For my first hike in Mass, I choose to go somewhere close to where I live. I can see the Holyoke Range from my backyard, so I figured it was a logical place to begin my hopefully numerous east coast adventures. The highest point in the range is Mt. Norwottuck, which is a little over 1,100 ft. Yup that's right. Its barely a mountain. I figured we might as well hike to the top of the highest point in the range since they are just little baby mountains. Anyway, it offered hikes that are a ten minute drive from campus and my house and various scenic views. So a fellow grad student, Alicia, and I hit the trails one Sunday evening. Here's the photos...
The hike starts at the visitors center at the notch, which is essentially small-scale mountain pass. The road is route 116.
Is that one of the elusive Massachusetts arÍtes? Nope just a sand and gravel operation.
After living in Idaho for two years it is nice to see so much green plant life. This was the trail up to Mt. Norwottuck.
The climb was only about 400 vertical feet and took a mere 25 minutes. But the view was quite nice. This is the summit of Mt Norwottuck, the highest point in the Holyoke range. This view is looking north towards UMass campus and Amherst, in general.
Here I am on top of Mt. Norwottuck.
Alicia also takes a moment to enjoy the view.
Geography time! We are on top of Mt. Norwottuck in the Holyoke Range. This picture is looking north towards Amherst, MA. The dark small mountain range is, I believe where Mt. Toby is and the two low hills to the west are where Mt. Sugarloaf is located. The farthest stuff on the horizon are mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire. The flat area that comprises most of the photo is known as the Connecticut River Valley or The Pioneer Valley.
Zooming in we can see the tall red building near the right of the photo is the UMass main library and the white building to the right of it is the Lederle graduate research center. To the left of the library are some dorms. Mt. Sugarloaf is near the left edge of the photo, Mt. Toby is off the photo to the right.
The hike was pretty easy so we decided to hike down Mt. Norwottuck and hike up Bare Mountain (~1000 ft.). This view is from the summit of Bare Mtn. looking east at Mt. Norwottuck.
Here's the view from Bare Mountain. Just about the same, but still very nice. This is also looking north. The views to the south and west are much less scenic and thus are not shown.
Here I am enjoying the view from Bare Mountain.
Geology photo! Can you see the strange planar nature of these rocks? These are actually eroded joints. The Holyoke Range is made of mostly Basalt (lava rocks).
Basalt, just like most substances (excluding water), shrinks when is solidifies and cools. This creates cracks (called columnar joints) in the cooling lava flows which are typically vertical. The fact that these joints/cracks are not vertical means these rocks have been tilted, which is no surprise since we are in a small mountain range. You can trace the cracks right into the planar features in this photo. There is also some modern pictographs courtesy of lame people.