Ashburnham, Mass – After a week of grey skies, the sun came out today and temperatures climbed. Schools are closed for Martin Luther King Day, so we needed to take advantage of it all. Daddio and the twins agreed to accompany me on a pandemic field trip to Mount Watatic Reservation, on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.
We have not been hiking in a while (since we have been skiing! Yay!) A friend recommended Mount Watatic Reservation as an alternative to Wachusettt Mountain, with fewer people and no construction at the summit. The drive from our house is just over an hour, so it exceeds my original 30-minute-drive limit for pandemic field trips. But we have gotten used to driving farther for the beach and for skiing, so I decided to make an exception for this hiking trip too.
Upon arrival at Mount Watatic, the parking lot was full and there were a fair amount of people on the trail. The sun was peaking through the bare trees and glistening on the snow, creating a delightful winter wonderland scene. Delightful except for the fact that the “glisten” was actually ice and the whole trail was extremely slippery. The flat part of the trail was manageable, but the slightest incline required extra caution. Wearing worn sneakers, Daddio was having visions of injuries and other catastrophes. He called an audible and turned back.
The twins and I journeyed on. After a short distance, we turned off the main (relatively flat) path to follow a narrower trail to the summit. The trail started to climb, presenting a serious challenge. We were slipping and sliding all over the place, and there was a backlog of hikers who were having the same problem. We met a few hikers on their way down. They reported that the trail would get icier and more dangerous as we got higher. We had barely begun, but I decided that we also needed to turn back. So we turned around and slid back down the mountain (literally on our bums, in some places).
At this point we had barely hiked half a mile. Considering that we drove more than an hour to get to Mount Watatic Reservation, I was not yet willing to go home. So we made our way back to the main path, aka the State Line Trail, to see where it might lead. At least it was relatively flat, so we could walk without risking our lives, although it was slow-going. And guess what? The State Line Trail led to the Massachusetts – New Hampshire state line!
By now the kids were tired and cold. Not really tired, just tired of walking on precarious footing. And it was impossible to generate any heat, because we had to proceed so cautiously. We set the state line as our destination, then we turned around and hiked back. It was only a few miles, but it was enough, considering how we were unprepared for the conditions. And it gave us a sense of accomplishment to say we hiked to New Hampshire!
Incidentally, we did notice on the trail hikers who sped by us, unbothered by slippery spots. They were wearing shoe grips like IceTrekkers or Microspikes, which slip over your hiking boots and prevent slipping. (These can also be useful for walking around town when the sidewalks are not totally clear!) Is it worth the investment to get these for the family? Personally I’m going to hold off on this investment. But heck, they are cheaper than skis! So we’ll see what sticks for winter activities – hiking or skiing?