Monday, November 28, 2011

Tully Trail Epic 11/21

On Monday I decided hike, sight-see and bird (a little) along the Tully Trail in the North Quabbin Region, the complete loop would travel through portions of Royalston, Warwick and Orange. While there are no large hills or mountains, there would prove to be plenty of up and down to go with the milage. At the Tully Lake Trustees parking lot, there was some finch activity American Goldfinch, a few Purple Finches and Pine Sisikins passing overhead. After birding a few minutes, I headed off in a counter clockwise direction.

The path began on a cart road, flat and level.

Nice water scenes on the water way between Tully Lake and Long Pond
Looking north on Long Pond
Soon after reaching Long Pond the trail follows the north side of Spirt Falls and to the ridge line leading to
Jacob's Hill and a nice vista over Long Pond, viewing west toward Tully Mountain and Mt. Grace.
There was good water flow at Spirit Falls

Looking toward Tully Mountain over Long Pond .
The north end of Long Pond and Mount Grace in the distance, I scanned hard in hopes of seeing a moose at the water's edge, none was found.

 Once leaving Jacob's Hill, the trail lead down a power line cut where the first Evening Grosbeak of the day flew high overhead calling loudly. Also of note were 2 Northern Ravens and Red-tailed Hawks. One of the Northern Ravens harrassed a Red-tail, clearing showing the larger size of the raven over the "tail".  
Another nice view of the north end of Long Pond.
For the next several miles the tail had easy grades with stream crossings aided by some nice bridge work, there was a  brief walk along Warwick Road and the easy grades continued until reaching the Royalston Falls Reservation. Here began some modest climbing but there were plenty of pretty views into the ravine of Falls Brook and interesting rock formations.

This bridge work made the stream crossing easy, not far from this point I'd spish in a flock of 10 Pine Siskins.

I left the trail a few times to explore the ravine, before reaching the Royalston Falls.
An alternate view of the falls.
A "classic" view of Royalston Falls
This pool with a small waterfall inlet was a few hundred yards upstream from the main falls. Looked like a good summer swimming hole.
Soon above the pool the trail joins the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (aka the M-M Trail) and there is a nice shelter, for hikers, overlooking the brook and trail bridge. It was well constructed and appeared fairly clean. Within a 1/2 mile of the shelter is Newton Cemetery, where I stopped for a lunch break and tea.
The shelter
Newton Cemetery.

After lunch I realized I'd done way too much sight-seeing, birding and goofing around and had many miles to go and a limited amount of daylight. The Massachusetts AMC guide claims the Tully Trail is 18.4 miles, while the Trustees of Reservations claims it is 22. Either way it was going to be a long afternoon and I would have to pickup the pace. In some places the trail was a bit difficult to follow as it appeared lightly traveled and had a new "coat" of freshly fallen a close eye had to kept on the yellow flashes. Eventually the trail follows Bliss Hill Road then bears west on a nice cart road for a few miles. I heard a small flock of Evening Grosbeaks pass overhead along this road.
This cart road on the west side of Bliss Hill Road made for good traveling.
After a few miles on the road I noticed the yellow flashes dissappeared, but there was some yellow ribbon along the cart road. I was a bit uneasy about this, but yellow ribbon had been used for trail marking along the powerline cut several miles back. I kept pace along the road but soon realized, on the GPS map,  I was heading to the wrong side Sheomet Lake. I headed back and after about 3/4 mile (1.5 Miles RT) I found the clearly marked turn that I'd walked past. 
Once I got back on track I noticed this neat foundation.
Once back on track I eventually passed over Bliss Hill then onto Fish Brook Wildlife Management Area and Butterworth Ridge, afterwards the trail follows Butterworth and Tully-Warwick Roads for a good distance before turning back off road and onto the trail leading to the Tully Mountain Summit.
There were patches where the trail was tough to follow, but for the most part it was well marked if not well traveled.

While Tully Mountain is modest in height (~1165') it was still going to be a 550-600 foot climb which looked imposing after 20 miles. While the sun had set, following the trail markings was nearly "doable" without the head lamp. After a brief  rest at the ledges I looked over the map and decided on the shortest route down, ~1/2 mile to Mountain Road.
A 1 second time exposure from Tully Mountain, looking toward Athol.
Once reaching Mountian Road I took the last 3miles to the car by road instead trying to negotiate the dark and unknown trail. Other than sore feet that was uneventful.
The GPS read 24.2 miles when I reached the Parking lot.
I would suspect the 18.4 miles listed in the Mass. AMC guide to be short, perhaps some changes have been made to the trail since that publication. The Trustees milage of 22 miles makes sense as I had the 1.5 mile additional when I missed the a turn and had a few other short errors and some early goofing around. The road milage, I finished with, was very close to the distance staying on the trail would have covered.

1 comment:

Don said...

A nice set of pictures of an area I have hiked regularly over the years. One idea I've had is to calculate exactly what time of day the sun will shine through the trees and fully illuminate Royalston Falls. It could be just a few minutes, but it might make for some interesting photos of a generally dark area.