A Family Adventure


in the mountains, ocean, and air

Exploring old and new trails on Watatic

October 29, 2023
Emilie Phillips

There is an old power line that goes up the south side of Watatic. Ages ago, when Tyson lived nearby, he explored the power line and found an alternate trail that started from the same parking lot and climbed up some ledges with nice views. When we came back in 2013, the trail was faint and the lower part had been moved to avoid private property. When I tried to find it again in 2022, all the foot traffic was now going up the power line with a few detours off the side for steep spots.

This weekend, Isaac and I wanted to get a cardio work out on the way up a mountain, so Tyson dropped us off at the main parking lot, then he went to explore the power line routes. We planned to meet at the top. We had the longer route. Isaac’s number one mission was to beat Dad to the top. We weren’t allowed to stop for anything. Well, ok, we stopped for an untied shoe. But then we had to run to make up time. We arrived at the top with Tyson no where in sight. 1.8 miles at 2.8mph including the shoe stop.

Meanwhile, Tyson was having no luck finding the old trail. He hiked up the power line well past where the trail might have turned off before. Then he hiked back down and bushwhacked through the woods searching for it. Last time we found the trail by identifying its foot bed. This time of year, leaves hide even the foot beds of well established trails. Tyson found more private property signs and turned uphill to avoid them. Then he found evidence of old trail maintenance, and finally the first ledge with a view. From that ledge upward, there were new blue blazes on every rock and tree trunk. Despite searching back and forth, he couldn’t find any trail continuing downhill. Neither open street maps nor the strava heat tracks showed anything. Once he finished exploring, it didn’t take him long to follow the blue blazes to the summit and join Isaac and I.

We all hiked back down together. I particularly wanted to show Tyson the power line trail, and a sign for another trail headed east. The sign says “North County Land Trust Conservation Area”. Seemed promising, so we went exploring. It goes out to an area that has been logged, and then an old horse barn next to a pond. According to the Midstate Trail organization, the land was recently acquired in 2021. Back on the main power line trail, we found another side trail. This one wasn’t marked, and the strava heat map showed it going to what looked like a house. We stuck to the main trail. When we departed, we saw that the driveway to the “house”, had a sign saying it was the regional headquarters for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. We also saw fresh property boundary signs for fish and wildlife property. According to the Mass Gov website, they bought all the property from the North County Land Trust in 2022. The Mass Govt announcement shows property boundaries that explain the power line trail’s behavior. Worth going back and exploring more on the new property.

Tyson has updated open street maps with the trails he found. You can see them in the maps below.

P.S. the 2021 Ashburnham USGS topo appears to show the trail Tyson was looking for

Tyson’s GPS track

Emilie and Isaac’s ascent track

All Photos

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