something fun….