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Mt Wachusett
September 21, 2008

Route: Balance Rock Trail, Old Indian Trail, Harrington Trail, Link Trail, Mountain House Trail, Loop Trail, Bicentennial Trail, Pine Hill Trail, West Side Trail, Semuhenna Trail, Bolton Pond Trail


2008 ft

Vertical Climb:

1650 ft


? miles

Who Went:

Paul, Muffin

Like Mt Monadnock, Mt Wachusett is one of those peaks that stands alone in the rolling uplands of north-central Massachusetts and southwestern New Hampshire. I've climbed it many times, at least once on every trail, and multiple times on most of them, and in all kinds of weather, including at night. It's good training for hikes in the White Mountains.

Since Toi and Holly were going to be working in the afternoon at a Girl Scout information booth at a Kid's Fair at the Mt Wachusett Ski Area, it seemed like a good time for Muffin and I to climb the mountain a couple of times. Since we were parked at the Ski Area, the Balance Rock and Old Indian Trails seemed like a good start to the day. They also provide the greatest elevation gain (1000 ft) of any direct route to the summit.

The Balance Rock trail is mostly gentle, and somewhat rocky, and ends at the appropriately named Balance Rock, a huge boulder balanced on top of another. It was also a good place for our first rest. It was a warm day, and Muffin hadn't done a lot of hiking since she hurt her leg getting into the car last year, so we took frequent water breaks to rest her leg and help keep her from getting overheated.

From there, we continued up the Old Indian Trail, which becomes fairly steep after it crosses the auto road, and then moderates the rest of the way to the top.

The Mt Wachusett summit area is open and ledgy, with good views in most directions, particularly east toward Boston, but it was a bit hazy that day, and also very crowded because many people either drove up or rode on the ski lift. There were also a number of birdwatchers who had come to spot hawks, as several different hawk species visit the mountain, particularly in the early fall.

The crowds got to me fairly quickly, so we didn't spend too much time at the summit. We headed down the southwest side of the mountain on  the steep Harrington Trail until we reached the Link Trail, and then cut over to descend the rest of the way via the Mountain House, Loop, and Bicentennial Trails until we reached the bottom of the Pine Hill Trail.

The Pine Hill Trail, an old ski trail, is the shortest and most direct route to the summit from the State Park headquarters on the southeast side of the mountain. Since I had been here last, the trail crew had done a lot of work on the Pine Hill Trail, putting in new rock steps and drainages. Unfortunately, this also seemed to make the trail a little less interesting and challenging, especially on the middle ledgy section.

After reaching the summit a second time, we stopped just long enough for another water break, and then began descend the Old Indian Trail, deviating from the path to follow the West Side and Semuhenna Trails back down to the lower junction with the Old Indian Trail. From there, it was a short hike back to our car via Balance Rock again.

Muffin on a boulder next to Balance Rock. It was a warm day and Muffin was ready for a rest and a drink of water.

Closeup of Muffin on a boulder near Balance Rock. She was happy to be out of the trail again, as she hadn't done a lot of hiking since she hurt her leg in 2007.

Muffin sitting in the wildflowers on a ski slope. The Old Indian Trail crosses the Mt Wachusett Ski Area slopes a couple of times about halfway up the mountain.

Asters. There were many different wildflowers blooming on the open slopes. After taking this picture, the camera batteries went dead, so I didn't get photos at the summit or along the other trails.

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