M & M Trail Section 16 Part 1

Rout 2 in Farley Village to Hermit Mountain via Northfield Resevoir

OK Bug, me and youNovember 18, 2001 (ed. note: This was actually the first official M-M Trail hike Bug and I had together. After fracturing my right knee, badly, we needed something to do that I could get better and Bug could have fun with. Bug is a runner and high-end athelete, so it had to be good. I had NO idea what a great way to have fun the M-M trail would be, and Bug and I had 8 season of hiking together. I bought a not so hot digital camera, so the early hikes don't have great pictures to so for it. That's fine).

Traveling West from Greenfield on route 2, and a few miles after crossing the French King Bridge, you will come to the Cross St and Village of Farley on the left. Right at the intersection of Wells and Cross st, you enter the M-M trail. It was right here that I set foot on the M-M trail for the first time with Bug at my side (or way ahead of me or way behind me). It was 2 1/2 months since I almost separated the lower half of my right leg from the rest of me, and I still could barely walk. Seriously.
As you can see from the Terrain Map and the trail Guide, the trail follows Briggs Brook up the side of Northfield Mountain where the Power company blaster a volcanic crator at the top and pumped it full of water from the Connecticut River. The Falls and Cascades are amazingly cool. And challenging enough on 1.5 legs. Bug had no trouble and waited for me at the top of the cascades where I wandered off the trail for awhile. Rookie mistake.
The hike up the Briggs Brook falls and Cascades is slightly less than a mile, and then maybe another mile or so to the back side of Hermit Mountain. The two hikes to follow started from the front side of Hermit Mountain and over to intersecting parts of the M-M. We were lost about 20% of the time. What, us worry?!?

Section 16 part 2..Our first effort, Hey 'Why not Hike to Hermit's cave?'

Wow, the Mountain is on fireOctober 28, 2001 (Ed. note: My physical therapist suggested I hike to Hermit's cave to begin rehab on my knee. What a great idea. It began my appreciation of the M-M and the amazing cooperation it takes to even exist.)

Bug and I Parked on Mountain Rd in Erving about 10 am on a gorgeous October 28, 2001 Fall day, for our first trek into the M-M reality. I think our goal was to actually reach the old Hermits residence. I mean, it's pretty interesting to mull over the fact that a Scottish immigrant left Boston at the age of 47 to live in a cave in the forest of Erving Massachusetts. He lived there until he was 80, and too old to take care of himself any more. He was 'removed' in kindness by the residents of Montague, and shortly thereafter passed away at the Town Farm.
So, with these thoughts, Bug and I headed off to the 'Castle'. I was not cetrain my knee would be able to handle the terrain, it was steep in places, but off we went. Bug had no such reservations, he was a mere 8 years old then and at the top of his game. Did I mention that 2001 was one of the dryest and hottest summers in years?

Hey Bug look...the nice firemen are waving to us!

Maybe 20 minutes into our hike we started to smell smoke, and I thought it was curious that we were the only hikers I saw. There was only one other car in the turnoff where we parked our ride. I had to consider the possibility that continuing much further might be unwise. After all, Bug and I are veteran woodsman...pause... Once we reached the top of a long uphill section of the trail we met 3 guys on ATV's with scuba tanks filled with fire retardant strapped to their backs and several other firefighters with chainsaws and shovels. They told us that the trail had been closed, for obvious reasons. It didn't looked closed to us, but the point was moot anyway. We were here, so it was time to check out this unique situation. The Volunteer Fire Fighters were fighting an "unnderground fire". We had never seen an underground fire before. In a drought forest, the 'duff' can get 2 feet thick. This is matchbox dry leaves, and tree parts on the forest floor. Somebody can have a campfire someplace, and then put that campfire out, they think. But the embers burn down thru the 'Duff' and pop up as a small fire 30 feet away, like a burning fuse. This can spread over the whole mountain, sometines burning trees from the inside out and from the roots up. Like here. After investigating the nature of a Duff fire, we headed back. We were going to run out of daylight soon enough, and we had plenty to think about on the ride home. We stopped on the French King Bridge and watched the Connecticut river flow under us. Right below me and Bug and 120 feet below the surface of the River is an Abyss known as French King Hole. Just downstream from the bridge is a recently discovered 125 foot Abyss known as King Phillip's Hole. These completely dark chasms are the home of bizarre plate sized sponges, and who knows what else. The River is beautiful today.

back home

Section 16 Hermit Mountain Take II..The Cave or Bust

Top of the Cave...Made it!!November 11, 2001 (Ed. Note: Last week we took a surprise detour to an underground mountain duff fire,... man! This week, we want to meet the Ghost of the Hermit, see his cave and terraces and think about his life, while we have lunch at his house; just like hundreds of his visitors did with him in the 33 years he lived there.)

Another beautiful Fall day in Erving finds us hiking up the same trail that we did two weeks ago. We are on a mission. I have packed some sandwiches (fluffernutters) and milk for me and Bug, and we are wiser (I hope) in terms of the time and the distance between here on Mountain Rd and the cave up yonder on Hermit's Mountain. You have to be a very special human to spend 33 winters in a rock formation on the side of a mountain, far from other people or help of any kind.

This trail intersects with the M-M trail near Hermit Mountain, and 2 weeks ago, we accidentally hiked a bit of it. I got us lost, again. I am just learning about the white blazes and what the various blazes mean. I haven't seen the M-M trail guide yet, so we are oblivious. I am hiking with Bug, so I don't have a care in the world, and neither does he.

The Hermit's Castle

After about an hour of pretty strenuous hiking, we came upon a huge rock, with a crevice like cave cut through the bottom of it. It doesn't look too hospitable, but I imagine it was cleverly arranged for survival by Mr Smith. There are terraces and gardens spread out over a couple of acres , and a nice little spring near the big rock. He must have figured out a way to keep unfrozen water handy when the temperature in his living room was 10. After a good reconoiter, we traveled on past the Castle. The trail took us down for awhile and across a small brook. Hermit Mt proper was somewhere ahead of us, and I thought if we could hike up part of it we could get a view of the Millers River to the south , but as rookies, I was pretty sure we'd get good and lost; why add a complication to a great day. After switching back and getting briefly lost (always make note of breaks in the trail, they never look the same coming and going!) we made it back to the Castle. Time for LUNCH! The fluffernutters gave us some great energy for the next hour and we arrived back at the missionmobile with about 45 minutes of good light to spare. Not bad for us. Maybe we'll hit the cape for some exploring next week.