Unexpected Views and Challenges in Massachusetts

We set off for Skinner State Park with a specific hike in mind. Will had done some research and found a trail that was kid-friendly and would also take us to some amazing views of west-central Massachusetts. He was excited because he found a trail that would take us along a ridgeline of the Seven Sisters mountain range. Rather than having to climb from the base to the summit, the trail started at the summit of Mt. Holyoke, which was a huge relief.

So, while the trail did in fact start at the summit of Mt. Holyoke, and it did traverse the Seven Sisters range, it unfortunately included seven summits with valleys between each. Instead of the one ascent and one descent we have become accustomed to, we were now faced with back-to-back descents and ascents.

We did not make it far.

We had planned on going upwards of 5 miles, however, this was when we were expecting very little elevation change. I also must admit I was not expecting it to be nearly as hot as it was. This was perhaps our hottest hike yet, checking in at 85° when we returned to the truck completely drenched in sweat.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

The drive up Mt. Holyoke was absolutely gorgeous. As we approached the entrance to the state park, we could see a large white building at the top of the mountain, which we later learned was an old hotel. We wound our way to the top, grabbed our picnic lunch, and walked up a large hill to the picnic tables overlooking what seemed like all of Massachusetts. From one overlook in the parking lot, we could see the city of Springfield in the near distance and Hartford, CT way on the horizon (we pulled out the binoculars and could just make out the skyline). From our picnic table, we could see the towns of Hadley and Amherst. We had driven through Amherst on our way, so it was really cool to see it from above.

As we made our way back to the truck after eating lunch, I was already sweating. Like more than I have sweat in weeks on our longer hikes. I already had a sinking feeling about this adventure.

However, we got geared up and headed back up the hill to the trailhead. As soon as we stepped foot on the trail, we pretty much knew this was not going to be the ridgeline walk we had planned on. We immediately headed down the steepest flight of rock-cut-in-the-hill steps, and because the leaves are already changing here, they were covered in fallen leaves, just to add that extra layer of excitement.

As we wound our way down into the valley between the two mountains, we could see the next “sister” in front of us, and the further we went down, the further we could see we were going to have to go back up. The mountains were truly not that tall, but we were just not feeling it.

We trudged our way to the top of the second mountain (amid lots of loose rocks) and made the executive decision at the summit that the only way we were going down a mountain was if we went back down the way we came. At this point, we were only 0.6 miles into the hike, and we felt defeated.

At the bottom of the valley between the two mountains, we had crossed the road we had driven to the top. We knew that the road, while still steep, was going to be much easier walking than navigating the rocks and leaves and other obstacles of the trail. Will debated leaving me and the girls behind while he went to get the truck, but we were not fond of the idea of splitting up and could tell we would be able to keep Daisy in the shade to keep her paws from being on the hot asphalt of the road.

We slowly worked our way up the switchbacks of the road and kept telling ourselves that we had just completed what we knew to be the steepest portion of the road (we were continually wrong, but it might have helped keep us going). Luckily, the lower parking lot came into view quicker than we thought it would, and we knew the truck was just around the bend.

In total, we hiked 1.5 miles, and we both felt rather ridiculous that that is only as far as we made it.

I am not sure why we were not up for the challenge of this trail, but I know that there is definitely something to be said for listening to our bodies and only pushing ourselves so much. We have done so much hiking on this trip so far and maybe this was just our sign to slow it down a little. What I do know is we saw some beautiful views, we had an amazing lunch together, and we stayed safe. We also stopped at the dairy near the entrance of the park and got some of the most delicious chocolate milk, so, all in all, the day was still a win.

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