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Friday, December 12, 2014

Notchview Reservation/ Bear Swamp(Berkshires/ Hilltowns)

High up in the Berkshire hills lies Notchview Reservation, a Trustees of Reservation Property renowned for its Nordic Skiing as well as snowshoeing.  Located high up in the town of Windsor, much of the reservation is at an elevation of over 2,000 feet, resulting in a dependably higher snow pack than the surrounding lower elevations.  There are about 25 miles of trails on the 3000+ acres, lending itself to many opportunities for exploration.
As I headed out into the open fields, this was a nice look back at the Budd Visitor Center, which offers masonry heaters, restrooms, a cafe, a rental station and much more.
 It may not say it yet on the calendar, but winter is in full force at these higher elevations.
 Heading into the winter woods.  Some of these trails are groomed for Cross Country skiing, so I was very careful to stay out of the ski tracks. 
 This part of the trail follows an old road and passed two large rocky entrance post on my way towards Sawmill Field.
 The view from the Trela Shelter, overlooking Sawmill Field and further south and east.
 Trela Shelter.  There are two Adirondack style shelters located on the reservation, affording skiers and snowshoers alike to rest and get out of the elements.
 Heading down towards Bumpus Trail, with a look back up towards the shelter at the top of Sawmill Field.
 I was the first person to set foot on Bumpus Trail, meaning I would have to break trail.  Fortunately the snow was fairly light and made for pleasant walking.
 The wild, snowy woods make for a truly special scene.
 Solitude in the quiet winter woods along the Mixed Woods Trail.
 I eventually looped back along the groomed Circuit Trail, which lead me out of the woods and back towards the open orchards. Walking back through the open fields proved to be rough, as strong NW winds made it very uncomfortable.  As I arrived back at the car, I felt great, having snowshoed nearly 3 miles.
 After leaving Notchview, I headed north and east towards Ashfield in rural Franklin County.  The drive itself is very scenic through rolling hills, open fields and peaceful farmland.  I soon arrived at Bear Swamp, another Trustees of Reservations property, with roadside parking along Hawley Road.
Located across Hawley Road and couple hundred feet up from the parking lot is a small driveway, which doubles as the Apple Valley overlook trail.
 A weather battered tree on the way towards the overlook.
 Just a touch past a quarter mile from the parking area, you arrive at a clearing with picnic table.  This marks the end of this section of trail.
 The view from near the picnic table is very nice.  Apple orchards can be seen far below down in the valley.
 Just to the east of the orchards can be seen the nearby hills of Buckland.
 After a couple of minutes admiring the views, I headed back down across the road to the main section of Bear Swamp with nearly 3 miles of trails.  The wooded trails made for moderate hiking amongst a mixed forest.
 A screened view through an area of hardwoods.
 A small cascade on Beaver Brook.
 Babbling Beaver Brook makes a nice spot to stop and relax for a few moments.
 Another small cascade.
As the late afternoon began to turn into evening, the woods grew darker and darker.
 A trail intersection.  The Trustees does a great job with trail postings, but trail blazes can sometimes be hard to find in the winter woods.
 A panoramic look out across the open pond.
 Just below the pond's outlet, the brook widens appreciably taking on the appearance of a small creek.
I arrived back at the car at about 4pm, as darkness continued to creep in.  These early days can be very discouraging, but I was thankful to get out for nearly 5 miles of hiking for the day. 

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