I am in the process of catching people up with some early hikes and other encounters with nature that I thought people might find interesting as part of a "How It Began" (HIB) series. Mostly this will describe specific hikes and perhaps some lessons learned along the way...if there are any. They are meant to be short and, perhaps helpful in some way to other hikers or fellow-travelers. I will post the dates of when I hiked a specific mountain since the ones in this series are NOT posted at or near the date hiked.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2021
Not every hike is in New Hampshire, right? Another place I like to go is the Pioneer Valley in Central Massachusetts. The drive is easier and shorter, which is good. Also--while the mountains are not tall-- since the valley is so low and flat, the views they provide are spectacular...most of the time.
Our first excursion was the Seven Sisters range between Bare mountain and Mount Holyoke. The name "Seven Sisters" is in honor of a group of historically women's colleges that were conceived as being a female counterweight to the ivy league. Most of them remain women's colleges today. However Radcliff College merged with Harvard and Vassar College (the alma mater of one of my sons) became co-educational. Two of the sisters (Mount Holyoke College and Smith College) are in the Pioneer Valley and--as you may have gathered by the shared name between college and mountain--this trail has something of a special significance to those communities.
I will say this, the low elevation fooled us. It is actually a pretty challenging trail. This was particularly true in our case as we hiked it both ways, treating it as an out-and-and back to Mount Holyoke. It is 5 miles one way and, although they are short, there are about 10 distinct peaks (not 7). So double those numbers and you get a sense of what we did.
We were going up or down constantly. While we have since learned that many of the trails in this area have fairly constant views, this trail was more closed in. My back hurt. I was dehydrated and filled with a good dose of despair. I am glad my wife didn't leave me. I was awful. Strangely we weren't even the only people who misjudged. Every 5th person we saw was in some state of despair as well. It kinda perked me up a bit, actually....
Fortunately the visitors center at Mt. Holyoke was open so we could refill our water bottles for the way back. Also, the view from the porch at the center was great and made the trip worthwhile. On our way back, knowing what we were up against, we slowed down quite a bit and managed to get back in fairly good order.
I learned a few things about hiking on this trip. I learned to check the map and be honest about my abilities. I learned you can never have too much water. I also learned to enjoy what I can when I can. I also learned about the area and the cool natural features it offers. The views we did get were great. Later hikes in this area went well...including some of my favorite hikes of the year. So there will be more from the Pioneer Valley. However, I do suggest leaving a car at the other end of this one...
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.