Return to Worcester

What a difference!

Rugged trail, straight up the fall line, on Worcester Mountain.

“It sure does look different in the winter”, said the hiker I met on this trail back in January. He had lost the trail just a couple hundred meters shy of the summit of Worcester Mountain, despite having climbed this trail “dozens” of times. After thanking him for his advice, I pressed on and experienced the most exhilarating hike of the season [read that story].

So today, a warm and muggy day in early June with the trees and shrubs almost fully leafed out for summer, and nary a snowflake left anywhere in New England, I decided to head back and see if Worcester Mountain really is “different in summer”. I got an early start, reaching the trailhead by 7:30am, but there were already three cars in the lot. Read on, to see what I found!

The trail was wet from recent rains, and the forest was cool and green. The first mile or so is an easy ramble along an old logging road, and then the trail turns steeply upward. I recalled the steepness, but did not realize in January – with several feet of snowpack and a few feet of fresh powder to cover the trail – how rugged this trail gets. Worcester is a jumble of quartz and granite, covered with a thin layer of soil and forest. Still, I made good time, and was soon emerging onto the series of open ledges that had enthralled me – and confused the other hiker – less than five months ago.

The real trail proceeds around the promontory and into the woods to the left, not over the lege to the right.

This time I was able to enjoy the incredibly large and white streak of quartz that slashes through the granite ledges near the summit. I watched for hints of the places where the other winter hikers had taken a wrong turn, or where my informer had turned around. The terrain was different, almost unrecognizable, making the task difficult.

The incredibly white, large vein of quartz (marble?) passing through the granite ledges.

Nonetheless, I found the spot where he – and later I – had scrambled atop a ledge then stopped, stumped as to where to go next. It was just a few meters off the real trail, now visible with blue blazes painted on the granite, as that trail swung around the ledge and into the woods. I compared my current GPS track (red) with the one from January (blue), and see that I had never been far-off the trail back then:

Today, the final scramble to the summit was not nearly as challenging – steep rock, still a bit slick from the rain, but not bad. The summit views, however, were bland… dense haze in the distance, and clouds of black flies in the immediate foreground, let me little choice but to turn around and head down within minutes of arrival.

A hazy view of Mount Putnam from the summit of Worcester Mountain.

I’m glad I returned. It was a fine hike on a fine day, and I beat the heat (and crowds) by arriving early. Check out the photo gallery. I think I’ll come back someday – preferably after a snowstorm.

Hike stats:
distance: 7.22km
time: 2h 8m
gain: 563m

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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