Daydreaming About Snowmobiling (Terry Holland)
Published on Sunday, January 9, 2011 in Guest Columns, News & Updates
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Last January my husband Andy and I, along with a small group of friends, took a drive out to Hawley, Massachusetts to ride in the state park and club trails in that area. As usual, it was fun to go out exploring new trails, and this day turned out to be like so many other day trips…filled with “When will we be there?” “Boy this is a long drive!” or even “Any food stops?” And let’s not forget, “Oh yeah, will we get gas out here or along the drive?” The stress of new locations and not being 100% sure of what you’ll find always makes for good stories later on.

We left our home in Southborough, heading west on the Mass Pike, and met up with the Cassavant family in Ludlow at the rest stop. A few weeks prior, Andy, Vito, and Brian had gone out and had an exciting truck ride in a snowstorm. They had taken the Mass Pike to Rt. 91-North to Rt. 9 and then up to Rt. 116 to the Hawley State Forest. For this trip we decided we’d have a change of scenery and go Rt. 91 to Rt. 116-West through Conway, Ashfield and then to Hawley. Well, although it was a scenic ride, it made for a long haul. We finally arrived at the parking area to find that the lot was full. Not with trucks and trailers, but cars and X-country skiers! This was too funny. But the folks were very nice and their marathon was almost done so they had us park right down the center of this lot. If anyone had gone by they probably would have thought that we had no clue as to how to park our rigs!

The sun was out, the day was ripe, and we headed off on the sleds. First stop, if you have not been to this park, was the Bee Hive made out of stone. It is very interesting and makes for great photos. The trails in the park are simply marked with the standard DCR trail signs and we only had our SAM statewide trail map with us. A local map would have come in handy. To our relief Andy said he felt that he could recall the trials from the week prior. The state park has wonderfully wide trails and the riding was fun as we rode out of the park and onto the SAM trail system. Due to Mother Nature there was less snow than we would have liked but at least we were able to avoid mud and long dirt areas, so we were pretty happy. Seeing as we had not stopped along the highway, and the hunger pangs were starting, we decided to head for food.

By now the trails were filled with moguls and hard to ride, but we were out and knew that the local clubs were doing the best they could to groom. Once out of the park the trail signage was better thanks to the club’s efforts. This particular trail travels through a cow pasture in which you must get off and open and close the gates. It isn’t a big deal since the scenic views are fantastic, making for a good place to take a break.

After a stretch, we rode along to a steep point in the trail where everyone seemed to have trouble getting up the hill. The ice that lay under the snow was the culprit. Since I was last in the group, I ended-up watching as each sled would go up, and then come sliding right back down again, even after several tries. Knowing that I was sitting on my new 4-stroke with no picks made me more and more nervous, very easy for me to do these days. Luckily, Andy came back to my rescue. He zipped up that slope without a problem. I, on the other hand, chose to walk. Well, wouldn’t you know — and this still makes me laugh every time I think about it — the sides of the trail were two-plus feet deep with snow. Trudging through this mess, and almost to the top, I had to step out onto the trail to brave the ice as I was trying to hold onto a trusty tree limb. Yeah, right! Out go my feet, I spin about and down, screaming and laughing all the way. As I sit at the bottom laughing, I am greeted by a rush of people who want to know what the heck happened to me. There I sat, lap FULL of snow, not sure where it all came from. I know I wasn’t covered in snow when I walked up!

After that absurdity, we were off again, winding along through the woods and open fields. This area must be unbelievable when they get good snowfall!

After crossing a lake we found a restaurant for lunch. There must have been fifty or so sleds parked out on the lake, it was striking to see them all, parked so neatly in groups. The food and service at the restaurant was excellent. Once we finished lunch, we headed outside to be greeted by a groomer heading back from where we had just ridden. It was now probably 2:00 p.m., and not knowing the trails well, we decided to head back toward the trucks. We never did catch up to the groomer, but the trails were now so smooth you never would have believed you were on the same ones.

Deciding to do just a bit of exploring on the return trip, we followed a few signs towards Savoy. This turned out to be an even bigger laugh once we got by the oxen. Yup, you read that right! Going along the trails and into an open area adjacent to a wood line, I noticed an electric fence running alongside the trail. I made a mental note to be careful, wondering where the gate might be. As I was rounding the corner, I found Andy and Jeanne frantically signaling everyone to back up. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until they pointed about twenty feet up the trail, where five oxen were grazing! One of them must have been at least six feet from the shoulder. I turned to Kenny, who was behind me at the time, and told him to turn around and go back to the field. His sled did not have reverse, so he would have to work at this for a minute. As I looked into the woods about thirty feet behind me, there stood another ox, also about six feet from the shoulder! I guess cutting him off from the rest of his herd did not make him very happy. There we were, stuck. It was a stand off between him and us. He finally won as we had no choice but to sit still and wait as he ambled up along side of us — yes, you read that right — along side of us, just about three feet from our sleds to be exact. He wanted to use the trail, too! Guess we got a lesson on “sharing the trails” that day.

Well, we all finally got turned around and back to the field, but we still needed to figure a way around those big obstacles blocking the trail. Eight more sleds had come along, watching us and having a good laugh. Kenny is the most experienced one of our bunch with cattle; he suggested that we press on, going slowly by the animals. “Keep moving,” he said. So that’s what we did. For a second time, we rode right through that herd; the huge animals were less then thirty feet away on both sides! The oxen just stared at us as we paraded by.

Finding ourselves back in the state forest, we were not really clear as to how to get back to the trucks, so we ended up heading towards Peppermint Park Camping area. Once we hit the power lines we came upon some other riders who let us know that we were going in the wrong direction! One of our older sleds was getting low on gas, but with some luck, we all made it back, and were ready for the truck ride home.

Leaving Hawley we choose to take 8A-North and wouldn’t you know, we passed that farm with all the oxen. Those giants were now standing at the owner’s barn! Guess they had enough for one day too!

From 8A we connected up with Rt. 2 and headed east. All in all, it was a long and fun day of riding. We all agreed that we would go back next year to explore the area more.

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