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Mt Wachusett
September 18, 2010

Route: Balance Rock Trail, Old Indian Trail, Harrington Trail, Old Stagecoach Trail, Access road to wind farm, Echo Lake Trail, High Meadow Trail, Jack Frost Trail, Mountain House Trail,
Challenger ski trail
Map:
 

Elevation:

2008 ft

Vertical Climb:

2040 ft

Distance:

? miles

Who Went:

Paul (solo)

This was pretty much a deja vu hike, as it was almost a repeat of a hike I made 2 years earlier and for the same reason. Once again, 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, so it seemed like a good time to climb the mountain a couple of times. Unfortunately, Muffin is mostly retired from climbing mountains, and I probably would have ended up carrying her back down, so she stayed at home. We parked at the Ski Area, so I started up the nearby Balance Rock Trail.

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. From there, I 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 (as usual on a warm day), and also very crowded because many people from the Kid's Fair rode up 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.

Since I wanted to accumulate as much vertical gain as possible in the time I had, I didn't stay long at the summit, just enough time to quickly eat a small Power Bar. I headed down the southwest side of the mountain on  the steep Harrington Trail all the way down to the Old Stagecoach Trail, and then hiked over to the Princeton Municipal Light Department's newly upgraded wind farm. The new turbines were quite tall, 215 ft for the tower alone and another 125 ft for each blade. So with the blade at the top pointing straight up, the entire structure is 340 ft tall. They had built a new road to the wind farm, and the Old Stagecoach Trail just kind of ended at it. Thinking that I was at the junction with the Administration Rd, I wasted about ten minutes looking for the Echo Lake Trail until I realized that the map had not yet been updated and the new road ran right on top of the former Old Stagecoach Trail route.

After hiking down the access road, I found the Echo Lake Trail, which I followed to the High Meadow Trail, and then took the Jack Frost and Mountain House Trails back to the summit. Along the way, I took a couple of pictures of flowers, one of bluestem goldenrod, and another of white baneberry's old looking fruit.

After reaching the summit a second time and noticing that I only had a half hour left, I quickly headed down the Old Indian Trail. Then, about halfway down, I veered off onto the Challenger ski trail, which quickly (and steeply) got me back down to the lodge area.

Looking down the Challenger ski trail on Mt Wachusett. The pond at the bottom is next to the ski lodge.

Closeup of the Boston skyline from the summit of Mt Wachusett. It was overcast and a little hazy, but the city was clearly visible with the naked eye.

Wind turbine. The Princeton Municipal Light Department operates two huge wind turbines on the south slopes of the mountain. The towers alone are 215 ft tall and each blade is 125 ft. It was a calm day and they were not turning when I saw them.

Bluestem goldenrod. While most goldenrods grow in sunny fields or at the edge of woodlands, this species prefers shady woods .

White baneberry fruit. The interesting-looking  berries, sometimes called doll's eyes, are extremely poisonous to humans.

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