I just got back from a 50-mile late season hike on the New England National Scenic Trail. This time, my hiking buddy Wayne and I completed the hike through Massachusetts (having already walked through Connecticut on prior trips).
At the end of this hike, we realized we had now walked across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts three times via three different trails.
In 1990, we hiked the Appalachian Trail through the far western part of the state from north to south. In the early 2000s, we section hiked the Midstate Trail. And in the past three years, we have been picking away at the New England Trail.
Why would anyone want to hike through the same state three times? For me, the answer is simple. The trails in Massachusetts are accessible and a hell of a lot of fun. Each has its own flavor.
Tale of Three Trails
From the highest point in the state, Mount Greylock, in the northwest corner, the AT generally follows the ridges of the Berkshires to the Connecticut border. On the other hand, with the notable exception of 2006′ Wachusett Mountain (the highest mountain east of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts), the Midstate Trail is largely one exceptionally enjoyable walk consisting of 45 miles of public land, 30 miles of private land and 17 miles of paved road walking. Then there is the New England National Scenic Trail.
The NENST was created by combining all or most of the Metacomet, Monadnock and Mattabesett trails and adding a new 17-mile section on the southern end to extend the trail to the Atlantic Ocean (the beach of Guilford, Connecticut). The southern end of the trail follows a traprock formation (a basalt ridgeline) that is sublime, especially during fall foliage season (see photo below this post). By the time the trail approaches the Connecticut River near Holyoke, Massachusetts, you are walking among granite formations and will be all the way into New Hampshire. The northern Massachusetts section is one fantastic woods walk punctuated with viewpoints such as this one just north of Farley Village.
Whenever I get back from a hike, I am thankful for my ability to keep doing this sport I love so much. The mental and physical rewards for simply hoisting a pack and living in the outdoors for days on end verge on the indescribable. I am also thankful for the efforts of the trail organizations that keep these gems in our midst accessible and available for everyone to enjoy. Without them, walking over 300 miles through Massachusetts (or any other state where trail systems are vibrant) would be lacking a whole lot of joy.